Worth Watching: In Praise of Howard (‘Little Shop,’ Disney Musicals) Ashman, Fame’s the Game for Reuben (CW) & Dominic Fike (FX)
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
Howard (streaming on Disney+): Few things are as poignant as remembering a creative life cut short, and when lyricist Howard Ashman died of AIDS complications in 1991 at the age of 40, winning a second Oscar posthumously (for Beauty and the Beast‘s “Be My Guest”), the loss to the world of musicals—animated or otherwise‑was enormous. His Disney producing colleague Don Hahn has crafted a loving, heartbreaking tribute to this remarkable talent in a biographical portrait that starts in Baltimore, where like so many visionaries he would create fantasy worlds for his family and friends. Schooled in theater and playwrighting, he would have his first big success with the off-Broadway smash Little Shop of Horrors, and with composer Alan Menken revived the fortunes of Disney animation with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast (the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture) and the posthumous Aladdin. Ashman’s uncompromising drive and boyish delight in his work are captured in footage from a Beauty and the Beast recording session, where he works alongside such greats as Angela Lansbury and Jerry Orbach even as he fights the disease that will claim him within a year.
The Fame Game: The CW’s reality series Being Reuben (back to back episodes start at 9/8c) profiles Reuben de Maid, a 14-year-old whose dreams of make-up superstardom became reality after an appearance on Little Big Shots raised his Internet profile. Now an established influencer, Reuben reveals his family life in Wales with his mom, two siblings and granddad Bampa while continuing to make connections with ad campaigns and photo shoots. … Similarly, a new installment of FX and Hulu’s The New York Times asks “This Is Dominic Fike: The Next Big Thing?” as it follows the career arc of the 24-year-old singer-songwriter and rapper as he emerges from obscurity, signs a $4 million record deal, prepares for an international tour and releases a debut album.
Tales of Arcadia: Wizards (streaming on Netflix): Master fantasist Guillermo del Toro’s Emmy-winning trilogy reaches its apex in the final season, following the path laid by Trollhunters and 3Below as trolls, aliens and wizards—including wizard-in-training Douxie (Colin O’Donoghue)—trip through time all the way to the legendary medieval land of Camelot. There, they’ll engage in an epic battle to determine who’ll control magic in these converged worlds.
Inside Friday TV: X-Men and The Peanuts Movie join the growing Disney+ movie roster. … Amazon Prime Video’s Pan y Circo (Bread & Circus) pairs actor Diego Luna (Narcos: Mexico) with activists, artists, politicians and other thought leaders as he travels from Baja California to Mexico City, breaking bread with his guests while discussing topical issues including climate change and (remotely) Covid-19. … For escapism, the Netflix movie Work It stars Sabrina Carpenter as Quinn, whose hopes of attending college hinge on nailing a dance competition with the help of an underdog squad. Dancing with the Stars winner Jordan Fisher co-stars. … Also from the musical aisle: PBS’s Great Performances repeats its 2009 special, In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org), which spotlights Lin-Manuel Miranda years before his Hamilton phenom, as he takes his first hit musical to Broadway, where he would win his first Tony awards. (The release of the movie version of Heights has been pushed back to next summer.)