Worth Watching: ‘The Muppet Show,’ ‘Nomadland,’ ‘For All Mankind,’ Amazon’s Deadly ‘Secrets’
A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
The Muppet Show (streaming on Disney+): All together now: “It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights.” Curtain up on Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the rest of the gang, immortalized in five brilliant seasons (1976-81) of manic comedy-variety delight. Everyone who was anyone in the late 1970s — Elton John, Diana Ross, Steve Martin, Alice Cooper, Liza Minnelli, even the legendary movie hoofer Gene Kelly! — appeared on this international hit, and The Muppet Show‘s long-awaited arrival on streaming is one of the happiest events so far this year. I know I’ll be staying warm this weekend by reliving my youth with these classic episodes.
Also on Disney+: the latest misadventures of WandaVision, where it appears that Wanda (the remarkable Elizabeth Olsen) is tuckered out from expanding the borders of the fake sitcom world she has created around herself and Vision (Paul Bettany). Is it even possible for her to enjoy a “quarantine-style staycation” and get a day to herself? Probably not. Not with only two more episodes to go… For the family, Flora & Ulysses stars Matilda Lawler as 10-year-old Matilda, who escapes from her home life with separated parents (Alyson Hannigan and Ben Schwartz) by rescuing and befriending a superpowered squirrel she dubs Ulysses (voiced by John Kassir).
Nomadland (streaming on Hulu): One of AFI’s top-10 movies of the year, and a sure Oscar contender, Chloé Zhao’s haunting film is an ode to the mystery of the restless American spirit. Frances McDormand once again disappears with relentless authenticity into an uncompromising role: that of Fran, a widow and determined drifter who refuses to put down roots. As she wanders the West in her RV, Fran encounters characters played by real-life nomads. It’s an unforgettable journey.
For All Mankind (streaming on Apple TV+) The second season of the alternative-history drama about the space race takes a time jump, with episodes dropping weekly. We’re now in the Reagan 1980s, with tensions between the U.S. and Russia at an all-time high on Earth and the Moon. As NASA scientists clash with the military over whether to arm shuttles and put Marines on the surface, several of the Season 1 astronauts (men and women) consider going back into space.
Tell Me Your Secrets (streaming on Amazon Prime Video): Get your creep on with this disturbing 10-part psychological thriller, originally developed for TNT, which ensnares a terrific cast in its dark story of retribution and grisly skeletons in sordid closets. Lily Rabe (The Undoing) is riveting as Emma — not her real name — who has gone into witness protection in the clammy Louisiana bayou after being released from prison because of her romantic ties to a brutal serial killer. Amy Brenneman (The Leftovers) is a grieving and desperate mother of one of the possible victims, and she’ll do anything to find Emma‑including recruiting John (Hamish Linklater in Norman Bates mode), a fragile sex offender who’s trying to reform, whom she blackmails to search for this broken woman. No way is this ending happily for anyone.
Patrice O’Neal: Killing Is Easy (10/9c, Comedy Central): Don’t mistake the subtitle for another crime drama. This is about a comedian who slayed audiences with his confrontational material on stage and made fans of some of today’s top comics. The documentary from director Michael Bonfiglio (Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh, Jerry Before Seinfeld) celebrates Patrice O’Neal’s bold work and legacy, with Kevin Hart, Colin Quinn and Bill Burr among the talents paying tribute to their friend, who passed away in 2011 at 41, leaving a void in the stand-up comedy world.
Inside Friday TV: CBS’s Let’s Make a Deal (check local listings) marks its milestone 2,000th episode with a highlight blooper reel and games involving that magic number of 2,000 — as in dollars. (Fun facts: 26,054 contestants have played to date in the new version, winning The Big Deal 647 times and taking home 1,171 cars.)… Higgins (Perdita Weeks) is kidnapped on CBS’s Magnum P.I. (9/8c) as retaliation for one of Magnum’s (Jay Hernandez) first cases, forcing the team to break a former client out of prison to save her… Gone Girl‘s Rosamund Pike stars in the Netflix movie I Care a Lot as Marla, who scams elderly wards of their assets—until she crosses paths with a wealthy retiree (Oscar winner Dianne Wiest) who’s secretly connected to a ruthless gangster (Game of Thrones‘ Peter Dinklage).