a female chess player in a male-dominated field
— How do you portray genius? Better and Lesser Efforts than the Seven-Part Netflix Miniseries “The Queen’s Wager” have tried and failed at the task. Based on a 1983 novel by Walter Tevis, “Queens” stars Anya Taylor-Joy (“The witch”) as Beth Harmon, a troubled woman trying to break into the male-dominated world of chess grandmasters.
It all begins in an elegant Parisian hotel in the late 1960s, when Harmon is clearly hungover and wakes up to find she’s late for a crucial match. We flash back to her tragic youth when her mother’s sudden death (accidental or self-inflicted) lands her in an orphanage in Kentucky.
The hour-long pilot stars Isla Johnston as young Harmon, a serious and taciturn 9-year-old boy who comes across a gruff janitor (Bill Camp) playing chess on his own and becomes obsessed with the game. produced around the same time she develops a fondness for tranquilizers casually dispensed to orphans. “Gambit” confuses these two events and seems to imply (via special effects) that his cognitive leaps are fueled by drugs. Representing genius is never easy.
Somewhere in the plodding first hour, we learn (via a flashback within a flashback) that Beth’s mother was an unrecognized math whiz whose beautiful mind was clouded by mental illness.
Some may appreciate the show’s languid pace, but I suspect it owes more to the demands of “peak television” than good storytelling. Harmon’s story might better lend itself to the nice two-hour narrative that old-school movies provided.
— “American Masters” (9 p.m., PBS, TV-G, check local listings) features bandleader and music director Michael Tilson Thomas. Eager to cross musical boundaries, Thomas has collaborated as a conductor with Metallica and, a few decades ago, with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Thomas received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2019.
— There are so many reasons to dislike the ridiculously long build-up of the holiday season. For starters, it’s that time of year when Lifetime movies get “nice.” A figure skater and a former hockey star work together to thwart an evil politician’s plan to shut down the local rink in 2020 holiday romance “Christmas on Ice” (8 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG). Halloween is still eight days away.
– Hulu starts streaming 2020 period horror movie “Bad hair,” in which the extensions and weaves of 1980s black living room culture become nightmares.
— Broadcast on Apple TV+, “Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You” documents the production of a new album with the E Street Band.
TONIGHT’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
— The LA Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays face off in Game 3 of the World Events (8 p.m., Fox).
— A hot gold market offers new incentives for the Season 11 premiere of “Gold Rush” (8 p.m., Discovery).
– Nature itself turns against the inhabitants of a quaint California town in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller “The birds” (8 p.m., BBC America, TV-PG).
— “20/20” (9 p.m., ABC) questions the veracity of a single prison informant whose testimony was used in 35 lawsuits.
— Frank thinks twice about firing an officer on “Blue blood” (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).
Hosts of Julie Chen Moonves “Big brother” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) … “American Ninja Warrior” (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) … Brief encounters on “Shark Aquarium” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-14) … Dean Cain hosts “Masters of Illusion” (8 p.m. CW, TV-PG), followed by a repeat episode (8:30 p.m.).
Find Smoothie King Roughness on “Undercover Boss” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) … Two servings of “The funniest animals in the world” (9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., CW, TV-PG), the second episode a rebroadcast… ” Deadline “ (10 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
LATE AT NIGHT
“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” (11:35 p.m., CBS) presents special cover campaign…Jimmy Fallon hosts Chelsea Handler, Senator Bernie Sanders and the War on Drugs on “The Show Tonight” (11:35 p.m., NBC) … “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (11:35 p.m., ABC) is a rerun.