A Child’s Play With His Father…

Watching live TV: My Dad came across Chucky TV show commercials…he’s never been a fan of magic or ventriloquism or horror. He sighed.

So I RSVPed this opportunity to make him feel better: “Oh: it’s not ventriloquism! Chucky is a doll imbued with the maniacal soul of a serial killer.”

A beat.

As we go through life we all have moments where we say things out loud we wish we could take back. Sometimes even as we’re saying em. I misread the situation…this was clearly NOT a teaching moment.


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

Modern Magic With Jamie Allan

Today’s Adventure is interviewing Jamie Allan an iMagician. He combines magic with ipads as you’ll see (though magic has a long history of employing technology).

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to roll with a number of magicians and I find it irritating when they attempt to dispel the magic: it’s a card trick or using a previously bent coin. No it’s not!

I’m fully invested: the magic is 100% real magic. That even in an era laced with science and where enlightenment is peddled as a drug: I make room for magic. It is one of my food groups.

So enjoy…good Saturday viewing. Watch this space for the My Summer Lair episode.


My Pop Culture Week: The Christmas Setup

Typically I kick off this party by sharing something special from my Pop Culture Week: a check-in with my pop culture happenings. Let’s switch it up with a look-ahead to December 12 on Lifetime.

It’s ok!

I haven’t come down with a case of Christmas Cheer…lol! (Turns out it was just heartburn from a rather large pulled pork poutine.) Rather I’m supporting delightful director Pat Mills: here we are at TIFF in 2017 I think?

Pat Mills.jpg

His Lifetime movie The Christmas Setup stars Fran Drescher (oh you can’t even imagine how excited he was about that!) and real-life married couple Ben Lewis and Blake Lee…I dunno they are. But! Pat’s work as a director is fantastic.

Here’s the trailer:

So yeah if you can #SetTheVCR on December 12 at 8 pm on the Lifetime Channel for The Christmas Setup on Lifetime and support Pat that’d be great. After all, Christmas is a time for…pulled pork poutine?

(The Christmas Setup’s Canadian premiere will be December 18 at 8pm on something called CTV Drama Channel. (Do I have that?! I know Mary J. Blige doesn’t…she called the cable station and said: “No More Drama.” #Rimshot)?


#CouchWorthy: Blackballed (Who Makes The Game?)

Today Quibi released more full episodes on YouTube including the first episode of Blackballed. Sigh. Set in 2014 Blackballed begins when audio of NBA owner Donald Sterling who was recorded…in his home making racist comments was irresponsibly given to the media. The doc follows the challenges the predominately black NBA players and coach (Doc Rivers!) faced as they formulated a response.

However, as you’ll see in this first episode…it starts off by criticizing Jordan for the whole “Republicans by sneakers!” thing…basically committing the “crime” of not speaking up which is contrasted with LeBron/DWade’s “modern activism.” (Muhammad Ali lost his Championship and years of his prime fighting time…LeBron put up a hoodie for Trayvon Martin. It’s really not the same inspiring athlete activism.)

My issue isn’t what Donald Sterling said/did: there was already plenty of evidence to suggest a pattern. I didn’t need the tapes and his recorded comments which of course were still wrong. My issue is that we comfortably glossed over how the comments were recorded.

Donald Sterling was recorded in his own home without his permission. Yo…we’re ok with that?! Nobody in the media…nobody in the NBA said anything. Really? I’m not comfortable with that at all.

I hope the doc eventually addresses that: because flat out that’s wrong. Why are we glossing this over? The ends do not in any way shape or form justify the means. There’s no way I’m willing to bend on this.


#SetTheVCR: Dave Chappelle – 8:46

“Don’t think my silence is complicit.”

Easily the best line of Dave Chappelle’s latest and raw “comedy” special: 8:46. Quietly released to YouTube late last night like a comedic Batman.

Silence. Does. Not. Speak. Volumes.

It’s clear Chappelle understands he is smarter (and flat out better) than his critics.

So that’s comforting.

2 things:
The special was filmed on June 6 in Yellow Springs, Ohio (dude’s home) with coronavirus-era social distancing guidelines in place for attendees, including face masks and temperature checks. A valid question every time Dave Chappelle’s name comes up: is this what the future of comedy is gonna look like?

Also a notebook? Be interesting to know how Chappelle’s comedy work has evolved: does he write on stage? In a notebook? His word economy is precise like a sniper and his emphasis and rhythm is an infectious beat. I believe the notebook is a prop; a cue for the audience to let em know he is still working through things; this isn’t polished. (And yet: Don Lemon who Dave references…Lemon’s impressive mediocrity serves only to affirm the greatness of Chappelle’s high quality of work.)

