Worth Watching: ‘Borat,’ Springsteen’s ‘Letter to You,’ Bill Murray ‘On the Rocks,’ ‘Queen’s Gambit’


A selective critical checklist of notable Friday TV:

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (streaming on Amazon Prime Video): Already creating controversy for a scene designed to embarrass (as if that’s possible) Rudy Giuliani, the long-awaited sequel for Sacha Baron Cohen‘s satirical prankster is another coup for the streaming services. (Imagine the splash this would have made in movie theaters.) Subtitled “Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” Moviefilm unleashes Borat as a sure-to-offend catalyst to expose the absurdities and hypocrisies of today’s society. Stunts include sheltering in place with conspiracy theorists and crashing a CPAC conference dressed as a grotesque caricature of the president. Some will find this hilarious, and others… well, that’s the point.

Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You (streaming on Apple TV+): On another busy day for the streamers, a gift for Springsteen fans. This intimate musical special follows the Boss and his iconic E Street Band as they record his latest album, Letter to You, with final-take performances of 10 original songs from the much-anticipated release. The documentary features studio and archival footage as Springsteen reflects on his new material, his history with the E Street Band and music itself.

Also new to Apple TV+: On the Rocks, a comedy reuniting director Sofia Coppola with her Lost in Translation star Bill Murray. He’s the freewheeling, high-living father of Rashida Jones, who enlists her wealthy dad to help her follow her possibly unfaithful spouse (Marlon Mayans) around New York City. Along the way, they discover plenty about their own relationship.

The Queen’s Gambit (streaming on Netflix): You’ll hang on every move. Godless auteur Scott Frank adapts the novel by Walter Tevis (The Hustler) about talented but troubled young chess prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy). Her coming of age in the male-dominated arena of competitive chess is complicated by an addiction to tranquilizers. Even if she wins, can she survive?

Once Upon a Snowman (streaming on Disney+): What, you ask, nothing for the kids? Disney obliges with an animated short from the Frozen universe, following the fan-favorite Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) through his origin story, including what happened after Elsa created the snowman and his first meeting with Anna and Kristoff. All stuff Frozen fans will no doubt want to play over and over and …

Inside Friday TV: The 11th season of Discovery’s Gold Rush (8/7c) opens with a two-hour episode that finds the miners scrambling to take advantage of the surge in gold prices when the gold fields open two months late because of the pandemic… Jewelry entrepreneur Kendra Scott joins her fellow CEOs and business legends into ABC’s Shark Tank (8/7c) for the first time… Another CEO, Wan Kim of Smoothie King, learns how hard it is to prepare these concoctions during rush hour as the latest Undercover Boss on CBS (9/8c)… PBS’s American Masters celebrates the career and musical passions of one of the nation’s great conductors in Michael Tilson Thomas: Where Now Is (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org)… In its first collaboration with MTV Documentary Films, Showtime presents director Alexandra Pelosi’s American Selfie: One Nation Shoots Itself (9/8c), a cross-country survey of America’s deep divisions during a time of pandemic anxiety and protest fervor. Notably, the executive producer is Sheila Nevins, the legendary former head of HBO’s documentary unit… HBO’s whimsical How To with John Wilson (11/10c) observes life in and around New York City as the deadpan narrator (also the covert filmmaker) offers droll advice on topics like small talk and memory in segments that never go quite where you’d expect… Hulu’s Bad Hair is a shockingly funny horror satire from Dear White People‘s Justin Simien set in 1989, starring Elle Lorraine as a woman who gets a weave to further her career but wigs out when the new hair begins to act out in terrifying ways.

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