#SetTheVCR: August 2 – 8, 2021

We got 2 UFO explorations this week: one on Netflix and one on Showtime. If there’s one thing we know about #SetTheVCR it’s that you must always choose wisely.

Monday, August 02

Mr. Soul! (Anytime / HBO Max)

Before Oprah, before Arsenio, there was Mr. SOUL. Ellis Haizlip ensures the Revolution will be televised with “SOUL!,” America’s first “Black Tonight Show.”

Sammy Suggestion: Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (Anytime / HBO & Crave)

Street Gang takes us inside the minds and hearts of the Sesame Street creators to help us understand not only how they produced this groundbreaking show, but also what it was like to be at the center of a cultural and social phenomenon.

There’s a startling moment early in David Kamp’s book Sunny Days: The Children’s Television Revolution That Changed America where Loretta Long is cast to play Susan on Sesame Street. She calls her parents back home in Michigan to describe her new job; this new TV show which’ll premiere on November 10, 1969 and her sharing included trying to describe Bird Bird to her parents. It never occurred to me there was a life before Big Bird: like the sun and the moon and the stars. He’s always been there. We’ve never had to describe Big Bird; he’s like Superman. It doesn’t matter if the person is 2 years old or 82 years old: EVERYONE knows these characters. However not many people know all the artists, writers, producers, and educators who created Sesame Street. And that’s where Street Gang comes in: watch it for nostalgia; watch it for joy. An ideal way to celebrate 50 years of Sunny Days.

Tuesday, August 03

Watchmen (Anytime / Hulu)

HBO’s epic series based on the groundbreaking graphic novel set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws.

Sammy Suggestion: Top Secret UFO Projects: Declassified: Limited Series (Anytime / Netflix)

Though claims of extraterrestrial encounters have long been dismissed, many believe the existence of UFOs is not just likely, but a certainty.

It’s wild that in this era of Fake News and “Ludacris” QAnon posts that are wholly accepted at face value we’re now demanding to know what the government knows and/or covered up about UFOs. The Truth Is Out There for true. Netflix is positioning this series “as one of the most in-depth explorations of alien life ever made.” Think of it as a modern update of Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of War of the Worlds meets Robert Stack’s Unsolved Mysteries. How true any of it will be is up to you; it depends on if you’re Mulder or Scully. (Please Note: UFO a four-part docuseries from J.J. Abrams’ explores similar ah…mysteries and that’ll be on Showtime on August 8.)

Wednesday, August 04

Short Circuit: Season 2 (Anytime / Disney+)

Short Circuit is an experimental program where anyone at Walt Disney Animation Studios can pitch an idea and potentially be selected to create an original, innovative short film with the support of the studio and their fellow artists. The goal of the program is to take risks, surface new and diverse storytelling voices at the Studio and experiment with new technical innovation in the filmmaking process.

Sammy Suggestion: Death of a Ladies’ Man (Anytime / Crave)

A carousing college professor’s life takes a series of unimaginable turns, and all the old stories are given a new twist, when he begins to have surreal hallucinations and learns he may not be long for this world.


I recently returned from Montreal where I visited a cigar lounge just off Crescent Street where a giant Leonard Cohen mural looked down on me. I dig Leonard more as a poet than a singer/songwriter however going to Montreal often sparks (re)interest in his dynamic writings. On the surface Death of a Ladies’ Man is about a college professor (played by Gabriel Byrne) whose life spirals into chaos via surreal hallucinations. However the film’s themes are reflected through the use of seven Leonard Cohen songs in its musical soundtrack: Bird on the Wire, Memories, Hallelujah, Why Don’t You Try, Heart with No Companion, The Lost Canadian (Un Canadien errant) and Did I Ever Love You. Gabriel Byrne and Leonard Cohen are a fine way to spend an evening; classic storytellers who’ll insist on “one more!” and you’re not sure if it means another tale or another round of drinks.

