198 | Johnny Sweet (Last Call: The Shutdown of NYC Bars)

My Summer Lair Chapter #198: Do You Have A Neighbourhood Bar?

Yo Welcome to My Summer Lair where my name isn’t Sam Malone it’s Sammy Younan and welcome a return guest: producer and director Johnny Sweet. As you can sorta maybe tell from the Sam Malone reference we’re talking about Cheers. Not the show but rather the classic bar experience.

Pull up a bar stool; I’ll activate Cliff mode: I first met and interviewed Johnny Sweet at Hot Docs 2019 for his NBA documentary Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story. That documentary about basketball and mental health and Queens can be seen on Showtime on Demand.

His new documentary is Last Call: The Shutdown of NYC Bars. Frasier Crane would dig it because it documents the mental health impact of the service industry lockdowns. Of course in response to the pandemic New York City—along with everywhere else—was shut down. However there is a remarkable difference in how we handled certain occupations like white collar workers like Norm and sarcastic servers like Carla.

As an accountant Norm works in an office…he can seamlessly work online, all the tools are there and his beer is in the fridge. Whew. But what does Carla do? Her job is to serve others. The sad irony is that the people who have committed to serving others were not thoroughly taken care off. We didn’t serve the servers.

That’s a large aspect of Johnny Sweet’s documentary Last Call. We’ll get into other aspects including the upcoming sequel, as well as Johnny’s “Sweet Coaching” recommendation for the Knicks (that’s a two-fer pun…Coach was such a fantastic Cheers character!) but before all that…at the risk of forgetting like Woody so often does…we gotta start with the Marvel Cinematic Universe…a popular Universe 25 movies deep where we all hang out and where everyone knows the names of the characters and get an update from Johnny who is a major fan.

Last Call @ WT F

Host Sammy Younan

Recorded: Wednesday August 23, 2021 at 1pm EST

#SetTheVCR: April 26-May 02, 2021

It’s May if you can believe it. But thankfully here’s a whole pile of TV recommendations so you don’t hafta yell out “May Day!” when you can’t find anything.

Monday, April 26

Sesame Street: 50 Years of Sunny Days (8 p.m. / ABC)

ABC presents SESAME STREE: 50 YEARS OF SUNNY DAYS, a two-hour special on the legacy and impact of the beloved global phenomenon
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Sammy Suggestion: In Search of Darkness: Part II (Anytime / Shudder)

The follow-up to IN SEARCH OF DARKNESS, dives deeper into the practical-effects decade of ’80s horror movies with all-new interviews from genre icons and industry experts alongside the original cast.
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Big deep breath: Ready??! It’s All Happening: “Part II dives deeper into the fabled practical-effects decade of iconic and eclectic ‘80s horror movies that changed the course of film history. Packed with over four hours of brand-new interviews, including such legendary horror icons as Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Nancy Allen (Dressed to Kill), Linnea Quigley (The Return of the Living Dead), and special-effects wizard Tom Savini (Friday the 13th), Part II features 15 new faces alongside 40-plus returning members of the original In Search of Darkness cast to delve into more fan-favorite titles of ‘80s horror, year-by-year, expanding its scope to cover more international releases and spotlighting horror-career retrospectives.” If you’re an 80s horror fan this is not to be missed: this documentary will have you leaving wanting gore!

Tuesday, April 27

Sammy Suggestion: Jiu Jitsu (Anytime / Netflix (Canada))

After the defeat of a celebrated war hero, an ancient order of fighters battles powerful space invaders as the fate of humanity hangs in the balance.
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Ruckus! Mayhem! Violence! And: Nicolas Cage with a sword. Jiu Jitsu also threw in a race of alien invaders as the flimsy 80s action movie plot: “Every six years, an ancient order of jiu-jitsu fighters joins forces to battle a vicious race of alien invaders. But when a celebrated war hero goes down in defeat, the fate of the planet and mankind hangs in the balance.” Whatever. This looks so dumb it’s gotta be fun: I’m 100% IN!

Wednesday, April 28

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 4 (Anytime / Hulu)

Offred, one of the few fertile women known as Handmaids in the oppressive Republic of Gilead, struggles to survive as a reproductive surrogate for a powerful Commander and his resentful wife.
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Sammy Suggestion: Headspace Guide To Sleep (Anytime / Netflix)

Learn how to sleep better with Headspace. Each episode unpacks misconceptions, offers friendly tips and concludes with a guided wind-down.
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Netflix and Chill! Headspace Guide To Sleep because babies don’t have insomnia. “Headspace Guide To Sleep offers a new facts and tips about sleep, backed by science.” Somewhere along the way people started doing this natural activity badly? Should be super helpful…well unless you live on Elm St.: One, Two, Freddy’s Coming For You.

