Worth Watching: HBO Max Launches, Netflix Exposes Jeffrey Epstein, ‘Mrs. America’ Finale, ‘Game On!’ on CBS, Final Stand for ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’
A selective critical checklist of notable Wednesday TV:
Love Life (streaming on HBO Max): Another month, another streaming service. And this is potentially the biggest such debut since Disney+ made a splash with so much of the Disney/Marvel/Pixar etc. library available to subscribers. WarnerMedia’s entry into the arena comes with its own wealth of library content — Friends, The Big Bang Theory, all of HBO, movies both classic and current (see more) — as well as new programming, led by Love Life, a millennial Sex and the City anthology starring the charming Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect) as a single 20something in the big city who could sure use Carrie Bradshaw’s advice as she navigates a decade’s worth of relationships that run the gamut from torrid to toxic. (See the full review.)
Other new programming available at launch includes a fresh batch of Looney Tunes Cartoons featuring old favorites like Bugs, Daffy and Porky in colorful new misadventures; a charming The Not Too Late Show with Elmo mock talk-show, with Jimmy Fallon as the Sesame Street fan favorite’s first guest; two very different competition series — for kids, the crafting contest Craftopia, hosted by YouTuber Lauren Riihimaki; for adults who love Pose, the raucous ballroom/vogueing showdown Legendary; and for substance, the controversial documentary On the Record (originally for Apple TV+, which dropped it), in which music executive Drew Dixon speaks of her decision to come forward and accuse hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons of sexual assault.
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (streaming on Netflix): Surely you didn’t think the giant of all streaming giants would take a day off to give an upstart like HBO Max an open field. A four-part docuseries gives voice to victims and accusers of the notorious tycoon and sex trafficker, whose death behind bars last year may have upstaged the details of his crimes. Not so here.
Mrs. America (streaming on FX on Hulu): The tremendously entertaining miniseries about the fight over the ERA ends as the story moves into the Reagan era. Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) has never felt more empowered — although her former BFF Alice (Sarah Paulson) seeks a retreat from the culture war, wondering, “When did you get so mean?” And while Phyllis and her conservative mailing list are widely coveted by the ascending party in power, has she ruffled too many feathers along the way to secure her place in the cabinet, which she feels she has long deserved? “She is not going to have the last word,” insists her feminist nemesis, Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne). Indeed, the battle continues today.
Game On! (8/7c, CBS): Legitimate sports are still hard to come by on TV, but good sports are trying to fill the void wherever they can. In that spirit, this comedy-driven competition gives athletes and celebrities an outlet for fun and play. Keegan-Michael Key hosts as Super Bowl great Rob Gronkowski and tennis legend Venus Williams square off, forming teams of comedians and other guests and participating in trivia games that lead to elaborate physical challenges. Among the contests: kicking a field goal at the Colosseum during a Rams game, taking on the strongest man in the world in a strength challenge, and conducting a soccer drill with musician guests Mark McGrath, Coolio and Macy Gray.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (10/9c, ABC): We’ve barely put Westworld to rest, and now the final season of the Marvel fantasy series brings back beloved Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) as a robot? Or, in S.H.I.E.L.D. parlance, a “Life Model Decoy” (LMD). The creation of scientist Agent Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), the new Coulson accompanies the team on a time trip back to 1931 New York City, where the race is on to stop the dastardly semi-robotic Chronicoms from disrupting the timeline.
What We Do in the Shadows (10/9c, FX): Sound familiar? Look familiar? The latest twist on TV’s funniest show with or without vampires involves the return of Nandor’s (Kayvan Novak) previous “familiar” (slave) after 40 years, which only makes the underappreciated Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) more disgruntled. But when a younger, hipper vamp recruits Guillermo to her plush nest, will both master and familiar come to regret his defection? A fun subplot reveals the musical past of Laszlo (Matt Berry) and Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), including an LP titled “Songs of Love & Terror” — including tracks like “(Witches Are) Snitches” and “Telegraph Fever” — which would seem to be a must for any cultist’s record collection.
Inside Wednesday TV: Lifetime’s Married at First Sight: Australia (9/8c) takes the popular format Down Under. Still sounds like a ridiculous way to start a relationship… BET’s American Soul (10/9c) returns for a second season, jumping ahead to 1975 in its behind-the-scenes chronicle of Soul Train and its founder, Don Cornelius (Sinqua Walls)… truTV’s warped At Home with Amy Sedaris (10/9c) celebrates Valentine’s Day with Amy’s first (maybe last) holiday mixer. Michael Cera is among the guests.