I watch a lot of documentaries, so narrowing a list to ten is tricky for me, especially with two sports docs celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Summit series. Therefore, I’m singling out a dozen I’m recommending from the class of ’22. They are listed in chronological order, not ranked best to worst. They are all very different, and all worth your time.

We Need to Talk About Cosby ( Showtime, Crave). W. Kamau Bell tackles the tainted legacy of comedian Bill Cosby, once America’s Dad, now the guy who got out of jail on a technicality after being convicted of numerous sexual assault charges.

Cosby’s fall from grace was so steep, and his release from jail on a technicality so skeevy, there are those who feel this guy should still be serving time, not taking up any more of theirs. I happen to agree however, with the Emmy-winning writer-director of this series, W. Kamau Bell. We Need to Talk About Cosby. Follow this link for my take on this doc when it premiered last March.

Lucy and Desi (Amazon Prime Video). Remember all the whining about how Nicole Kidman couldn’t play Lucille Ball in Being the Ricardos? First time director Amy Poehler avoids that by using all kinds of archival footage, including home movies, of the real Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in this critically acclaimed documentary. Features commentary from the couple’s daughter Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill and son Desi Arnaz Jr., Normal Lear, Carol Burnett and Bette Midler. Here’s my review from last March.

Benjamin Franklin (PBS). After a couple of documentaries based on figures from the 20th century (Muhammad Ali, Ernest Hemingway), filmmaker Ken Burns goes back to the 18th to one of America’s founding fathers, Ben Franklin — who shares a birthday with Ali. Four hours, shown over two consecutive days. Narrated by Burns’ favourite Peter Coyote, with Mandy Patinkin speaking for Franklin. More from me on this doc from back in April here.

Tripping The Bruce (TVO). The third in executive producer Mitch Azaria’s annual real-time documentaries explores the wonders of the Bruce Peninsula — a destination I suggested! The three hour tour, in a sailboat, takes viewers on a 34 kilometer trip across the tip of the Bruce, winding up at Flowerpot Island. Highlights include underwater explorations of several shipwrecks. Listen as Mitch sets it all up as my guest back in April on brioux.tv the podcast.


George Carlin’s American Dream (HBO; Crave). Revered as “The Beatles of comedy,” by Stephen Colbert, George Carlin, who died at 71 in 2008, blazed a trail stand-up comedians are still trying to follow. This two-part documentary from Judd Apatow, who produced a brilliant documentary a few years ago on Garry Shandling, traces Carlin’s evolution from Ed Sullivan Show regular to hippy-dippy, counter culture comedian. Check any issue on Twitter today, suggests Apatow; Carlin still generally has the best take. Featuring Carlin’s daughter, Kelly Carlin, plus a Who’s Who of other comedians including Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Bill Burr, W Kamu Bell and Jon Stewart. Read my full review from last May here.

McEnroe (AppleTV+; Crave). “It’s out! It’s out I tell you!” This documentary about the tennis ace and terrific Never Have I Ever narrator is out on VOD. It’s out by a mile! Serves up a reminder of how overpowering McEnroe was for a few years before something happened — lifestyle, marriage to Tatum O’Neal, drugs — to snap his winning streak. Has a happy ending as he rallys in more recent years.

Summit ’72 (CBC). The greatest sports series I ever witnessed on television is remembered 50 years later in this four-part documentary series. Featuring never-before-seen 16mm archival footage restored in stunning 4k, and exclusive interviews with key players. They include Phil Esposito, Ken Dryden, Serge Savard, and Paul Henderson along with Soviet stars Vladislav Tretiak, Boris Mikhailov, and others. Listen to my podcast episode about this doc and the series with Team Canada standout Serge Savard here.

Nothing Compares (Showtime, Crave). A documentary about Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, the cue ball chanteuse who tore up a picture of the pope on Saturday Night Live and kinda was never heard from again. From Belfast-born director Kathryn Ferguson. A film that answers the question: is it possible to do a documentary about Sinead O’Connor even if the Prince estate will not let you hear her sing the world-wide No. 1 hit of the decade that he wrote and she recorded? Particularly compelling at the very end.

Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? (Netflix). This is the bizarre, true story of a promotional campaign from the ’90s that went horribly wrong for Pepsico. They hired an ad team to come up with this concept: reward high volume Pepsi drinkers with points they could collect and trade for hats and hoodies and, according to one disclaimer-less ad (except in Canada), a Harrier military jet. One 20-year-old viewer, college student John Leonard, took the soft drink company at its word. The docuseries, which uses flashback re-creations mixed with modern interview footage, amplifies this advertising footnote and shows how it became a test case for today’s law students. The series has at least one very surprising cast member and is worth watching just for a lasting friendship that is formed.

Sr. (Netflix). Poignant documentary about Robert Downey Jr.’s dad, who was briefly a maverick filmmaker, and their complex relationship. As much about the dad as the dad’s impact on Jr., especially the permissiveness that likely led to a lot of drug use. Surprisingly warm and heartfelt. Keep the hankies handy. Directed by Chris Smith.

American Masters “Groucho & Cavett” (PBS). TV talk show legend Dick Cavett looks back at his friendship with his comedy hero Groucho Marx, who took some of his final comedy curtain calls on the New York stage of The Dick Cavett Show. Plenty of clips, some featuring Woody Allen, Truman Capote, Dan Rowan and others. For more, please listen to my exclusive brioux.tv: the podcast episode with Cavett, which you can find here.

Ice Breaker: The ’72 Summit Series (Super Channel Fuse). Yes, another look back 50 years to the historic Canada-U.S.S.R. hockey summit series. This one is based in part on former diplomat Gary J. Smith’s behind-the-scenes book “Ice War Diplomat: Hockey Meets Cold War Politics at the 1972 Summit Series. Among the commentators: Wayne Gretzky, Ron MacLean, Margaret Trudeau and Terry Mosher (aka Montreal editorial cartoonist Aislin). From filmmaker Robbie Hart. For more on this, listen to my conversation with Ice-Breaker director Robbie Hart, which you can find here.

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