What to Watch This Weekend: ‘Planet Earth II’ and ‘Happy!’
The last call for streaming in 2017.
Welcome to Watch This Weekend, where every Friday, Darian Lusk, comedian and writer living large in Brooklyn—will gently recommend a roundup of things to watch and stream. Follow him on Twitter @eatpraylusk to send suggestions for future installments.
The last week in December brings us to a very important cultural shift: we’ve officially left “Cute Winter” and are now in “Actual Winter.” It’s legitimately cold, time slows down and it’s socially acceptable to scream, “curse you, ice gods!” while walking against a gust of wind.
Luckily, this also means there is even more room in our hearts and calendars for content. Here are the best things to watch this week, from Planet Earth’s long-awaited return and even longer-awaited arrival to Netflix to one of Laura Dern’s best and earliest roles. Timely, since she just gifted me with my new phone background (screen and lock, respectively).
Netflix: Planet Earth II (Added Dec. 25)
Time to get the smart TV going. Planet Earth II, the second season of the acclaimed BBC nature show narrated voluptuously by David Attenborough, is now on Netflix for the first time. With episodes like “Desert” and “Islands” in breathtaking 4K and a score by Hans Zimmer, getting cozy with the six-part 2016 series will be your greatest act of self-care this weekend. It’s family friendly, chock full of adorable baby animals and, since the first season came out ten years ago, a much-appreciated reminder that our planet is vast, diverse and more important than ever to treat nicely.
Netflix: Bright (Added Dec. 22)
Many people are calling Bright, Netflix’s new original film directed by David Ayers (Suicide Squad) a “disaster.” The film stars Will Smith and Joel Edgerton as cops in a world where humans exist, but not quite co-exist, with orcs and fairies. While the concept of a buddy cop flick featuring a human and a mythical orc is fun on paper, the film instead decides to be a clumsy metaphor for racism. It also decided to be written by Max Landis. But hear me out. Seeing Will Smith in a leading role is always fun, and don’t you want to get in on the controversial action? You may just enjoy the ride and have some fun chiming into those hilarious Bright Twitter discussion threads.
Syfy: Happy! (Wednesdays 10/9C)
Let me give you an idea of this new Syfy original series: within the first five minutes, Christopher Meloni’s character dabs to a dance remix of “Jingle Bells” with half of his head blown off. Based on visionary Grant Morrison’s graphic novel of the same name, Happy stars Meloni as a corrupt ex-cop who must rescue a missing girl with the help of her imaginary friend, a horse (voiced wonderfully by Patton Oswalt) named Happy. This insane, delightful series offers some terrific performances and equally strong direction. We may not need another dark, ultra-masculine, based-on-a-graphic novel (see Preacher, American Gods) show right now, but if you want it, SyFy’s Happy is a bloody good choice.
If you’re craving more Laura Dern after her iconic turn in Big Little Lies or Star Wars: The Last Jedi, you will love satirical gem Citizen Ruth. Dern stars as Ruth Stoops, an irresponsible and impregnated junkie who, after being bailed out of jail by a religious family, finds herself at the center of the national abortion debate. The swiftly escalating plot and artful political jabs on both sides feel extra juicy in our current climate, and Dern gives one of her all time best performances. The film is directed by Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways) so you know you’re in good hands.
I’d be remiss not to occasionally unearth a treasure. Phantom of the Paradise is a movie musical spectacular, all about an evil music executive who strikes a deal with a young songwriter that may come back to haunt him. With hints of Phantom of The Opera and Rocky Horror Picture Show (even though this came out a year earlier and is…uh…better!) this underrated 1974 film has some irresistible tunes and endlessly creative direction from a young Brian De Palma. Most importantly, it stars Paul Williams, the current president of ASCAP and composer of The Carpenters’ wedding chestnut “We’ve Only Just Begun” and Daft Punk’s “Touch.” Williams and De Palma are both gems and this spooky, catchy, glam rock opera? Fetch me my mining helmet; it’s a gem too.