Thursday, April 29

NFL Draft 2021 (8/7c PM / ESPN, NFL Network & ABC)

For the third consecutive year, ESPN and ABC will provide distinct prime-time presentations on days 1 and 2. ESPN will again offer the traditional draft telecast—a combination of X’s and O’s analysis, player highlights and storytelling—while ABC, featuring the eleven-time Sports Emmy Award-winning “College GameDay Built by The Home Depot” crew, will cover the event with an emphasis on the individual journeys of NFL Draft prospects.
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Let’s Be Real (8:30/7:30c PM / Fox)

Election-themed puppet special covering politics, pop culture and the 2020 election.
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Sammy Suggestion: Hot Docs 2021 (Anytime)

HOT DOCS Canadian International Documentary Festival is North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market. Each year, the Festival presents a selection of approximately 200 cutting-edge documentaries from Canada and around the globe.
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Like SXSW before it and like Tribeca Film Festival after it; Hot Docs 2021 is all online: no in person screenings. This year Hot Docs runs from Thursday, April 29 and ends on Sunday, May 9. And unfortunately for Americans: “All films participating in Hot Docs Festival are geo-blocked to Canada.” So…what do we have from the giant selection? You got Edgar Wright’s doc on The Sparks Brothers (think Queen before Queen if you don’t know em), Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (which reflects on the children’s tv show origins and legacy), Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest (“Kim Cannon Arm attempts a world record by playing the 80s arcade game Gyruss for 100 hours straight”) and so much more. There’s international docs and docs from Toronto; you want it they got it. Prices, packages and the full selection are of course on their site. Doc it up this week.

Friday, April 30

The Mitchells vs. The Machines (Anytime / Netflix)

A robot apocalypse put the brakes on their cross-country road trip. Now it’s up to the Mitchells — the world’s weirdest family — to save the human race.
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Sammy Suggestion: Without Remorse (Anytime / Prime Video)

An elite Navy SEAL (Michael B. Jordan) uncovers an international conspiracy while seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife in Without Remorse, the explosive origin story of action hero John Clark – one of the most popular characters in author Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan universe.
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Michael B. Jordan is yet again settling scores though this time his beef isn’t with Wakanda. Someone murdered his wife! I suspect it’s probably one of his rabid female fans; though the trailer suggests a large government conspiracy. Without Remorse was scheduled for a February 2021 theatrical release however Without Remorse it’s been dumped onto Prime Video. This is set in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan universe which is known as Ryanverse (a TV show I haven’t watched.) so yes it’s entirely possible for a Tom Clancy 48 Hrs version down the road. Rather than show the classic trailer I’ma go with Amazon’s Super Bowl ad which sorta kinda promoted Without Remorse.

Saturday, May 01

Sammy Suggestion: Tenet (8/7c PM HBO)

Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.
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I saw Tenet on September 20, 2020. I didn’t expect that’d be my last movie for such a long time. Tenet requires more than 1 viewing so this is most helpful: it’ll be on Crave on May 7. With Inception Nolan clearly established the physics of that world (well dream world) so viewers knew what was possible (if they didn’t always know what was real.) With Tenet I don’t feel Nolan fully firmly established the physics or rather it was too complex so viewers end up doing calculus instead of enjoying a movie. In Star Trek I dunno what dilithium crystals are but I know when the ship is in trouble: you know? And at the end of the day it’s Nolan: you’re in or you’re out.

Sunday, May 02

The Nevers (9/8c PM / HBO & Crave)

Joss Whedon’s Nevers is described as “a science fiction drama about a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world.” August, 1896. Victorian London is rocked to its foundations by a supernatural event which gives certain people — mostly women — abnormal abilities, from the wondrous to the disturbing. But no matter their particular “turns,” all who belong to this new underclass are in grave danger.
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Sammy Suggestion: Things Heard & Seen (Anytime / Netflix)

A young woman discovers that both her husband and their new home harbor sinister secrets after they leave Manhattan for small-town life.
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Amanda Seyfried is the latest blonde chick to move into an Amityville Haunted House. That always goes well. To quote Elaine from Seinfeld and the basement: “Get Out!” F. Murray Abraham handles the exposition which is kinda what you want from a horror movie (him or Tony Todd!). And the big sister from Stanger Things shows up without pants so I can’t believe she got paid to work without pants. And those are the Things I’ve Heard And Seen in the trailer.

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Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.

197 | Craig Pryce (The Marijuana Conspiracy)

My Summer Lair Chapter #197: Who Would You Rather Hang Out With: Franken Berry or Count Chocula?

In Craig Pryce’s latest feature The Marijuana Conspiracy one of the characters poses the following compelling question: Who would you rather hang out with: Franken Berry or Count Chocula? Great question!

