The Christmas/holiday season is upon us. Once the shopping is done, the kids have been put to bed and/or the out-of-town relatives have gone home, it’s a good time to put up your feet, decompress, and watch some TV.
But where to turn? What to watch? If I may, a few humble suggestions about TV stuff you may not be aware of. Let’s start with Netflix, the vast storage unit of TV and movies good and (mostly) bad.
Hidden away in Netflix is the delightful Jon Hamm detective-comedy movie Confess, Fletch. Released in cinemas last year, Confess, Fletch played to empty theatres; the $20 million film took in a shocking $650,000 at the box office, proving once again that comedy does not sell movie tickets any more. But now you can enjoy this witty film at home, with the effortlessly charming Hamm taking on the role made famous by Chevy Chase in the 1980s. (Confess, Fletch is far superior to Chase’s Fletch, by the way.) Hamm is great in the role, and the film is easy, breezy viewing with lots of laughs. (Hamm also stars in the new season of Fargo, now airing on FXX. I stopped watching after two episodes.)
You don’t have to be a wrestling fan to enjoy Wrestlers, a warts-and-all (and boy, are there a lot of warts) documentary about a low-rent wrestling company called Ohio Valley Wrestling, which, oddly, is based in Kentucky. Ohio Valley Wrestling is struggling, far removed from the big money and fame of the WWE. But the wrestlers – with names like Ca$h Flo, Mr. PEC-tacular, and pot-headed hottie HollyHood Haley J – put their bodies through extraordinary punishment because they absolutely love wrestling (it sure isn’t for the money, which seems barely subsistence). The series culminates in a make-or-break event called The Big One, and it is one of the most gripping and uplifting half-hours of TV I’ve seen in years. (Speaking of wrestling, over on Crave/Starz, you can catch a fictionalized small-scale wrestling outfit depicted in the two-season drama Heels.)
For comedy, check out Fisk, a dry Australian comedy about a big time contracts lawyer, Helen Tudor-Fisk (Kitty Flanagan), who, after her marriage breaks down and her career hits the skids, is forced to take a job at a low-end suburban law firm. It’s laugh out loud funny, but you might need the subtitles as the Aussie accents can be a little, shall we say, thick.
While Netflix has the ‘throw it at the wall and see what sticks’ attitude, Apple TV+ has adopted a less is more attitude.
Two seasons of The Afterparty are available for binging, and it’s great fun. In each season, an all-star comedy cast featuring the likes of Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Ben Schwartz, Jamie Demetriou, Zach Woods, and Ilana Glazier (you may not know the names, but you’ll recognize the faces) gather at a party, where a murder is commited. During each nine episode series, each suspect gets their own episode, filmed in different cinematic styles. The dialogue is sharp, and the film parodies are spot-on.
On a more somber note, Apple TV+ looks back on the 1980 assassination of John Lennon in a three-part documentary John Lennon: Murder Without A Trial. Eyewitnesses and key players in the investigation speak for the first time, and there are never before released audio interviews with Mark David Chapman, Lennon’s killer, who is still in solitary confinement to this day. If you’re a boomer/Beatles fan like me, it may depress the hell out of you, but it’s an excellent piece of journalism.
Over on Crave, if you, well, crave a well-made action film, you will enjoy the imaginatively named Plane, starring the truly indestructible Gerard Butler as a pilot (named, for some reason, Brodie) who has to make an emergency landing on a war-torn island, which is run by not-very-nice rebels. A well-made, reasonably believable action flick (it scored a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes) is always a nice way to kill a couple of hours and a few brain cells.
While scrolling through Crave, I happened to check out the offerings of Starz, part of the Crave package. I was surprised to find just how deep the Starz film library is – 278 comedies, 216 action films, 420 dramas and 145 family films. There’s bound to be something good in there.
On Disney+ you’ll find a sweetly funny mockumentary called Theatre Camp, about a collection of young theatre nerds trying to save their floundering camp, which won a lot of well-deserved critical praise (85% on Rotten Tomatoes). And for the family, Disney now has all seasons of the ABC comedy Dinosaurs (1991-94). I haven’t watched it since it first aired, but I remember it as being funny in a family sitcom kind of way, with the animatronic dinosaurs especially impressive.
On the flip side, do NOT watch Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny on Disney, the dreadful reboot of the Indiana Jones saga. The story is nonsense – Indy actually goes back in time! – and the CGI is shockingly poor for a big-budget, big screen film. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
What if you don’t have a streaming service? (Here’s a thought; ask for a year’s subscription for Christmas.) The networks are awash in game and reality shows, still recovering from the double whammy strikes. But I’ve found one show I’m almost embarrassed to admit I like – Snake Oil (Fox and CTV). Hosted by a less-smarmy than usual David Spade, contestants try to guess which product is real, and which one is fake (a.k.a. snake oil). While the season finale aired earlier this week, it’s clever and fun and you can still play along at home at CTV.ca. And you won’t believe just how weird the real products are.
Anyway, that should keep you on the couch for a while. Until the next time, season’s greetings and Happy New Year.