What to Watch: “Disenchantment” and “Stay Here”
With a few hard-hitting documentaries in between.
Welcome to What to Watch, in which we cover the best shows, movies and series out right now, both on networks and streaming services.
Reviews of Disenchantment, Matt Groening’s latest venture since the end of Futurama (RIP Zoidheads) have been middling, but fans of Groeningesque satire and spectacular animation by Rough Draft studios will eat this series up. Disenchantment is set in Dreamworld, where Princess Bean (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) opts to drink and copulate rather than follow her father’s demands to marry and serve her royal duties. Her sidekicks include a dejected elf (Nat Faxon) and fiendish imp (Eric André) who more than encourage Bean’s rebellion and feel representative of characters from both “The Simpsons” and “Futurama.”
It’s a different format from what Groening is used to. Airing on Netflix with no commercials, the longer run time—30 minutes up from 22—should give Groening space to flesh out plotlines, a boon considering this series isn’t episodic but serial. The jokes and puns aren’t as punchy, and they serve the plot less than in previous Groening shows, yet still abound with “Game of Thrones” and mocking Disney Princess puns within every village storefront. Groening’s style may not be a perfect fit for Netflix; I’m just happy it’s given him a new show.
Lynyrd Skynyrd: If I Leave Here Tomorrow (Showtime)
This doc promises to tell the full story and covers a lot of ground in doing so. Full disclosure, I was born after the band’s ninth studio album, meaning I’m more familiar with their image plastered on a hokey t-shirt from Urban Outfitters than their peak recordings. I’ll be watching this doc, however, so I can reference Skynyrd without getting memed and because the seventies will forever be glorified by my generation. The documentary covers the good and bad of the band’s history including their rise from Jacksonville, Fl; the infamous plane crash that killed vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and several crew members; and their unwavering use of the confederate flag. Narrated by Gary Rossington, the only founding member still in the band, the film contrasts the tragedies with their hard partying image.
Stay Here (Netflix)
Streaming services like Netflix have destroyed the movie theater and ruined most of television. One hold out? HGTV, who made a spectacle of pulling all of their shows off of Netflix last year. “Stay Here” is one of several home improvement shows launched by Netflix. Popular video-blogging agent Peter Lorimer and HGTV’s own “Trading Spaces” host Genevieve Gorder help struggling Airbnb hosts flip their properties into feature-worthy rentals. Because we can’t seem to glorify the undermining of urban housing markets and collapse of hotels enough. Home improvement shows are notoriously fluffy Sunday morning-television with a flimsy curtain (see any number of famous reality duos now broken up, the scarring experiences of trading spaces, and the network’s threat to bring back Lance Bass), and I expect this show to be no different. But I’ll watch for the quirky British host and a chance to judge other people’s interior design choices from the discomfort of a couch I bought off Amazon.
Minding the Gap (Hulu)
Skating is to teen boys as golfing is to grown men, and Mind the Gap examines, well, the gap, between the two. Filmmaker Bing Liu explores the the tumultuous path from adolescence into adulthood and the generational divide plaguing kids who’ve grown up in the Rust Belt. “I could seriously be on the verge of having a mental breakdown, but as long as I’m able to go skate, I’m completely fine,” says 17-year-old Kiere Johnson, who struggles with the death of his father. Liu’s doc is compiled from 12 years of home footage, and as Liu, Johnson, and Zack Mulligan grow up, their hometown of Rockford, IL deteriorates. Jobs leave and populations dwindle while the toll it takes on the subjects’ parents (and through them onto the three boys, all who experienced abuse at home) grows. Yet as the boys grow into men, the films represents the community they’ve found in one another, and suggests the answer to questions posed on race, class, and manhood lie among themselves.
Minding the Gap is a prelude to Jonah Hill’s Mid90s currently premiering at TIFF, and harkens to every film Gus van Sant and Larry Clark have made since Kids. But Mind the Gap follows real characters grappling with modern day masculinity that makes the film specific to the current era rather than a timeless tale of growing up as so many other films try to be. For that alone, and the impressive filmmaking by first-timer Liu, it’s worth making time to watch this Hulu doc.
The Best Stuff on the Web, Curated
The Best Stuff on the Web, Curated