Monday, November 22, 2021

TV Picks - Week of November 22

One of my most popular columns is from this time last year when I detailed how I spend My Thanksgiving Day. Parade, dog show, family, football and food. This year, the most popular music group in history has thrown a major silver hammer into my plans… and I couldn't be happier.

The long-awaited Beatles documentary Get Back from the man who brought us The Lord of the Rings arrives on Disney+ in three parts this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Forget the turkey, bring on The Beatles!

Never before would 50-year-old footage of four British guys making music (with one gal sitting very close by) prove to be so exciting. The Fab Four continues to have an effect on the world even though two of them are no longer with us. Paul McCartney just released his excellent book The Lyrics, but Get Back brings Beatle history to life with footage that looks like it was taken only yesterday.

The trailers have been fantastic. The promise of exposing what really happened during those Let It Be sessions is ready to be seen. If you were able to watch the original Let It Be documentary, the legendary foursome is shown in a non-flattering light. The band was falling apart, but pulled it back together following those filmed sessions to create an all-time great sendoff with Abbey Road. Confusion stems from the Abbey Road album being released before Let It Be.

Everybody wants a happy ending, and with 60 hours of archived footage to peruse, Beatles super fan Peter Jackson made it his mission to find it. Sure, there was squabbling, and band members walking out, which happens at most recording sessions regardless of any act's talent level. But there were good times too, and some very good music. To see these classic tunes created before our eyes will be very special.

Disney+ could not have timed this better. Thanksgiving Day is the perfect time to release this documentary. We're sitting around watching TV all day anyway, and there's only so much football we can take. And this is coming from a guy who hosts a football show every Sunday morning (Place Your Bets on SNY).

The three-day event comes with plenty of pressure and ridiculously high expectations. Disney has been teasing it for a year now, and Peter Jackson is known for the amount of time he invests in creating his "epics." Binge addicts will no doubt be frustrated by dribbling the story out over 3 days versus one big release. You'll be able to eat turkey and all the leftovers before finishing Get Back in its entirety.

I was too young to experience a "new" Beatles release, so this three-part documentary feels like the next best thing. I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the audience and I know they'll pass the audition.

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

True Story (NETFLIX) – Kevin Hart plays a comedian who returns to Philly spends a dramatic night with older brother Wesley Snipes. Wednesday.

Hanna (AMAZON) – Third and final season of the journey of a very angry girl who's one heck of a fighter. Wednesday.

F Is For Family (NETFLIX) – Bill Burr's animated family returns for its fifth season. Thursday

South Park: Post COVID (PARAMOUNT+) – The first exclusive from Matt and Trey made for the streamer. Thursday.

World Pet Games (FOX) – Dogs and cats compete as we digest the festive meal. Thursday at 8pm.

The Hot Zone: Anthrax (NAT GEO) – Second season of post 9/11 mail-based attacks at U.S. offices. Sunday at 9pm and next day on Hulu.

One Last Time: An Evening with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga (CBS) – Bennett, who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s, took the stage at Radio City Music Hall with Lady Gaga earlier this year, and by all accounts the duo knocked it out of the park. Sunday at 8pm.

Slinging some arrows and an anxious New Yorker…

Hawkeye (DISNEY+)
Wednesday, November 24th 

The number of spinoffs launched from the MCU is getting too high to count, and these shows are making a mark at Disney+. Jeremy Renner continues the trend as Hawkeye in this holiday-themed adventure.

Renner's Clint Barton teams with another well-known Marvel archer Kate Bishop (Hailee Stanfield) in a tale that takes place following Avengers: Endgame. After the success of Loki and WandaVision, the bar is set high for these two arrow-based superheroes.

How To With John Wilson (HBO)
Friday, November 26th 10pm  Season 2

The first season of How To With John Wilson was the underground "have you seen this?" series. It was quirky, funny, and reminiscent of old school low budget HBO comedies that didn't try too hard for the laughs.

Season two of the docu-comedy arrives as the anxious New Yorker continues his exploration of the city while dishing out advice on the simplest topics. Can't wait to see what his camera will discover this time around.

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

Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!

