J. K. Rowling’s latest Harry Potter offshoot brings its inky enchantment to HBO. And some good dogs take on daunting tasks for love.
What’s on TV
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (2016) 8 p.m. on HBO. J. K. Rowling transports Harry Potter’s wizardly world to 1926 New York in this first installment in a planned series whose conceit is that it was spun from a Hogwarts textbook. Ms. Rowling — who wrote this big, splashy offshoot directed by David Yates and starring Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston — drew on current events and the rise of populism, beginning with the question, “Is anyone safe?” “Unlike the Potter movies, which grew darker and heavier as Harry and the series developed, ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is playing peekaboo with the abyss right from the start,” Manohla Dargis wrote in The New York Times. “It’s no wonder that I miss Harry and the rest of the kids,” she added. “Where’s the new generation that’s ready to fight?”
RESCUE DOG TO SUPER DOG 10 p.m. on Animal Planet. Get out the Kleenex as you watch the trainers Nate Schoemer and Laura London transform rescue dogs into service animals for a former Marine with post-traumatic stress disorder and a woman with cerebral palsy who uses canes. The dogs are taught tasks like opening and closing doors, turning on lights and calming their owners during panic attacks. In return, they get oodles of love.
BIRDMAN (2014) 10:40 p.m. on FX Movie. Riggan Thomson (an Oscar-nominated Michael Keaton), a washed-up Hollywood actor famous for playing a superhero, floats down to earth to deliver himself from his past by staging a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story. Then a pompous theater actor (Edward Norton) comes along and threatens to steal the show. Riggan’s fresh-from-rehab daughter (Emma Stone) takes on the role of assistant to her father. Writing in The Times, Manohla Dargis called Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s best-picture winner “funny, frenetic, buoyant and rambunctiously showboating entertainment.”
SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK (2008) on Sundance Now. A theater director (Philip Seymour Hoffman), miserably married to a talented painter (Catherine Keener) and living in Schenectady, N.Y., with their 4-year-old daughter, presents “Death of a Salesman” with a young cast. The tragedy, he says, will emerge when the audience members see the youthful actors (Michelle Williams among them) and realize that they will end up every bit as crushed as Willy. The play is a smash, but everything else falls apart. Charlie Kaufman’s delicate romance “is as much a cry from the heart as it is an assertion of creative consciousness,” Manohla Dargis wrote in The Times.
FORTITUDE on Amazon. The residents of a town with no crime and no death on the Svalbard archipelago in Norway fend off a form of evil that no one has a name for — yet. Starring Michael Gambon and Stanley Tucci, the series is beautifully shot, with slashes of blood streaking the infinite expanse of snow and ice as the northern lights shimmer above. Season 2 adds Dennis Quaid to the cast.
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