Worth Watching: True Crime Dramatized in ‘Dropout’ and ‘Joe vs. Carole,’ ‘Picard’ Returns
This is one of those Thursdays where you can really feel the avalanche of TV on streaming and other platforms, with almost too many premieres to list. Among the highest profile: Hulu’s engrossing The Dropout, about disgraced tech CEO Elizabeth Holmes, fighting for attention against Peacock’s campy recreation of the Joe vs. Carole shenanigans from Tiger King. On Paramount+, Star Trek: Picard joins Discovery. HBO Max launches a fun pirate spoof, Our Flag Means Death. And one of CBS’s Ghosts realizes his true nature in another terrific episode.
Amanda Seyfried impresses in a compelling eight-part docudrama as Elizabeth Holmes, the formerly celebrated and now disgraced founder and CEO of biotech company Theranos, whose vision of revolutionizing health care seduced famous investors to the tune of billions. Only one problem: The top-secret tech she promoted never really worked. A classic rise-and-fall tale of ambition, hubris, deceit and paranoia enlists a top-drawer cast including Lost’s Naveen Andrews as her Svengali mentor, Laurie Metcalf as a Stanford professor who sees through Elizabeth even before she drops out to become a cover girl and media sensation, and William H. Macy as her loudest critic, who engineers the downfall of Theranos by prodding the Wall Street Journal to look behind the curtain. The first three episodes drop today, the rest premiering weekly. (See the full review.)
On the other end of the docudrama spectrum is a campy eight-episode re-enactment (all available for binge-watching) of the Tiger King feud between big-cat advocate Carole Baskin (Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon) and her nemesis, Joe “Exotic” Schreibvogel (Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s John Cameron Mitchell). It will be hard for even these flamboyant performers to top the Netflix original, though Joe claims to be based on the Wondery podcast.
Like a greatest-hits compilation in one episode, the long-awaited second season of the Trek spinoff opens by reviving a number of fan favorites from Next Generation lore: The Borg, alien counselor/bartender Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), the imperious and enigmatic Q (John de Lancie)—and of course, the Captain, now Admiral, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), once again called away from his beloved vineyard to save the galaxy. Or so it seems as a new mystery unfolds reuniting the space explorer, now encased in a new synthetic body, with the colorful crew of La Sirena. But this is also a deeply introspective season, as Picard is challenged to look not just beyond the stars but within, to address the question: “Why have you chosen to be alone?”
Meanwhile, in an altogether different timeline, the exciting fourth season of the space opera continues with the Discovery crew anxiously preparing for first contact with the unknown species responsible for the planet-consuming anomaly headed toward Earth. With the doomsday clock loudly ticking, Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) assembles an away team to investigate the ruins of a nearby planet in hopes of gleaning some psychological insight into these mysterious aliens. Taking advantage of this distraction, rogue pilot Book (David Ajala) and scientist Tarka (Shawn Doyle) sneak aboard the ship to further their own goals.
Centuries of repression and trauma bubble to the surface in the delightful supernatural comedy when Sam (Rose McIver) and Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar) ask the ghosts to bunk together so they can get rooms ready for the B&B they’ve been planning to open all season. Soon, no one can sleep because of Thorfinn’s (Devan Chandler Long) noisy night terrors, prompting the arrival of a therapist who can only speak (unknowingly) to the Viking through Sam. The bigger reveal involves Revolutionary War fop Isaac (a touching Brandon Scott Jones), who has lived in a limbo of denial for hundreds of years, only now confronting his true nature when he feels he must try, however awkwardly, to seduce his new roomie, Hetty (Rebecca Wisocky). Their scene of thwarted, misguided passion is one for the ages.
