Another banner Friday for streaming services, with Netflix premiering the magical quest fantasy Sweet Tooth, and Stephen King adapting his novel Lisey’s Story for Apple TV+. PBS’ American Masters profiles a popular all-male ballet troupe.
Based on (what else) a comic book series, this endearing eight-part fantasy opens with scenes from a pandemic referred to as “The Great Crumble,” but soon transitions into a compelling survival and quest fable as we watch young Gus, a deer-human “hybrid,” raised in seclusion in the woods by his loving and protective dad (Will Forte). Circumstances will compel Gus (the remarkable Christian Convery) to embark on a journey beyond the fences of an overgrown Yellowstone Park, in the company of a “Big Man” (Nonso Anozie) into a world where nature is reclaiming the planet, and the young generation of hybrids like Gus are both an endangered species and the hope for the future. References to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are quite intentional.
Adapting what many regard as his most personal novel, Stephen King writes all eight episodes of this limited series—which I can’t help think is at least a few too many (but I’m in the minority for having found the source material insufferably indulgent). Julianne Moore is, unsurprisingly, excellent in the title role of Lisey, still mourning the violent death of her best-selling novelist husband Scott Landon (Clive Owen) two years later. Lisey’s Story intertwines with Scott’s own traumatic backstory, and when the grieving widow is threatened by a deranged superfan (Dane DeHaan) who seeks access to Scott’s unpublished material, the thriller aspect shifts the narrative to a fantasy realm known as Boo’ya Moon. Which is where I checked out as both reader and viewer.
American Masters: Ballerina Boys celebrates the more than 45-year history of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male satirical ballet company known affectionately as “The Trocks.” Sending up gender norms while performing classical ballet in drag, the Trocks have wowed and inspired audiences around the world. The documentary traces their dazzling history while following the current troupe on a tour of the Carolinas, where LGBTQ struggles for equal rights are ongoing. The film builds to a triumphant performance at the Stonewall 50th anniversary in New York City in 2019.
Having generated maximum buzz with its Framing Britney Spears special, the docuseries returns with Who Gets To Be An Influencer?, a piercing look at what it takes to be a diverse social-media star in a system dominated by white influencers. This special focuses on the rise of Collab Crib, an Atlanta-based house of Black would-be influencers that sets a 90-day goal to make it big in this fickle industry.
Also new to Netflix on a typically busy Friday:
- Feel Good: The unconventional love story involving the Canadian comedian Mae (Mae Martin), a recovering addict, and her British partner George (Charlotte Ritchie), continues for a second and final season.
- Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet: Sir David Attenborough narrates a sobering documentary focused on the scientific discoveries of Professor Johan Rockström, an expert on global sustainability. His is a cautionary discussion of how far human “civilization” can push the planet for Earth to remain stable for the future of our and other species.
Also on Apple TV+:
- Mythic Quest: My favorite episode of the workplace comedy’s second season supplies a poignant backstory for the video game’s head writer, C.W. Longbottom (F. Murray Abraham). We first meet him in 1972, smartly played with a mix of unearned arrogance and pathos by Silicon Valley’s Josh Brener, as a junior copy editor transplanted from Iowa to L.A. to toil at a tacky sci-fi journal. His encounter with a true genre legend will change the course of his life and career, but not quite in the way you’d expect.
- The Mosquito Coast: Just renewed for a second season, this very loose adaptation of Paul Theroux’s novel wraps its first with another dangerous crisis for the Fox family in Mexico. Their latest fine (and bloody) mess precipitates another bonkers escape scheme to keep them one step ahead of hit men, feds and other obstacles.
Inside Friday TV:
- Emergency Call (8/7c, ABC): A second season of the real-life 9-1-1 docuseries, hosted by Luke Wilson, revisits a wide variety of frantic calls, including two from Austin: one involving teenage girls who barely escape being kidnapped, and another in which deaf and hearing-impaired hikers phone in to get help for an injured friend.
- The Blacklist (8/7c, NBC): This could be awkward. Liz (Megan Boone) is forced to work with Red (James Spader) and Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) to survive an attack from Townsend (Reg Rogers).
- From the newsmagazine crime blotter: ABC’s 20/20 (9/8c) features co-anchor Amy Robach’s exclusive interview with Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn, whose new book Victim F: From Crime Victims to Suspects to Survivors recounts their ordeal after a home invasion and kidnapping was originally dismissed as a hoax because of comparisons to the movie and book versions of Gone Girl. On Dateline NBC (9/8c), Josh Mankiewicz reports on “The Pink Gun Mystery,” in which the title weapon leads to a possibly false arrest in a murder stemming from a Texas love triangle.
- Cellmate Secrets (10/9c, Lifetime): Angie Harmon (Rizzoli & Isles) narrates a six-episode docuseries rehashing some of the most infamous crime stories of recent times, with friends, guards and lovers of infamous inmates telling all. First up: Casey Anthony, whose acquittal for the murder of her daughter Caylee is approaching its 10th anniversary. A former jailmate shares details of the hundreds of letters they swapped before the verdict.
- Raya and the Last Dragon (streaming on Disney+): Previously available as a Premiere Access offering, the animated fable now joins the streaming library for all subscribers. Also available: the enchanting animated short Us Again, in which an elderly couple rekindle their zest for life thanks to the magic of dance.
- Marvel Studios Legends (streaming on Disney+): Get ready for next Wednesday’s premiere of Loki with a brisk primer on the backstories of the God of Mischief (Tom Hiddleston) and the legend of The Tesseract.
- The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (streaming on HBO Max): Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return to the franchise as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren in the latest installment of the chilling movie series. Available for streaming for 31 days as it hits the big screen in movie theaters.