Monday, August 23, 2021

TV Picks - Week of August 23

The Netflix documentary Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed premieres this Thursday, and its mysterious trailer already has people talking. They should be speaking with the soft voice of the legendary mellow painter. The "dark side" of Bob Ross' legacy is being heavily teased, but that's not why I'll be tuning in.

I have to confess – cheesy TV has long been my thing. And they don't come much cheesier than this bearded sensation with the hair.

Some say I come off as a television elitist with my distaste for reality and non-scripted programming, yearning for the days before "Chicago this" or "FBI that" dominated the scheduling grid. I admit to always looking for the next brilliant scripted series, but sometimes the "I can't believe this is actually on TV" part of me takes over. I can't help myself.

It started with The Lawrence Welk Show, a musical variety program named after its big-band leader host. Growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1970's, I vividly remember stumbling upon this extravaganza following Bowling for Dollars and staring in utter disbelief. Do people actually like these songs? Are they camping this up for the camera? Where did these outfits come from?

Lawrence Welk was wise enough to lean into the cheesiness. I grew fond of the show, wondering if the The Lennon Sisters or Norma Zimmer would be belting out the next classic tune. The production numbers, the holiday shows... this was not prestige television, but I was absolutely mesmerized. It entertained me, and that's really what TV is all about.

Fast forward to the early 1980's. I'm flipping through channels and come to a complete stop on my local PBS station (WLIW Channel 21). There is a smiling white bearded man with a huge afro speaking softly as he paints a canvas of nature that would take anyone else a lifetime to create. He makes a quick addition with his brush and utters three words... "Happy little trees."

Those three words sound like nonsense or something from a children's book to most people. To Bob Ross fans, it is a mantra. This program, The Joy Of Painting, unleashed the Lawrence Welk inside of me.

I'm no artist, but it was blatantly obvious how talented Bob Ross was at painting instant classics. My mother, who is actually an accomplished painter, couldn't stand Bob Ross. Because he made it look so easy. A smudge turned into a detailed item in a matter of seconds. It was beautiful to watch.

The soft-spoken man became a public television sensation. Sure, Julia Child had made some meals and Bob Vila fixed some houses, but both had loud rambunctious personalities. Bob Ross forced you to take a breath and appreciate the little things as he masterfully added grass, clouds, rocks and water to his landscapes. The hair, the clothes, the voice... he had it all.

My vocabulary and knowledge of the color wheel dramatically expanded. Titanium White. Yellow Ochre. Phthalo Blue. These were the shades of my Bob Ross rainbow. I basked in all the different colors.

The only issue I ever had with Bob was when he'd paint a giant tree that covered most of the canvas he had just spent painstakingly detailing. But this was his joy of painting – I was just living in it. And I would have hung one of those paintings right next to my TV.

So now there's this Netflix documentary coming out. Despite what the streamer’s advance marketing would have us believe, Bob himself was the real deal. After he passed away, there was a battle between business partners and family over his legacy. It was the ugliness he seemingly always wanted to avoid in life, and makes for a fascinating story.

Along the way, we get to see Bob do his thing once again and learn how he became a public television star. I wonder how he would fare in today's age of social media. Would his little trees stay happy?

I'd like to think Bob Ross would find a way.

(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)

Messyness (MTV) – Snooki hosts a show with a perfect title that I'll never watch. Monday at 7pm.

Untold: Caitlyn Jenner (NETFLIX) – Is there anything left to say? Drops Tuesday.

The Other Two (HBO MAX) – The Comedy Central series about two millennials stuck in between their 14 year old pop sensation brother, and their newly famous daytime talk show-host mother hops to HBO Max for its second season. Premieres Tuesday.

See (APPLE TV+) – Dave Bautista joins Jason Momoa for season two and somehow they'll fit on a single screen. Opens Friday.

He's All That (NETFLIX) – Gender swapped remake of the cinematic classic She's All That. Pops Friday.

Wicked In Concert (PBS) – Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel host a concert celebrating the musical that put them both on the map. Defies gravity Sunday at 9pm.

Video cards, tipping dominoes and an unforgettable day…

Clickbait (NETFLIX)
Thursday, August 26th

A loving father shows up online holding signs claiming he has beaten and murdered women. If the video gets 5 million views, his abductors say he will die.

Entourage's Vinnie Chase (Adrian Grenier) is the dad holding the cards in this limited series, while his wife (Betty Gabriel) and sister (Zoe Kazan) try to find the kidnapper and discover whether there's any truth to what's written on those cards.

Lily Topples The World (DISCOVERY+) Thursday, August 26th

"YouTube sensation" is usually a no-go for me, but if it's a documentary about the world's most acclaimed domino toppler, I am so there. This award-winning doc profiles 20 year old Lily Hevesh, a Chinese adoptee who becomes the only woman in the domino toppling field. She just happens to have over 1 billion YouTube views.

Domino toppling is like watching Bob Ross paint - you get sucked in and mesmerized as art unfolds right in front of your eyes. Lily's story was filmed over three years, and her transformation is as compelling as watching those dominoes fall. Watch trailer.

9/11: One Day In America (NAT GEO)
Sunday, August 29th 8pm

This six-part documentary series takes us back to that fateful day in September and honors the lives that were lost. People who were there painstakingly recall moment to moment details and share first-hand accounts.

The series contains never before seen footage from those who were there as the morning unfolded. Each episode profiles the lengths individuals went to trying to help others and their reactions to such a surreal experience. It's a painful but necessary reminder of these terrorist attacks that took place on U.S. soil.

If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you. 

Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe!

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