The Marijuana Conspiracy is based on a true story that took place in 1972 over 98 days. It studies the scientific, social and physical effects of Marijuana use during an all-female group study. Pryce optioned this story from investigative reporter Diana Zlomislic, who acts as story consultant.”

Yeah: the Canadian government was fearful of marijuana and its effects of course on the economy and productivity. So to alleviate their fears on the effects of weed the Canadian government organized a study: sequestering 5 women and giving them 2 fatties every night at 8pm.

Seriously? I’ll never understand how we react to pop culture with fear. The war on drugs has been absurd and while we tend to contextualize it in racist terms; The Marijuana Conspiracy urges us to recognize the sexist aspects of that ugly endless war.

The feature film stars Marie Ward (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark), Morgan Kohan (Star Trek Discovery), Gregory Calderone (Heroes Reborn) Luke Bilyk (DC’s Legend of Tomorrow) and Paulina Nunes (The Boys).

So what happened? And why does the title include the word Conspiracy? And I thought Canadians were nice but this…this isn’t nice.

Let’s get into all of this with writer and director Craig Pryce (who you might know directed the quirky movie: Revenge of the Radioactive Reporter. Yo.)

The Marijuana Conspiracy @ WT F

Host Sammy Younan

Recorded: Wednesday April 14, 2021 at 3:30pm EST

Fatty Not Phat Because Slang

On my IG I’ll post quotes from various My Summer Lair interviews. One of my guests was talking about his weed movie and smoking a fatty.

Read the rest of this page »

#SetTheVCR: April 19-25, 2021

An inspiring #SetTheVCR where we tap into the power of Today. TV recommendations as inspirations: the future is grand.

Monday, April 19

American Dad!: Season 18 (10/9c PM. / TBS)

The random escapades of Stan Smith, a conservative C.I.A. Agent dealing with family life, and keeping America safe, all in the most absurd way possible.
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Sammy Suggestion: American Oz (9/8c PM / PBS)

Explore the life and times of author L. Frank Baum, the creator of one of the most beloved, enduring and classic American narratives.
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Today is Monday! And the best way to escape it is go down the yellow brick road and see the wizard of Oz! Or rather the writer behind the wizard: L. Frank Baum. I did not know that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900 and that Baum wrote 13 more novels on the Land of Oz. (What’s rare is the movie adaptation of the novel from 1939 is considered iconic. Movie adaptations rarely surpass the pop culture contribution of their original source material: Jaws and Shawshank Redemption are two others I can think of.) So if you’re like me if you’ve enjoyed the heart of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz but have no brains to know anything about L. Frank Baum hopefully you’ll have the courage to watch this PBS documentary.

Tuesday, April 20

Philly D.A.: Limited Series (9/8c PM / PBS)

PHILLY D.A. explores the most pressing social issues of our time—police brutality, the opioid crisis, gun violence, and mass incarceration—through the lens of an idealistic team attempting fundamental overhaul from within the system.
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Sasquatch: Docuseries (Anytime / Hulu & Crave)

SASQUATCH is a true crime doc series following investigative journalist David Holthouse as he attempts to solve a bizarre twenty-five year old triple homicide that was said to be the work of a mythical creature.
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Cruel Summer: Season 1 (9/8C PM / Freeform)

Taking place over 3 summers in the ’90s when a popular teen goes missing, and a seemingly unrelated girl transforms from a sweet and awkward outlier to the most popular girl in town, eventually becoming the most despised person in America.
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Sammy Suggestion: Half Baked (Anytime / Crave via Starz)

Thurgood and his friends, Brian and Scarface, are forced into selling medical marijuana stolen from the lab where Thurgood works as a janitor in order to bail their friend Kenny out of jail.
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Today is 4-20! Figured it’d be fun to partake with a classic stoner flick. Though what dooms Half Baked is…well many things but I focus on length. Had Half Baked’s nonsensical tale been truncated to a Chappelle’s Show sketch length (rather than feature film) it would have been gold! If anything this was a trailer for Chappelle’s upcoming sketch show; look at the characters he plays in the movie: Sir-Smoke-Alot: “The doctor said I need a backiotomy!” Gold! If Half Baked doesn’t work for you; True Romance is on Netflix, or see if Fast Times at Ridgemont High is floating around on a streamer. (Not literally floating…even if it is 4-20.)

