I mean I do have TV recommendations; there are lots to see on TV this week. But really…let’s be honest. We’re all just gonna watch Die Hard, yeah? Still just in case here’s some fresh #SetTheVCR.
Monday, December 18
The Story of Late Night (Anytime / HBO Max)
The Story of Late Night is a six-part docuseries from CNN: Carson, Leno, Letterman – legendary hosts that changed late-night television. Through good times and bad, they gained America’s trust and kept the country laughing. But it wasn’t all laughter all the time. From secret deals to broken promises, some of the most dramatic stories were the ones that didn’t play out in front of the television cameras. It’s kind of a funny story…
SAMMY SUGGESTION: RUSSELL T. DAVIES: THE DOCTOR AND ME (10:40 P.M. / BBC ONE)
Part of BBC’s Imagine strand of films, this documentary follows one of Britain’s most celebrated TV writers as he prepares to once again return as showrunner of Doctor Who. Alan Yentob fronts this incredibly affecting documentary, which tracks his journey back to Doctor Who – the show that, since his childhood, has been his lodestar.
Russell T. Davies is getting a Last Dance. Granted the recent Star Beast “special” was a subpar stumble from Davies…he’s usually much better than that. Hopefully this doc will recognize his Good Work. (Russell T Davies is impressively strong at cleaning up continuity and layering context. Davies made Who add up while Moffat magically moved it all forward.) Doctor Who wouldn’t be here without his efforts. Back in 2005 Davies was responsible for relaunching the sci-fi series after many years away from TV screens with the Ninth Doctor. (More than Doctor Who check out his work in Years and Years and It’s a Sin.) Yes the documentary will feature interviews with David Tennant, Helena Bonham Carter, Olly Alexander, Sally Wainwright and Caitlin Moran. So in case you don’t know Who Russell T. Davies is the show-Doctor is in the house.
Tuesday, December 19
Trevor Noah: Where Was I (Anytime / Netflix)
Returning to Netflix for his fourth original comedy special, Trevor Noah shares his hilarious experiences from his recent travels around the world, ranging from foreign national anthems to varying cultural norms. The special was filmed at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, MI and directed by David Paul Meyer. Programming Note: Ricky Gervais: Armageddon will be on Netflix on Christmas Day for more Holiday Humour while Dave Chappelle’s new special streams on December 31st.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: BEAU IS AFRAID (ANYTIME / PARAMOUNT+)
Following the sudden death of his mother, a mild-mannered but anxiety-ridden man confronts his darkest fears as he embarks on an epic, Kafkaesque odyssey back home.
Is this movie about anxiety? Guilt? Is it a surreal tragicomedy like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Or perhaps The Truman Show is a more fitting reference? Perhaps it’s a strange hypnotic fever dream loaded with out of context moments that require more than one viewing. No need to have a panic attack. It’s now on streaming. In Variety director Ari Aster says Beau is Afraid had a “slightly stunted” release. “I was kind of disappointed by the way people were engaging with the film on first release. It was very verdict based like, ‘Well, it doesn’t all work.’ Like, ‘Wait, what doesn’t work?’” Does it work? See for yourself.
Wednesday, December 20
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Season 1 (Anytime / Disney+)
Demigod Percy Jackson leads a quest across America to prevent a war among the Olympian gods.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: MAESTRO (ANYTIME / NETFLIX)
This love story chronicles the lifelong relationship of conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein and actress Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein.
While I enjoyed the recent Howard Stern interview with Bradley Cooper it still failed to sell me on Maestro. Bradley Cooper said his interest in Leonard Bernstein “started with Tom and Jerry and Bugs Bunny as a kid, watching them conduct, and asking Santa Claus for a baton when I was about 8 or so, and then, just being obsessed with conducting. There was a magical quality that you just do that, and sound comes out, you know, and that’s where it began, and it was just this incredible feeling of being a maestro, really.” I get it…Bernstein protest Nam and “conducted” many affairs plus the music from West Side Story to Candide and more. Blah, Blah, Blah. None of that is compelling. Is Bernstein fantastic? Sure. But I’d rather watch a documentary than a biopic which has no obligation to be honest. Still here we are, it’s Oscar season and I’m sure this’ll get the standard nods. If you want to face the music and dance with the Maestro here it be, streaming on Netflix.
Thursday, December 21
30 for 30: The Minister of Defense (Anytime / ESPN+)
The film chronicles both Reggie White’s incredible dominance as one of the best defensive players ever and his spiritual journey as an ordained evangelical minister who questioned his blind faith toward the end of his life. Directed by Ken Rodgers and Courtland Bragg.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: FINESTKIND (ANYTIME / PARAMOUNT+)
A crew of fishermen tread dangerous waters when their debts start piling up.
That above and rather bland description comes from IMDB. If you go to the Paramount+ site you’ll read this: “Two estranged brothers hatch a deal with a Boston crime syndicate, which spells danger for the brothers and their father as well as a mysterious young woman.” Okay that sounds way better. I’m not sure what a Boston crime syndicate needs with fishermen. Or how gritty fishermen can be but it’s a lazy Saturday night in December so why not see if this is the Finestkind?
