Worth Watching: Netflix’s ‘Serpent,’ ‘Hysterical’ Female Comics, Tooting Doc Severinsen’s Horn
A true-crime thriller set in 1970s Bangkok, a celebration of rising female stars of stand-up, and a salute to a legendary ‘Tonight Show’ bandleader lead Friday’s TV:
Like an exotic urban legend in the bronzed flesh, international con man Charles “The Serpent” Sobhraj is the subject of a gripping eight-part true-crime drama. Through much of the 1970s, he and his glamorous accomplice (Victoria’s stunning Jenna Coleman) lured unsuspecting young hippie tourists into their Bangkok party pad, where they’d be drugged and murdered for their passports and money. When an experienced Dutch diplomat (Billy Howle) catches on to their deadly scheme, the manhunt is on. (See the full review.)
This vivid documentary more than lives up to its title as it celebrates a fearless new wave of female stand-up comics who open up with pungent honesty about the challenges and triumphs of their bawdy trade and life on the road. Their sisterhood was forged by years of sexism, double standards and competition for too little stage time, and while many of these talents are familiar, more deserve to be. Hear them roar, as we laugh.
Never Too Late: The Doc Severinsen Story
We remember Doc as Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show bandleader, a cool cat with a mean horn and a loud wardrobe. Nearly 30 years later, this lively American Masters profile catches up with the tireless trumpeter, still blasting away in his nineties. “He’s a marvel of a human being,” says fellow trumpet master Chris Botti, and Never Too Late is living proof. We learn Doc’s colorful history while watching him work out at the gym (three times a week), conduct a master class for a student band and provide one-on-one encouragement to a blind novice. His devotion to his instrument cost him three marriages, but his passion for music keeps those high notes soaring.
The stalwart crime drama gets topical as it addresses the subject of police reform—which Frank (Tom Selleck) secretly backs. But because of its effect on the rank and file, he asks daughter Erin (Bridget Moynihan) to be his clandestine liaison to the Governor (David Zayas).
Also new to Netflix:
- Concrete Cowboy: Luther’s Idris Elba stars in an inspiring drama as Harp, who rehabilitates horses in an inner-city stable in North Philadelphia, where his estranged son (Caleb McLaughlin) arrives after being expelled from school in Detroit. Will learning the ropes be enough to turn the young man’s life around?
- Madame Claude: More international flavor in a fact-based French melodrama about a fabled madame (Karole Rocher) whose high-end prostitution ring gave her access to the rich and powerful. “It’s dangerous to be the Madam of the Republic,” she laments as her world of sex and power comes tumbling down.
Inside Friday TV:
- For the kids: Nickelodeon’s live-action puppet series The Barbarian and the Troll (7:30/6:30c) teams Evan, a troll who burned his own bridge to seek adventure, with expelled female warrior Brendar on a quest to vanquish an evil demon; and Apple TV+ offers new episodes of the animated Doug Unplugs, about a robot who decides to experience human data first-hand.
- WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn (streaming on Hulu) looks at the rise and fall of the workspace-sharing enterprise and its charismatic leader, Adam Neumann, which was the darling of venture capitalists—until it wasn’t.
- RuPaul’s Drag Race (8/7c, VH1): Fresh from her triumph in Genius: Aretha, Cynthia Erivo guest-judges the latest round of the campy competition, in which the drag queens flex their acting muscles in a mock sci-fi project as shrunken versions of their fabulous selves. For inspiration, Scarlett Johansson appears virtually in the workroom.
- Also currently airing weekly on Ovation, the 14th season of Murdoch Mysteries begins streaming on Acorn TV, starting with six new episodes and the rest premiering weekly.
- My Lottery Dream Home International (8/7c, HGTV): From across the pond, a spinoff of the hit series introduces British interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who steers lucky lottery winners toward deluxe properties in the U.K. and Europe.
- True-crime watch: ABC’s 20/20 (9/8c) revisits the notorious Menendez Brothers, serving life in prison for murdering their parents, who’ve become newly infamous again through TikTok videos. Lyle Menendez gives a new interview from prison. On Dateline NBC (9/8c), Keith Morrison looks into a suspicious fatal house fire. Streaming on IMDb TV: the five-part Moment of Truth, which re-examines the 1993 murder of Michael Jordan’s father, James Jordan, and the conviction of two teenagers for the crime.