Monday, November 15, 2021

TV Picks - Week of November 15

This week is all about the music. Jagged premieres Thursday at 8:00 PM on HBO, the 2021 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony debuts Saturday at 8:00 PM on HBO, and the week wraps up with the American Music Awards on ABC. A documentary, a hall of fame celebration, and an awards show — Dick Clark is smiling somewhere.

Getting music right on TV sounds so simple to do. Since the days of Ed Sullivan and American Bandstand, musical acts have promoted their records on the small screen. We've come a long way from lip syncing and prerecorded backing tracks (although certain SNL acts might disagree).

MTV discovered a magical formula in the 80's. We didn't need to see the bands play on TV. We wanted more storytelling, great visuals, and anything but what we would see at a concert. It worked — and music changed forever.

MTV added an interesting wrinkle towards the end of its video heyday — Unplugged. Real performances from real musicians on a small set. The purists could watch their favorite acts live and cut through the eye candy.

The world got tired of wanting their MTV and videos took a back seat to live performances with incredible stage shows. The tricks of the TV trade were applied at arenas everywhere, and videos were regulated to the internet and our phones.

Behind the Music and Classic Albums were part of the next phase. A "where are they now?" for your favorite band and a dissection each track from timeless albums. The audience was shrinking and these programs were hard to find, but they were there.

These days, it's all about the documentaries. Jagged traces the career of 90's sensation Alanis Morrissette. Alanis already has a Broadway musical based on her multi-platinum debut album Jagged Little Pill. This doc features an in-depth interview with the Canadian singer, but she's distanced herself from the project, calling it "salacious" (which honestly only makes me want to watch more).

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony hasn't been quite as exciting over the past decade. Many legendary acts are already in (25 years since your first album is the requirement), and recent inductees haven’t felt like hall of fame caliber. That changed this year. Stars ranging from Taylor Swift to Paul McCartney showed up for the Foo Fighters, Carole King, and other music legends. Cleveland truly rocked and this ceremony is worth the view.

Last (and least) is the American Music Awards. Dick Clark created this show to rival the Grammys, and for a while it outperformed the long-time music awards staple. The AMAs always valued performances and celebrity attendees over the awards themselves. The Grammys ultimately caught on, but you can still watch your favorite act pick up some hardware and look good for the cameras.

In a couple of weeks, Peter Jackson's Beatles project will set a new standard for music on television. In the meantime, enjoy these three appetizers.

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

Tiger King 2 (NETFLIX) – It's back, but I get that Caddyshack 2 kind of feeling. Hope I'm wrong. Wednesday.

The Sex Lives of College Girls (HBO MAX) – If you're a Mindy Kaling fan, her new comedy about randomly assigned college roommates is for you. Thursday.

Cowboy Bebop (NETFLIX) – It took an extra year but bounty hunters are finally ready to hit the solar system. Friday.

The Great (HULU) – Gillian Anderson shows up in season 2 of the historical comedy. Friday

King Richard (HBO MAX) – Watch Will Smith play Venus and Serena's dad from your couch. Friday.

Midseason football and a magical epic…

Hard Knocks In Season - The Indianapolis Colts (HBO)
Wednesday, November 15th 10:00 PM ET

My favorite NFL training camp show takes a bold leap into the regular season. Hard Knocks has always combined the beauty of NFL Films camerawork with a behind the scenes peek at the tension of putting together a NFL roster.

The Colts are not having a great season, which should add to the drama of having this film crew around. An unvaccinated quarterback, one of the best running backs in football, and Liev Schreiber's voice is a perfect combination for football fans everywhere.

The Wheel Of Time (AMAZON)
Friday, November 19th

Since Game of Thrones ended things in King's Landing, a search for the next epic has been going on. Amazon takes a shot with this adaptation of a best-selling fantasy book series which sold more copies than George R.R. Martin ever did.

The actions of three childhood friends will determine the fate of civilization. The dragon reborn could be anyone in this gender-bending breaking of the world. Amazon has already greenlit season two, so they clearly believe in this project. There's too much source material, so it will be interesting to see how it translates to the small screen.

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

Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!

Monday, November 8, 2021

TV Picks - Week of November 8

This Friday is Disney+ Day. Leave it to Disney to brand the anniversary of their streaming service. It’s hard to believe the streamer has been part of the television universe for only two years, but its stratospheric success has already proven an age-old maxim to be true: content is king.

