A documentary about college admissions airs on PBS, and Sheryl Crow tells her story in a new Showtime documentary.
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Between network, cable and streaming, the modern television landscape is a vast one. Here are some of the shows, specials and movies coming to TV this week, May 2-8. Details and times are subject to change.
INDEPENDENT LENS: TRY HARDER! (2021) 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Mechanical pencils, graphing calculators and crushing pressure are on display in “Try Harder!,” a documentary that follows high-achieving students at a San Francisco public high school who apply to elite colleges. The filmmaker Debbie Lum (“Seeking Asian Female”) mixes portraits of students’ lives with perspectives of teachers who observe, year after year, the intensities and inequities of the college admissions process. The result is “equal parts vérité character study and probing meditation on the virtues of success,” Beandrea July said in her review for The New York Times. While the film mostly stays inside the school, July wrote, “its inventive and unexpected visuals manage to avoid classroom banality.”
THE LIGHTHOUSE (2019) 6 p.m. on Showtime 2. The filmmaker Robert Eggers is likely reaching the most mainstream audiences of his career with his newest movie, “The Northman,” a violent swords-and-horses drama with Alexander Skarsgard. Some fans of that movie may be unprepared for the muted weirdness of Eggers’s previous film, “The Lighthouse,” a claustrophobic black-and-white psychological horror movie about two men (played by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe) maintaining a lighthouse on a remote island in the 19th century. The movie becomes trippier as each man’s mental health deteriorates. It is, Manohla Dargis wrote in her review for The Times, “a sly American Gothic.”
WHO DO YOU BELIEVE? 10 p.m. on ABC. A kind of TV true-crime “Rashomon,” this new show presents paired, conflicting accounts of real criminal stories. The first episode centers on a case that involves a newly married husband and wife.
THE PORTER 10:30 p.m. on BET. A tragedy sets two men on divergent paths in this new Canadian period-drama series. Set in the early 1920s, the story follows Junior (Aml Ameen) and Zeke (Ronnie Rowe Jr.), Black train porters who each find their own way to pursue a better life in the United States and Canada in the wake of World War I. Zeke seeks to unionize Black railway workers; Junior turns to bootlegging and gambling. The show is built around the real history of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, founded in 1925, which was the first all-Black union chartered by the American Federation of Labor. Its cast also includes Alfre Woodard, who is an executive producer of the series. The debut episode will air on Wednesday on BET; the rest of the first season will hit BET+ on Thursday.
BLACK AND BLUE (2019) 7:45 p.m. on FXM. Naomie Harris plays a police officer pinned between corrupt colleagues and a community weary of her in this action movie from Deon Taylor. Harris’s character is a rookie cop in New Orleans. After she — and her body camera — witnesses the killing of a young man by crooked officers, she goes on the run, racing to expose the crime before the badge-carrying killers catch up to her. This is a “blunt, efficient thriller,” A.O. Scott said in his review for The Times — and one with something to say. “Sometimes genre entertainment can illuminate troubling realities better than more earnest and self-seriously realistic films, and ‘Black and Blue’ belongs to that tradition,” Scott wrote. “Its pulpy pop-cultural credibility is inseparable from its honest, brutal assessment of the state of the world.”
SHERYL (2022) 9 p.m. on Showtime. The singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow takes center stage in a new way in this documentary, which delves into Crow’s superstar career while paying particular attention to the music industry sexism and mental health struggles that pressed against it. “There are a lot of people that have preconceived notions about who I am based on some very happy-sounding songs,” Crow said in a recent interview with The Times. She explained that she wants viewers “to see that there’s a person behind all of it,” and that “a woman in a business that’s predominantly run by men has a lot of stories that still resonate.” The documentary, directed by Amy Scott, also includes interviews with Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile, Keith Richards and several other musicians.
DEAR EVAN HANSEN (2021) 8 p.m. on HBO. Ben Platt, now in his late 20s, dubiously reprised his role as an awkward teenager who exploits a high-school tragedy for this film adaptation of the Tony-winning Benj Pasek and Justin Paul musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” In her review for The Times, Jeannette Catsoulis wrote that the movie is “treacly and manipulative,” but it has a few bright spots — including Julianne Moore’s performance as the title character’s mother. “Her one song is so genuinely moving,” Catsoulis wrote, “it only underscores the emotional artifice surrounding it.”
INSPIRING AMERICA: THE 2022 INSPIRATION LIST 9 p.m. on NBC. Started last year as apparent counterprogramming to, well, everything, this show honors figures who publicly inspire positive change. Honorees of the 2022 edition, hosted by the anchors Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, include the performer Rita Moreno, the figure skater Nathan Chen and the climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe.
GREAT PERFORMANCES AT THE MET 7 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). The latest entry in PBS’s series of recorded performances from the Metropolitan Opera is a breezy and family-friendly one: Massenet’s “Cinderella,” presented last year by the Met with Isabel Leonard in the title role. This interpretation, from Laurent Pelly, is a visually rich take on the fairy tale that trims and translates Massenet’s 1899 original. “The production,” Anthony Tommasini said in his review of the live show for The Times last year, “is a delight,” with a cast that “could hardly be better.”