Worth Watching: Sorkin's 'Trial,' Disney's 'Clouds' Tearjerker, Amazon and 'The Constitution,' Grammy Legends
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (streaming on Netflix): Back in the courtroom where his career began with A Few Good Men, Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) writes and directs an all-star cast in a still-timely docudrama that relives the infamous trial in the wake of the riots during 1968's Democratic National Convention. Controversy-prone counterculture protestors including Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Succession's Jeremy Strong), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) and Bobby Seale (Watchmen's Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) face charges including conspiracy to incite a riot. What happens next is riotous.
Clouds (streaming on Disney+): Tearjerker of the week — make that month. Director Justin Baldoni's (Jane the Virgin) sweet and touching film may not redefine what was once known as the disease-of-the-week format, but it finds its stride in the charming and heartbreaking performance of Fin Argus. He's teenager Zach Sobiech, a Minnesota high-schooler whose terminal diagnosis of osteosarcoma bone cancer doesn't stop him from hitting the charts with the title song he writes that goes viral, as part of a collaboration with his bestie Sammy (Sabrina Carpenter). As Zach tries to live up to poet Mary Oliver's query, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" with humor and grit, only the hard of heart won't succumb. I admit, though, it took me about half the film to get used to seeing Neve Campbell, from the original Party of Five, playing his mother. (She's quite good, and so is Tom Everett Scott as his dad.)
What the Constitution Means to Me (streaming on Amazon Prime Video): Filmed during its last week of a successful Broadway run, Heidi Schreck's illuminating and entertaining play — not quite a one-woman monologue — takes the form of a high-school debate on the Constitution, sponsored by the American Legion in the 1980s. Soon, though, it shifts into an autobiographical survey of the women in Schreck's family, who weren't (and aren't) always protected or represented by this imperfect document.
Grammy Salutes to Music Legends (9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): Filmed without an audience and in different locations due to pandemic restrictions, the fifth annual tribute to the year's Lifetime Achievement Award Grammy recipients honors Chicago, Roberta Flack, Isaac Hayes, Iggy Pop, John Prine, Public Enemy and Sister Rosetta Tharp, as well as Trustees Award honorees Ken Ehrlich, Philip Glass and Frank Walker. Jimmy Jam is host, with headliners including Cynthia Erivo (with Flack's hit "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"), Brandi Carlile (with Prine's "I Remember Everything") and Philip Bailey performing Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now."
More music in an intimate setting, as MTV reinvents one of its classic franchises with MTV Unplugged Presents "Miley Cyrus Backyard Sessions" (7/6c), in which the pop star goes acoustic from her own L.A. backyard to perform stripped-down versions of her hits, as well as a cover of Britney Spears' "Gimme More" and songs from Pearl Jam, The Cardigans and more.
Inside Friday TV: The long list of Friday's streaming premieres includes, on Netflix, Grand Army, a drama set in a Brooklyn public high school; and in the tradition of HGTV, Dream Home Makeover, in which Shea and Syd McGee realize homeowners' wildest renovation fantasies… Hulu's supernatural thriller Helstrom, based on a Marvel comic, stars Tom Austen and Sydney Lemmon as psychically gifted and scarred siblings, with a serial-killer father and possessed mother (scene-stealer Elizabeth Marvel), who take on demonic forces. It's one of those shows that's so dark you'll want to check to make sure your TV is still on… From the documentary corner: HBO's topical The Perfect Weapon (8/7c) reveals the extent of cyber weapons as a tool in today's geopolitical conflicts… Showtime's Bad Hombres (9/8c) shines a ray of hope amid the border conflicts between the U.S. and Mexico as it profiles a bi-national pro baseball team, the Telecotes de los Dos Laredos, with home stadiums in Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico… MSNBC goes inside the West Wing from a professional photographer's point of view in The Way I See It (10/9c), observing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama through the lens of official White House Photographer Pete Souza.