A terrific TV recap of June 2023. Here some June TV highlights that are #CouchWorthy. Maybe you missed em or didn’t hear about em. Some Sammy Suggestions for June 2023…
The Crowded Room: Limited Series (Anytime / Apple TV+)
Well since Fincher is not giving us another Mindhunter season anytime soon…The Crowded Room will hafta tide us over. Welcome to New York City in 1979. That explains why Tom Holland has a Dog Day Afternoon haircut. Holland plays Danny Sullivan who was arrested for his involvement in a shooting. Through a series of interviews with a police interrogator he slowly reveals his mysterious past and all that led him to the fateful incident. Behold the strange web of our lives. Think maybe he’s Keyser Söze? Oh wait…wrong reference. 10 episodes seems long for an interrogation sprinkled with flashbacks but here we are. Perhaps the cops are seeming what sticks…to Tom Holland? (Lousy Spider-Man reference; not my best work at all.)
SAMMY SUGGESTION: MANIFEST: SEASON 4 (ANYTIME / NETFLIX)
As the Death Date looms, the Flight 828 passengers and their loved ones race to fulfill their Callings and prevent the terrifying future that awaits.
In December 2007 The Dead Zone was rudely canceled, ending on a major (unresolved) cliffhanger. (Still annoyed!) This generation’s Dead Zone Manifest is spared that fate: a fourth and final season consisting of twenty episodes, with part one (the first 10 episodes) premiered on November 4, 2022. June ushered in the final fate of the Montego Air Flight 828 passengers. Starting with Ben Stone who when this season opens is grieving his murdered wife and searching for his kidnapped daughter, Eden. The mysteries will get deeper and the conspiracies theories will…take off. It was a strange ending. I think I liked it? The show is all done now…if you wanna start Manifest today is a good time.
Loudmouth (Anytime / Paramount+)
I know Al Sharpton but I don’t know Al Sharpton. I’m not sure how he got his start, how or why he got involved in racial justice. Nor do I grasp his relationship with the media. (Far more than Jesse Jackson, Al is constantly on TV. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a cautionary tale.) Speaking of Jackson: the doc features commentary from Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, James Brown and Senator Chuck Schumer. So Loudmouth is an opportunity to sit at the feet of an elder statesman and to hear from someone who has been on the front lines.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: ARNOLD (ANYTIME / NETFLIX)
This intimate docuseries follows Arnold Schwarzenegger’s multifaceted life and career, from bodybuilding champ to Hollywood icon to politician.
In May we got Last Dance style docs on Michael J. Fox, Donna Summer and Mary Tyler Moore. June kicked off with this three-part docuseries about Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’m “pumped” for this. It follows young Arnold leaving the countryside of Austria to become a successful Terminator and eventually governor of California. Arnold is a professional bodybuilder, actor, businessman and politician. It’s one of the reasons why he has universal appeal: he’s something to everyone. (The Rock follows the same template though his movies are way less successful and often fail to move or create culture.) If you somehow need more enticement to check this out it’s directed by Lesley Chilcott (An Inconvenient Truth) and executive produced by Allen Hughes (The Defiant Ones). This is amazing, I’ll be “sticking around” for all 3 parts.
30 For 30: Luckiest Guy In The World (Anytime / ESPN+)
If you don’t know who he is; I dunno how to explain Bill Walton to you. Yes he’s a popular NBA player: first overall pick in the 1974 draft. In 1978 he was the league’s MVP and won a championship with the Portland Trail Blazers. Look you can Google those stats or YouTube highlights of his game. But to give you a sense of how his four-part NBA documentary differs from other ones I recommend in this space…Grateful Dead band member Bobby Weir shares how his friendship with the band’s tallest fan formed. There’s not many 30 for 30s where the Grateful Dead randomly show up.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: STAN LEE (ANYTIME / DISNEY+)
Tracing his life from his upbringing in New York as Stanley Lieber to the rise of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee tells the story of Stan Lee’s life, career, and legacy using his own words and personal archival material.