Wednesday, April 21

Mayor of Comedy (Anytime / Mayor of Comedy Website)

Remember stand up comedy? I can’t imagine the shape comedy will be in following this pandemic. So for now a look back at comedy in Canada as it was with Mayor Of Comedy free for National Canadian Film Day. You’ll see comics such as Sandra Battaglini, Gavin Stephens, K. Trevor Wilson, Dave Merheje and Barry Taylor who runs Comedy Records plus many more talk about the many challenges they face including their inability to qualify for grants like musicians and circus performers.
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Sammy Suggestion: The F Word (Anytime / Prime Video & CBC Gem)

Wallace, who is burned out from a string of failed relationships, forms an instant bond with Chantry, who lives with her longtime boyfriend. Together, they puzzle out what it means if your best friend is also the love of your life.
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Today is National Canadian Film Day “a massive one-day, coast-to-coast-to-coast celebration of Canadian cinema!” And while most people don’t go hmmm I sure am in the mood for a Canadian film (Korean movies, Indian movies, Japanese movies…those are legit and distinct film categories…genres even) Canadians do manage to make some good ones eh? Written by Elan Mastai (I suggest you check out his sci-fi time travel novel All Our Wrong Todays) The F Word stars Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Mackenzie Davis and a few other faces you’ll know. The F Word is of course “friendship.” Turns out Harry Potter found a woman who is magic but she’s got a boyfriend. So do you become friends with her or…what? The scene in which Wallace and Chantry skinny dip together was filmed at the Scarborough Bluffs (not far from where I live!). Toronto actually plays itself in this movie; as a city Toronto doesn’t have a distinct film mythology such as LA, NYC or even Chicago. This is a rare moment hence my suggestion for National Canadian Film Day.

Thursday, April 22

Cher & The Loneliest Elephant (Anytime / Paramount+)

Cher and her charity “Free the Wild” help to rescue a lonely Asian elephant from the Islamabad Zoo.
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Sammy Suggestion: Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (Anytime / Crave)

A cinematic meditation on humanity’s massive re-engineering of the planet, ANTHROPOCENE: THE HUMAN EPOCH is a four years in the making feature documentary film from the multiple-award winning team of Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, and Edward Burtynsky. Narrated by Alicia Vikander.
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Today is Earth Day! This is the third film in a series of collaborations between filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier with photographer Edward Burtynsky, following Manufactured Landscapes and Watermark. (I recommend both and no worries: this isn’t the MCU you don’t need to see the first two to understand this third documentary.) The description explains this beautifully shot doc: “Filmmakers travel to six continents and 20 countries to document the impact humans have made on the planet.” Turns out we’re not good to Mother Nature. We’re like that successful NBA superstar only after making it never took care of Mama; just took her sacrifices for granted and not got her a good house or a fancy car. A pause for the cause and a recognition of Mother Nature because Today is Earth Day!

Friday, April 23

Shadow and Bone: Season 1 (Anytime / Netflix)

Dark forces conspire against orphan mapmaker Alina Starkov when she unleashes an extraordinary power that could change the fate of her war-torn world.
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Sammy Suggestion: Altman (Anytime / CBC Gem)

A look at the life and work of American filmmaker Robert Altman.
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Today is Friday which kicks off the weekend! As such you’ll wanna M*A*S*H this Altman documentary. Robert Altman (who perished in 2006) created some of the most unique work in the 70s, an often overlooked decade when we discuss cinema. (In 1980 he cast Robin Williams as Popeye which followed Superman (1978) as some of the earliest full length feature film comic book adaptations.) Altman “is an in-depth look at the life and times of filmmaker Robert Altman (M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Nashville). While refusing to bow down to Hollywood’s conventions, or its executives, Altman’s unique style of filmmaking won him friends and enemies, earned him world-wide praise and occasionally scathing criticism, and proved that it’s possible to make truly independent films.” That’s pretty inspiring for a weekend where you can be wild and free yes?

Saturday, April 24

Sammy Suggestion: Time Is Illmatic (Anytime / Netflic (Canada))

Providing a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Nas’s debut album, this documentary also delves into his deep connection to his New York roots.
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Today is Saturday! Which means: Time Is Illmatic. In 2021 Nas’ debut album Illmatic was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” I concur. At the time it was a raw and scathing portrait of the dangerous environment of NYC; the way in zombie movies they say “out there” when they’re safely barricaded at home. It is poetry and poetic: Illmatic shifted the hip hop conversation back to the lyrics; even though a rap’s song success tends to be dictated by its beat. So to unpack all of this on the 20th anniversary of the seminal album here is Time Is Illmatic a documentary that breaks down the songs on the album white contextualizing the album’s success and influence. Nothing says the weekend like a solid soundtrack!

