Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It’s time for Small Axe and Animaniacs, those are the facts

Letitia Wright in Small Axe: Mangrove; still from Animaniacs
L: Letitia Wright; R: Dot, Yakko, Wakko
Photo: Des Willie/Amazon, Image: Amblin Television/Warner Bros. Animation

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Friday, November 20, and Saturday, November 21. All times are Eastern. 

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Top picks

Small Axe: Mangrove (Amazon, Friday, 3:01 a.m., anthology series premiere): “A story like the one that pilots Mangrove is something that could have easily devolved into awards season fodder, a half-hearted play for ‘timely’ content (a cursed phrase in this context, as any insinuation that insidious racism is somehow limited to a product of the moment is laughable) in the midst of an already cooling global reckoning with systemic racism. In Steve McQueen’s hands, Frank Crichlow’s (Shaun Parkes) journey is handled with appropriate complexity, specificity, and care, as this Small Axe starter avoids toothless reverence and inspiration porn in favor of a story that feels both real and familiar to those who understand this brand of strife intimately. As McQueen and this stellar cast demonstrate, the trial of the Mangrove Nine aligns with an experience shared by Black citizens across the diaspora. More importantly, it’s an integral part of British history and a story that should be considered exclusively from the perspectives of the people most affected by the deeply entrenched racism at its core.” Read the rest of Shannon Miller’s pre-air review.

Can you binge it? You cannot. Installments of McQueen’s five-film series will arrive weekly on Fridays through December 18. You can find the trailer for the anthology, rather than this first installment, below.

Between The World And Me (HBO, Saturday, 8 p.m., premiere): “With history at his back and the events of his own Black life embedded in his memory, the journalist could not have predicted our current state when he first published his manuscript. Still, the author ended up pretty spot-on. [Ta-Nehisi] Coates was brutally realistic about Black life, even then. In HBO’s film adaptation of the New York Times best-seller, his words echo across the screen, burrowing into our past and leaving hints about the future of Black America and this country.” Read the rest of Aramide Tinubu’s pre-air review.

More from TV Club

Animaniacs (Hulu, Friday, 12:01 a.m., complete first season): “Given the meta-commentary of shows like BoJack Horseman and the colorful surreality of series like The Amazing World Of Gumball, it’s no wonder someone at Hulu thought it was time once again for Animaniacs… The reboot strives for the same mix of satire and silliness, but the balance is off in the five episodes (of 13) screened for critics. Just as in the original, nothing is off limits for sending up, but this reboot is fairly itching for a fight. Pinky and the Brain, the only other Animaniacs characters to return (sorry, no Chicken Boo), end up mired in a toothless social media riff and some election satire. Russia, girlbosses, streaming services, apps, the overreliance on smartphones, fancy doughnut shops, and the current president all come under the line of parodic fire.” Read the rest of Danette Chavez’s pre-air review. 

Marvel’s 616 (Disney+, Friday, 3:01 a.m., complete first season): “On paper, Marvel’s 616 seems like it could be excruciating. It’s a Disney-backed documentary series, airing exclusively on Disney+, about the various fun and heartwarming behind-the-scenes stories of a Disney-owned media brand… It is a huge credit to the various people involved in this series, then, that Marvel’s 616 is not just several hours of needless mythologizing, but an engaging series that finds new angles from which to appreciate the Marvel universe. [Stan] Lee and [Steve] Ditko and [Jack] Kirby get plenty of attention, but it’s not a show about how great they are. It’s not even a show about how great Marvel is. It’s a show about the people who make Marvel great, from kids putting on a Squirrel Girl play, to the people designing action figures, to the guy who played Japanese Spider-Man.” Read the rest of Sam Barsanti’s pre-air review.

Regular coverage

The Mandalorian (Disney+, Friday, 3:01 a.m.)
The Great British Baking Show (Netflix, Friday, 3:01 a.m.)
The Crown (Netflix): Binge coverage continues

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From Film Club

Run (Hulu, Friday, 3:01 a.m., premiere): “In Run, helicopter parenting reaches a whole new level of unhinged. Likely taking cues from the real-life Munchausen-by-proxy case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, writer-director Aneesh Chaganty’s second feature makes mommy dearest a formidable foe against teenage dreams of independence. Contrary to what it looks like, single mother Diane Sherman (Sarah Paulson) has no intention of letting her chronically ill 17-year old daughter, Chloe (newcomer Kiera Allen), fly the coop once college acceptance letters come around. This realization strikes early on, unfurling a series of increasingly berserk revelations about Chloe’s origins and upbringing. A psychological thriller with frustratingly little to say about the trenches of the human mind, Run nevertheless satisfies as a taut and titillating get-out movie that lands somewhere between HBO’s Sharp Objects and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?” Read the rest of Beatrice Loayza’s film review.

Holiday stuff

Alien Xmas (Netflix, Friday, 3:01 a.m.): Netflix pays homage to the great Rankin-Bass “Animagic” stop-motion productions of yore with this kid-friendly holiday movie, which looks to be an appealing blend of dopey and sweet.

Wild cards

The Pack (Amazon, Friday, 3:01 a.m., complete first season): Hey, look, it’s “The Amazing Race, but with dogs.” Lindsey Vonn and her dog Lucy host.

Voices Of Fire (Netflix, Friday, 3:01 a.m., complete first season): Pharrell Williams and his uncle Bishop Ezekiel Williams set out to build a heck of a gospel choir.

Earth’s Great Seasons, “Autumn” (BBC America, Saturday, 8 p.m.): Andrew “Hot Priest” Scott narrates this nature series; this week’s episode is a great excuse to use the last of that insanely sugary pumpkin spice coffee creamer you impulse-bought the last time you braved a Target.

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!

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