An inspiring #SetTheVCR where we tap into the power of Today. TV recommendations as inspirations: the future is grand.
Monday, April 19
American Dad!: Season 18 (10/9c PM. / TBS)
The random escapades of Stan Smith, a conservative C.I.A. Agent dealing with family life, and keeping America safe, all in the most absurd way possible.
Sammy Suggestion: American Oz (9/8c PM / PBS)
Explore the life and times of author L. Frank Baum, the creator of one of the most beloved, enduring and classic American narratives.
Today is Monday! And the best way to escape it is go down the yellow brick road and see the wizard of Oz! Or rather the writer behind the wizard: L. Frank Baum. I did not know that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900 and that Baum wrote 13 more novels on the Land of Oz. (What’s rare is the movie adaptation of the novel from 1939 is considered iconic. Movie adaptations rarely surpass the pop culture contribution of their original source material: Jaws and Shawshank Redemption are two others I can think of.) So if you’re like me if you’ve enjoyed the heart of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz but have no brains to know anything about L. Frank Baum hopefully you’ll have the courage to watch this PBS documentary.
Tuesday, April 20
Philly D.A.: Limited Series (9/8c PM / PBS)
PHILLY D.A. explores the most pressing social issues of our time—police brutality, the opioid crisis, gun violence, and mass incarceration—through the lens of an idealistic team attempting fundamental overhaul from within the system.
SASQUATCH is a true crime doc series following investigative journalist David Holthouse as he attempts to solve a bizarre twenty-five year old triple homicide that was said to be the work of a mythical creature.
Cruel Summer: Season 1 (9/8C PM / Freeform)
Taking place over 3 summers in the ’90s when a popular teen goes missing, and a seemingly unrelated girl transforms from a sweet and awkward outlier to the most popular girl in town, eventually becoming the most despised person in America.
Sammy Suggestion: Half Baked (Anytime / Crave via Starz)
Thurgood and his friends, Brian and Scarface, are forced into selling medical marijuana stolen from the lab where Thurgood works as a janitor in order to bail their friend Kenny out of jail.
Today is 4-20! Figured it’d be fun to partake with a classic stoner flick. Though what dooms Half Baked is…well many things but I focus on length. Had Half Baked’s nonsensical tale been truncated to a Chappelle’s Show sketch length (rather than feature film) it would have been gold! If anything this was a trailer for Chappelle’s upcoming sketch show; look at the characters he plays in the movie: Sir-Smoke-Alot: “The doctor said I need a backiotomy!” Gold! If Half Baked doesn’t work for you; True Romance is on Netflix, or see if Fast Times at Ridgemont High is floating around on a streamer. (Not literally floating…even if it is 4-20.)
Wednesday, April 21
Mayor of Comedy (Anytime / Mayor of Comedy Website)
Remember stand up comedy? I can’t imagine the shape comedy will be in following this pandemic. So for now a look back at comedy in Canada as it was with Mayor Of Comedy free for National Canadian Film Day. You’ll see comics such as Sandra Battaglini, Gavin Stephens, K. Trevor Wilson, Dave Merheje and Barry Taylor who runs Comedy Records plus many more talk about the many challenges they face including their inability to qualify for grants like musicians and circus performers.
Sammy Suggestion: The F Word (Anytime / Prime Video & CBC Gem)
Wallace, who is burned out from a string of failed relationships, forms an instant bond with Chantry, who lives with her longtime boyfriend. Together, they puzzle out what it means if your best friend is also the love of your life.
Today is National Canadian Film Day “a massive one-day, coast-to-coast-to-coast celebration of Canadian cinema!” And while most people don’t go hmmm I sure am in the mood for a Canadian film (Korean movies, Indian movies, Japanese movies…those are legit and distinct film categories…genres even) Canadians do manage to make some good ones eh? Written by Elan Mastai (I suggest you check out his sci-fi time travel novel All Our Wrong Todays) The F Word stars Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Mackenzie Davis and a few other faces you’ll know. The F Word is of course “friendship.” Turns out Harry Potter found a woman who is magic but she’s got a boyfriend. So do you become friends with her or…what? The scene in which Wallace and Chantry skinny dip together was filmed at the Scarborough Bluffs (not far from where I live!). Toronto actually plays itself in this movie; as a city Toronto doesn’t have a distinct film mythology such as LA, NYC or even Chicago. This is a rare moment hence my suggestion for National Canadian Film Day.