Sunday, April 25

The Nevers (9/8c PM / HBO & Crave)

Joss Whedon’s Nevers is described as “a science fiction drama about a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world.” August, 1896. Victorian London is rocked to its foundations by a supernatural event which gives certain people — mostly women — abnormal abilities, from the wondrous to the disturbing. But no matter their particular “turns,” all who belong to this new underclass are in grave danger.
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Sammy Suggestion: The Kid (See The Link Below)

A woman abandons her newborn son along with a note for the finder. The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) stumbles upon the child and though initially reluctant, takes him in and raises him as his own.
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Today is Charlie Chaplin’s birthday! (Actually no it’s not…I just needed a reason to keep the theme going: close though…April 16, 1889.) As such head on over to YouTube and check out The Kid. (Lots of amazing movies on YouTube and yes they’re legally there. I’ve posted The Kid here but go to YouTube Movies for lots more options.) Chaplin wrote, produced, directed, edited, and starred in The Kid, and later composed a score. Whew. Nobody works that hard anymore. And this was for his film debut as a director. Think of this like Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy but as a silent film: “Charlie the Tramp finds an abandoned baby and makes a home for him. Five years later Edna the mother who abandoned her baby has become an opera star but does charity work for slum youngsters in hope of finding her boy. A doctor called by Edna discovers the note with the truth about the Kid and reports it to the authorities who come to take him away from Charlie.” It doesn’t sound funny but it’s Charlie Chaplin and it’s free! So why not hangout with The Kid.

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Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.

196 | Paul Kemp (Nike’s Big Bet)

My Summer Lair Chapter #196: Has Nike’s Big Bet Paid Off?

Welcome director Paul Kemp to My Summer Lair to discuss his running documentary Nike’s Big Bet.

In America you can check out Nike’s Big Bet on Peacock; it is 83 minutes.

In Canada the CBC Gem version is 44 minutes so I guess streaming is also “Big Bet.”

Remarkable documentaries are not like sports; there aren’t always clear winners and losers. Here’s Nike’s big bet:

“In 2001 Nike established the Oregon Project as a program to develop elite runners (and put Americans back on top…of course.). Running coach Alberto Salazar was in charge of the program and given free reign to employ his unorthodox tactics to deliver results. In 2019 despite never failing a drug test and his athletes never testing positive, he received a four-year doping ban from all coaching activities and the project immediately collapsed. So…what happened?”

Did Salazar’s “Just Do It” attitude and questionable practices push the limits of human performance and technology too far? And what is fair or even fair play in sports?

Malcolm Gladwell who appears in this documentary said: “It is so typical of the dysfunction of track and field that we will bring down the house on someone operating at the margins. You’re going to bring down the hammer on Alberto Salazar on something that is so complicated that I can’t even follow half the arguments against Alberto Salazar.”

Oh Boy. Shall we get into all this and more with director Paul Kemp who is an actual show runner. You’ll know what I mean as soon as you hit play.

Nike’s Big Bet @ WT F

Host Sammy Younan

Recorded: Monday November 8, 2021 at 1:00Pm EST

#SetTheVCR: April 12-18, 2021

Oh! TV shows/movies and TV recommendations: I enjoy both of those things.

Monday, April 12

Run (Anytime / Netflix (Canada))

Desiring freedom after years of isolated medical care, teenager Chloe suspects her mother might be holding her back — and harboring sinister secrets.
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Sammy Suggestion: Spontaneous (Anytime / Hulu & Prime Video)

Mara Carlye’s life is forever changed when students in her senior class literally explode for no reason. Mara and her friends stay close together as they await possible combustion – wondering what part of life is worth living.if it might end suddenly.
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Oh! The angst and romance of a teen movie and spontaneous combustion: I enjoy both those things. “When students in their high school begin inexplicably exploding, seniors Mara (Katherine Langford), Dylan (Charlie Plummer) and others navigate in a world where each moment may be their last. As spontaneous explosions continue unexplained, an unexpected romance blossoms between Mara and Dylan, who discover that when tomorrow is no longer promised, they can finally start living for today.”

Tuesday, April 13

Frontline: American Insurrection (10 p.m. / PBS)

Over the last three years, FRONTLINE has collaborated with ProPublica to investigate the rise of extremism in America. In the aftermath of the assault on the U.S. Capitol, FRONTLINE and ProPublica team up again to examine how far-right groups were emboldened and encouraged by former President Trump and how individuals were radicalized and brought into the political landscape.
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Sammy Suggestion: The Inside Story (Anytime / HBO Max)

This documentary takes viewers on a journey that started in 1989 and traces its evolution into a phenomenon. Each episode reveals stories that highlight the chemistry between Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.
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Oh! NBA basketball games and deeply sarcastic responses to those games: I enjoy both those things. I shared this TV recommendation back in March when it premiered on TNT. Now it’s all together on HBO Max. The TV Guide description says it well: “Inside the NBA – the Sports Emmy Award-winning studio show known for its entertaining style and unfiltered commentary – pulls back the curtain on its more than 30-year history in this four-part documentary series. Interviews with celebrities, crew members, sports reporters and more illuminate the show’s evolution into a cultural phenomenon with untold stories that highlight the chemistry between Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.” TNT is among the best NBA game packagers and I wish they could broadcast more games. So good. So fun. Even if the games are blowouts the Inside The NBA team is often entertaining and deeply sarcastic. That’s all I ask!

