5 months ago
Welcome to What to Watch, a series where we tell you the best shows, movies and series out right now, both on networks and streaming services.
Special viewing: 12-hour marathon of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations (Travel Channel) and Parts Unknown (CNN, Netflix)
When Anthony Bourdain passed away in an apparent suicide in France last Friday, it’s fair to say that people from all walks of life were in mourning. Bourdain, reformed bad-boy chef though he was, had a way of introducing you to parts of the world that seemed completely alien and, over the course of his multiple series, showed audiences that although a region’s cuisine might seem exotic or extrinsic, the people who lived there were just as human as ourselves.
Celebrate the life of the trailblazing chef/host/culinary field guide with several options over the weekend. First up, there were two more episodes of Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown that hadn’t been released when Bourdain left us; the network will air these episodes this Sunday and the following, respectively: the last two chapters in the Bourdain travelogue. Additionally, Netflix has re-added Parts Unkown to their queue due to fan petitions (it was originally slated to disappear from the streaming site on June 16th).
On Sunday, the Travel Channel is airing a 12-hour marathon of Bourdain’s earlier Emmy-winning series, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, which ran from 2005-2012.
Still no word on where you can binge Bourdain’s two lesser-known programs, A Cook’s Tour for the Food Network (it ran for one season from 2002-2003) as well as his earlier Travel Channel series, The Layover.
Goliath Season 2 (Amazon):
I’ll admit that I’ve never fully gotten the appeal of Billy Bob Thornton, a man who looks exactly how you’d expect someone with his name would. Maybe it’s because of Slingblade? Maybe it’s because of his and Angelina Jolie’s kookie, blood-ensconced relationship? Or maybe it’s just because, outside of the first season of Fargo on FX, where he cut a Loki-ish figure as Lorne Malvo, I’ve only seen one role that Thornton can completely disappear into, and that’s slick-talking lawyer Billy McBride in Amazon’s sleeper hit, Goliath. Considering we already have one Better Call Saul in our lives, you might wonder how another down-on-his-luck legal antihero can pull it off quite like Odenkirk, but Goliath takes itself in a much different direction this season, having McBride go head-to-head with the Mexican drug cartels.
Wait, isn’t that kind of also the plot to Better Call Saul? Okay, let me put it this way: Goliath is the serious version of Better Call Saul, like a BCS/Ray Donovan mashup with its diamond in the rough anti-hero the show’s hard, brittle center in the middle of an otherwise flaky conceit.
The Affair Season 4 (Showtime):
Season 3 of The Affair was so hard to watch, especially in retrospect, knowing what we do now about Brendan Fraiser’s #metoo moment. Plus, the show’s quirky gimmick–of showing multiple scenes played out through different character POV’s, like some Hampton’s version of Rashamon–couldn’t really sustain itself after answering the show’s central question: “Who killed Scotty Lockhart after his amazing Twin Peaks audition?”
But showrunner and creator Sarah Treem promises big things for this season, and we can already see that played out in a locale change: Noah Solloway is now in Los Angeles, still trying his best to be a teacher despite his terrible track record of sleeping with students, sleeping with faculty, sleeping with…oh sh*t, remember that time there was a hurricane and Noah got stuck at this Manhattan book party and ended up in hot tub with two hot, nubile women making out, and when Noah tried to join in, it turns out one of the women was his teenage daughter?
It’s really hard to feel bad for Noah Solloway, but at least this in LA promises a little more diversity than its New York counterparts; where it was not that unbelievable for a sheltered Brooklyn author who summers in Montauk might not know any black people outside the one cop who’s tailing him.
Call my reaction: dubious, but enthused.
Strange Angel (CBS All Access):
I know we all laughed at the idea of a CBS “special” all-streaming channel when the concept was first introduced, but after hosting the rebooted Star Trek on the service and all the breathless talk of a Kevin Williamson renaissance on the app, I think we can all agree that the All Access is legit.
The show that’s really going to make it or break it for me though is Mark Heyman’s (Black Swan, The Skeleton Twins) new show, Strange Angel, based on the biography Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons by George Pendle. Now “Jack Parsons” was a real man, and if you don’t already know his seriously bonkers story, check out Deadline’s description: (Jack) Reynor will play Jack Parsons, a brilliant and ambitious blue-collar worker of 1930s Los Angeles who started as a janitor at a chemical factory but had fantastical dreams that led him to birth the unknown discipline of American rocketry. Along the way, he fell into a mysterious world that included sex magic rituals at night, and he became a disciple of occultist Aleister Crowley. Parsons used Crowley’s teachings of self-actualization to support his unimaginable and unprecedented endeavor to the stars.
Look, I don’t know about you, but scripts about the early days of rocket launches and space exploration are usually super, super dry. It’s definitely Oscar-bait, but short of Captain America, the whole narrative just seems so…not fun. Maybe because there were so few women involved? (And I know, I know, Hidden Figures. Didn’t I just say this stuff is Oscar-bait?)
Really, the space race is an all-American narrative, mainly because we won over the Russians; and we’ve seen and heard these tropes a million times; about how the United States just had these brilliant and stoic men ready to go into the unknown and leave their families behind for their country.
It’s about time (or something relative) that someone told the story from a different perspective: why not a brilliant, scientific mind that’s not so rigid that it can’t understand the importance of both aeronautical engineering, high explosives technologies AND sex magic?
After all, Parsons invented the “first rocket engine to use a castable, composite rocket propellant, and pioneered the advancement of both liquid-fuel and solid-fuel rockets.” If not for the teachings of Aleister Crowley, maybe Parsons’ never would have figured it out. Maybe Parson’s would have been too sexually frustrated by the 1940s rigid morality to do anything other than sit at home and play with his own personal liquid-fuel rocket (if you know what I mean).