Year: 2021

Best-bets for April 20: an angsty night for teens and bikers

1) “Cruel Summer” debut, 9 and 10 p.m., Freeform. Here is a remarkable performance by young Chiara Aurelia – virtually a triple role, all within one character. We meet Jeanette as a shy and likable teen (shown here) who secretly envies the beautiful Kate (Olivia Holt). A year later, she has Kate’s life and boyfriend; a year after that, she’s widely hated. Bouncing between the three summers, we slowly learn her actions (or inaction) changed everything. And we see the mixed impulses that can live inside one teen. Read more…

Best-bets for April 19: Second chances for “Idol” and for author

1) “American Experience: American Oz,” 9-11 p.m., PBS. After a blissful childhood, Frank Baum dreamed big, often with his dad’s financial backing. He raised thoroughbred chickens; he wrote, produced and starred in a touring musical. In South Dakota, he tried a high-end store and then a newspaper that went from feminism to proposing Indian annihilation. He failed often and then, in his 40s, succeeded with children’s short tales … a window-dressers’ magazine … and “The Wizard of Oz,” a classic book that became an immensely popular movie (shown here). Read more…

Host-less, song-less Oscars could be awful

Let’s hope I’m wrong, but this year’s Academy Award telecast has the potential to be truly terrible.
I mean dull and drab and dreary and, well, absolutely awful. Let’s review:
In recent years, the art of acceptance speeches has crumbled. People used to say something funny or angry or joyous or, at least, interesting. Now they thank their agents and managers. This year’s show will have lots of pretty people onstage — Brad Pitt (shown here) and Halle Berry and more — but nothing else.
In the past, we could at least look forward to some comedy (from a clever host) and some music (from the five nominated songs). And now? For the third straight year, there will be no host. For the first year in approximately forever, there will be no songs; they’ll be exiled to the pre-show, from 6:30-8 p.m. ET. Read more…

Beyond the blubber: Whales show rich personalities

We kind of know what whales are like – big and blubbery and such.
Or maybe we don’t know them at all. They vary widely, photographer Brian Skerry told the Television Critics Association. That can depend on the species, the region, even the individual.
“These animals do have languages,” said Skerry, whose richly crafted “Secrets of the Whales” (shown here) has an Earth Day debut on Disney+. “They do have dialects. (They) have rich lives, much like our own.” Read more…

TV overflows with Earth Day (Earth Month?) splendor

A slow year for people turned out to be a splendid one for animals … and for people filming animals.
For the second straight year, Earth Day (April 22) will lack its usual commotion. Community events have been sidelined during the pandemic.
But this has been a strong year for nature and filmmakers, including “Perfect Planet” (shown here). And streaming networks are jumping in.
One (Discovery+) declared this Earth Month, with a new film each Thursday. Another (Apple TV+) added three ambitious projects on Friday (April 16). And on Earth Day, Disney+ debuts “Secrets of the Whales,” a spectacular, three-year, four-part project. There’s much more, via broadcast (PBS, CW) and cable. People will see lots of animals … and will hear a lot from David Attenborough, 94, the eternal narrator. Here’s a sampling: Read more…

Beast-bets for April 18: music via country, “Idol” and “Zoey”

1) Academy of Country Music awards, 8-11 p.m., CBS. Miranda Lambert will open the show, singing “Drunk” with Elle King (they’re shown here); she’ll also link with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall for “In His Arms.” Her ex-husband Blake Shelton will celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Austin” and also do “Minimum Wage.” From three Nashville locations, others include Carrie Underwood (with gospel great CeCe Winans), Dierks Bentley, Luke Combs, Kane Brown, hosts Brad Paisley and Mickey Guyton, and many more. Read more…

Week’s top-10 for April 19: Earth Day is strong; Oscar night is weak

1) Academy Awards, 8 p.m. ET Sunday, ABC. For the third straight year, the Oscars will go without a host … and might pay little attention to the songs. That can be disastrous: Humor and music are key, when many winners give dreary speeches (thanking agents and such) and many viewers haven’t seen the films. Nominated for best picture are “Promising Young Woman” (shown here with Carey Mulligan), “Mank,” “Minari,” “Nomadland,” “Trial of the Chicago 7,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “The Father” and “Sound of Metal.” Read more…

Best-bets for April 17: envy, murder and a giant

1) “Envy,” 8-10 p.m., Lifetime. Serayah (shown here) – who made an impressive TV debut in “Empire” (as Tiana, Hakeem’s es-wife) gets the title role, sort of. Learning she has a prosperous half-sister, she suddenly wants it all. This is the second faith-based film produced by Bishop TD Jakes, based on novels about the seven deadly sins. “Lust” was last week; production on “Greed” was delayed by the pandemic. The others – including, alas, sloth and gluttony – may take a while. Read more…

Teen conquers complex role

In rare moments, a master actor gets to play a double or triple role.
That includes comedy guys – Eddie Murphy, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sellers – and various Englishmen who become Jekyll and Hyde. And now, sort of, there’s Chiara Aurelia.
No, you probably haven’t heard of her. She’s 18 and has had some roles … five of them playing the younger version of a main character. But when “Cruel Summer” debuts (9 and 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 20, on Freeform), she has virtually a triple role – the same teen-ager (Jeanette, shown here, center, at the start), over three summers that transform her completely.
“Each year kind of represents a different element of all of our lives,” Aurelia told the Television Critics Association. “You know – the darkness, the sadness, the youthfulness.” Read more…

Best-bets for April 16: violins in China, vampires in Romania

1) “Van Helsing” season-opener, 10 p.m., Syfy. After four seasons with Vanessa Van Helsing (shown here) in a near-future world, this goes back to the roots of vampire-hunting: It starts its final season with three episodes set in old Romania. This opener was beautifully directed by Jonathan Scarfe, a gifted actor (and son of Canadian star Sara Botsford) who later will return to his role as Axel. Jack (Nicole Munoz) has been flung into the past, told only to “kill the Dark One.” That’s not easy, amid castle schemes. Read more…