Thursday, April 22
Cher & The Loneliest Elephant (Anytime / Paramount+)
Cher and her charity “Free the Wild” help to rescue a lonely Asian elephant from the Islamabad Zoo.
Sammy Suggestion: Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (Anytime / Crave)
A cinematic meditation on humanity’s massive re-engineering of the planet, ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH is a four years in the making feature documentary film from the multiple-award winning team of Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, and Edward Burtynsky. Narrated by Alicia Vikander.
Today is Earth Day! This is the third film in a series of collaborations between filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier with photographer Edward Burtynsky, following Manufactured Landscapes and Watermark. (I recommend both and no worries: this isn’t the MCU you don’t need to see the first two to understand this third documentary.) The description explains this beautifully shot doc: “Filmmakers travel to six continents and 20 countries to document the impact humans have made on the planet.” Turns out we’re not good to Mother Nature. We’re like that successful NBA superstar only after making it never took care of Mama; just took her sacrifices for granted and not got her a good house or a fancy car. A pause for the cause and a recognition of Mother Nature because Today is Earth Day!
Friday, April 23
Shadow and Bone: Season 1 (Anytime / Netflix)
Dark forces conspire against orphan mapmaker Alina Starkov when she unleashes an extraordinary power that could change the fate of her war-torn world.
Sammy Suggestion: Altman (Anytime / CBC Gem)
A look at the life and work of American filmmaker Robert Altman.
Today is Friday which kicks off the weekend! As such you’ll wanna M*A*S*H this Altman documentary. Robert Altman (who perished in 2006) created some of the most unique work in the 70s, an often overlooked decade when we discuss cinema. (In 1980 he cast Robin Williams as Popeye which followed Superman (1978) as some of the earliest full length feature film comic book adaptations.) Altman “is an in-depth look at the life and times of filmmaker Robert Altman (M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Nashville). While refusing to bow down to Hollywood’s conventions, or its executives, Altman’s unique style of filmmaking won him friends and enemies, earned him world-wide praise and occasionally scathing criticism, and proved that it’s possible to make truly independent films.” That’s pretty inspiring for a weekend where you can be wild and free yes?
Saturday, April 24
Sammy Suggestion: Time Is Illmatic (Anytime / Netflic (Canada))
Providing a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Nas’s debut album, this documentary also delves into his deep connection to his New York roots.
Today is Saturday! Which means: Time Is Illmatic. In 2021 Nas’ debut album Illmatic was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” I concur. At the time it was a raw and scathing portrait of the dangerous environment of NYC; the way in zombie movies they say “out there” when they’re safely barricaded at home. It is poetry and poetic: Illmatic shifted the hip hop conversation back to the lyrics; even though a rap’s song success tends to be dictated by its beat. So to unpack all of this on the 20th anniversary of the seminal album here is Time Is Illmatic a documentary that breaks down the songs on the album white contextualizing the album’s success and influence. Nothing says the weekend like a solid soundtrack!
Sunday, April 25
The Nevers (9/8c PM / HBO & Crave)
Joss Whedon’s Nevers is described as “a science fiction drama about a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world.” August, 1896. Victorian London is rocked to its foundations by a supernatural event which gives certain people — mostly women — abnormal abilities, from the wondrous to the disturbing. But no matter their particular “turns,” all who belong to this new underclass are in grave danger.
Sammy Suggestion: The Kid (See The Link Below)
A woman abandons her newborn son along with a note for the finder. The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) stumbles upon the child and though initially reluctant, takes him in and raises him as his own.
Today is Charlie Chaplin’s birthday! (Actually no it’s not…I just needed a reason to keep the theme going: close though…April 16, 1889.) As such head on over to YouTube and check out The Kid. (Lots of amazing movies on YouTube and yes they’re legally there. I’ve posted The Kid here but go to YouTube Movies for lots more options.) Chaplin wrote, produced, directed, edited, and starred in The Kid, and later composed a score. Whew. Nobody works that hard anymore. And this was for his film debut as a director. Think of this like Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy but as a silent film: “Charlie the Tramp finds an abandoned baby and makes a home for him. Five years later Edna the mother who abandoned her baby has become an opera star but does charity work for slum youngsters in hope of finding her boy. A doctor called by Edna discovers the note with the truth about the Kid and reports it to the authorities who come to take him away from Charlie.” It doesn’t sound funny but it’s Charlie Chaplin and it’s free! So why not hangout with The Kid.
Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.