Yo-ho-ho and a cornucopia of anachronistic jokes. Sleeper of the week, and a fun show you shouldn’t let escape notice, this lively spoof of 18th-century pirating stars Flight of the Conchords’ Rhys Darby as would-be “gentleman pirate” Stede Bonnet, who haplessly captains the pirate ship Revenge to the dismay of his mostly inept crew of would-be pillagers. “Polite menace, that will be my brand,” Bonnet pompously decides. But how will that play when his path crosses that of the truly feared Blackbeard (executive producer Taika Waititi of What We Do in the Shadows and Jojo Rabbit fame)?
Inside Thursday TV:
- Top Chef (8/7c, Bravo): The cooking competition relocates to Houston for Season 19, with 15 hungry-for-fame chefs vying for top honors as they’re challenged to add their own flavors to the city’s regional cuisines.
- Law & Order (8/7c, NBC): Now that we’ve met both sides in the reboot, they get down to business when the COO of a major tech company is murdered in Central Park. Followed by a guest-star alert on Law & Order: SVU (9/8c), where Jake Weber guests as a shock jock accused of sexual abuse, and Mariska Hargitay’s husband, Peter Hermann (Younger), plays defense lawyer Trevor Langan, Benson’s date to a charity event.
- Walker (8/7c, The CW): Not the most auspicious start for Walker’s (Jared Padalecki) soon-to-be new partner Perez (Ashley Reyes), when she mistakes the ranger for a suspect.
- Grey’s Anatomy (9/8c, ABC): As if his alarming meltdown wasn’t enough, Schmitt (Jake Borelli) now has to go in front of the Morbidity and Mortality conference to explain the circumstances of his patient’s death.
- Call Me Kat (9/8c, Fox): Kat (Mayim Bialik) is a good friend indeed in times of need, which is why Max (Cheyenne Jackson) turns to her for money management tips after he’s evicted from his apartment. Phil (Leslie Jordan) may need help, too, after he decides to divorce himself from technology and give up his phone.
- Bull (10/9c, CBS): Lou Diamond Phillips guests as an Army psychiatrist friend of Bull’s (Michael Weatherly) who needs the legal expert’s help to defend a sergeant accused of killing another soldier. Outside of court, Marissa (Geneva Carr) falls for her French art dealer (Edward Akrout).
- Dicktown (10/9c, FXX): First seen as a recurring segment on Cake, the offbeat animated comedy from John Hodgman and David Rees tells its stories of 40-year-old sleuth John Hunchman (formerly a boy detective) from Richardsville (“Dicktown”), North Carolina, and bully-turned-driver David Purefoy in 15-minute vignettes, two per episode.
- The Tourist (streaming on HBO Max): Belfast’s Jamie Dornan stars in a fast-paced six-episode binge as a Brit in the Australian outback who survives a road chase, waking in the hospital with no memory of who he is or why people are after him.
- Raised by Wolves (streaming on HBO Max): In a shatteringly eventful episode of the fascinating sci-fi drama, young Tempest (Jordan Loughran) prepares to give birth, Mother (Amanda Collin) comes face to face with the mysterious android Father (Abubakar Salim) has been tinkering with, and a newly converted Sue (Niamh Algar) plots to free Marcus (Travis Fimmel) so they can open the relic that may contain the seed for the Tree of Life.
- Restaurant Rivals: Irvine vs. Taffer (streaming on discovery+): In a three-episode mini-binge, chef Robert Irvine goes head-to-head with businessman Jon Taffer in dueling restaurant makeovers to see whose approach pleases diners most.
- The Weekend Away (streaming on Netflix): Gossip Girl’s Leighton Meester stars in a melodrama as Beth, whose weekend getaway to scenic Croatia turns ugly when she’s accused of killing her best friend (Christina Wolfe).
- The Missing Children (streaming on Topic): A disturbing docuseries investigates what happened to thousands of children born to unwed mothers in Ireland 40 years ago, taken by the Catholic Church and the Bons Secours order of nuns and trafficked to the U.S. in forced adoptions, or worse.
- The Problem with Jon Stewart (streaming on Apple TV+): Given the current state of the world, it makes sense that the former Daily Show host’s public-affairs series is now going weekly.