Worth Watching: Going to ‘The Prom’ and ‘Giving Voice’ on Netflix, ‘Shark Tank’ Addresses the Pandemic, Disney’s ‘Safety’
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
The Prom (streaming on Netflix): Broadway comes to the heartland in a splashy musical, as director Ryan Murphy adapts the Tony-nominated 2018-19 stage show by Bob Martin (Slings & Arrows), Chad Beguilin and Matthew Sklar with an all-star cast. Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, Tony winner James Corden and Tony nominee Andrew Rannells camp it up as ego-driven Broadway divas rallying, for publicity’s sake, to the cause of a Hoosier high-schooler (Jo Ellen Pellman) who just wants to go to the prom with her girlfriend (Ariana DeBose). Much dancing will ensue as the song-and-dance interlopers try to open bigoted hearts and minds.
Giving Voice (streaming on Netflix): A much different uplifting theatrical experience gets the spotlight in a documentary that goes inside the August Wilson Monologue Competition, where high-schoolers from across the country perform the celebrated playwright’s words with the goal of reciting one of his verbal arias on a Broadway stage. Viola Davis, already getting raves for the upcoming Netflix film version of Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, is an executive producer, and with Fences co-star Denzel Washington reflect on Wilson’s legacy and what he’s done for their careers. The true stars of Giving Voice, though, are six students followed on their journey through the competition, learning as much about themselves about the craft of acting as they parse Wilson’s art. Executive producer John Legend contributes an original song, “Never Break.”
Shark Tank (8/7c, ABC): Amid this week’s pitches, including for an educational robot, the sharks step out of the tank to address the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the economy. Along with tips for businesses on how to thrive during these challenging times, Shark Tank visits innovative companies that have adjusted to meet consumers’ needs once everything changed.
Safety (streaming on Disney+): Scoring an emotional touchdown, this fact-based movie from director Reginald Hudlin profiles former Clemson University football star Ray McElrathbey (All American‘s Jay Reeves), who as a redshirt freshman in 2006 had his hands full juggling school and football — and raising his 11-year-old brother Fahmarr (Thaddeus J. Mixson) when their mom went into rehab in Atlanta. As the team and campus rallies around the brothers, expect teary eyes and full hearts. The soundtrack includes an original song, “Hold Us Together,” from H.E.R.
On a much lighter note, Disney+ offers High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special, in which cast members share holiday memories and music and preview the second season.
More streaming highlights: On Amazon Prime Video, a change of pace for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s Rachel Brosnahan in the thriller I’m Your Woman, playing a 1970s housewife who goes on the run with her baby son after her thief husband (Bill Heck) betrays his partners; and the YA adventure The Wilds, in which teenage girls get Lost after crash-landing on a deserted island… On Apple TV+, the animated Wolfwalkers follows a young apprentice hunter who befriends a girl from a tribe rumored to turn into wolves at night.
Inside Friday TV: In what feels like a situation the fictional lawyer of ABC’s For Life might handle, ABC’s 20/20 (9/8c) revisits the controversial case of Black death-row prisoner Rodney Reed, who maintains his innocence of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, for which he was convicted by an all-white jury… PBS’s Peabody-winning Craft in America (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org) returns with two episodes, one celebrating “Storytellers” and another that explores the intersection of government and arts in “Democracy,” reflecting the nation’s multicultural heritage…Erin (Bridget Moynahan) sweats out word of the governor’s selection for the new D.A. on CBS’s Blue Bloods (10/9c).