Oh yes I know Christmas is coming but thankfully only in real life: it’s not on TV just yet. Behold some excellent non-Christmas #SetTheVCR recommendations. Except for the one that totally is a holiday film, no matter what anyone says.
Monday, December 06
Landscapers: Limited Series (9 p.m. / HBO & Crave)
Starring Olivia Colman and David Thewlis, LANDSCAPERS tells a unique love story involving a seemingly ordinary British couple who become the focus of an extraordinary investigation when two dead bodies are discovered in the back garden of a house in Nottingham, England.
Sammy Suggestion: Voir (Anytime / Netflix)
Film lovers examine the cinematic moments that thrilled, perplexed, challenged and forever changed them in this collection of visual essays.
“From executive producers David Fincher and David Prior, Voir is a series of 6 visual essays celebrating Cinema and the personal connection we each have to the stories we see on the big screen. From intimate personal histories to insights on character and craft, each episode reminds us why Cinema holds a special place in our lives.” While some of that sounds like a dork with a YouTube channel brimming with facile explainer videos (The Easter Eggs You Missed in the Spider-Man: Far From Home Trailer that only I caught!) this is Fincher. So we know these 6 short form visual essays will at least have better production values. Some of the topics and themes are: Summer Of The Shark (of course Jaws!) which reflects on blockbusters from the 70s and 80s. But I Don’t Like Him sparked by Lawrence Of Arabia connects with unlikeable characters. Film Vs. Television is a visual essay that recognizes the line between those mediums is blurring. There’s 3 more topics of course all offering TED Talk insights on the magic of cinema. Think Tyler Durden but this time with a benevolent Project Voir.
Tuesday, December 07
Man In The Arena: Tom Brady (Midnight / TSN 2)
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.
Sammy Suggestion: Vigil: Limited Series (Anytime / Crave via Starz)
The mysterious disappearance of a Scottish fishing trawler and a death on-board a Trident nuclear submarine bring the police into conflict with the Navy and British security services.
Vigil and Line of Duty are BBC’s highest-rated crime dramas this year. Vigil no doubt for offering a unique premise: the 6-part series is a police procedural of a homicide on a British nuclear submarine. Oh. Fresh. That’s not your everyday mystery. The death on the HMS Vigil was “classified” as an accidental overdose but of course…nothing is what it seems. The investigation runs on parallel tracks…one cop is embedded in the nuclear submarine still on active duty and the other is on land following up leads. Because this investigation involves Britain’s national security, I can only hope the conspiracy goes “right to the top!” If you’ve enjoyed shows like Bodyguard these are the terrific tension types of shows BBC excels at. Premieres with 2 episodes and following every Sunday you can expect 2 more episodes. (Please Note: for American viewers this’ll air in the US on Peacock starting on December 23rd. Merry Christmas!)
Wednesday, December 08
World War Z (Anytime / Hulu)
Former United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop a zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatens to destroy humanity itself.
Sammy Suggestion: Welcome to Earth: Limited Series (Anytime / Disney+)
WELCOME TO EARTH, a Disney+ original series from National Geographic, follows two-time Academy Award® nominee Will Smith on an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime adventure around the world to explore Earth’s greatest wonders and reveal its most hidden secrets.
We need a name for this genre where a famous actor explores the hidden wonders of Earth. Prime examples include Down to Earth with Zac Efron (new season coming in 2022), Well Done with Sebastian Maniscalco (Season 2 is currently airing), Ewan McGregor’s Long Way Round (with rumours of a second season) and now Will Smith’s Welcome to Earth (is it really named after his line in Independence Day??). As revealed during Disney+ Day Welcome follows Will Smith as he “Focuses” on remote and uncharted places. On Earth. The six-part limited series is less a Pursuit of Happyness and more like a Bright Shark Tale. From volcanoes to deep sea adventures Will Smith “Hitches” his wagon to elite explorers who behold all the Collateral Beauty our world has to offer. It sounds dangerous like he’s joined a Suicide Squad but it’s inspiring. Because after all a Lakeview Terrace is a terrible way to see The Secret Life of Bees. The Human Contract demands we explore our world because we’re all connected with barely Six Degrees of Separation. So explore the Earth with Will Smith before it’s too late; because environmentally a time is coming we can only term as After Earth.
Thursday, December 09
The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek (10 p.m. / Crave)
Episode 4 of the Star Trek docuseries is added to Crave to today for Canadians. (Americans can check out the series on History Vault.)
