What’s on TV Friday: ‘Shangri-La’ and Two Denzel Washington Movies

What’s on TV

SHANGRI-LA 9 p.m. on Showtime. The fabled Shangri-La recording studio in Malibu, Calif., was once a hangout for the Band and Bob Dylan. Now, it’s an oasis overseen by the megaproducer Rick Rubin — and a reflection of Rubin’s minimalist sensibilities. So it makes sense as a setting for this four-part documentary from the director Morgan Neville (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”), which takes a meandering dive into Rubin’s life and work as a producer. The fact that Rubin has worked across so many genres (his best-known collaborations include producing for acts like the Beastie Boys and Johnny Cash) means that this dive should have something for everyone. But as the title suggests, the star may be the studio itself. “There’s an extra, added feeling of coming to a place where a lot of good music has been made,” Rubin says in the first episode. “I don’t know if it’s the energy collected in the space, or if it’s just people’s belief,” he adds. “It doesn’t really matter.”

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 (2009) 10:05 p.m. on AMC. New Yorkers might have good reason not to hold savory views of their commutes, but at least they don’t have John Travolta commandeering their subway cars. That’s what happens in this thriller from Tony Scott, which updates a classic 1974 New York film through cleaner trains and better action-movie technology. Travolta plays Ryder, the tattooed leader of a crew of hijackers who take over a 6 train. Denzel Washington plays Walter Garber, a subway dispatcher who gets roped into the incident. Washington and Travolta “conduct a tag-team master class in old-style movie star technique, barreling through every cliché and nugget of corn the script has to offer with verve and conviction,” A.O. Scott wrote in his review for The New York Times. “Even when you don’t really believe them, they’re always a lot of fun to watch.”

AMERICAN GANGSTER (2007) at 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on BBC America. To see Washington in another part of New York City and on a different end of the moral spectrum than his character in “The Taking of Pelham 123,” see this crime drama from Ridley Scott, in which Washington plays the 1970s drug kingpin Frank Lucas. The role of Lucas, who died in May, is one that Washington steps into easily, Manohla Dargis wrote in her review for The Times, “whether flashing his wolfish grin or draining the affect from Lucas’s face to show the soulless operator beneath the swagger and suit.” Russell Crowe plays Richie Roberts, the New Jersey detective who brings Lucas down.

What’s Streaming

POSTHUMOUS (2014) Rent on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube. The filmmaker Lulu Wang is in theaters this weekend with “The Farewell,” starring Awkwafina. Wang’s feature debut, “Posthumous,” takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the art world through the story of an artist (Jack Huston) who gets famous after people think he’s dead. He isn’t, which creates potentially lucrative opportunities for him.

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