What’s on TV
THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA 9 p.m. on HBO. Ed Burns and David Simon’s six-part adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2004 novel conjures an alternative history of the 1940s in which the United States takes a dark path under the sway of a popular demagogue. In the premiere episode, the tension is already beginning to build. Charles Lindbergh, a hero to many for his solo trans-Atlantic flight in 1927, foments anti-Semitic sentiment as he campaigns to prevent the United States from declaring war on Nazi Germany. Herman (Morgan Spector) and Elizabeth (Zoe Kazan), a working class couple Jewish couple in New Jersey, try to shield sons their sons Sandy and Phillip from the growing unrest while also wrangling with more mundane family issues.
MY BRILLIANT FRIEND 10 p.m. on HBO. Spurred by the reported disappearance of the mercurial Lila, an aging Elena began to share the story of their transformative friendship at the beginning of the first season of this ongoing adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. The two met as girls in a poor neighborhood in 1950s Naples. Both were promising students but only Elena was able to pursue her education. Despite her talent and spirit, Lila was left behind to ply her father’s trade and eventually accept the marriage proposal of a suitor. In the second season, based on Ferrante’s “The Story of a New Name,” the ambivalent but deep connection between the women continues to develop as Elena’s academic success takes her further from her community and Lila’s troubled relationship crumbles.
THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1948) Stream on the Criterion Channel; rent on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube. This film noir by Orson Welles includes just about everything one might expect: stylized black and white photography, an alluring but destructive femme fatale figure, and a plot rife with misdirection and sudden bursts of revelation. Welles stars as Michael, a sailor conscripted into a yacht trip from New York to San Francisco by Arthur, a wealthy lawyer, and his wife, Elsa (Rita Hayworth). Michael hopes to win Elsa’s affection, and is drawn into a scheme to help fake the death of Arthur’s partner George. But the deal Michael makes is not what it initially appears. In the hands of Welles, a master filmmaker, these conventional elements are used to explore identity, truth and desire.
THE RETURN (2003) Stream on Acorn TV. Julie Walters plays Lizzie, a recovering alcoholic who is released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence for killing her husband in a drunken haze. As she readjusts to life on the outside, Lizzie’s memory of that event begins to return and she realizes that she may not have been her partner’s murderer. There’s an investigation, plot twists and salacious details aplenty but this film focuses on its imperfect main character’s struggle to reconcile herself with a past that she largely wasn’t really present for.