Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It’s a great weekend to be a Russian empress, a princess of power, or a queen

Top: Belinda Bromilow, Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult, Gwilym Lee, and Charity Wakefield; bottom right: Crystal Methyd.
Top: Belinda Bromilow, Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult, Gwilym Lee, and Charity Wakefield; bottom right: Crystal Methyd.
Photo: The Great (Hulu), Image: She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power (Netflix), Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1)

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Friday, May 15, and Saturday, May 16. All times are Eastern. 


Top picks

The Great (Hulu, Friday, 3:01 a.m., complete first season): Look for Danette Chavez’s review of the first season of this dark historical comedy about the rise of Catherine The Great this morning. For now, know that it stars Elle Fanning, reunites Nicholas Hoult with Tony McNamara, the screenwriter of The Favourite (here the creator and showrunner), and includes dazzling levels of casual profanity.

Can you binge it?: Yep, the whole first season drops at once—and it’s the kind of show that might make it hard to avoid hitting that “play next episode” button.

She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power (Netflix, Friday, complete final season): We’re sorry to see Noelle Stevenson’s wonderful animated series go, but at least it’s heading out on a high, and heartfelt, note. Click here to read Shannon Miller’s warm pre-air review, and keep an eye out on Sunday for The A.V. Club’s interview with Stevenson, an excerpt from which you’ll find below.

The A.V. Club: What should fans remember going into the season?

Noelle Stevenson: So at the end of season four, we saw all of these characters kind of reach the breakdown point of the identities that they constructed for themselves—specifically Adora, Glimmer, and Catra—have all been trying very hard to be a specific kind of person—a specific kind of figure, I would say, in Etheria. And at the end of the season we kind of saw everybody’s perception of themselves break under the pressure. So finding out that Etheria has this super weapon at the heart of it—and then that Adora is a key part of that, it really destroyed her sense of self and her idea of herself as a hero and as a bringer of peace and a uniter of Etheria. Finding out that she was actually kind of intended as the trigger of a gun, that is world breaking for her and it shattered her entire sense of self.

Likewise Glimmer is trying to see herself as a hero and like the queen was going to lead Etheria to an end of this war and they’re going to defeat the Horde for good. She has made a key tactical mistake and ended up bringing Horde Prime there and exposing Etheria to a hostile universe, while Catra, who has been trying so hard to be the perfect villain, finally reaches the logical end as well, where she just loses everything she’s worked so hard for and ends up pushing everyone away who’s ever cared about her. So going into the last season, that’s where we’re starting from. These characters, they don’t have anything to fall back on, what they thought was true about themselves is gone. They have to figure out now what to do next, who they are apart from who they kind of expected they were going to be or who they were pressured to be. It’s a whole new game. The entire playing field has opened back up to them, and they have to decide what they’re going to do next.

Can you binge it?: Indeed. As of this morning, the complete series awaits you on Netflix, and it’s a delight the whole way through.

RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1, Friday, 8 p.m.): This, racers, is the final episode of Drag Race recorded before two big things happened to change this season in a dramatic way (and not BenDeLaCreme-eliminates-herself dramatic, more like real-world-intrudes-and-changes-everything dramatic). The realities of the world at the moment alone would fundamentally change what’s coming next, and the disqualification of Sherry Pie is another major wrinkle. So what will the traditional reunion special and finale look like? No idea. In short, enjoy Drag Race proper (give or take Sherry’s edit) while you can.


Oh, and it’s also the finale for RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race, if that’s your speed.
Can you binge it? Some of it. Hulu and Amazon Prime have some early seasons (Amazon has one through five, Hulu has one through six, plus two seasons of All Stars and several of Untucked), but that should get you started.

On stage At home

Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days (Stars In The House via YouTube, Saturday, 2 p.m.): There’s precious little good to be said for this whole pandemic/global crisis thing. It is, to put it plainly, bad. However, the fact that it’s creating situations like this is one of its very, very few perks. Actors Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams (a real-life married couple, who recently recovered from COVID-19) are performing Happy Days, one of the great plays of master absurdist Samuel Beckett. It’s a two-hander, so it’ll be just the two of them. This is the kind of thing that would cost you a fuck-ton (technical term) of cash to see, but here, it’s free—though donations are accepted, and will benefit The Actors Fund. Cool as hell.


Wild card

Great Performances, “Leonard Bernstein’s Mass” (PBS, Friday, 9 p.m.): Speaking of things that are cool as hell, the national treasure that is Great Performances continues to be, well, a national treasure. This week’s offering is Leonard Bernstein’s epic Mass, anchored by renowned (and Tony-winning) Brazilian baritone Paulo Szot.