Worth Watching: Rebirth of ‘Eco-Challenge,’ a Trip to ‘Boys State,’ Jason Sudeikis Is ‘Ted Lasso’
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji (streaming on Amazon Prime Video): Before Survivor, the grueling yet life-affirming Eco-Challenge adventure expedition (also from producer Mark Burnett) set the high bar for exotic reality-TV storytelling. Not seen since 2002, the race returns for am exhilarating 10-episode binge, hosted by Bear Grylls, who cheers on 66 teams from 30 countries. Most are there not to try to win the race, but to test their own endurance and limits, making for an emotionally compelling and inspiring journey.
Boys State (streaming on Apple TV+): As a fascinating microcosm of politics, where idealism and cynicism wage battle, it’s hard to beat this entertaining, uplifting and sometimes infuriating documentary set during a Texas Boys State gathering in the summer of 2018. At this forum, sponsored by the American Legion, teenage boys (girls have a separate program) gather to form political parties, set platforms and run campaigns for office, the highest being governor. It takes all types — humble and earnest, disingenuous and calculating — and by the end, as with many elections, you will be raptly awaiting those election returns.
Ted Lasso (streaming on Apple TV+): Winning isn’t everything in a charming sports comedy from Bill Lawrence (Scrubs) and Saturday Night Live veteran Jason Sudeikis, who plays Ted, a folksy and incessantly upbeat Division 2 Kansas college football coach. He’s the unlikely choice to be plucked to cross the pond to be put in charge of an underdog soccer team. Ted likens the fish-out-of-water challenge to riding a horse: “If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.” Thrown into the deep end, Ted is out to prove everyone wrong — the vulgar fans, the hostile players, the skeptical owner (a tart Hannah Waddingham) — with his attitude that “Success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves, on and off the field.” Hokey? Maybe, but we could all use a smart and funny feel-good comedy right about now.
Savage Kingdom (9/8c, Nat Geo WILD): The fourth season of the epic nature series returns to Northern Botswana with back-to-back episodes for three weeks, as the lions and leopards and other jungle royalty battle it out for dominance. After taking on the hyenas to reclaim control, their greatest challenge may be a drought, the worst in years, which has ravaged the area. There’s a reason this isn’t called Peaceable Kingdom.
Inside Friday TV: Tony-winning Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth joins Cedric the Entertainer on CBS’s The Greatest #AtHome Videos (8/7c), when she surprises a group of theater buffs who’ve gained a following performing show tunes in people’s driveways… Also for theater fans: PBS’s Great Performances repeats its glorious 2019 presentation of Much Ado About Nothing (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org) starring Danielle Brooks. It’s the first Public Theatre Shakespeare in the Park play to be televised in over 40 years… Among Netflix’s new offerings: Project Power, an action thriller set in New Orleans, where the new street drug Power gives users superhuman abilities, but only for five minutes. Jamie Foxx stars as Art, a father in search of a missing daughter, who teams up with a local cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and a teenage dealer (The Deuce‘s Dominique Fishback) to find Power’s source.