What if one of the stars of the "Real Housewives" franchise became a vengeful dictator? The 2019 documentary "The Kingmaker" (9 p.m., Showtime, TV-14) profiles Imelda Marcos, the widow of Ferdinand Marcos, a president-turned-bloody dictator of the Philippines.
She has since returned to that troubled country to meddle in politics on behalf of her children at a time when its current leader has dispensed with the rule of law and has killed thousands of citizens in plain sight and in cold blood.
Viewers of a certain age may recall Imelda Marcos for her vast collection of shoes. After her husband was deposed in the late 1980s, the new government confiscated the millions of dollars in designer clothes and footwear she had amassed with money she had plundered.
The first third of "Kingmaker" puts the accent on this tacky side of Imelda's reputation. She describes her ascent from local beauty queen to politician's wife to first lady, and then, as her husband's health failed, an unelected despot.
As an older woman, she's shown surrounded by garish excess, gilded rooms accessorized with thrift-store-level portraits of the Marcos couple. In one odd scene, she displays framed photos of herself with world leaders set up on outdoor tables. When she knocks several photos over, she barely misses a beat as she continues to talk about herself. The camera pulls back to show a servant at her feet, picking up shards of glass with his bare hands.
"Kingmaker" director Lauren Greenfield gained close access to Marcos, a soft-spoken woman who explains all of her actions with the argument that she is a "mother" to her people and to the people of the world.
One of the stranger themes explored here is her importation of hundreds of wild animals from Kenya to a remote Philippine island. Longtime residents were exiled to make way for her "paradise," a place that has since fallen into squalor as the animals have become inbred and diseased. "Mother" never thought to hire scientists or vets to look after her menagerie.
Turning away from such kitsch, the documentary focuses on the murderous excesses of the power couple and the imposition of martial law that sent teachers, writers and journalists to prison cells, torture chambers and mass graves.
In many scenes, Marcos is seen dispensing cash to throngs of beggars, gestures of bribery and excess that have won her a following that cares little for the Marcos' war on so-called "enemies of the people." As the film concludes, she presides over efforts to put her son back in the president's palace.
-- Streaming today on Netflix: "All the Bright Places," a 2020 adaptation of a young-adult novel of the same name. Elle Fanning and Justice Smith star.
-- Disney Plus begins streaming "Shop Class," a genial competition series pitting 18 teams of young teens and adolescents against one another under the tutelage of real shop teachers.
The youth and exuberance of the participants is the chief ingredient that sets "Shop Class" apart from NBC's "Making It" and other craft competition series.
-- Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Billy Crudup and Abby Quinn star in the 2019 drama "After the Wedding" (8 p.m., Starz), also streaming, beginning today, on Hulu.
TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
-- A string of bombings rattles Manhattan on "Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
-- A case hits Frank personally on "Blue Bloods" (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).
An unexploded WWII bomb complicates a rescue in Germany on "MacGyver" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... "WWE Friday Night SmackDown" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG).
Tyra Banks and Coyote Peterson sit down on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert“ (11:35 p.m., CBS).