It’s basketball Christmas! The NBA playoffs begin this week but! if that’s not your jam then never no worries there are lots of TV treats this week.
Monday, May 17
144 (9 p.m. / TSN)
Inside the Making of 144, ESPN’s Documentary About the WNBA Bubble. In 2020 when the NBA shut down on March 11 it set off a sports chain reaction: by March 12 and 13: the NHL and the NBA G League also suspended their seasons. However the WNBA’s season which typically starts in April was suddenly in doubt. As the league grappled with a pandemic and how to salvage their seasons a radical idea emerged. The 2020 NBA Bubble was a $190 million investment by the NBA to protect its 2019–20 season. In addition the NBA “bubble wrapped” the WNBA thus protecting their season. So such a unique social and sports experiment is a fantastic introduction for the WNBA’s first ever documentary to begin their film legacy: 144 players across 12 teams played 147 games from July to October 2020. The NBA only had to finish a regular season and conduct playoffs: the WNBA had to pull off an entire season. Whew. I wanna see how they did that!
Sammy Suggestion: American Experience: Billy Graham (9/8c PM / PBS)
BILLY GRAHAM explores the life and career of one of the best-known and most influential religious leaders of the 20th century. From modest beginnings on a North Carolina farm, Graham rose to prominence with a fiery preaching style, movie-star good looks and effortless charm.
Whoever programs PBS is on fire! They just aired an excellent Oliver Sacks documentary (His Own Life) and followed that up with a documentary on L. Frank Baum the writer who hit pay dirt with the Wizard of Oz books. The latest American Experience explores the life of evangelist Billy Graham who died in 2018. Graham was on Gallup’s list of most admired men and women a record 61 times; in your face People’s Sexiest Man of The Year. This is fascinating; I so wanna put him and his Christian work into context. It’s a complex legacy…all the political stuff: Graham was a spiritual adviser to 12 consecutive presidents from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama. Could he have done more during civil rights or Nam? Gay rights? (And how much can a President truly do before the people are ready?) Before I watch a documentary I assemble my questions and patiently wait for them to be addressed. So I hope this doc is good and critical yet fair.
Tuesday, May 18
Sammy Suggestion: NBA’s Play-In Tournament (To Be Determined)
There will be six total games involving eight teams as part of the play-in tournament, split up between the two conferences. The teams that finish Nos. 1-6 in each conference will be guaranteed playoff spots, while team Nos. 7-10 in the standings will enter the play-in.
I’ve been a vocal critic of the NBA’s Play-In Tournament. I won’t share my feelings here however here we go! The 2020–21 NBA season concluded with 15 games; many with playoff seedings implications. The 75th regular season of the National Basketball Association began on December 22, 2020 and was reduced to 72 games for each team. However before teams can formally launch into the NBA Playoffs to crown a champion a Play-In Tournament will be waged to determine the teams that will fill the seventh and eighth playoff seeds in each conference. Seeding is based on current standings as of May 16th, 2021. This isn’t the NBA Playoffs we want but it’s the NBA Playoffs we get. The East team to look out for is the Wizards to see if they can magically claim the 8th spot to battle the Sixers. While in the wild wild west the Warriors have a quick draw with Steph Curry so Golden State should advance…to play the Suns? Oh boy.
Wednesday, May 19
Cher & The Loneliest Elephant (9/8c PM / Smithsonian Channel)
Cher and her charity “Free the Wild” help to rescue a lonely Asian elephant from the Islamabad Zoo. Basically Cher saying to an elephant I Got You Babe!
Sammy Suggestion: MLK/FBI (Anytime / Hulu)
Based on recently declassified files, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Pollard explores the US government’s surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The premise is simple yet frightening: “Based on newly declassified files, Sam Pollard’s resonant film explores the US government’s surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.” We complain about social media’s penchant for misinformation and disinformation then what about state-sanctioned surveillance? The FBI file has become my standard; lots of people talk a lot, hashtag a lot but if the FBI is opening a file on you: you’re officially dangerous. So much for “civil” rights.