So yes. 8:46 is raw…emotional but also as a work: he’s formulating his thoughts on the black unrest in the US. Dave can take all the time he needs to get it right.


#SetTheVCR: Magic for Humans – Season 3

It’s back!! Yes! Today on Netflix Magic for Humans one of my all time bestest most favourite most special Top Dog #1 Netflix tv shows returns with a third season. It’s got comedy and it’s got magic and it’s got discovery as host Justin Willman learns what it means to be…human. You know what it doesn’t have?

Camera or editing tricks because that is not magic. So…how is he doing what he’s doing? Or a better question: why is he doing what he is doing?

The premise is simple and wonderful: comedian and magician Justin Willman performs magic tricks for people on the street. You think you’ve seen before right? You think you know where this going right? Let this show surprise and delight you; inject some wonder back into your life.

Some of Season 1’s episodes/themes included Self Control, Guilt Trip, and Love while Season 2 focussed on Christmas, Daddy Issues, and Time is Relative. What themes can we expect for Season 3?

Power Trip
“Power exists in many forms, and Justin seeks to experience them all. He takes on a power washer, teaches the impact of kind words, stuns with the power of the mind and influences influencers.” The first scene in the trailer provides Justin’s magical response to power.

“Vices have a lot of power over us. To understand his own indulgences, Justin delves into the world of vices and meets people who can’t say no to urges. Welcome to a binge full of junk food, child gambling and smashing stuff with bats.” Think Season 1’s marshmallows will be back?

“Home is where the heart is, but it’s also usually a place where we keep our stuff. Justin explores the latter via a garage sale, a visit to a tiny home, a trip to Ikea and a revelation of how our smart homes are making us dumb.” Wonder if he scored those tasty Ikea meatballs…

Self Care
“Self care is important for a happy and healthy life. Justin explores the many ways we can better ourselves in our busy lives at the spa, staying on top of chores, letting a shrink into our brains or learning to heal our own wounds.” This show is part of my self-care routine.

The End
“All things eventually come to an end, and Justin takes on the tough theme of “kicking the bucket” by visiting a thrift store full of expired items, talking with those on the other side and helping kids prepare their bucket lists.” Since like Houdini magicians have been adept at cheating death. I’ll probably take some notes on this episode.

Know Fear
“When you face your fears, you often learn that the thing you were afraid of is not so scary after all. Justin faces his fears by performing nude, being saran wrapped, and overcoming his past trauma of indulging in hot peppers.” Full Frontal Nudity! Justin visits a nudist resort. But like…when you’re naked like that what do you do with your hands?

“Traditions don’t need to make sense, they just need to bring us joy. Justin takes on his favorite traditions by becoming the tooth fairy, becoming one with a pinata, and learning the proper ways to consume (and drop) food.” My Magic for Humans tradition is sadness when a season is over. If we have the power to prevent forest fires perhaps if we all get together we can make Season 4 happen?

Now that would be magical.

Magic for Humans: Season 3 is now on Netflix.


#SetTheVCR: Into the Night

This Friday I think…and I hope my new sci-fi series drops on Netflix. Into The Night!

People are on the run…from the sun. Human-Vampires?! I’m in! Wanna join me on May 1st?

It’s Netflix’s first Belgian original series (based on the Polish science fiction novel The Old Axolotl by Jacek Dukaj). Yo. I don’t have any references for any of those things.

Into the Night begins with a sudden solar event, as the sun inexplicably starts killing everything in its path. The show centers around the ‘lucky’ passengers and crew of an overnight flight out of Brussels, as they attempt to fly west — into the safety of the dark night. The plane’s manifest is multinational and multilingual, with passengers rich and poor, young and old, civilian and military. The seemingly ordinary travelers share but one thing: A desire to survive the sun — and each other — by any means necessary.”

It sounds a bit corny (terrible title…hope that’s just poor translation!) but the trailer was decent. Alright let’s cannonball into this and see where this goes. Netflix has been so good to me with international sci-fi.

That German show Dark not only lives up to its name but good gravy that show is hardcore sci-fi. So good. Easily one of the greatest sci-fi tv shows…of all time. Think I’m exaggerating? Check it out.

Here’s another scene; as I said May 1st on Netflix:

If this isn’t doing it for you…then do check out Dark. On The Run…From The Sun! Yo.


