A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:
The United States vs. Billie Holiday (Streaming on Hulu): Singer Andra Day is sensational as tragic torch singer Billie Holiday in director Lee Daniels’ striking but narratively muddled film, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks. Day conveys the drug-addicted diva’s pain, defiance and seductive raw talent as she is targeted by the government for her drug use. It’s a pretext to keep her from performing the haunting anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit,” which authorities fear will trigger the nascent Civil Rights Movement and possibly incite riots. In the role that earned Diana Ross an Oscar nomination (for Lady Sings the Blues) and Audra McDonald a Tony (for Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill), Day deserves the sort of attention Renée Zellweger commanded a year ago for portraying another damaged diva in Judy.
Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry (streaming on Apple TV+): The superstar singer-songwriter opens up to filmmaker R.J. Cutler (Showtime’s Belushi) in an intimate film that follows the still-teenager (she’s only 19) at home, on the road and in performance. The world may still look blurry to this young and fresh talent, but it’s clear to her fans that she’s here to stay.
Tom & Jerry (streaming on HBO Max): The latest film to premiere simultaneously on big screeners and the streamer is director Tim Story’s feature-length revival of the cartoon cat-and-mouse favorites. The fun begins when Jerry moves into a posh New York City hotel, site of a “wedding of the century,” and the uptight wedding planner hires his arch-nemesis, the hapless Tom, to get rid of the pest. Will anything be left standing when the mayhem is over?
Also for the family audience: Nickelodeon previews its upcoming animated Baby Shark’s Big Show! with Baby Shark Shorts (12:30 pm/11:30c), collecting five mini-adventures of the iconic Baby Shark and his BFF William as they frolic through underwater shenanigans… Disney+ offers the animated Myth: A Frozen Tale, inspired by Frozen 2, in which a bedtime story told by a family living in an enchanted forest outside Arendelle opens a window to a mystical world of elemental spirits.
Inside Friday TV: IMDb TV, the free streaming platform from Amazon, launches the six-part documentary Top Class: The Life and Times of the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers, profiling the back-to-back champion high-school basketball team from Southern California… A mighty binge awaits fans of the hit British pathology crime drama Silent Witness when BritBox drops the first 21 seasons. The series opens with Amanda Burton leading the team as Dr. Sam Ryan, followed eight seasons later by Emilia Fox as Dr. Nikki Alexander… Also streaming: the season finales on Apple TV+ of Dickinson and Losing Alice, and the penultimate episode of WandaVisionon Disney+… NBC’s Dateline NBC(9/8c) revisits the sordid story of the NXIVM cult, with correspondent Kate Snow questioning a doctor who as a cult member branded other women. The two-hour report, titled “Collateral Damage,” features the first interview with cult founder Keith Raniere since his arrest, from prison… HBO’s provocative Real Time with Bill Maher (10/9c) covers the political spectrum with this week’s guest list: controversial broadcaster-turned-podcaster Megyn Kelly, New York Times columnist and podcaster Ezra Klein and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana).
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