What to watch: ‘Morning Show’ is back with more star power

The third season of Apple TV+’s “The Morning Show,” Hulu’s standalone “The Other Black Girl,” and Amazon Prime’s “Wilderness” all arrive this week, kicking off the fall streaming season.

“The Continental: From the World of John Wick” (Sept. 22) is one of the most anticipated series of the season, so tune in next week. Amazon Prime’s “The Boys” spinoff “Gen V” (Sept. 29), Paramount+’s Korean drama “The Bargain” (Oct. 5), Netflix’s “Lupin Season 3” (Oct. 5), Netflix’s “Fall of the House of Usher” and Apple TV+’s “Lessons in Chemistry” (both Oct. 13), and others are also on the way.

Meanwhile, new releases include “Cassandro,” “Love at First Sight,” and “Satanic Hispanics.”

Here is our compilation.

“The Morning Show Season 3”: With the arrival of “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm, whose character lights a fire in Apple TV+’s engrossing 10-episode season, complications at the struggling UBA and UBA+ network take on added urgency. Hamm is a welcome addition, as is new anchor Christina Hunter (Nicole Beharie), who is a natural on camera.

This season, the Elon Musk-like Paul Marks (Hamm) propels the plot forward significantly. He’s a savvy entrepreneur working on a space program while courting interest in purchasing UBA and its subsidiaries, and he’s the boss of two star performers: the mercurial/shrewd Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) and the ambitious/passionate rising anchor Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon).

Season 2 addressed COVID-19, among other pertinent issues, and even killed off a lead character. Season 3 is equally daring, delving into the demise of legitimate news organizations and addressing a slew of timely issues such as censorship, abortion, the Jan. 6 Capitol storming, and cancel culture. It even wrestles with ethical lapses and business failures. Weighty issues, all, and “Morning Show” demonstrates once again that it is intelligent enough to address them without resorting to stock smiley-face solutions.

What also distinguishes “The Morning Show” are the dilemmas that confront its complex characters, who frequently make questionable decisions and sometimes make terrible blunders while remaining relatable, even likable.

The cast is large and up for any challenge, and the writers give their characters meaty problems that force them into increasingly uncomfortable situations. Billy Crudup, who plays quirky network CEO Cory Ellison, faces a crisis and clashes with Marks (Hamm). Stella Bak (Greta Lee, who was amazing in “Past Lives”), the uber-capable news division president, is given an intense backstory that grows more intense as the season progresses. Julianna Margulies, a principled journalist and Bradley’s lover, is sucked into the maw of an ethical debate.

All of them are fantastic, but Aniston and Witherspoon are the series’ true anchors. Both actors are at the top of their game, never losing sight of who their characters are or how they should react in perilous, unexplored situations. If you haven’t already become a fan, begin with Season 1 and work your way through. Details: 312 stars out 4; the first two episodes of the season are now available, with a new episode dropping every Wednesday until November 8.

“The Other Black Girl”: Tokenism and supernatural weirdness are just two of the issues that Nella (Sinclair Daniel) faces at Wagner Books, a venerable New York publishing house where “woke” colleagues are anything but. Nella, who is constantly undervalued, bonds with the “other black girl” in the office, hyper-efficient Hazel (Ashleigh Murray). When Hazel throws Nella under the bus over her concerns about a racist stereotype of a character created by Wagner’s star author, suspicions arise that she is something else. This 10-episode Hulu series, based on Zakiya Dalila Harris’ novel, rolls along like an A-ticked rollercoaster ride as it takes a pulse of so-called enlightened workplaces and spaces. The two leads mesh well, with Daniel’s reactions to her bosses’ and coworkers’ clueless comments providing priceless moments, while Murray subtly keeps us — and Nella — guessing as to whether Hazel is a friend or foe. But it’s Nella’s bestie Malaika (Brittany Adebumola) who steals the show in each of the 30-minute episodes, as she’s suspicious of everyone: Hazel, Wagner CEO Richard (Eric McCormack), and even the publishing imprint’s praised Black author Diana Gordon (Garcelle Beauvais). “The Other Black Girl,” which includes Rashida Jones as an executive producer, deserves to be a success. It’s entertaining. It’s astute. And it has something significant to say. 312 stars; all 10 episodes are available on Hulu.