#SetTheVCR: LA Originals

We lost Kobe on January 26, 2020.

Thankfully there’s a few hours of Kobe Bryant just sitting there in editors’ rooms from all the docs he’s been in. Wonder what’ll happen to it now?

His next appearance is in the doc that dropped today on Netflix: LA Originals. (I was already in before the Kobe connection. He’s listed in the credits for this doc but he’s not in the trailer. So I suspect he is probably not in this all that much. Still, it’s a powerful LA story so of course, LA stories go through Kobe. Kobe’s next appearance is in the upcoming Jordan doc The Last Dance in about a week or so. That I cannot wait for!!)

So for true: there’s a handful of hours of Kobe in docs just sitting around editing rooms. Dude’s gone but he hasn’t left.

Thus enter Netflix’s latest documentary: “An exploration of the culture and landmarks of the chicano and street art movement that cemented Mister Cartoon and Estevan Oriol’s status as behind-the-scenes hip hop legends.”

LA Originals is indicative of a powerful skill set that we rarely discuss or acknowledge. (And thankfully many of my friends have this skill set.)

I don’t even know what it’s called which is why I don’t think It gets acknowledged.

Those guys (and we) are passport people. We hang out with gang members and drug dealers and Trump voters and filmmakers and stand-up comics an incredibly broad range of distinct characters. But through it all we remain our unique selves within these different cultures. That’s how you get exposed to radical ways of thinking; nobody said anything about agreement. George is different than Kramer and Kramer is the opposite of Elaine but it all works right?

One day in LA my friend J Rock and I hit up the Magic Castle hanging out with magicians; then the next day we went to a picnic with some friends who’re editing and shooting and doing all kinds of fantastic LA filmmaking; the day after that we went to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Completely distinct cultures of science and nerds and magicians and filmmakers. Yet we’re comfortable and we’re at home if not at all of those places with all those people even though those are not our cultures.

And that to me that is one of the hallmarks of an incredible documentary: how broad the culture is. LA Originals has Ryan Phillippe and you wouldn’t expect him to show up with Kobe and oh Brian Glazer…Blink-182 and finally Cypress Hill. What?! Those guys should never be in the same room together yet clearly because of the people involved in this doc they’re all connected. That’s amazing. Passport People for the win.

Check this documentary out. Highly Recommended.


#SetTheVCR for February 16 to 22, 2020

So ah…most of what I suggest this week are documentaries. Except for Annabelle Comes Home. I really hope that is not a documentary.

Sunday, February 16
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (8 p.m. / AMC)
Slow Burn: Season 1 (10 p.m. / Epix)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Season 7 (11 p.m. / HBO)

Sammy Suggestion: War of the Worlds: Season 1 (9 p.m. / Epix)
I want to see War of the Worlds!! First let’s clear up some confusion. THE War Of The Worlds is the 2019 BBC production (a faithful time period book adaptation with the Black Mirror actor) while…War Of The Worlds is the Fox/StudioCanal 2019 adaptation. (JT Is Right: Drop the “The” it’s cleaner.) This is the modern day Gabriel Byrne War Of The Worlds from 2019 (released back in October in France and in Africa. It is now coming to America today but will not air in Canada. As if all that wasn’t confusing and rude it’ll air in the UK on March 5, 2020. Yeah, so when people insist they can’t stand spoilers…stay offline). Season 1 is 8 episodes set in today’s Europe…it begins of course when humans receive a transmission from another galaxy and the countdown clock to humanity’s demise begins! If you do not have access to this read the spectacular book: H.G. Wells is a sci-fi GOAT. So annoyed: get your streaming plan together people!!

Monday, February 17
Sammy Suggestion: California Typewriter (Anytime / Crave)
What do Tom Hanks and John Mayer have in common? Typewriters! This is a fascinating documentary; I saw it in 2018 and trust me it’s just your type. This isn’t get off my lawn! anger and this isn’t the good ol days were better nostalgia. This is a recognition of how creativity has evolved: to type is to work slowly, methodically even think things through. This is a solid doc and if you like old-timey contraptions and creativity check it out. (Bonus Sammy Story: I interviewed director Doug Nichol at a type-in. A gathering of people and their typewriters: think comic book convention but substitute comics for typewriters. After I finished the interview I sat down at this table of typewriters…I haven’t used one in like…10 years maybe? It is not like a bicycle it doesn’t just come back. I struggled mightily.)

