TV: A Brilliant Week for UnREAL, the Americans and ESPN’s OJ Simpson Documentary

This time of the year there isn’t a lot on TV but I had been able to enjoy some great television this past week as I turn my viewing to Soccer Tournaments for about 12 hours a day over the next few weeks.

Premiers:

UnREAL – Season 2 (Lifetime)

Last week I mentioned that I had started Season 1 of UnREAL based on critical acclaim. This very dark satire on the world of reality TV started it’s 2nd Season this week and I didn’t want to miss getting on board if it turned out to be as great as the critics are saying. I binged all of Season 1 in two days – it’s like crack –I couldn’t stop watching. I thought it had it all in Season 1, including murder, depression, drugs, sex and manipulation of human beings as well as and the truth and this season adds race to the list.

I saw the first episode of Season 2 and with a “Bachelor” who is an African American NFL quarterback and a contestant who wears a confederate flag bikini, I can’t wait to see how a show like this handles the Race issue. The complex relationship between Rachael, the co-producer of the Bachelor-like show “Everlasting” and Quinn her boss so multi-layered and complex that I can’t even imagine where it is going to go this season.In addition, Chet has come back after a 6 month stint in a Paleo diet retreat that has made him ready to go to war with Quinn to recapture the power he gave away to her last season. Rachel is still a total mess and the scene in the first episode where she tries to come to grips with her new job by getting her newly promoted co-producer to manipulate one of the contestants is absolutely brilliant. I can’t wait for this week.

Last summer I was able to binge a couple of great shows, “Rectify” and the “Revenant” and they made my summer. I’m so glad I was able to find UnREAL this summer. It is great TV and it’s going to be tough to find something as good to watch on my next binge.

OJ Simpson: Made in America (ESPN/ ABC)

As good as this spring’s “The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story was, the critics are saying ESPN’s new OJ Simpson: Made in America is even better and may be the best work ever produced by the sports network .  This nearly 8-hour documentary premiered last night on ABC and will be on ESPN next week for the rest of its episodes. It covers not only the trial but also OJ’s life with Nicole Brown Simpson prior to the murder, the environment in LA leading up to the murder and OJ’s life after the acquittal. This documentary is getting Emmy and Oscar buzz.

The first episode gives a fascinating glimpse into OJ’s life as a football player at USC and the Buffalo bills. Original footage with interviews with people who were close to him during this period are fascinating as we see the personality traits develop which give us a a glimpse into the man who likely abused and murdered his wife along with an innocent friend.  This episode is as well done as any documentary I have ever seen and I can’t wait for the rest of the episodes to air. As polarizing as OJ is to most Americans, and as much as you may be saying, “I can’t stand to see any more TV about this man”, do yourself a favor and check this out.

Finales:

The Americans

This has been another absolutely brilliant season for the Americans – a show that started out great in Season 1 and miraculously got better every season thereafter. Even the best of shows have uneven seasons but not the Americans. As we moved into last week’s finale, the noose was closing in on our favorite Russian Spy family. In the finale, the FBI captured one of their fellow spies, William, and Paige was becoming frustrated by having to “manage” the relationship with Pastor Tim and his wife so they wouldn’t report them to the FBI. Elizabeth and Philip were becoming increasingly disenchanted with their jobs and questioning their chosen profession. Things are so intense that their “Handler”, Gabriel suggests that it is time for the Jennings family to return to mother Russia.

The show superbly depicts the struggle this presents for Elizabeth and Philip as they imagine what this transition would be like for their children in particular who are American to the core. Philip went to one of his EST meetings and talked about how he wakes up every morning feeling sick to his stomach. In the meantime, William provides the FBI with a broad description of the family and Paige’s relationship with Stan’s son Mathew deepens which further complicates this already difficult situation. We also see Philip’s Russian son Misha being released from a Soviet prison only to decide to come to the USA to find his father. None of this can end well.

With all of the above closing in on the Jennings, it is hard to imagine how the show runners are going to get 13 episodes next season and 10 the final season without dragging out what likely won’t be a happy ending. However, after 4 of the best seasons of TV ever made, I think they deserve our trust. If you don’t watch this show, you are missing out on one of the finest TV shows ever.

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