We lost Stan Lee in 2018. So it’s been a few years since we’ve had a classic MCU cameo. Yes “Stan Lee” is a fan-service documentary (tis a Marvel Studios production). I saw this at Tribeca and was delighted to confirm it’s well-made.
For mighty Marvel fans, there’s little fresh revelations. You know the origin story by now: Stan Lee was the Uncle Ben of Marvel comics. But what he created with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko…so many collaborators remains special. They crafted distinction. Hard to believe but there was a time that Superman did not know who Batman was. Lee said yo let’s make everybody be pals. Little decisions like that proved to be seismic comic book shifts. That’s the rich soil of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s Lee’s work. And why everything works so well over the past 30 odd movies. Excelsior!
Duran Duran: A Hollywood High (Anytime / Paramount+)
Post-pandemic Duran Duran wanted to return to LA and did so with a rooftop performance that anchors this musical documentary. To promote their latest album Future Past, released in October 2021, and inclusion for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2022, The Wild Boys performed on the roof of The Aster. Right in the shadow of the classic Capital Building. Talk about a View To A Kill. Sooner or later every major band on Planet Earth has done an outdoor performance and/or a rooftop gig. It’s a Notorious milestone and they commemorate it with this doc. You’ll Come Undone if you miss this. You know how Careless Memories can be right? (Though this is a movie I had a hard time working in Girls on Film; you’d think that would be an obvious reference but it was difficult to shoehorn.)
SAMMY SUGGESTION: DROP THE NEEDLE (ANYTIME / PRIME VIDEO-CANADA)
In August 1990, a record store opened on Yonge St. that quickly began serving the needs of college radio and DJs who spun new sounds far from the mainstream.
I’ve written about this special doc in the My Pal Sammy newsletter before in Play De Record of Good Taste.
This literally documents that long ago downtown Toronto vibrancy and third world energy: check out Drop The Needle a Play De Record documentary. A record shop Play De Record was located at 357A Yonge St. right at Yonge-Dundas our Canadian Times Square. Bright Lights, eh?
Founded by a Trinidadian immigrant Eugene Tam (dude in the video thumbnail below) who all through the 90s made sure Play De Record was stocked with hidden gems as well as the latest and most notably the freshest in hip hop, drum and bass, house, techno, funk, Latin, electronic, jazz, soul and other underground dance genres. Play De Record was a vinyl church and the congregation gathered weekly typically on Thursdays to receive the sonic sacraments.
There’s a powerful moment in director Rob Freeman’s Drop the Needle documentary where he asked Eugene are you aware you created an institution? Eugene seemed surprised by the question; yet for the creative individuals featured in the documentary: Jason Palma, Russell Peters, Maestro Fresh Wes, Mastermind, Kardinal Offishall, Skratch Bastid and lots of DJs they’re not surprised. Their love for Play De Record is present tense: it was a community and a connection which is what the best DJs effectively create when they play.
The dance floor is all about community and connection orchestrated by the DJ. So if you have experienced Yonge Street-Play De Record you should see Rob Freeman’s documentary. More than nostalgia, this is hope.
In 2019 I had the pleasure of seeing Rob Schneider along with The Sandman live here in Toronto. Going in I knew Adam Sandler’s comedy and he killed. (Check out 100% Fresh on Netflix, it totally lives up to that title.) But Rob Schneider was a surprise. He had some solid bits; I was impressed with his craft and became a fan. So I’m looking forward to this comedy special filmed in front of a live audience at the Tampa Theater in Tampa, Florida. (Second comedy special from Fox Nation this year following Roseanne Barr’s special. Is this streamer becoming a comedy destination?)
SAMMY SUGGESTION: BLACK MIRROR: SEASON 6 (ANYTIME / NETFLIX)
Twisted tales that span eras – and terrors – deliver a myriad of surprises in this game-changing anthology series’ most unpredictable season yet.
The sixth season of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror returned with 5 new stories of tech produced fear-pee. Black Mirror is my jam but I’m not in the mood for tech-terror right now. So I’ve yet to watch an episode.
