This Week on TV features a new series about Julia Child, a new Marvel superhero who’s somehow crazy, a trip to Mars, a real crime drama, an uplifting musical, the Oscars – and a particularly bad new sitcom .
Airing Thursday on HBO Max • I love Julia Child! I love Sara Lancashire’s portrayal of her in this eight-part series! I like the series… but I don’t like it. Which is a bit of a disappointment.
Julia Child (1912-2004), of course, became an unlikely television star when she made her way to public television in “The French Chef.” And it was a bit of a battle, because (a) television was still pretty new in the early 1960s; (b) Julia was a woman in a business – and at a time – dominated by men; (c) cooking shows were new at the time; and (d) Julia was not what anyone would consider a conventional attractive woman, and television was and is dominated by attractive people.
The series opens with Julia and her husband, Paul (David Hyde Pierce of “Frasier”), celebrating the impending publication of his book, “The Art of French Cooking.” (It wasn’t easy, either.) And it’s more than delightful when Julia makes an appearance on Boston’s public television station WGBH, outwits the host, and takes over the show. And when she produces her own pilot for the series that made her famous.
There are a lot of really good moments in the show, which – don’t get me wrong – are good. And it’s worth watching just to watch Lancashire (“Last Tango in Halifax”).
But “Julia” is sort of the TV equivalent of comfort food. Good. Filling. Satisfactory. But nothing new, different or exciting.
6 p.m. Sunday, ABC/Ch. 4 • Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes are the hosts, given the unenviable task of trying to make this show too long and too slow entertaining. If you’re not a big movie buff, save it and fast forward through all the boring parts.
Streaming Tuesday on Hulu • This deeply disturbing eight-part series is based on the true story of a 17-year-old (Elle Fanning) who was tried and convicted of manslaughter after urging her 18-year-old boyfriend to commit suicide. It’s both engaging and repulsive – it raises some serious issues and the fanning is very good. But it can be very difficult to sit down.
Tuesday, 9 p.m., HBO • This is an exceptional documentary about the race to find a vaccine for COVID-19 that is full of heroes and villains. It’s the story of the incredible work that produced the vaccines at incredible speed and the story of the absolutely stupid political failures that made the pandemic worse. (Also streaming on HBO Max.)
Streaming Wednesday, Disney+ • This new series focuses on one of Marvel’s lesser-known characters, who looks a bit like a magical Batman, if Batman was mad. Oscar Isaac stars as Steven Grant, who shares a body with Marc Spector, whose alter-ego is Moon Knight. It’s weird and dark and violent and intriguing.
Streaming Wednesday, Discovery + • In this sequel to the stunning 2012 documentary ‘The Queen of Versailles’ – which premiered at Sundance – Jackie and David Siegel work to complete the 90,000 square foot mansion (or is 100,000 square feet?) they had to give up when the 2008 recession hit. They’re still totally weird, and watching Jackie is kind of like avoiding a car accident – you know you shouldn’t be watching, but you can’t help it.
Streaming Thursday, Paramount+ • Original animation “Fairly OddParents,” which aired 172 episodes from 2001 to 2017, is grossly underrated. It was an extremely funny and inventive show. This sequel mixes live action with animation. The kid from the original series, Timmy Turner, is older now, and he entrusts his fairy godparents, Cosmo and Wanda, to his younger cousin, Viv, and his new stepbrother, Roy. The mix of live actors and animation takes some getting used to, but it’s still fun.
Streaming Thursday on HBO Max • If you thought you’d seen every possible permutation of a rom-com…there’s this one. Sophie (Lana Condor, star of the “To All the Boys” trilogy) is a buttoned-up young woman in a long-distance relationship with a boyfriend on Mars. (It’s set in the future. Duh.) Walt (Dylan Sprouse, “Riverdale”) is a free spirit who meets a girl the day before he leaves for Mars. Sophie delivers a passage on the red planet; Walt embarks on the same ship; and their relationship grows. He looks cute. But shouldn’t the title be “Mars Shot”?
Streaming Thursday, Disney+ • If it sounds a bit like a middle school version of “High School Musical,” well, it was directed by Tim Federle, the show runner of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” It is based on her 2013 novel, which was based on her life. Nate is an unpopular 13-year-old who dreams of a life in musical theater, but is repeatedly pushed away. He and his best friend, Libby, run off to Broadway in search of their big breaks. And heartfelt, uplifting entertainment — complete with original songs — ensues.
Thursday, 8:30 p.m., CBS • Yeesh. This new sitcom is about a guy (Pete Holmes) who gets laid off from his factory job and decides to become a professional bowler. Yes, it’s based on the life of Tom Smallwood. No, it’s not funny. Seriously, in the three episodes screened for critics, there were no laughs. The characters are nice enough, but it’s just painful.