What To Watch: 11/04/2019

A bevy of top actors immerse themselves in a wondrous world/battle of good vs. evil featuring a seemingly endless supply of personified warrior animals who balance the line between cute and fierce — especially BATTLEBEARS! We’re also endorsing (sight unseen) two dark documentaries.

KATHERINE’S PICK:
His Dark Materials [HBO, 9p]
Oh god (no pun intended, but let’s let it stet), the day is finally here: The BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s divisive, influential (Pullman’s not the reason I don’t consider myself Catholic, I already had both feet out the door when I got my hands on The Golden Compass, and the allegory was over my head anyway) trilogy premieres on HBO. Terribly miscast (Ruth Wilson and James McAvoy, with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who will have to do the heavy lifting next season.), the series has received rave reviews of the drama, which follows a plucky girl as she fights the Church and tries to save the souls of children. And the previews promise us a polar bear fight that won’t disappoint. Don’t @ me about the terrible Daniel Craig film–there’s a reason it never saw a sequel, whereas the BBC has cast roles for season two, which will follow the breathtaking Subtle Knife. Can you tell I am beside myself with anticipation? I’m dying, over here.

BRAD’S PICK:
Independent Lens: Decade of Fire [PBS, 10p]
Decade of Fire examines the fires that raged in the Bronx in the ’70s. This enduring doc-anthology is reason enough to give mad money to PBS.

JASON’S PICK:
The Devil Next Door [Netflix]
Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle featured a doctor, a former Nazi, who was trying to even the karmic ledger by working in a remote, impoverished island healing lepers for free. The kicker: by Vonnegut’s narrator’s estimate, he would “break even by 3010.” Netflix’s latest documentary looks into a real equivalent — a doctor hiding his Nazi past for years.

ALSO ON TAP TONIGHT:

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  • Please, God, make it end! We don’t even watch Dancing with the Stars for the most part here at Screen Scholars HQ, but if anything represents the absurdness and hypocrisy that is Year Three of Trumpmerica, it’s Sean Spicer’s gleeful Sanjaya’ing of this dance contest, while simultaneously saying conservatives can’t get a fair share on TV. This isn’t our bias. He’s seriously as bad at this as he was when he was playing Melissa McCarthy behind a podium. If Trump’s messing with our democracy isn’t enough for him to lose in 2020, can it be his messing with our beloved reality competition dance shows? Sigh, the enduring spectacle is on ABC.
  • When, as little kids, we watched Sesame Street argue that we should “keep Christmas with [us] all through the year,” it seemed sweet and perhaps even like an ideal world. As adults curating an endless barrage of Christmas programming in early November, we’re a bit more torn. Anyway, Food Network wants a bite at the cookie (in at least one case, literally) with three new shows: Christmas Cookie Challenge, Holiday Baking Championship, and its companion Holiday Baking Championship: Sweet Revenge.
  • We had the under of +/- 6.5 episodes for Bluff City Law lasting, so we lose. Tonight, the Jimmy Smits father-daughter-odd-couple law vehicle, in its seventh episode, gets timely with an episode taking on an opiate factory.

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