Wednesday, April 14

Dad Stop You’re Embarrassing Me (Anytime / Netflix)

A single dad and cosmetics brand owner figures out fatherhood on the fly when his strong-minded teen daughter moves in with him.
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Sammy Suggestion: Love and Monsters (Anytime / Netflix)

Seven years after he survived the monster apocalypse, lovably hapless Joel leaves his cozy underground bunker behind on a quest to reunite with his ex.
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Oh! love and monsters: I enjoy both those things. “Joel (Dylan O’Brien) ventures out of his underground bunker seven years after the Monsterpocalypse and sets out on a journey to find his girlfriend.”

Thursday, April 15

Exit Plan (Anytime / Crackle)

We follow Max, who in the midst of an existential crisis and looking to solve a cold case checks into the clandestine Hotel Aurora. A unique secretive facility that specializes in elaborate assisted suicide fantasies. His investigation uncovers a disturbing truth that forces Max to question the very nature of life, death and his own perception of reality.
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Sammy Suggestion: Spy City (Anytime / AMC+)

An English spy who is sent to Berlin in 1961 to sift out a traitor in the UK Embassy or among the Allies, shortly before the construction of the Berlin Wall.
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Oh! A British spy and traitors: I enjoy both those things. “A British spy (Dominic Cooper) is up to his ankles in intrigue in Cold War-era Berlin in the new espionage drama Spy City.” This six-episode series has already aired in Germany, it’s now State side.

Friday, April 16

Van Helsing: Season 5 (10 p.m. / SYFY)

Van Helsing is set in the near future, where vampires have risen and taken control. Vanessa Van Helsing is humanity’s last hope, as her unique blood composition gives her the ability to turn vampires human. With this secret weapon, Vanessa becomes a prime target for the vampires.
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Songbird (Anytime / Hulu)

In 2024 a pandemic ravages the world and its cities. Centering on a handful of people as they navigate the obstacles currently hindering society: disease, martial law, quarantine, and vigilantes.
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Sammy Suggestion: Mr. Mercedes: Season 1-3 (Anytime / Prime Video)

A demented killer taunts a retired police detective with a series of lurid letters and emails, forcing the ex-cop to undertake a private, and potentially felonious, crusade to bring the killer to justice before he can strike again.
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Oh! A Stephen King detective and a lazy turtle: I enjoy both those things. Mr. Mercedes arrived on Peacock on October 15, 2020 (from the rarely viewed Audience Channel; which I believe is now defunct.) now it’s in Canada. Easily one of the best Stephen King adaptations…in yo’face Castle Rock; and sorry IT with John Ritter and see you in hell Langoliers with Bronson Pinchot! Brendan Gleeson is an Irish treasure and as detective Bill Hodges he’s outstanding as is the show’s soundtrack. Mr. Mercedes rocks the disco and jams the nightclub. Based on Stephen King’s spellbinding Mr. Mercedes trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, and End of Watch) for over 3 TV seasons the David E. Kelley series combined supernatural elements, a murder mystery; devious characters, and characters seeking redemption. There’s also a lazy turtle if you dig animals. Enjoy…you’re so in for a treat. The show concluded on November 12, 2019 and I doubt there’s any reason for a fourth season still I’m eagerly sharing it now because with strong ratings “never say never.”

Saturday, April 17

Sammy Suggestion: The Blade Trilogy (Anytime / Crave)

“Blade” -Wesley Snipes plays a half-mortal, half-immortal charged with ridding the earth of a race of vampires led by Stephen Dorff in this action-packed blockbuster.
“Blade 2” – When the world is threatened by a new and deadlier breed of super vampire, the legendary Blade and his mentor, Whistler, must join forces with the Bloodpack, an elite team of vampire warriors made up of his sworn enemies.
“Blade: Trinity” – The final battle begins and the trinity comes to an end!
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Oh! vampires and vampire hunters: I enjoy both those things. 10 years before Iron Man big banged the MCU Marvel somehow got Blade right. (Well the first 2 movies for sure…the third is flawed.) The first set up a “Underworld” feud between “pure-blood” vampires and those who had been human, but were “turned.” Not that Wesley Snipes cares: always bet on black! The second was directed by Guillermo del Toro while the third has the strangest cast: Parker Posey, Triple H, Patton Oswalt, Kris Kristofferson and Jessica Biel. You gotta see it to believe it. Marvel Studios have muttered they want to make another Blade…a script has been written so we wait.

