Miniseries 'Alias Grace' is excellent 6-episode historical costume drama

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By Kevin McDonough

Netflix launches "Alias Grace" (TV-MA), the second miniseries to stream this year based on a novel by Canadian feminist author Margaret Atwood. Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale" was one of the most talked-about series of the spring. "Grace" may not launch as many conversations and memes, but it is an excellent six-episode historical costume drama.

Sarah Gadon stars as Grace Marks, a young woman who emigrates from Ireland to Canada and becomes part of a notorious murder trial of the 1840s. After years of imprisonment, she is allowed to work in a rich woman's home as a domestic. There, from the vantage point of decades, she recounts her life and trials to Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft). Anna Paquin stars as a murder victim, seen in flashbacks and Grace's dreams.

Like "A Handmaid's Tale," this series unfolds from the point of view of a woman oppressed by both gender and class distinctions. Grace grows up watching her father brutalize her mother and becomes a servant in a posh home in Canada, where the gentry feel free to have their way with the servants.

In some ways, Dr. Jordan's sessions with Grace hearken back to the HBO series "In Treatment," and her recollections of life in the servant's quarters may remind some viewers of a more politicized version of "Downton Abbey."

Some are already calling this the year of Margaret Atwood. Both "Alias Grace" and "The Handmaid's Tale" have arrived in a year marked by women's marches and a growing awareness of abusive behavior by men in power, from Hollywood studios to the halls of government and corporate boardrooms. Like the films of Jane Campion, whose two "Top of the Lake" miniseries have aired on Sundance, Atwood's works take an unabashed feminist stance, unafraid to tell women's stories, even if they depict some men as monsters.

This has not just been a year for "women's" voices. The 2017 shocker "Get Out," written and directed by Jordan Peele ("Key and Peele"), inverted horror movie conventions to tell a story from a black character's point of view. The film was made for less than $5 million and has done a quarter of a billion dollars at the box office. If that doesn't demonstrate a hunger for new perspectives in storytelling, nothing will.

TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

• Tattoos set the agenda on "Blindspot" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

• Fish walk the plank on "Hell's Kitchen" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

• Tiana looks to a clairvoyant for guidance on "Once Upon a Time" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).

• A demon is revealed on "The Exorcist" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).

• The royal family confronts Maximus on "Marvel's Inhumans" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).

• A hoop dream ends in overdose on "Blue Bloods" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

• A mother and daughter create a treehouse for their cat on the premiere of "Animal Cribs" (10 p.m., Animal Planet, TV-PG).

• A docuseries looks for a drug lord's lost loot on "Finding Escobar's Millions" (10 p.m., Discovery, TV-14).

• A stand-up comic revisits his childhood on "Lavell Crawford: Home for the Holidays" (10 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).

• A comedy star makes a city-by-city search for emerging talent in the new showcase "Kevin Hart Presents: Hart of the City" (11 p.m., Comedy Central, TV-MA). First up: Phoenix.

SERIES NOTES

An African civil war results in an oilfield conflagration on "MacGyver" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14) * Rebecca's friends intervene on "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) * Murders take inspiration from island folklore on "Hawaii Five-0" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) * A two-hour "Dateline" (9 p.m., NBC) * Judgments abound on "Jane the Virgin" (9 p.m., CW, TV-PG).

LATE NIGHT

Jeremy Piven, Walter Isaacson and Kelsea Ballerini are booked on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS) * Jimmy Fallon welcomes Saoirse Ronan, Julian Edelman, Clive Davis, Wiz Khalifa and Ty Dolla $ign on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) * Mariska Hargitay, John Cho, ZZ Ward, Fantastic Negrito and Sonny Emory visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC, r) * Judi Dench, Kyle MacLachlan and Kasabian appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).

© 2017, United Feature Syndicate