Worth Watching: Last Call for ‘Greenleaf,’ ‘Isolation Stories’ Filmed in Quarantine, Toni Morrison an ‘American Master’
A selective critical checklist of notable Tuesday TV:
Greenleaf (9/8c, OWN): Say a prayer for the Greenleaf family. As the fifth and final season of the megachurch soap begins, these spiritual underdogs are fighting to reclaim Calvary from Bob Whitmore (Beau Bridges) and his Harmony and Hope Ministries, which plans to raze the church within a week. The Bishop (Keith David) and Lady Mae (Lynn Whitfield) are seeking a sign from God, not only to save their church home but to heal their own relationship. Even as things are winding down on this juicy drama, the network is considering developing a spinoff. Hallelujah!
Isolation Stories (streaming on BritBox): The fact that life went on during the months of self-quarantine in the COVID-19 crisis is beautifully illustrated in this innovative series of four 15-minute dramatic vignettes, each self-filmed in the actors’ homes (by the performers and their families) with directors and producers overseeing the process remotely and resourcefully. Created by writer-producer Jeff Pope (Philomena), these stories are by necessity intimately told, with flashes of mordant humor and raw emotion. In one, father-son actors Robert and Tom Glenister poignantly play a father and son coping with the illness, as a black-sheep son tends to his ailing and unforgiving dad. Another stars Ray Donovan‘s Eddie Marsan as an unhappily estranged husband coping with his two young sons (played by his own offspring) and the interjections of a playful granddad (David Threlfall) entertaining the kids from the back yard. Sheridan Smith plays a very pregnant, single professional woman whose plucky cynicism crumbles from loneliness, and in the most amusing segment, Darren Boyd is a vain hypochondriac actor consulting an exasperated therapist (Angela Griffin) by video chat. Anyone who thinks making short films under these conditions was easy should also check out the behind-the-scenes episode, which reveals what happens when actors become their own crew.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (8/7c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): A new and timely installment of American Masters presents the Nobel laureate in a thoughtful discussion, conducted shortly before her death last year, of her acclaimed novels (including Song of Solomon and Beloved), which explore race, history and the African-American experience with unusual eloquence. Among those interviewed: her highest-profile fan, Oprah Winfrey, critic Hilton Als and writer Walter Mosley.
Inside Tuesday TV: In his first Netflix stand-up comedy special, Eric Andre: Legalize Everything, the maverick comedian pushes the envelope on material about drugs and sex from a New Orleans stage… Some news stories can’t be told often enough. Also the subject of a powerful two-part segment on Sunday’s 60 Minutes, PBS’s invaluable Frontline takes its own deep dive into Opioids, Inc. (10/9c, check local listings at pbs.org), collaborating with the Financial Times on an investigation into the practices of the drug company Insys Therapeutics, which bribed doctors and committed insurance fraud to push an addictive painkiller said to be 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin… A special edition of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (10//9c) tackles the ever-present subjects of racial injustice and the pandemic as they relate to the world of sports. Gumbel remotely interviews an eclectic lineup of athletes, activists and experts including NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, sports icons Hank Aaron and Billie Jean King, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch… The Big Bang Theory‘s Mayim Bialik hosts TBS’s Celebrity Show-Off (10/9c), a competition pitting housebound celebrities who produce their own mini-shows from home for TBS’s YouTube channel, and whoever’s work gets the most views and is deemed to have the most duration and engagement with viewers wins. First-round contestants include Bella Thorne, Jason Mraz, Ja Rule, Kevin Smith and The Willis Sisters.