‘Underground Railroad,’ ‘Blue Bloods’ Finale, ‘Halston’ and ‘Woman in the Window’ on Netflix, Gayle King on the Queen, FX’s ‘Pride’
Oscar winner Barry Jenkins adapts Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer-winning The Underground Railroad in a searing 10-part limited series. A prodigal grandson returns in Blue Bloods’ two-hour season finale. Stars shine on Netflix, as Ewan McGregor brings fashion icon Halston to life, and Amy Adams plays The Woman in the Window in a suspense drama. Gayle King reflects on the long reign of Queen Elizabeth.
The Underground Railroad
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) directs a brutal yet lyrical 10-part adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the most powerful and devastating depiction of slavery on TV since Roots. South African actress Thuso Mbedu stars as runaway slave Cora, who embarks on a surreal journey aboard an actual underground train (the fantastical hook of Whitehead’s novel) towards an elusive freedom. Joel Edgerton is the relentless slave-catcher determined to return her to the pitiless Georgia plantation of her birth. (See the full review).
Since the beginning of the season, fans have kept wondering, “Where’s Joe Hill?” The newest family member (Will Hochman), son of the late Joe Reagan, has been MIA since being introduced at the end of last season and the first episodes of Season 11. The reason for his absence, as Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) learns in the two-hour season finale: He’s been working undercover for the ATF to take down a gun-running operation. When the family fears his cover is blown, they come together to try to keep him from meeting the same unhappy fate as his father. Guest stars include Gloria Reuben as Special Agent Rachel Weber and Annabella Sciorra as M.E. Faith Marconi.
Ewan McGregor stars as the iconic fashion designer in a limited series set in the glittery New York of the 1970s and ’80s, when he epitomized the celebrity culture alongside superstars of the time including Liza Minnelli (Smash’s Krysta Rodriguez). He’s riding high when a hostile takeover forces him to try to regain control over his brand—which is to say, his name.
The Woman in the Window
Based on A.J. Finn’s can’t-put-it-down bestseller, the long-delayed suspense movie stars Amy Adams as an agoraphobic train wreck who (shades of Hitchcock’s Rear Window) believes she’s seen a crime committed in the house across the street from her own brownstone. She’s hardly the most credible witness, and no one’s who they appear to be. Which makes things especially tense for someone who can’t even leave her own house.
The Queen Carries On: A Gayle King Special
All hail Queen Elizabeth II, nearly 70 years on the throne as the longest-serving monarch in British history. Gayle King examines her legacy and history, including the recent loss of her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, and the split of grandson Prince Harry with wife Meghan Markle. Guests include Sir Paul McCartney, journalist Tina Brown, childhood friend Lady Anne Glenconner and former President Barack Obama.
In an innovative format, with a different director tackling a separate decade in the long fight for LBGTQ equal rights, this six-part docuseries (airing with three consecutive episodes this and next Friday) takes an idiosyncratic and often deeply personal approach to tell its stories of community and activism. Some segments use dramatic reenactments, animation or first-person testimonials to illuminate bygone and more recent eras of oppression, persecution and revolution. (See the full review.)
Inside Friday TV:
- The Arts Interrupted (9/8c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): Vanessa Williams hosts a Great Performances special that looks back at the last year, when the pandemic halted public performances and challenged arts organizations across America, even as they were grappling with the social-justice movement. The program shares their survival stories, including Zoom-style theater inspired by Covid-19 and site-specific operas. Followed by an example of arts in action: We Are Family: Songs of Hope and Unity (10/9c, check local listings at pbs.org), an uplifting concert special hosted by Judith Light, featuring the American Pops Orchestra and performers including Broadway’s Laura Osnes and The Voice’s Rayshun LaMarr, singing such anthems as “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Feeling Good.”
- On the true-crime blotter: ABC’s 20/20 (9/8c) revisits the notorious case of Scott Peterson, convicted in 2004 for the murder of his missing wife Laci and their unborn child. His sister-in-law and defense attorney discuss evidence they say proves his innocence, and the report includes never-heard audio from Scott in prison. Dateline NBC (9/8c) reports on “A Wanted Man,” Dr. Mark Weinberger, an Indiana surgeon who vanished while vacationing in the Greek isles, with financial and malpractice scandals in his wake. He remained mission for five years until a woman halfway across the world uncovers the truth.
- Dynasty (9/8c): Remember when weddings on the original series ended in calamity? Fallon (Elizabeth Gillies) is about to walk down the aisle with Liam (Adam Huber), so hold on to your designer hats.
- High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (streaming on Disney+): The teenage thespians tackle another Disney favorite, Beauty and the Beast, in the meta reboot’s second season. They’ll also go up against rival North High in a high-stakes student theater competition. Complicating matters: North High’s new theater teacher is Miss Jenn’s (Kate Reinders) ex-boyfriend.