Tuesday, February 18
Sammy Suggestion: Frontline: Amazon Empire: The Rise & Reign of Jeff Bezos (8pm / PBS)
Amazon and Jeff Bezos is one of those complicated concerns that all too often is reduced to a predictable, reactionary and often uninformed stance. Like a relationship status on Facebook, it’s complicated. AWS (Amazon Web Services) powers Facebook, BBC, ESPN and Netflix. A lot of the companies we dig are tethered to Amazon. Here at #SetTheVCR, we’ve also recommended some excellent Prime tv shows here including The Man In The High Castle. Prime is a burgeoning industry that contributes and creates jobs connected to a larger also problematic Hollywood machine. So yeah I dunno. I’m hoping this Frontline documentary can better frame the discussion so we get a nuanced grasp of what the issues truly are and where we go from here. If Amazon and Bezos interests you do follow up by reading The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone (a 2013 book) and Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race by Tim Fernholz (a 2018 book on the billionaire space race).

Wednesday, February 19
Sammy Suggestion: Bluebird (8pm / CMT)
If you go to Nashville?and I have been twice!!?there’s a number of musical tourist attractions you must visit or else your trip doesn’t count. One is of course: Third Man Records Jack White’s clubhouse and the other is The Bluebird Cafe. It is small and cramped, I don’t think it offers more than 100 seats but good gravy the musical history that echoes off those walls. Everybody has performed there. Like for real: EVERYBODY. Google it. Remember that acoustic section of the Elvis 68 Comeback Special? Where he sat on an intimate stage surrounded by a stripped-down band and a ring of adoring female fans? THAT is what it is like to see bands play at Bluebird. It’s unfortunate this doc clutters up its rich history with Taylor Swift but I get the doc economics of wanting people to see this. So we’ll take the hit for the team. (Is this the first time CMT has made a #SetTheVCR appearance?)

Thursday, February 20
Sammy Suggestion: The Conjuring Universe (Anytime / Many Channels)
3 seems to be my limit in understanding all the players and relationships connected to an expanding universe. In my head I got Marvel, DC and Fast and Furious. So it’s no surprise that the My Little Pony universe confuses me. I don’t have the mental capacity to absorb another universe. Another universe that deeply confuses me? The Conjuring Universe by James Wan. I dunno which movies I’ve seen in what order; which characters are connected (Are Insidious movies connected to all this?!) I give up. I’m so tired. Why am I bringing this up? Because on Saturday Annabelle Comes Home screens on HBO. While I do wanna see it; I also wanna understand it. So tonight I am gonna sit down and figure out this whole Conjuring Universe and see if I can conjure up some understanding in time for Saturday. Pray for Mojo!

Friday, February 21
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Season 7 (Anytime / Disney+)
The Last Thing He Wanted (Anytime / Netflix)

Sammy Suggestion: Hunters (Anytime / Amazon Prime)
 was set in 1981 New York City, before that The Deuce jumped around the 70s and 80 and now Hunters takes viewers to 1977 New York City. I’m curious why we’ve lately returned to DeNiro Taxi Driver NYC. Similar to Spielberg’s Munich, Hunters are violently and wholly dedicated to eradicating Nazis attempting to set up a Fourth Reich in the U.S. It sounds cool but then it’s weird Al Pacino is hunting Nazis. I miss Al Pacino from Heat. Now that guy can hunt Nazis.

Saturday, February 22
Sammy Suggestion: Annabelle Comes Home (9pm / HBO)
See my Thursday post. I dunno what’s happening here: I am more exhausted than frightened. If you watch this and can explain its connection to mystifying Conjuring Universe but like explain it like I’m a Grade 1 student then please do so.


Picard’s First Tea

Ok. Are we gonna discuss last night’s Picard debut??! Barely 3 minutes into the first episode Jean-Luc Picard says in that forceful Patrick Stewart way:

“Let’s behave like civilized men.”

And then pours a cup of tea before he gets a response.

Tea out the gate. Fresh!

I have other feelings but man to see Picard armed with that tea again…after all these years, after all the things we’ve done, after all the things we’ve seen. I believe a slow tear escaped my left eye and smoothly rolled down the side of face.

Though that first scene even with seeing the Enterprise and Data viewers were instantly cued it was a dream with my man putting milk and sugar in his tea. NO!

That’s what I do: that’s a Sammy tea. You have your own tea, Picard. Which is now decaf? Yo. The replicator should ignore his order every single time and just gave him regular tea, earl grey hot. Why not? Other people were rude to Picard; treating him like a kind grandfather suffering from dementia.

Nah man…that’s a lack of respect I cannot abide by. “Let’s behave like civilized men.”


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