What To Watch: 08/18/2021

It’s a great night of television if you love intrigue, whimsy, and/or Awkwafina. We’ve got a new limited series from the creator of Big Little Lies. Queens native Nora has new adventures on Comedy Central. Meanwhile, those MTV competitive adventurers continue to battle it out in events even weirder than curling. We’ve also got a bunch of gritty documentaries and a pair of quirky indie comedies from outside the U.S.

JASON’S PICK:
Nine Perfect Strangers [Hulu]
The latest from the Strangers-with-Secrets genre is from its master David E. Kelley, this mini-series follows a group of worn down souls who meet when they retreat to a resort (of sorts) run by Nicole Kidman. The inspired casting includes Michael Shannon, Melissa McCarthy, and The Good Place‘s Jason, Manny Jacinto. 

BRAD’S PICK:
Awkwafina is Nora From Queens [Comedy, 10p]
That lovable millennial played by NYC rapper/actor Awkwafina is back for a second season. Her sitcom definitely fills the cultural void left by Broad City’s early exit. Nora’s quirky family is relatable to us all while giving cultural insights into the Asian American experience. And plus we get Bowen Yang being… well, Bowen Yang and that’s always a good thing. 

FIONA’S PICK:
The Challenge: Lies, Spies & Allies [MTV, 8p]
Last week the international agents chose their American partners while competing in a challenge that was both physically and mentally dmanding. Aneesa and her partner, Logan, came in first and granted the power to send a team into elimination. The Survivor crew looked like it could form a strong alliance, but quickly fell apart when rumors spread around the house about a “list”. At elimination, TJ revealed that Aneesa and Logan could send in any girl and guy from any pair (rather than sending in as a team). This sets us up for another season of dramatic partner swaps. By the end of the first episode four partnerships had changed up! I can’t wait to see how this plays out in the rest of the season.

BUT, WAIT, THERE’S MORE:

  • Filmmaker Nanfu Wang started her latest project just as the COVID virus was starting to breakout in Wuhan; however, as it spread and the disinformation started to hit a fever pitch, she realized that she had to make a full-length doc. Two very good signs about the quality of In the Same Breath: it’s on HBO, which does not suffer foolish documentaries, and it’s got a 97% approval rating from RT.
  • The Italian flick Out of My League, new on Netflix, has a definite aughts indie vibe (think Amelie or 500 Days of Summer) as our 19-year-old protagonist Marta has a whimsical and surreal aura while battling a dangerous disease. That is to say, it could be insufferable or it could be fun.
  • The other foreign flick arriving on Netflix is from Brazil and has a similarly sprightly indie vibe (although this one has a more 2010s feel). In The Secret Diary of an Exchange Student, two Brazilian teens spontaneously apply for a semester in New York City and immediately all kinds of craziness abounds because, well, it’s New York City (sigh). Of course you’ll have a bad opinion of New York if all you remember are the pimps and the CHUDs.
  • Netflix’s new intrigue series, The Defeated stars Friday Night Lights‘ Taylor Kitsch as a Brooklyn cop who finds himself swept up in the spy circuit in 1946 Berlin. It’s a French-German-Canadian production filmed in Prague and is listed just about everywhere under the title Shadowplay, yet there’s no record of the show being aired in any other country on any network. Hopefully that’s not the most interesting mystery of the new program.
  • Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen, in creepy deadpan, describes his 1983 murder spree on cassette tapes (he died in prison three years ago) as the centerpiece of the newest Netflix crime documentary, Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes.
  • Speaking of murders, the gritty violent crimes of once famously genteel comic book characters carries on over at the CW as on Riverdale we get Hiram’s origin story tonight.

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