Thursday, August 05

Hart to Heart: Season 1 (Anytime / Peacock)

Kevin Hart invites A-list talent to sit back, have a glass of wine, and engage in an unfiltered conversation. From award winning musicians to A-list actors, the guests on HART TO HEART will represent Kevin’s range of interests and influences. No topic is off limits.

Sammy Suggestion: World Debut: From Outsiders to the Olympics (Anytime / See Below)

Skateboarding. Surfing. Sport climbing. These sports, each with a radical subculture, have now been accepted into the Olympic Games. But what does that mean for each sport? And for the Olympics? We look at the history of each sport and talk to some of its biggest celebs including Tony Hawk, Sofia Mulanovich, and Emily Harrington to find out.

World Debut: From Outsiders to the Olympics is a feature documentary on the story of how skateboarding, surfing, and rock climbing grew from fringe activities to the Olympic stage.” This documentary is not only executive produced by Tony Hawk (for authenticity) it is free and available to watch on the Olympics YouTube Channel. So you can watch the Olympics games or watch this documentary to understand the game within the game as these anti-establishment subcultures find their mainstream niche.

Friday, August 06

S.O.Z. Soldiers or Zombies: Season 1 (Anytime / Prime Video)

A narco kingpin escapes from a high-security Mexican prison with his son and finds refuge at a remote drug rehab facility located on the U.S. side of the border where they encounter deadly mutant zombies.

Sammy Suggestion: Val (Anytime / Prime Video)

Val Kilmer, one of Hollywood’s most mercurial actors has been documenting his life and craft through film. He has amassed thousands of hours of footage, from home movies made with his brothers, to time spent in iconic roles for blockbuster films like Top Gun & Batman. This raw and wildly original documentary reveals a life lived to extremes and a heart-filled look at what it means to be an artist.

“Going through my filmography, my first reaction is that these films have nothing to do with my life. My second reaction is that they have everything to do with my life.” So writes Val Kilmer in I’m Your Huckleberry: A Memoir. If you haven’t read his memoir, then great: he’s Val a documentary that follows the life and career of Val Kilmer. And what a career: Elvis in True Romance, Heat, Batman, The Doors…it’s all here and it’s all happening. (Val Kilmer was cooler than Tom Cruise in Top Gun. Pass it On. #TeamIceman)

Saturday, August 07

All My Life (8 pm / HBO)

A couple’s wedding plans are thrown off course when the groom is diagnosed with liver cancer.

Sammy Suggestion: Mr. Corman: Season 1 (Anytime / Apple TV+)

With better luck, better choices, better posture…Josh Corman could’ve been a rock star. Now he teaches fifth grade, and though he loves his students, he still struggles to find happiness and meaning in a world that sometimes feels short on both.

“Mr. Corman is described as a deep cut into the days and nights of a public school teacher in the San Fernando Valley.” I’m…not sure what that means. I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s work so let’s give this a shot and see how it all…breaks down.

Sunday, August 08

History of the Sitcom (9/8c PM / CNN)

This eight-part docuseries reunites audiences with the television friends, families, and co-workers they grew up with while introducing cutting-edge comedies that are sure to be your next binge-watch. On this episode: “Upward mobility, the American Dream, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps – sitcom laughs have helped generations of Americans come to grips with their place in a supposed “classless” society.”

Sammy Suggestion: UFO: Limited Series (9pm / Showtime)

A four-part docu-series from J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot and Glen Zipper exploring our fascination with unidentified flying objects, and what clandestine influence the American government, lucrative private companies and the military may have in shielding the truth behind extraterrestrial phenomena to further their own agendas.

Did you know that it’s mostly people with dogs and smokers who see UFOs? They’re often out at night for either activity and as such often see the “same” night sky so they’re more adept at noticing the strange. Speaking of strange sights: this is UFO. “A four-part docuseries from J.J. Abrams and Glen Zipper exploring our fascination with unidentified flying objects, and what clandestine influence the American government, lucrative private companies and the military may have in shielding the truth behind extraterrestrial phenomena to further their own agendas.” Ok then let’s see how many people are dog walkers and/or smokers.


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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