I experienced the "magic of Disney" firsthand raising my two daughters. They loved the movies, theme parks, and anything with mouse ears or princesses. I didn't mind. Disney always put quality first and tried to keep things simple. As a parent, I appreciated that.

When Disney entered the streaming world, no one knew what to expect. They had always protected their titles, banishing films for years in the name of exclusivity and maintaining intrigue. An opportunity to finally put that kids treasure chest on full display was at hand.

Disney had the brands — its namesake, FOX, Pixar, Marvel — but this was a whole new world. Netflix dominated, Amazon and Hulu were making their way in, and other networks were about to join the streaming fray. They noted the pros and cons of the entrances of all streaming services and launched with a flourish that now has them rivaling mighty Netflix.

In retrospect, the road to streaming success isn’t all that complicated, but a lot of Max-es, Plus-es and Peacocks didn't get it right. Just follow these simple steps:

Titles - You need lots of them. The more the merrier. Overwhelm us with options. Fill every niche. Disney had the kids covered, but they wisely marketed to grownups as well. Star Wars and Marvel are powerful film brands, but expanding those universes into television was critical to streaming success.

Ease of Use - Disney+ boasts one of the simplest interfaces to navigate. Big brands are lined up to select from, coupled with some great screen visuals. New programming is always featured on top, and related programming is right nearby. The theme parks provided a good lesson in getting people to where they need to be as quickly as possible.

Exclusive Hit Programming - The oldies and goodies will always be there, but what keeps viewers coming back for however many dollars per month they're spending? Star Wars spinoffs (and any movie after Jedi) were previous disappointments, but Jon Favreau created must-see streaming TV with The Mandalorian. The MCU can be overwhelming, but WandaVision and Loki provided quirky takes on second-tier characters. These huge universes expanded in a natural way, and there was only one place to check them out.

Growing Library - Takes on classic titles are a no brainer and The Simpsons and the Muppets are a treasure trove. New film releases now have an exclusive home. Acquisitions like Hamilton and originals worth watching like Big Shot provide ever more value. Keep the new stuff coming.

Disney+ is sticking to its plan launching a variety of new shows and specials this Thursday to mark its second anniversary, including:

Home Sweet Home Alone - Updating and expanding a bankable holiday franchise even featuring a Macaulay Culkin cameo

The World According To Jeff Goldblum - One of the quirkiest (and tallest) men in showbiz returns for a second season.

Under the Helmet: The Legacy of Boba Fett - A documentary look at origin and legacy of Star Wars’ favorite man of mystery

Movie premieres - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Jungle Cruise join the streaming world

Olaf Presents - A series of shorts from everyone's new favorite snowman (sorry, Frosty)

The Simpsons in Plusaversary - Expect plenty of deep references and laughs showing off Disney wares

There will be other shorts, universe celebrations, and an overwhelming amount of content to peruse on November 12th. This is what Disney does best. It's like the SpectroMagic parade or fireworks at Epcot — dazzle and overwhelm the audience, and they'll come back for more.

Happy two-year anniversary to the big mouse. Another year has passed, and the streamer is older and wiser.

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

Swap Shop (NETFLIX) – Thank you for your call! Tuesday.

CMA Awards (ABC) – 55 years of celebrating country's finest. Wednesday.

Love Never Lies (NETFLIX) – Lie detectors and dating... they're running out of variations. Thursday.

Carole Baskin's Cage Fight (DISCOVERY+) – Brace yourself, Tiger King fans…. Saturday.

Yellowjackets (SHOWTIME) – A high school soccer team survives a plane crash. Desperate times follow. Sunday at 10pm.

Rita Hayworth and a comedic comfy couch…

Great Escapes with Morgan Freeman (HISTORY)
Tuesday, November 9th 10pm

Morgan Freeman narrating a show about legendary prison escapes — how did this take so long to happen? The kicker on this new series is Morgan walking us through these escapades step by step with the use of TV technology.

The man who can got things from time to time at Shawshank is the right voice to describe these devious minds behind bars. Learn the choices these prisoners made on whether to get busy living or get busy dying.

