Take Shelter from the Summer heat with these Untold TV Recommendations: from Elvis to Tracy Morgan this week’s #SetTheVCR is Killing It.
Monday, August 14
Asteroid City (Anytime / Peacock)
A fictional American desert town, circa 1955. Junior Stargazers and Space Cadets from across the country assemble for the annual Asteroid Day celebration — but the scholarly competition is spectacularly upended by world-changing events. Equal parts comedy, drama, and romance (with a touch of science-fiction). It’s Wes Anderson: you’re either in or you’re out.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: WARNER BROS. 100 YEARS (ANYTIME / HOLLYWOOD SUITE)
A four-part documentary on the history of Warner Bros. as part of the studio’s centennial programming.
Warner Bros. was established on April 4, 1923. Just after World War I. This is a film studio that has gone through radio, B&W TV, Colour TV…all the way to streaming. They’ve released countless Batman and Superman movies, Matrix, Hangovers, 300, The Exorcist, Seven, Lethal Weapons, Pan’s Labyrinth, GoodFellas, Space Jam…The Goonies, The Shining, All The President’s Men and lots more. So much more. It’s been an incredible 100 years and I’m blessed and I’m thankful because it’s been an entertaining run.
This 4-part Last Dance narrated by Morgan Freeman features over 60 interviews with legendary filmmakers, actors and executives. I won’t list em all but you know them all. Originally this aired on HBO Max on May 25 and June 1st in celebration of the studio’s 100th Anniversary.
Now it’s streaming on Canada on the film friendly Hollywood Suite, the ideal local home a docuseries like this. The first two parts are Part 1: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (founding the studio) and Part 2: Clint, Kubrick and Kryptonite (focusing on the 70s.). Part 3 is Heroes, Villains and Fiends (tackling the 80s and Hollywood’s glorious blockbuster era.). Part 4 Wizarding World and the Big Bang…so from Harry Potter to streaming. Think of this docuseries as the best of collection most bands issue. This is Warner Bros.’ greatest hits.
Tuesday, August 15
In season seven, alliances are turned on their heads. Old wounds are weaponized. Loyalties are tested. Betrayal takes on epic proportions. Enemies become wary friends. And Bobby Axelrod returns, as the stakes grow from Wall Street to the world.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: REINVENTING ELVIS: THE ’68 COMEBACK (ANYTIME / PARAMOUNT+)
This documentary tells the riveting story of Elvis Presley, legendary director Steve Binder and the creation of the 1968 Comeback Special.
I saw the ‘68 Comeback Special on TV as a kid. (Obviously not in 68. I’m not that old.) It was stunning. Raw magnetism. Raw talent. Raw Elvis. All if it was unleashed and came through the TV set. It was like touching an electric current. At the time I didn’t understand the comeback part or have the context for where Elvis was at in his career. I did understand the‘68 Comeback Special was like a manifesto. That’s such a powerful artistic statement. Of the many, many gifts Elvis left us is TCB: Taking Care of Business (the lightning bolt in the logo means in a flash). Exactly what he did with this one hour of TV. This is the story behind the special that aired on December 3, 1968. (The ‘68 Comeback Special is what inspired MTV Unplugged in 1989; a slew of acoustic performances that truly lived up to the TV name of Specials. Nothing in pop culture is past tense…it’s all connected.)
Wednesday, August 16
She Said (Anytime / Crave)
Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s quest to break the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: UNTOLD: HALL OF SHAME (ANYTIME / NETFLIX)
Examine one of sports’ biggest steroid scandals via interviews with the head of BALCO lab, athletes suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs and more.
I don’t have any strong positions on baseball vs steroids. I wait for compelling documentaries like this because most of the views espoused online are often incorrect. For example: I thought the narrative was Lance Armstrong was doping. Many loudly turned on him in reaction to the established narrative. And yet…like most popular narratives it was dumb and worse wrong. According to ESPN’s Lance doc (from 2020): on the Tour de France doping is rampant. So…Lance is not an outlier? He’s just a commoner?? Then narrative is wrong. Oh and also? If Lance is doping like y’all and y’all are still losing; that means he’s still better than you. Cyclists on the Tour were doping and still…losing to Lance. That hurts your soul. Which is what makes baseball vs steroids so tricky. Just how good is the player before he takes steroids? How common is this: on the Tour it was fairly common. In baseball if it’s just a handful of people we got an issue. This latest Untold from Netflix focuses on Victor Conte the drug dealer for high profile athletes. Let’s see what’s the what before we render a verdict or establish a position.
Thursday, August 17
The Chosen One (Anytime / Netflix)
Based on the graphic novel American Jesus by writer Mark Millar and artist Peter Gross: Imagine for a moment…you’re 12 years old and one day you discover that you possess the same powers as Jesus Christ.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: TRACY MORGAN: TAKIN’ IT TOO FAR (ANYTIME / HBO MAX & CRAVE)
Tracy Morgan leaves it all on the stage in his first Max stand-up special taped live from the Wilbur Theater in Boston, Massachusetts.
Tracy Morgan telling jokes and stories for an hour. What else could you possibly want? Enjoy this. Be grateful he’s still here.
Friday, August 18
The Friendship Game (Anytime / Hulu)
A group of teenagers in a small town discover a strange object that tests the strength of their friendship.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: PUPPY LOVE (ANYTIME / AMAZON FREEVEE)
After a disastrous first date, wild child Nicole (Lucy Hale) and socially anxious Max (Grant Gustin) vow to lose each other’s numbers, until they learn that their dogs found a love match, and now puppies are on the way!
Lucy Hale’s latest rom-com. This time the boy is Grant Gustin and there are dogs involved. It is what it is.
Saturday, August 19
War of the Worlds: The Attack (Anytime / Hulu)
The adventures of 3 young astronomers and their fight to survive a deadly Martian Invasion.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: KILLING IT: SEASON 2 (ANYTIME / PEACOCK)
Killing It is a comedy about class, capitalism, and one man’s quest to achieve the American Dream. But first he has to overcome vicious criminals, nature run wild, and worst of all, corporate America.
Welcome to Whacking Day on Peacock. The New Orleans set comedy features a security guard played by Craig Robinson who turns to big snake hunting in order to achieve his American dream. Craig Robinson is a solid bet; can’t go wrong with his comedy. Season 2 opens a year after Craig won the Florida Python Challenge. He used that money to buy a saw palmetto berry farm. Only…a series of unexpected setbacks and a series of unexpected visitors are preventing him from becoming filthy rich. Is he gonna overcome all that? Is Craig Robinson still…Killing It in Season 2?
Sunday, August 20
Renfield (Anytime / Prime Video-Canada)
Renfield, Dracula’s henchman and inmate at the lunatic asylum for decades, longs for a life away from the Count, his various demands, and all of the bloodshed that comes with them.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: HARLAN COBEN’S SHELTER (ANYTIME / PRIME VIDEO)
Harlan Coben’s Shelter follows the story of Mickey Bolitar, after the sudden death of his father leads him to start a new life in Kasselton, New Jersey.
Shelter is the first Mickey Bolitar novel of the young adult series by crime writer Harlan Coben. It was published in 2011, the third book came out in 2014. So that gives you a sense of how long this TV show can go. Mickey finds himself in New Jersey following the death of his father. As if losing his dad wasn’t enough. Like most quiet suburban communities it’s all a façade. The mysterious disappearance of a cute girl at his school, Ashley Kent sparks an investigation that naturally leads to a dark underground. In the mood to reveal some serects? Disturb the long buried past? Sit down in your Shelter and press play!
Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.