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'AKA Jane Roe' profiles woman behind controversy

Posted 5/22/20

By Kevin McDonough

FX has found a larger-than-life character for its first documentary feature. "AKA Jane Roe" (9 p.m., TV-MA) interviews and profiles Norma McCorvey, the woman at the center of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that struck down state …

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'AKA Jane Roe' profiles woman behind controversy

Posted

By Kevin McDonough

FX has found a larger-than-life character for its first documentary feature. "AKA Jane Roe" (9 p.m., TV-MA) interviews and profiles Norma McCorvey, the woman at the center of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that struck down state laws banning abortion.

McCorvey, who died in 2017, submitted to a candid interview with filmmakers who traveled to her Katy, Texas, home. Despite shortness of breath, a condition that requires frequent gulps from an oxygen tank, she emerges as a feisty and resilient character, very much of the "stranger-than-fiction" category.

Abandoned by her father at a young age and abused by her alcoholic mother, Norma schemed to run away to Oklahoma City when she was 10 or so. This involved robbing a gas station and running off with a fellow child. She was sent to reform school after she was found in an Oklahoma hotel room engaged in amorous activities with her little friend. Norma did not find being incarcerated with hundreds of other girls so bad. But abuse at the hands of family members continued upon her release.

"AKA" examines the politics and personalities on both sides of the abortion issue. McCorvey would stun many when she became a Catholic activist against abortion rights in the mid-1990s.

Despite the passage of nearly half a century, the facts and issues remain the same. During the "Roe" case, McCorvey's lawyer argued that without the right to a legal procedure, her client might resort to a back-alley operation, which was dangerous, or experiment with self-aborting techniques, which were considered even worse. Arguing for the State of Texas, attorney Jay Floyd contended that Roe/McCorvey's right to choose ended when she became pregnant. A Supreme Court justice countered that perhaps her right to choose ended when she moved to Texas.

"Roe" has been promoted as containing a "startling deathbed confession" from McCorvey that will reveal more about her memorable role as a woman once described as "the most famous cleaning lady in America."

"Roe" will begin streaming tomorrow on Hulu, home to the limited series "Mrs. America."

• With so many resorting to apps like Zoom to take part in work meetings, quarantine has made TV producers of us all. The streaming series "Mythic Quest" builds remote conferences into the plot of a new episode. Only, since this is Apple TV+, everybody's using Facetime.

The gimmick allows the characters, goofy architects of a popular video game, to interact with all of their personal foibles intact. The short episodes explore fun ways to play with the emerging media while at the same time exploring issues of isolation and loneliness that transcend "connectivity." F. Murray Abraham plays the clueless older writer who is always the last to "get" to the meeting because he can't understand the software. Every meeting has one.

• Discovery launches "All on the Line" (9 p.m., TV-PG), following a family of New England fishermen in search of bluefin tuna.

• Janelle Monae and Chris Cooper star in the second season of "Homecoming," streaming on Amazon Prime.

• An unusual bond emerges between an artist and her model in the 2020 documentary thriller "The Painter and the Thief," streaming on Hulu.

• Streaming on Netflix, the new series "History 101" uses a wealth of archival footage and inventive infographics to explore issues from fast food to Middle East oil.

TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

• Ryan Seacrest hosts "The Disney Family Singalong, Vol. II" (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-G).

"American Masters" (9 p.m., PBS, r, TV-PG, check local listings) profiles Sammy Davis Jr.

• Jamie's bulletproof vest becomes evidence on "Blue Bloods" (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).

CULT CHOICE

The Rankin/Bass Productions team behind "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" created the 1967 stop-motion musical comedy "Mad Monster Party?" (8 p.m., TCM), featuring the voices of Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller.

SERIES NOTES

A K-9 officer requires special protection on "MacGyver" (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) * "Celebrity Escape Room" (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14) * "WWE Friday Night SmackDown" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) * Dean Cain hosts "Masters of Illusion" (8 p.m. CW, TV-PG), followed by a repeat episode * A witness needs protection on "Magnum P.I." (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) * "Dateline" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) * "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC) * Improvisations on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" (9 p.m. CW, r, TV-14).

LATE NIGHT

Nathan Lane and Jose Andres are booked on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS, r) * Jimmy Fallon welcomes Jennifer Lopez, Henry Winkler and Twenty One Pilots on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) * Yuval Noah Harari and Lewis Capaldi appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).

© 2020, United Feature Syndicate