Worth Watching: 'Wonder Woman 1984,' Pixar's 'Soul,' Inside 'Mandalorian,' Netflix's 'Bridgerton,' PBS Calls the 'Midwife,' NBA All Day
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
Wonder Woman 1984 (streaming on HBO Max): In what is turning out to be a very merry Christmas for streaming aficionados, Gal Gadot leaps back into the superhero fray with a time-jump in the sequel to 2017's blockbuster, getting an early streaming launch (as will all Warner Bros. movies in 2021). Chris Pine mysteriously rejoins Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, whose new friend (Saturday Night Live veteran Kristen Wiig) becomes her latest nemesis, The Cheetah.
Soul (streaming on Disney+): Pixar’s animated fantasia is a bonanza for the family streaming audience, starring Jamie Foxx as the voice of a music teacher who dreams of jazz stardom, when a misstep into a netherworld shows him the true meaning of what soul is all about. From Pete Docter (Up, Inside Out), so expect an emotional payoff.
Also new to Disney+: the Pixar "SparkShorts" animated short Burrow, about a young rabbit who digs herself into a very deep hole; and Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian goes inside The Making of Season Two with a new behind-the-scenes installment featuring the filmmakers and cast discussing the many surprises and adventures of the Star Wars spinoff's successful second year.
Bridgerton (streaming on Netflix): Power producer Shonda Rhimes' (Grey's Anatomy) first series for the streaming giant is a lusty period-piece wallow in scandal. Julie Andrews deliciously voices the role of Lady Whistledown, an anonymous scribe whose pamphlet of insider gossip turns all of Regency London on its heels, just as the debutante marriage market is about to get underway. (See the full review.)
Also new to Netflix: We Can Be Heroes, a family-friendly superhero action film follow-up to Robert Rodriguez' The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, in which the kids of Earth's superheroes step up to save the world — and their parents — when the good guys are captured by alien invaders.
Call the Midwife Holiday Special (9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): It wouldn't be Christmas without a special episode of the moving drama about the caring midwives, nurses and nuns of Nonnatus House. The time is December 1965, and the circus has come to Poplar, just in time to bring some joy after beloved Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) is rushed to the hospital. But it’s not so merry a time for glamour girl Trixie (Helen George) when her godmother gifts her a subscription to a marriage bureau, setting her up on a series of unfortunate dates.
NBA Basketball (starts at noon/11c, ESPN): The new pro basketball season shifts into high gear with a full day of five games scheduled between ESPN and ABC, starting with the Miami Heat hosting the New Orleans Pelicans. ABC kicks off its triple-header at 2:30/1:30c, with the Golden State Warriors taking on the Milwaukee Bucks; at 5/4c, with the Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics; a simulcast game on ABC and ESPN at 8/7c, with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers welcoming Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks; and wrapping the Christmas marathon on ESPN at 10:30/9:30c with the L.A. Clippers at Denver Nuggets.
Inside Friday TV: One of TV's best is on the move, as all seasons of The West Wing migrate from Netflix to HBO Max… Also streaming: the Amazon Prime Video movie Sylvie's Love, following the tangled love story of a TV producer (Westworld's Tessa Thompson) and a saxophonist (Nnamdi Asomugha) over the years, starting with their meeting in 1957… Acorn TV gifts fans of the long-running British sitcom Birds of a Feather with a special holiday episode in which best buds Tracey (Linda Robson) and Dorien (Lesley Joseph) decide they've had just about enough of each other during months of lockdown during the pandemic… Lifetime's seemingly endless supply of Christmas movies brings us to My Sweet Holiday (8/7c), starring Malone Thomas as a woman who returns home to learn her parents have sold the family chocolate store to a stranger (Jason Burkey) whose sweet tooth needs help… HGTV's Surprising Santa Claus (9/8c) sends Flea Market Flip host Lara Spencer to the town of Santa Claus, Indiana, where she works with designers, contractors and volunteers to make over two homes—and spruce up the town square for good measure. Happy Hoosier holidays!