Sammy Suggestion: Music Box: Mr. Saturday Night (8 p.m. / HBO & Crave)
This documentary chronicles the meteoric career of Australian entrepreneur Robert Stigwood, who gambled on a magazine article about the Brooklyn night club scene and turned it into the 1977 cultural touchstone Saturday Night Fever, forever changing the way film studios approached movie soundtrack synergy, leaving an indelible mark on American cinema for decades to come.
Disco Sucks! For us to get to that level of hate, disco had to go mainstream. The latest Music Box documentary is Mr. Saturday Night about Robert Stigwood’s gamble that turned Saturday Night Fever into a cultural touchstone. Along the way Stigwood managed Cream and the Bee Gees, produced Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar and served up Grease. This isn’t a documentary so much as a time machine back to the 70s. So click your platform shoes three times and know if you got a Fever this is working. (Please Note: Juice WRLD: Into the Abyss is next week’s final Music Box for “Season 1.” Oh that one is gonna hit hard.)
Friday, December 10
Encounter (Anytime / Prime Video)
A decorated Marine goes on a rescue mission to save his two young sons from an unhuman threat. As their journey takes them in increasingly dangerous directions, the boys will need to leave their childhoods behind.
Sammy Suggestion: Ricky Powell: The Individualist (8 p.m. / Showtime)
Famed street photographer Ricky Powell made a name for himself taking wild portraits of New York City’s who’s who in the 80s and 90s. From the Beastie Boys to Basquiat, Powell’s lens captured the grit and glamour of the city’s downtown scene like never before. Powell and some of his notable subjects reflect on his fascinating life and work — as well as the demons that shaped him.
If you don’t know the name you know the photographs: “Famed street photographer Ricky Powell made a name for himself taking wild portraits of New York City’s who’s who in the 80s and 90s. From the Beastie Boys to Basquiat, Powell’s lens captured the grit and glamour of the city’s downtown scene like never before. Powell and some of his notable subjects reflect on his fascinating life and work — as well as the demons that shaped him.” When we’re talking about “notable subjects” that means Chuck D and Mike D, LL Cool J, Laurence Fishburne and more. Oh so making a tea for this one.
Saturday, December 11
Die Hard (Anytime / Prime Video)
This holiday classic (you head me) follows an NYPD officer as he tries to save his wife and several others taken hostage by German terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles. Yippie ki yay MF.
Sammy Suggestion: The Real Charlie Chaplin (8 p.m. / Showtime & Crave)
Hollywood icon Charlie Chaplin rocketed to fame from the slums of Victorian London and spent decades as one of Hollywood’s most famous and beloved stars until his scandalous fall from grace. His stage persona and incendiary media portrayal defined how he was perceived, but his private life has always been shrouded in mystery – until now.
So excited for The Real Charlie Chaplin! That dude was a #GOAT. When he died in 1977 we never replaced him. You can’t…you only get one whose that good; who goes that hard in the paint and then he’s gone. It’s surreal how good Chaplin was. “Having unprecedented access to the Chaplin archives, The Real Charlie Chaplin blends dramatic reconstructions with never-before-heard recordings, intimate home movies, behind-the-scenes material, and newly restored classic films to reveal a side of the worldwide icon that – until now – has been shrouded in mystery. Tracing back a century ago – when Chaplin first stepped onto the screen – the film recounts his meteoric rise from the slums of Victorian London to the heights of Hollywood superstardom.” From The Tramp to The Great Dictator this is The Real Charlie Chaplin.
Sunday, December 12
BBC First: Free Preview (Anytime / BBC First)
A free preview is on now until January 02, 2022 for all Canadians. “From drama and comedy to mystery and adventure, BBC First brings you the best of British entertainment with the perfect mix of premium programming – and a bevy of classic blockbusters.”
Sammy Suggestion: Hollywood Suite: Free Preview (Anytime / Hollywood Suite)
‘Tis the season to be jolly with Hollywood Suite’s nationwide free preview, December 1st thru January 5th!
Oh! One of my favourite holiday traditions: the yearly free preview of Hollywood Suite. Available nationally from December 1 to January 5, 2022. 4 movie channels divided by decade: 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. We got movies like Teen Wolf (1985), The Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2, Ocean’s 11 (1960), both Kill Bill Volumes, Taxi Driver and lots more. We got TV shows like Staged with David Tennant and Michael Sheen, Helter Skelter: An American Myth and lots more. It’s truly a Christmas miracle every year. So now what will you watch first: something classic or something that will become a classic or something that is classically so bad it’s good?
Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.