Sunday, April 18

Confronting a Serial Killer: Season 1 (Anytime / Starz & Crave)

The astonishing story of the unprecedented relationship between acclaimed author and journalist Jillian Lauren and the most prolific serial killer in American history, Sam Little.
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Godfather of Harlem: Season 2 (Anytime / EPIX)

Season 2 finds Bumpy Johnson battling the New York Crime Families for control of the lucrative and murderous “French Connection” heroin pipeline in an ambitious plan that will pit him against not only the Italians and the law but also friends and family.
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Sammy Suggestion: Mare Of Easttown: Limited Series (10 p.m. / HBO & Crave)

As her life crumbles around her, a small-town Pennsylvania detective Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) investigates a local murder. The series explores the dark side of a close community and provides an authentic examination of how family and past tragedies can define our present.
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Oh! local murder and Pennsylvania: I enjoy both those things. “A detective (Kate Winslet) in a small Pennsylvania town investigates a local murder while trying to keep her life from falling apart.” You got 7 episodes to figure out who the killer is. I’m putting my money on Guy Pearce he’s always wonderfully shifty.

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Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.

#SetTheVCR: April 05-11, 2021

Lotta young people with powers are powering this week’s #SetTheVCR this week. Which is rather inspirational when you think about it.

Monday, April 05

Coded Bias (Anytime / Netflix)

This documentary investigates the bias in algorithms after M.I.T. Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini uncovered flaws in facial recognition technology.
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Sammy Suggestion: 2021 NCAA Basketball Tournament Final (9/8c PM / CBS)

The final game of the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament.
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The Madness is almost over. And Madness for true: Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs epic buzzer-beater in OT to win the Final Four and play for a national title is forever a One Shinning Moment. I watched that shot 4 times and I still can’t fully process it. Tonight it’s Gonzaga vs. Baylor. According to ESPN: “Since November 8, 2019, Baylor has lost just five games. Gonzaga has lost two during that stretch.” This is gonna be a classic Rocky Balboa fight. Might hafta go to Costco for that Family Sized bag of Doritos to eat all of my feelings. Lock N Load. Rather than show any NCAA moments I leave you with the Rocky theme song: Gonna Fly Now.

Tuesday, April 06

Sammy Suggestion: Words on Bathroom Walls (Anytime (on Friday) / Netflix Canada)

Diagnosed with a mental illness halfway through his senior year of high school, a witty, introspective teen struggles to keep it a secret while falling in love with a brilliant classmate who inspires him to open his heart and not be defined by his condition.
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This is a #SetTheVCR Heads-Up: Words on Bathroom Walls appears on Netflix Canada on Friday but Friday is busy and Tuesday is not so I’ma talk about it here. Plus I’m in the mood for a solid teen movie. “Diagnosed with a mental illness during his senior year of high school, a witty, introspective teen struggles to keep it a secret while falling in love with a brilliant classmate who inspires him to open his heart and not be defined by his condition.” Not quite John Hughes but he’s been dead since 2009 so I’ll take what I can get. (If you actually want something on TV tonight: on NCIS I dunno what that stands for…I generally don’t watch any of the acronym shows but Pam Dawber guest stars with real life husband Mark Harmon. They got married? Huh. I did not know that. I miss Mork and Mindy too but not as much I miss John Hughes.)

Wednesday, April 07

This Is A Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist (Anytime / Netflix)

In 1990, two men dressed as cops con their way into a Boston museum and steal a fortune in art. Take a deep dive into this daring and notorious crime.
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Home Economics (8:30 p.m. / ABC)

The heartwarming yet uncomfortable relationship between three adult siblings: one in the 1%, one middle-class and one barely holding on.
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Sammy Suggestion: Liar Liar (Anytime / Netflix Canada)

After a fateful wish, he cannot tell a lie. But this shady lawyer (Jim Carrey) needs to think fast if he’s going break this curse.
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From 1997 (seriously?!) Liar Liar is Jim Carrey at his rubbery best. (So much so among the emergency response personnel in the airport scene, Jim Carrey is dressed as his popular In Living Color character, Fire Marshall Bill. Amazing cameo!). “A fast-track lawyer can’t lie for 24 hours due to his son’s birthday wish after he disappoints his son for the last time.” Basically it’s a “Big” wish but the kid doesn’t grow up; he wishes his Dad would grow up. Two casting notes that are shocking: Steve Martin turned down the lead role in this film due to scheduling conflicts with another film. Martin is great but not for this: that would not have worked…at all. And lastly this is surreal: Jim Carrey declined the role of Dr. Evil in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery so he could commit to this film. Wow. Dr. Evil is so iconic I believe everyone involved made the correct cinematic choice but I kinda wonder about Carrey’s Dr. Evil.

