Apple’s sensational For All Mankind has made it to Mars, but the settlers aren’t exactly happy campers. Nathan Fielder (Nathan for You) walks people through simulations of major life events in HBO’s bizarre comedy-docu-reality hybrid The Rehearsal. Dakota Johnson stars in Netflix’s latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Turner Classic Movies repeats the recent AFI tribute to Julie Andrews, accompanied by several of her films.
For All Mankind
The enthralling alt-history space-race drama settles on Mars in this pivotal episode of Season 3, but with NASA crew and Russian cosmonauts sharing cramped quarters, and the commercial Helios craft the only one equipped for the journey home, tensions are high as three flags are raised on the Red Planet. A surprise announcement by one of the astronauts sets off a political firestorm, and a discovery creates further schisms in a jam-packed hour of quality TV.
Pushing the envelope between reality and the surreal in his mastery of the docu-comedy format, Nathan Fielder (Nathan for You) embarks on a stunningly elaborate and bizarre experiment in controlling fate. Empathetic yet also unnervingly deadpan, Fielder prepares his subjects for major life moments by staging simulations in meticulous recreations of their real-life settings, built inside a giant warehouse. Hard to describe but absorbing to behold, The Rehearsal opens with the story of Kor, a 50-year-old Brooklyn teacher and trivia nut who frets because he has never told his bar-trivia team that he lied about his academic credentials (he never got a master’s degree). To prepare Kor for his confession to a teammate, Fielder recreates the bar setting in detail (including a balloon trapped in a vent) as he guides the unassuming Kor through multiple run-throughs with actors and props: “I wanted to show him that if you plan for every variable, a happy outcome doesn’t have to be left to chance.” The strangest and perhaps most unforgettable hour of TV you’re likely to see this weekend.
Seems there will always be an appetite for a new twist on a Jane Austen classic, though director Carrie Cracknell’s take on Persuasion includes anachronistic dialogue and Fleabag-style asides to the camera that have some critics and purists spit-taking their tea and crumpets. Dakota Johnson stars as Austen heroine Anne Elliot, whose attitudes may be ahead of her Regency times but who must navigate a tricky romantic quandary when the suddenly wealthy military hero (Cosmo Jarvis) she once foolishly rejected returns from the Napoleonic Wars. Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding co-stars as her scheming cousin, and the always-welcome Richard E. Grant plays Anne’s clueless father.
A Tribute to Julie Andrews
Shown earlier this summer on TNT, the American Film Institute’s salute to the Oscar-winning musical actress repeats as part of a night-long tribute. After showings of the AFI ceremony, which includes appearances by her lifelong friend Carol Burnett and the grown-up kids who played the Trapp Family Singers in The Sound of Music, TCM will show two of her best: 1982’s Victor/Victoria (9:15/8:15c), which earned her a third Oscar nomination; and at 1 am/12c, 1964’s The Americanization of Emily, co-starring James Garner.
More good stuff from Apple TV+:
- Loot: Just renewed for a second season, the Maya Rudolph comedy brings a potential new love interest into Molly’s (Rudolph) life as she prepares to receive a prestigious humanitarian award for her charity work. But what’s her ex (Adam Scott) doing at the ceremony?
- Black Bird: In the third episode of the riveting prison drama, inmate Jimmy (Taron Egerton) finally gets to know his prey, suspected serial killer Larry Hall (the mesmerizing Paul Walter Hauser). One complication: He’s in danger of having his cover blown before he can elicit a confession that will stand up in court.
Inside Friday TV:
- CMT Campfire Sessions (10/9c, CMT): A second season of the intimate concert series begins with Jason Aldean telling stories and performing stripped-down versions of his hits.
- Dawn of the Monster Mako (streaming on discovery+): The streamer gets a jump on Discovery’s Shark Week (starting July 24) with two exclusives, including this account of a sighting of a 14-foot giant mako shark in the waters of the Azores; and The Haunting of Shark Tower, about a shark encounter at North Carolina’s Frying Pan Tower.
- Zombies 3 (streaming on Disney+): The supernatural high-school musical comedy welcomes outer-space aliens to the student body of zombies, cheerleaders and werewolves for the franchise’s third movie. The more macabre the merrier!
- Forever Summer: The Hamptons (streaming on Prime Video): A little bit Bravo, a little bit MTV in this coming-of-age “docu-soap” about college kids of diverse backgrounds who work and party hard in the summer playground of the Hamptons.