Worth Watching: ‘Freestyle Love Supreme,’ ‘Porgy and Bess,’ Netflix Is ‘Cursed,’ Amazon Back in ‘Absentia’
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
We Are Freestyle Love Supreme (streaming on Hulu): Before there was Hamilton (and the dynamic filmed version currently on Disney+), there was, and sometimes still is, Freestyle Love Supreme, a rollicking improvisational hip-hop comedy troupe co-founded by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton director Thomas Kail and fellow Wesleyan grad Anthony Veneziale. Judging from the verbal dexterity and hilarity on display in director Andrew Fried’s admiring documentary, it’s not hyperbole when Kail describes the experience as “the purest expression of joy that any of us have ever felt doing a show.” The film tracks their evolution from a bookstore’s basement in the early 2000s, when Miranda could still walk unrecognized through the theater district, to a Broadway run in 2019. Happily, success hasn’t spoiled the spontaneous glee of this band of ribald rappers.
The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess(9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): A more classic musical gift arrives courtesy of Great Performances at the Met, presenting one of the biggest recent hits for New York’s Metropolitan Opera before it went dark like other performing-arts venues during the pandemic. Eric Owens and Angel Blue perform the title roles in this spectacular revival of the Gershwins’ soulful folk opera, with a score including such classics as “Summertime,’ “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and “I Got Plenty of Nuttin’.”
More Music on Apple: In the fourth episode of the charming Apple TV+ romantic dramedy Little Voice, Bess (Brittany O’Grady) wins a chance to record a song in a studio, coached by jaded engineer Jeremy (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Emmy winner Luke Kirby), who instantly rubs Bess’s musical partner Samuel (Colton Ryan) the wrong way. While Bess impresses Jeremy, he’s even more overwhelmed when she brings along her dad (Chuck Cooper), a once-renowned vocalist himself… The next-to-last episode of the delightful Apple TV+ animated musical Central Park builds to a cross-cutting show-stopper in which the entire Tillerman family is caught in the rain: parents Owen (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Paige (Kathryn Hahn) racing to satisfy a surprise audit, and kids Cole (Tituss Burgess) and Molly (Kristen Bell) lost in the park — ironically after wandering away from a Home Alone 2: Lost in New York Deleted Scenes Tour.
Cursed (streaming on Netflix): The latest twist on the Arthurian fantasy legend explores the history of one of the more mysterious figures: the future Lady of the Lake, or Nimue. Played by 13 Reasons Why‘s Katherine Langford, Nimue flees her village after it’s destroyed by religious extremists, joining handsome knight Arthur (Devon Terrell) on a quest to deliver a mystical sword — there’s always a sword in this story! — to the magician Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgård). As the series progresses, she’ll rise from witch to warrior to sorceress to queen. Which sounds more of a blessing than a curse, but this legend rarely ends on a happy note.
Absentia (streaming on Amazon Prime Video): In the third season of the twisty thriller, the one going absent is Emily Byrne’s (Castle‘s Stana Katic) ex-husband and fellow FBI agent, Nick (Patrick Heusinger). When he’s kidnapped, suspended-from-duty Emily teams up with enigmatic friend and confidant, special agent Cal Issac (Matthew Le Nevez), to unravel a conspiracy behind Nick’s disappearance.
Inside Friday TV: Producer/star Vivica A. Fox keeps churning out those Wrong movies for LMN. In The Wrong Wedding Planner (8/7c), as Detective Jones, she looks into the sinister shenanigans threatening the upcoming nuptials of Ashley (Yan-Kay Crystal Lowe) and Brad (Stephen Richard Harris)… We tv’s Love After Lockup (9/8c) is back for a third season, following more couples on emotional probation after one is released from prison… Far removed from 7th Heaven, Barry Watson goes through hell in Hulu’s latest installment of the horror franchise Into the Dark. In the title role of “The Current Occupant,” he plays an amnesiac in a mental asylum who believes he’s the president of the United States and the victim of a conspiracy. This could explain a lot… Filmed over 10 years, the Netflix documentary Father Soldier Son follows the often-wrenching family dynamics of a former platoon sergeant, returning home after being seriously injured in Afghanistan, and his two young sons.