Thursday, April 08

No Activity: Season 4 (Anytime / Paramount+)

NO ACTIVITY follows the misadventures of two low-ranking cops who spend way too much time together.
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Sammy Suggestion: Amazing Grace (Anytime / Netflix Canada)

This documentary features never-before-seen footage of legendary singer Aretha Franklin performing her 1972 gospel album in Watts, Los Angeles.
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You don’t hafta wait until Sunday to go to church: Amazing Grace is playing on Netflix (Canada). If Avengers: Endgame is them at their most powerful then this is Aretha Franklin at the height of her powers. It’s astonishing to belt out Amazing Grace in a black church just 4 years after MLK’s death. This Sydney Pollack documentary is a powerful coda to the turbulent 60s (the doc was shot in 1972 in the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles) and is a fitting memorial to a fierce activist whose career was sadly boiled down to Respect.

Friday, April 09

Nomadland (Anytime / Disney+ Star)

Canadian premiere!

A woman in her sixties who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.
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Them (Anytime / Prime Video)

Canadian premiere!

THEM is an anthology series that explores terror in America. The first season, set in 1950’s, centers around a Black family who move from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighborhood. Their idyllic home becomes ground zero where malevolent forces, next door and otherworldly, threaten to taunt, ravage and destroy them.
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Sammy Suggestion: Oliver Sacks: His Own Life (9/8C PM / PBS)

OLIVER SACKS: HIS OWN LIFE explores the life and work of the legendary neurologist and storyteller, as he shares intimate details of his battles with drug addiction, homophobia, and a medical establishment that accepted his work only decades after the fact.
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A fitting title: American Masters. The neurologist and bestselling author Oliver Sacks is saluted on a new “American Masters.” We lost Oliver Sacks in 2015 the doctor and writer behind Awakenings. In Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales he wrote “Nonetheless, I dare to hope that, despite everything, human life and its richness of cultures will survive, even on a ravaged earth. While some see art as a bulwark of our culture, our collective memory, I see science, with its depth of thought, its palpable achievements and potentials, as equally important; and science, good science, is flourishing as never before, though it moves cautiously and slowly, its insights checked by continual self-testing and experiment.” Fantastic documentary that has become a sad end coda to a well thought out life. He healed so much and touched so many.

Saturday, April 10

Johnny Cash: Road to Redemption (9/8c PM / Reelz)

Set to the backdrop of the tumultuous sixties, the drama of Folsom is examined moment-to-moment while simultaneously branching out to reveal a life surrounded by danger and haunted by death. Only one man is capable of traveling from the darkness At Folsom Prison to the light of The Holy Land.
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Sammy Suggestion: The New Mutants (8/7c PM / HBO)

In this 13th film in the X-Men franchise, a group of teenage mutants band together while being held in a secret facility.
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The New Mutants were the apocalyptic sign of this pandemic. Originally shot from July to September 2017 this Marvel Mutant Movie was supposed to come out on April 13, 2018. Then it was delayed to February 22, 2019, which was then pushed to August 2, 2019 then finally it was no longer in “Limbo:” April 3, 2020 was the confirmed date! Trailers and everything. Then the pandemic shut everything down in March and we should have interpreted a New Mutants release as a sign. It finally came out on August 28, 2020 (I opted to see Tenet over this.) There were many reasons for the delay: the chief among them was the vision for the movie: Breakfast Club detention crossed with a Cuckoo’s Nest institution. Should they emphasize the YA teenager growing pains (the hallmarks of a classic teen movie) or double down on the horror aspects (teens in trouble is classic horror). After all that it’s now on HBO and like the recently restored Snyder Cut of Justice League it’s doubtful this will go anywhere: there’s no need to restore the New Mutants verse.

Sunday, April 11

Sammy Suggestion: The Irregulars vs The Nevers ( 9/8C PM / HBO & Crave)

THE IRREGULARS follows a crew of misfits investigating a series of supernatural crimes in Victorian London for Dr. Watson and his shadowy associate, Sherlock Holmes.

THE NEVERS August, 1896. Victorian London is rocked to its foundations by a supernatural event which gives certain people — mostly women — abnormal abilities, from the wondrous to the disturbing. But no matter their particular “turns,” all who belong to this new underclass are in grave danger.
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Did you watch The Irregulars on Netflix on March 26? A group of teenagers solve increasingly supernatural crimes in Victorian London. Ok; sounds decent: Stranger Things set in Sherlock Holmes. While Joss Whedon’s Nevers is described as “a science fiction drama about a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world.” Huh. I’m not really sure how they’re different. If you had to choose which one would you watch?

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Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.

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