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Amazon Prime film anthology begins with 'Mangrove'
TUNE IN TONIGHT

Amazon Prime film anthology begins with 'Mangrove'

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An ambitious effort, “Small Axe,” on Amazon Prime, presents an anthology of five original movies from director Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”). Together, they show a picture of London’s West Indian community between the 1960s and the mid-1980s. They will unfold weekly through Dec. 18.

Based on a true story, the first film, “Mangrove,” streams starting today. Set in 1970 in the Caribbean section of London’s Notting Hill, the Mangrove restaurant is a community center offering Trinidadian food and a place for neighbors, students, intellectuals and radical activists to gather.

As such, it becomes a target for police, who see any deviation from the norm as suspicious and therefore criminal. This film takes place at the same time that crooked London police were planting drugs on musicians including Brian Jones and George Harrison.

Repeated raids on the restaurant make a radical out of its owner, Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes), a businessman who only wanted to serve soul food to his neighbors. After a protest leads to a violent police crackdown, Chrichlow and his neighbors are put on trial as “The Mangrove 9,” leading to a dramatic trial that takes up the last half of the two-hour film.

Shot through with the sounds of reggae music just breaking through to the pop mainstream, this passionate film examines a British society coming to grips with its multiracial reality. Alex Jennings (“A Very English Scandal”), who played one incarnation of the duke of Windsor in “The Crown,” stars here as Judge Clarke, a bewigged symbol of an old order barely able to suppress his loathing and contempt for the defendants.

If this film has a fault, it’s that too many scenes run far longer than necessary. At one point, a violent police raid sends dinner wear, pots and pans crashing, and we see a colander rock on the kitchen floor for what seems like 30 seconds. Such indulgent touches add up to a film that’s at least 30 minutes too long. Less “Mangrove” would have been more powerful.

Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn hosts “The Pack.” Also streaming on Amazon Prime, this reality series invites 12 teams to travel the world and compete in feats of skill and athleticism for a $750,000 prize.

How is this different from “The Amazing Race”? All 12 teams consist of humans and their dogs. $500,000 goes to the winning team, and a quarter of a million goes to the animal charity of their choice. Not sure you could pull this off with cats. Or pugs, for that matter.

Other highlights

Liz may be pushing the wrong buttons on “The Blacklist” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

A woman scrambles to help her cousin’s dream of opening an Italian restaurant come true in the 2020 romance “A Taste of Christmas” (7 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG).

“20/20” (8 p.m., ABC) examines the shooting of Breonna Taylor.

“Great Performances” (8 p.m., PBS, r, TV-PG) presents “Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical.”

A failure to act on “Blue Bloods” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).

“The New York Times Presents” (9 p.m., FX, TV-MA) profiles the 17-year-old hacker who shut down Twitter.

Cult choice

Paul Newman and Robert Redford portray Depression-era con men in the 1973 drama “The Sting” (8 p.m., Outdoor). Directed by George Roy Hill, who had worked with both leads on “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” this film was a box office hit and critical darling, scoring 10 Oscar nominations and winning seven, including best picture and best director. The film also popularized the ragtime piano music of Scott Joplin.

Series notes

In the crosshairs on “MacGyver” (7 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) ... “WWE Friday Night SmackDown” (7 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... Vegan snack food on “Shark Tank” (7 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Dean Cain hosts two episodes of “Masters of Illusion” (7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., r, CW, TV-PG).

Rick’s dying dad faces one last deception on “Magnum P.I.” (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... “Dateline” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) ... “World’s Funniest Animals” (9 p.m., CW, TV-PG), followed by a repeat episode (9:30 p.m.).

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