“Cassandro”: In less capable hands, director Roger Ross Williams’ portrayal of gay luchador Sal Armendáriz (aka El Topo) and his ascension to top-tier exótico status could have devolved into a caricature of its main subject. This film, its cast, and its director are far superior. Gael Garca Bernal’s electrifying performance, combined with an intentional beauty of a screenplay from David Teague and Williams, expresses an abiding respect for Armendáriz’s courage and ambition while never soft-pedaling the difficult aspects of his life. Williams, who won an Oscar for his documentary short “Music by Prudence,” is the right person to direct. His nonfiction sensibilities provide a framework of authenticity that is burnished into every aspect of “Cassandro” — from Armendáriz’s hard partying ways once he teams up with a new promoter and his son (trap artist Bad Bunny bringing smolder here) to his closeted affair with a married wrestler (Ral Castillo, bringing more smolder). The touching but honest exchanges between son and mother (Perla De La Rosa) follow. In the end, it’s that authentic and raw style that elevates “Cassandro” and propels it past other standard biopics. Details: 312 stars; in theaters September 15, and available on Amazon Prime September 22.

“Wilderness”: A toxic marriage leads to murder in Prime’s uneven six-part thriller, “Wilderness,” which, like “The Other Black Girl,” is based on a novel. Unfortunately, the scenario is more promising than the execution: Unfaithful husband Will (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and dangerously in-love/hate wife Liv (Jenna Coleman) meet Will’s coworker/secret lover Cara (Ashley Benson) and her main squeeze Garth (Eric Balfour) while touring the great American outdoors and parks (Canada subbing for Yosemite, rather poorly at times). What a hassle. The series’ undoing is the questionable geographic locations and the turgid pacing (it should really be three episodes, max), which all but numbs the hard-hitting exploration of what it’s like to be caught in a relationship built on lies, directed by So Yong King and written and created by Marnie Dickens. Coleman and Jackson-Cohen deliver compelling performances, but they can’t overcome “Wilderness'” listless plotting, which oddly steamrolls right through its final pivotal 10 minutes. What works is Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” at the beginning of each episode. It’s an ideal match. Unfortunately, other elements do not come together as easily. Details: 2 stars; available on Amazon Prime on September 15th.

“Love at First Sight”: Director Vanessa Caswill’s breezy tale based on Jennifer E. Smith’s best-selling novel hardly moves the rom-com needle, but it never fails to deliver where it counts: a kinetic love connection between two fated strangers. The setting is a New York airport, followed by a flight to London, where Hadley (Haley Lu Richardson) is on her way to her father’s (Rob Delaney) second wedding and Oliver (Ben Hardy) is on his way to an important event. Their impending romance works because Richardson and Hardy complement each other. They make such a cute couple that it doesn’t matter that the situation is a little fabricated; we just hope fate doesn’t separate them. “Love at First Sight” is narrated by a statistic-spotting side character (Jameela Jamil from TV’s “The Good Place”) who takes on various walk-on roles, but in the moment you’ll be enchanted and rooting for these two to stay together. Details: 212 stars; available on Netflix on September 15th.

“Satanic Hispanics”: With a title like that, you already know what to expect from this gruesome anthology series based on Latino-infused horror stories from Latino filmmakers. The Traveler (Efren Ramirez), a lone survivor, is rescued by police from an El Paso house overrun with corpses. While in jail, he warns two skeptical detectives that he must be released soon or else. While they wait, he tells them scary stories. As with any anthology series, some shorts fare slightly better than others, with a few sprinklings of humor, while others are aimed solely at freaking you out. Mike Mendez, Demián Rugna, Eduardo Sanchez, Gigi Saul Guerrero, and Alejandro Brugués, the film’s directors, earn the R rating by delving into Latin mythology and summoning a vampire for some Halloween time-change issues. My personal favorite is Rugna’s first story, “Tambien Lo Vo,” which makes good use of the haunted house motif. 3 stars; in theaters September 15th.

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