The Shrink Next Door (APPLE TV+)
Friday, November 12th

Finding the right therapist can be quite the adventure. Troubled Marty Markowitz (Will Ferrell) goes to a therapist (Paul Rudd) who was recommended by his rabbi. Let's just say there are "complications" with the treatment.

The premise sounds like a big screen comedy, but the miniseries is based on real people and adapted from a hit podcast that chronicled their fates. Kathryn Hahn and Casey Wilson also star in yet another tale of a licensed doctor taking advantage of a troubled patient.

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

Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

TV Picks - Week of November 1

Dexter was one of my favorite shows. It was dark, funny and different than anything else on TV at the time. Michael C. Hall gave an Emmy worthy performance as blood splatter analyst Dexter Morgan who couldn't stop himself from the thrill of the kill while following his vigilante moral code.

Dexter was violent, funny, and wonderfully shot around the world of the Miami Dade police department. Drama built season after season as the intensity ratcheted up notch after notch. The fourth season, featuring John Lithgow as the Trinity killer, is some of the best television you'll ever see.

And then… well, I'll use an old phrase of mine. It jumped the shark and was never quite the same culminating in a laughable lumberjack finale. After all of those kills, Dexter Morgan faked his death and showed up in the Pacific Northwest sporting a full beard chopping wood. The series went out in the worst way possible, tarnishing the legacy built by those great early seasons.

Now Dexter: New Blood is premiering on Showtime this Sunday. But has enough time passed to bring the troubled killer back? That Oregon lumberjack ending was a tremendous disappointment, one that I truly want to forgive and forget. The awkward charm of Dexter is contagious, but this really needs to be handled in a smart and delicate way.

Bringing back an old favorite to lead a new series is not an easy thing to pull off. There's so much history and so many titular characters who met their demise. Stabler recently came back to the L&O universe after a long absence, but that was in a spinoff and not as the lead of the original franchise.

It has been eight years since the final season of Dexter, and after 130 plus kills he will be rejoining society. His sister Deb met her demise in the controversial finale, so he’ll need a new dark passenger to guide him this time around. We're going to hear some cursing from beyond the grave.

Dexter's latest girlfriend Hannah and his son Harrison were last seen getting on a plane to leave the country. Harrison is coming back and there's speculation that our favorite killer passed his gene to his son. Talk about daddy issues.

The new season begins with Dexter living in a small New York town under yet another alias. Dexter Morgan needs to atone for his sins. Dexter the series needs to atone for that finale.

If the creepy opening credits and music are there, that will be a good start…

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

Head Of The Class (HBO MAX) – Inevitable reboot with a grown up Robin Givens. Thursday.

Hello Jack! The Kindness Show (APPLE TV+) – Jack McBrayer and the creator of Blues Clues make a beautiful day in their neighborhood. Friday.

Big Mouth (NETFLIX) – The fifth season of one the funniest foul mouthed cartoons about puberty that you’ll ever see. Friday.

Attica (SHOWTIME) – Documentary on the 1971 uprising Al Pacino was shouting about. Saturday at 9pm.

Highway To Heaven (LIFETIME) – Inevitable reboot that was bound to happen on this network. Saturday at 8pm.

Heading south of the border and to big sky country…

Narcos: Mexico (NETFLIX)
Friday, November 5th Season 3

This incredible story of the evolving Mexican drug cartel serves up its third and final chapter. With mastermind Felix Gallardo behind bars, local cartel leaders battle to become the next kingpin in a tumultuous political climate.

Scoot McNairy is back as the voice of the show, but I'm curious to see how it fares without Diego Luna who carried things during its first two seasons. The original Narcos wasn't the same without Pablo, but I'll be watching this ten episode run to see if El Chapo or others step up.

Yellowstone (PARAMOUNT)
Sunday, November 7th Season 4

Saddle up… the Dutton family is back for another go around. This new season picks up right where those crazy cliffhangers of the third season left us, and we’ll find out which Duttons survived.

Kevin Costner has been doing a fantastic job heading up his Montana cattle ranch, and although there's speculation he might not survive that gunshot, I'm highly skeptical. The melodrama is sure to continue, with a prequel and spinoff now in the works at Paramount+. Can't wait to see what the Tony Soprano of Montana is up to next.

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

Get vaccinated. Get a booster. Stay healthy and safe!