You’ll “note” this week’s #SetTheVCR offers a number of musical choices that’ll no doubt strike a chord.
Monday, November 15
Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (Anytime / HBO Max)
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is back for more freaky fun, as she dumps the Joker and battles Gotham City crime czar Roman Sionis.
Sammy Suggestion: A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks (10 p.m. / Crave & HBO)
Documentary that explores the enduring legacy of photographer, writer, composer, activist and filmmaker, Gordon Parks, and spotlights his visionary work and its impact on the next generation of artists.
Here’s what I know about Gordon Parks. He directed Shaft (yes the 1971 blaxploitation classic) and he was a photojournalist slash street photographer though not as prolific with all the street scenes as Jamel Shabazz. And that’s it. So a documentary of Parks’ work is long overdue and necessary. I know some of his photographs; I don’t know the photographer. Oh so making tea for this one.
Tuesday, November 16
Well Done With Sebastian Maniscalco: Season 2 (Anytime / Discovery+)
Sebastian Maniscalco combines his love for food and comedy and explores the gastronomic world, also having a good time with some special guests during his culinary education.
Sammy Suggestion: Man In The Arena: Tom Brady (Anytime / ESPN+)
The series features Brady and other notable figures deconstructing the milestones of his legendary NFL career, mining the psychological and emotional terrain of each victory and defeat.
On September 28 in the Wall Street Journal Tom Brady wisely said: “You think people care what you think and then you care less what people think, and then you realize no one cared, anyway.” Pretty much. The title of this ESPN+ show comes from the stirring Theodore Roosevelt speech: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” And that right there…that’s Tom Brady.
Wednesday, November 17
Hard Knocks in Season: The Indianapolis Colts (10 p.m. / HBO)
The Emmy-winning weekly series will deliver its signature all access coverage in the first show of any kind to document an NFL franchise in-season and in real time.
Sammy Suggestion: Marvel’s Hit-Monkey (Anytime / Disney+ Canada & Hulu)
After a high-profile political assassination goes sideways, an injured hitman hides out amongst a tribe of snow monkeys in the mountains of Japan.
Hit-Monkey’s comic book stories are typically associated with Deadpool to give you a sense of what to expect for this adult animated series. It was this series and M.O.D.O.K. both co-created by Jordan Blum that survived the closing down of Marvel Television when it was folded into Marvel Studios. (At the time Marvel Television was developing Tigra, Dazzler, and Howard the Duck so I believe we dodged a bullet here!) As for the premise of the show I’ll share what Hulu’s website says with a straight face: “The series follows Hit-Monkey, an unjust Japanese snow monkey who is mentored by an American assassin’s ghost while he damages Tokyo’s crime underworld.” Yup. Oh and two Please Notes…the first one is super important. I prefer DC Comics’ Detective Chimp over Hit-Monkey (that’s right!) and Canadians can watch this on the same day via Disney+ Canada.
Thursday, November 18
The Curse of Von Dutch (Anytime / Hulu & Prime Video Canada)
Chronicles the unbelievable true story behind the rise and fall of the 2000’s most iconic fashion trend. In this epic character-driven saga, Venice Beach surfers, gangsters, European garmentos, and Hollywood movers and shakers all vie for control of the infamous brand — pushing it from obscurity to one of the most recognizable labels on Earth. After a decade of backstabbing, greed, and bloodshed, their lives – and pop culture – will never be the same.
Sammy Suggestion: Jagged vs Madame X Presents: Madame Xtra Q&A (See Below)
The life and musical career of Alanis Morissette, who reflects on her 1990s rise to rock stardom.
A concept film capturing Madonna’s theater show performed in front of sold-out audiences worldwide in 2019 & 2020. Filmed in Lisbon & Paris, Madonna is joined onstage by 50 global performers including her children, & the all-female Orquestra Batukadeiras.
You Oughta Know you got a choice of sassy sexy singers this weekend. The latest Music Box HBO’s 30 for 30s for music is Jagged which of course unpacks Alanis Morissette’s rise (an “Ironic” rise since she sings about “going down” in a theatre). While back on October 8 Paramount+ premiered Madame X a concert film centered around Madonna’s semi-recent performances in Lisbon. The follow up to that documentary is tonight’s Madame X Presents: Madame Xtra Q&A. It’s loaded with celebrities asking Madonna a variety of “Burning Up” questions. If you want to keep the music-Holiday going tomorrow’s New York Times Presents revisits Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction and Saturday’s loud offering is the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. But for now…today choose from two great choices that’ll make you Head Over Feet happy: Jagged on HBO at 8pm vs Madonna on Paramount+ anytime.
Friday, November 19
The Wheel of Time: Season 1 (Anytime / Prime Video)
The lives of five young villagers change forever when a strange and powerful woman arrives, claiming one of them is the child of an ancient prophecy with the power to tip the balance between Light and Dark forever. They must choose whether to trust this stranger – and each other – with the fate of the world before the Dark One breaks out of His prison, and the Last Battle begins.
Sammy Suggestion: Dean Martin: King of Cool (8 p.m. / TCM)
Documentary telling the story of actor and singer Dean Martin through film clips, photographs and interviews with family, friends and colleagues.
A Dean Martin documentary. Oh yes That’s Amore. To understand why it’s aptly called King of Cool here is one of my favourite scenes from Robin & the 7 Hoods. This is classic Rat Pack; as good as Ocean’s 11. (And yes this premieres today however you’d be wise to save this for Friday November 26. Check out TCM’s line up: 8 pm Ocean’s 11, 10:15 pm is Robin & the 7 Hoods finally 12:30 am King of Cool. That’s an incredible evening of swagger and songs and smoothness.)
Saturday, November 20
The Hunt for Planet B (9 p.m. / CNN)
Captures the human drama behind NASA’s high-stakes Webb Telescope, due to launch in October 2021 – the most ambitious space observatory ever built.
Sammy Suggestion: 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (8 p.m. / HBO & Crave)
The 36th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on October 30, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio, and will be available to watch Saturday November 20, 2021 on HBO and HBO Max.
We got LL Cool J performing with Eminem. We got Dave Chappelle inducting Jay-Z. Foo Fighters, Dr. Dre and loads more. It’s Saturday night if you can’t put on pants and go to a concert then bring the concert to you.
Sunday, November 21
The Simpsons (8:30 p.m. / Fox)
A musical comes to life in Springfield as Marge stages a revival of her beloved high school show.
Sammy Suggestion: The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek (Anytime / Crave)
The Center Seat: 55 Years Of Star Trek is a multi-episode documentary series that takes viewers on the definitive in-depth journey behind the scenes of one of the greatest landmark franchises of all time: Star Trek.
Recently comic book characters like Batman and Wonder Woman have celebrated their 80th anniversaries. Any long-term comic book reader knows there are moments of terrible stories; lousy creative decisions and strange paths. Which makes continuity so valuable because it protects the essence of the characters and their universe: the remarkable core is truly what endures. There’s lots of stories and pivotal moments worth celebrating…the good stuff is why those characters relentlessly last decade after decade. Similarly the History Channel is celebrating Star Trek’s 55th year with a new ten-part documentary series. What were the fateful creative decisions that led to 55 years? How do you build something significant from a quickly cancelled 60s TV show that lasted only 79 episodes? All these questions and more will be explored in The Center Seat. Everybody is in this. Do I hafta add something like set your phasers to fun?! (Please Note: Americans can continue to watch this docuseries on History Vault the History Channel’s subscription video service; it’s been out since November 5.)
Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.