We got: Joan is Awful (An average woman is stunned to discover a global streaming platform has launched a prestige TV drama adaptation of her life — in which she is portrayed by Hollywood A-lister Salma Hayek.) Then: Loch Henry (A young couple travel to a sleepy Scottish town to start work on a genteel nature documentary – but find themselves drawn to a juicy local story involving shocking events of the past.).
Beyond the Sea (In an alternative 1969, two men on a perilous high-tech mission wrestle with the consequences of an unimaginable tragedy.) Mazey Day (A troubled starlet is dogged by invasive paparazzi while dealing with the consequences of a hit-and-run incident.)
Finally: Demon 79 (Northern England, 1979. A meek sales assistant is told she must commit terrible acts to prevent disaster.) So do you dare look into the Black Mirror? What reflection do you think you’ll see?
Titans: Season 4 (Anytime / Netflix-Canada)
Chances are if you actively read comic books you can name the Titans. The 4th season of the too cool for school teenage sidekicks unfolds today and what I’ll do is list the villains this season. That’s the better way to show how big this season is: Mayhem Jinx, Lex Luthor, Deathstroke and Brother Blood. Based on that list…that’s a Titans-ic fourth season. The fourth and final season finished on HBO Max on May 11, 2023. It’s here in Canada as of today to conclude the pre-James Gunn era of the DCEU. The DCU on TV starts sometime in 2024 where we can expect an adult animated Creature Commandos and Waller a Peacemaker spin-off series. For now you can enjoy watching the Teen Titans…Go!
SAMMY SUGGESTION: SECRET INVASION: SEASON 1 (ANYTIME / DISNEY+)
Nick Fury learns of a clandestine invasion of Earth by a faction of shapeshifting Skrulls.
This is a classic Sammy Suggestion…well that is…if this really is Sammy. Ironically the MCU villains are just the worst. If you only know Skrulls etc. from the movies; that sucks. (Captain Marvel remains one of the worst Marvel movies, the Skrulls especially Marvel did em dirty.)
Can Secret Invasion repair the Captain Marvel damage? Move the Skrulls away from the corny Mac and Me cute aliens and closer to the international tension of cold war Captain America movies? Like Nick Fury: sleep with one eye open.
So far? I’ve only watched the first episode: it’s just okay. Bonus Super-Fun: The fourth and final season of Titans finished on HBO Max on May 11, 2023. It was added on Netflix-Canada on June 25 to conclude the pre-James Gunn era of the DCEU.
Extraction: Season 2 (Anytime / Netflix)
In May 2020 Netflix commissioned a sequel to Extraction which aired in April 2020. Chris Hemsworth returns as Tyler Rake; his latest non-MCU comic book movie. The first movie was based on the graphic novel Ciudad by Ande Parks and produced by the Russo Brothers. The Man in the Suit offers Hemsworth’s Tyler Rake an irresistible (but not Impossible!) mission. This sounds more personal, though not as personal as John Wick’s dynamic business. Are you excited for this franchise?
SAMMY SUGGESTION: JACK RYAN: SEASON 4 (ANYTIME / PRIME VIDEO)
The fourth-and-final season finds the titular character on his most dangerous mission yet: facing an enemy both foreign and domestic.
Welcome back to the Ryanverse: Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Universe. “As the new CIA Acting Deputy Director, Jack Ryan is tasked with unearthing internal corruption, and in doing so, uncovers a series of suspicious black ops that could expose the vulnerability of the country. As Jack and the team investigate how deep the corruption runs, he discovers a far-worse reality – the convergence of a drug cartel with a terrorist organization – ultimately revealing a conspiracy much closer to home and testing our hero’s belief in the system he has always fought to protect.”
What will Jack uncover next? Can he control the political chaos?
Thus ends the latest actor to play Jack Ryan. Who is gonnna be the next Jack Ryan? I’ve never watched this series; knowing it’s done helps.
Speaking of ruckus: In May 2020 Netflix commissioned a sequel to Extraction which aired in April 2020. Chris Hemsworth returned as Tyler Rake in Extraction 2 on June 17. Yo, I haven’t seen either Extraction. How are they?
Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.