Friday, December 22
What If …? Season 2 (Anytime / Disney+)
Season Two of What If…? continues the journey as The Watcher guides viewers through the vast multiverse, introducing brand new and familiar faces throughout the MCU. A new episode will be released daily until the 30th of December.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: REBEL MOON – PART ONE: A CHILD OF FIRE (7 P.M. PT AKA 10 P.M. EST / NETFLIX)
A new universe awaits.
Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon: “When a peaceful settlement on the edge of a distant moon finds itself threatened by the armies of a tyrannical ruling force, a mysterious stranger living among its villagers becomes their best hope for survival.” This looks, smells and tastes like Avatar meets Dune. Granted it looks like how Star Wars should be if Disney wasn’t so concerned about luring children but that’s not a hook. Yeah I dunno about all this. It’s my Christmas Break; it’s better than all the Hallmark Christmas movie crap and yet I’m reluctant to push play. Let’s see if I squeeze in a visit to Rebel Moon during my Christmas Break. Programming Note: A sequel, Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver, is set to be released in, 2024.
Saturday, December 23
Pretty Woman (Anytime / Netflix – Canada)
A man in a legal but hurtful business needs an escort for some social events, and hires a beautiful prostitute he meets… only to fall in love.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: SATAN WANTS YOU (ANYTIME / TUBI)
When a 1980 memoir uncovered a Satanist abduction, a Satanic Panic pervaded the globe, leaving destruction and wrongful convictions in its wake.
Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams, are the duo directors behind the highly anticipated documentary Satan Wants You. They trace Satanic Panic Ground Zero to Victoria, British Columbia a sleepy Canadian city. And the surprising setting of a non-fiction book Michelle Remembers published on November 1, 1980. What Michelle Smith “remembers” is ritual Satanic abuse…seriously? She visits her psychiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Pazder to deal with depression following a miscarriage. Instead her psychiatrist helps her to uncover repressed memories. Michelle spends more than 600 hours using hypnosis to help her recover memories (air quotes?) of Satanic ritual abuse that occurred when she was five years old in 1954 and 1955 at the hands of her mother and others. All of whom Michelle said were members of a “satanic cult” (air quotes?) in…Victoria, BC. Seriously? Those therapy sessions slash recovered memories were transcribed and then published in the book Michelle Remembers. Which quickly became a bestseller igniting a panic about vanishing children. Satan Wants You offers the type of candid conversations with rational experts that we didn’t have in the 80s or even 90s: insights flow from a Wiccan police detective, an FBI agent from Mindhunter (yes the same department as the Fincher TV show), a memory expert offers her analysis and even somebody from the misunderstood world of the Church of Satan speaks. Must See TV! Programming Note: Premieres on January 7 on CBC Gem. Tubi and CBC Gem are both free so it’s all good.
Sunday, December 24
Love Actually (Anytime / Hollywood Suite On Demand)
Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England.
SAMMY SUGGESTION: DIE HARD (TODAY! / PICK A STREAMER…)
A New York City police officer tries to save his estranged wife and several others taken hostage by terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles. A Certifiable Christmas Classic.
A fancy fun holiday tradition: Die Hard has humour and heart and is a Christmas special worth returning to over and over again. And sadly, last year a Die Hard terrorist had perished! It’s funny how they’re going out one…by one in real life. Just like the movie. It was a somber Christmas viewing recognizing Clarence Gilyard aka Theo has passed on November 28, 2022. (Did we spend most of the ’80s with a black guy named Theo?!) Take a moment during this year’s viewing to enjoy his brand of villainy. This year’s Die Hard dark cloud was issued on February 16, 2023 when Bruce Willis’s family announced that he had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. He was now retired from acting. This is like when Michael Jordan retired. He’s no longer playing but oh we have the highlights. And Die Hard are some of Bruce’s best highlights. Merry Christmas to one and all.
Monday, December 25
Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 (Anytime / Netflix)
Star Trek: Prodigy is the first Star Trek series aimed at younger audiences and follows a motley crew of young aliens who must figure out how to work together while navigating a greater galaxy, in search of a better future.
NFL gets Thanksgiving. NBA gets Christmas: 5 games starting with Bucks at Knicks and concluding with Mavs at Suns.
A cozy Christmas tradition: the annual NBA Christmas games slate. This season’s slate is: Bucks at Knicks (12 p.m. est on ESPN); Warriors at Nuggets (2:30 p.m. est on ABC, ESPN); Celtics at Lakers (5 p.m. est on ABC, ESPN), 76ers at Heat (8 p.m. est on ABC, ESPN) and finally Mavs at Suns (10:30 p.m. est on ESPN). Knicks have won games recently, Bucks and Celtics is a battle for the East and ah…nobody is overally investing in Lakers and Mavs: they are what their records say they are. Maybe nap it up during 76ers and Heat. So yes: take a break from your fantastic new Sega Genesis that Santa got you and pick up the TV remote. Hopefully you’ll have either Christmas Eve leftovers or Christmas dinner to pair with the games. Programming Note: If NBA doesn’t work for you or isn’t enough there’s always NFL Christmas Day starting at 1pm on CBS with Raiders at Chiefs.
Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.