Thursday, May 20
Too Close (Anytime/ AMC+)
A forensic psychiatrist has to assess a woman accused of a heinous crime, who claims she can’t remember a thing.
Sammy Suggestion: PG: Psycho Goreman (Anytime / Shudder)
Intergalactic assassins converge on a small town after two siblings unwittingly resurrect an ancient alien overlord.
I had the incredible opportunity to talk to director Steven Kostanski about his splatter-horror-comedy movie Psycho Goreman. He said: “PG is a summation of a good chunk of my video store experiences as a kid, it’s supposed to be the ultimate video store rental that as a kid I never quite stumbled upon. It’s a combination of all the things that I like into one movie.” Yes…if you’re seen this movie you know that statement is 100% yes. “The film revolves around siblings Mimi and Luke, who unwittingly resurrect an ancient alien overlord. Using a magical amulet, they force the monster to obey their childish whims, and accidentally attract a rogues’ gallery of intergalactic assassins to small-town suburbia.” I mean…it happens right? If you’re a fan of witty horror b-movies, Toronto After Dark Film Festival movies etc. you gotta check this out. That is…if you have all the guts.
Friday, May 21
1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything (Anytime / Apple TV+)
In a tumultuous era, 1971 was a year of musical innovation and rebirth fueled by the political and cultural upheaval of the time. Stars reached new heights, fresh talent exploded onto the scene and boundaries expanded like never before.
Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K.: Season 1 (Anytime / Hulu (US) & Disney+ (CA))
An egomaniacal super villain struggles to maintain control of his evil organization after it is bought by a multinational tech company, all while juggling the needs of his demanding family.
Sammy Suggestion: Army Of The Dead (Anytime / Netflix)
After a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries takes the ultimate gamble by venturing into the quarantine zone for the greatest heist ever.
It was the best of zombie times, it was the worst of zombie times: with a heist. Similar to Hurricane Heist Army of the Dead is a heist movie with impossible odds. In 32 hours the government is gonna nuke Vegas to ensure that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…instead of Legionnaires’ disease in the wank tank this time it’s a zombie outbreak. Which also means incinerating $200 million sitting in a vault beneath the strip. So basically it’s Oceans 11 with World War Z zombies. “Team Ruckus Reporting For Duty: Sir!”
Saturday, May 22
Sammy Suggestion: NBA’s PlayPlayoffs (To Be Determined)
The Play-In Tournament will begin on Tuesday, May 18 and finish Friday, May 21.
Ok! Following the Play-In Tournament and my Frank Grimes feelings about that recent speedbump to the legit Playoffs (“I have had to work hard everyday of my life and what do I have to show for it? This briefcase and this haircut! And what do you have to show for you lifetime of sloth and ignorance?”) we’re here. At the time of this writing I can’t tell which mediocre teams won the Play-In Tournament and what the Playoff Brackets look like. The conference semifinals will start around June 7; June 22 is the Conference Finals. While “finally” the NBA Finals are July 8-22. Terms and conditions apply. Let’s make like a Nike shoe and Just Do It.
Sunday, May 02
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: Wonder Woman: 1984 (Anytime / Crave)
Diana Prince lives quietly among mortals in the vibrant, sleek 1980s — an era of excess driven by the pursuit of having it all. Though she’s come into her full powers, she maintains a low profile by curating ancient artifacts, and only performing heroic acts incognito. But soon, Diana will have to muster all of her strength, wisdom and courage as she finds herself squaring off against Maxwell Lord and the Cheetah, a villainess who possesses superhuman strength and agility.
Spend the weekend in 1984 with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Kristen Wiig as the bad guy and somehow Chris Pine returns? Making it worse he’s back with a fanny pack. DC Films had a rough go in 2020 Wonder was originally scheduled for June 5, 2020 and followed Birds of Prey which was released on February 7, 2020. Both movies were coloured and impacted by the pandemic so neither connected with a wide audience. Perhaps Wonder Woman can find new life as it hits the streamers: otherwise it’s all isolated and on it’s own…island.
Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.