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

Small Axe delivers its penultimate outing with Alex Wheatle

Khali Best, Sheyi Cole, and Jonathan Jules in Alex Wheatle
Left to right: Khali Best, Sheyi Cole, and Jonathan Jules
Photo: Will Robson-Scott/Amazon Studios

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Friday, December 11, and Saturday, December 12. All times are Eastern. 

Top picks

Small Axe: Alex Wheatle (Amazon, Friday, 3:01 a.m.): “A short coming-of-age film that works well within the Small Axe saga, Alex Wheatle has a richness comparable to any long, drawn-out biopic that’s come from Hollywood of late, thanks to the nuances McQueen layers into the story. The audience watches Alex as he eagerly shoves fried chicken and rice into his mouth on Christmas morning, after being treated like just another member of Dennis’ family. From the barbershop to the street corners, Alex’s induction into Black culture is swift and sharp, but as a master of survival, he is eager to learn his way.” Read the rest of Aramide Tinubu’s review of the second-to-last installment of Steve McQueen’s anthology here.

The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (HBO, Saturday, 8 p.m.): This two-hour documentary traces the rise of the iconic brotherly musical trio Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb, a.k.a. The Bee Gees. Read Gwen Ihnat’s review of the doc, which she hopes “will help flesh out the band’s legacy past the flashy disco era that often overshadows it, explaining why current pop stars, as well as many fans, still revere the band’s music as some of the best ever made.”

Regular coverage

The Mandalorian (Disney+, Friday, 3:01 a.m.)

Saturday Night Live (NBC, 11:29 p.m.): The real Timothée Chalamet—not Chloe Fineman’s impersonation of Timothée Chalamet—will make his hosting debut with musical guest Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band. Dennis Perkins will recap.

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Movie Night

I’m Your Woman (Amazon, Friday, 12:01 a.m.): Our own Katie Rife called this Rachel Brosnahan-led film a “refreshingly feminine gangster yarn” in her review, writing that “I’m Your Woman also calls back to the neo-noirs that inspired it in one essential, more ephemeral way: It takes familiar tropes and refreshes them for a new generation. In the ’70s, that meant cynical male antiheros. Now, it’s the women’s turn.”

Canvas (Netflix, Friday, 3:01 a.m.): Directed by Soul animator Frank E. Abney III, this moving animated film is the story of a Black painter and grandfather who, years after suffering the devastating loss of his wife and falling into a downward spiral, decides to revisit the easel and find his inspiration to create.

The Prom (Netflix, Friday, 3:01 a.m.): In his review, graded a dismal D+, Jesse Hassenger calls Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of this Broadway musical an “all-star, feel-good, zazzy nonsense.” Add this to the watchlist if you simply cannot resist a song-and-dance show or anything that has a cast consisting of the likes of Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Kerry Washington.

Wild cards

The Wilds (Amazon, Friday, 12:01 a.m.): The Wilds, Amazon’s attempt to combine a YA version of Lost with a distaff Persons Unknown, could be your next hate-watch. Of course, your mileage may vary on whether it meets the so-bad-it’s-good criteria: A small plane ferrying nine teenage girls to a therapeutic weekend retreat crashes in the middle of nowhere, stranding them on a desert island where they’re forced to survive together against the harsh elements and a rapidly dwindling supply of food and water—or so they think. While the young cast’s performances (and a Machiavellian turn from Rachel Griffiths) are all solid, the writing contains some of the clumsiest and most painfully overwritten dialogue on TV this year. It makes kid-friendly Disney Channel sitcoms look positively verité, with nearly every other line out of these girls’ mouths less like believable teen-speak and more accurately resembling an R-rated after-school special. (Sample line an ostensible 17-year-old says to a couple of federal agents interrogating her: “Don’t get me started on the impossible problem of sex.”) If laughable soap-lit YA mystery is your cup of over-the-top tea, visit this remote tropical island; otherwise, abandon The Wilds to its fate. [Alex McLevy]

High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special (Disney+, Friday, 3:01 a.m.): With its tongue-twister title, this holiday music special will feature the cast of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series performing Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s songs as they share anecdotes from their own memorable holidays and family traditions. Then stay tuned for a sneak peek of the first performance from the show’s upcoming second season, which debuts in 2021.

Alex McLevy is a writer and editor at The A.V. Club, and would kindly appreciate additional videos of robots failing to accomplish basic tasks.

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