By Sandra Gonzalez, CNN
At some point when I was about halfway through the film “Midsommar” and someone was being bludgeoned to death, I had a thought: I need to do better about picking my pre-sleep programming.
As someone who dedicates most of my waking hours to watching television — taking a break only to watch my Dodgers play baseball — I tend to fall behind on films pretty easily. In the last few months, I’ve spent my last hours of the day in the dark watching movies I’ve never seen before until the desire for sleep gets the better of me. Weeks of terrible sleep in, I’ve decided this is a horrible idea, and I need to go back to watching TV series before bed.
The problem is what made me stop watching pre-slumber shows in the first place was that I found myself getting overwhelmed by having to make a choice from the too-vast options out there. I couldn’t use the time to catch up on things I haven’t watched yet because then it technically turned into work. I couldn’t watch my sitcom staples (like “Friends”) because I burned through too many episodes in the early days of the pandemic. I’d end up getting stuck scrolling the bottomless streaming services for an hour before tiring myself out — the streaming equivalent to falling asleep to the cable TV guide grid.
If you have the same problem, I’ve come up with a list of options for those who have this same issue.
Too-pure-for-daytime TV – I made fun of my Hallmark Channel-loving mother when she said she was excited about Netflix’s “Virgin River” coming back, but now this sappy small-town drama is one of my go-tos before bed. I’d never watch this during the day; that time is too valuable. At night, it’s a different story. The stakes are low enough that I don’t feel the need to finish whole episodes before falling asleep, and picking up the next night is so easy. Others in this genre include: “Heart of Dixie” (CW; streaming on IMDbTV via Amazon), “Everwood” (WB; now streaming on HBO Max) and “Bunheads” (ABC Family; streaming on Hulu).
Nature programming on BBC America – This suggestion comes via CNN’s Brian Lowry: “It’s not always available during the week, but my go-to pre-bedtime relaxation over the weekends is nature programming on BBC America. For some reason watching a polar bear try to catch a seal is enormously soothing, maybe because I tend to identify more with the predators than the prey.” In addition to being a fascinating look into his psyche, this is a great suggestion. In fact, BBC took note of the calming effects of nature when it launched Wonderstruck.tv a few years ago. Excellent options for those who like to take a rest from their wild life with wildlife.
Sitcom staples – I’ve already confessed to being out-“Friends”-ed at the moment, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t others who can step into those warm-blanket-comedy shoes. See: “Parks and Recreation” (NBC; streaming on Peacock), “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (HBO Max), “The Golden Girls” (stream on Hulu), “Designing Women” (Hulu) and “I Love Lucy” (Paramount+).
Non-food nonfiction – I can’t watch baking shows or the Food Network before bed because I always get hungry and then frustrated that I don’t really keep snacks at the house. (Just call me Snackless in Seattle — but don’t because I don’t live there.) There are other options, however. My favorite low-stakes reality TV when I was engaged was “Four Weddings” (Discovery+) because it felt like research and an escape at the same time. Now that I’m married, I think I just enjoy watching people be judgey about flowers and cocktail hours. Other reality shows to consider before bed (tested and approved): “Naked and Afraid” (yes, seriously; Discovery+), “Ink Master” (stream on Netflix), “Storage Wars” (Peacock) and “Wife Swap” (Hulu).
Do not recommend before bed: “Midsommar.” I don’t know what I was thinking either.
Sept. 11 TV
Brian Lowry dives into the tricky effort to capture a devastating day in American history: “The 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks has unleashed a dizzying lineup of documentaries that will roll out over the next two weeks. But the sheer volume — including several multi-part docuseries — is almost numbing, in a way that has the unintended effect of making it difficult to devote much time to any one of them.
For those made of sterner stuff, the not-comprehensive list includes National Geographic’s four-part ‘9/11: One Day in America’ (Aug. 29), Netflix’s five-part ‘Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror’ (Sept. 1), PBS’ ‘America After 9/11’ (Sept. 7), ‘Too Soon: Comedy After 9/11’ (Vice, Sept. 8), ‘No Responders Left Behind’ (Discovery+, Sept. 9), and HBO’s four-part Spike Lee documentary ‘NYC Epicenters,; whose second chapter airs this weekend, with the third and fourth covering Sept. 11.
If forced to flag one people might not catch otherwise, I’d cite ‘No Responders Left Behind,’ which details the efforts by John Feal and Jon Stewart — who used his celebrity to advance the cause — to secure health benefits and compensation for 9/11 first responders.”
Apple TV+ isn’t just phoning it in
Lowry also chimes in this week on Apple TV+’s big programming push coming up: “If you were of the cynical (and not unreasonable) impression that Apple might be just dabbling in Hollywood with Apple TV+, the streaming service is making a formidable push into the fall with a lineup of high-profile shows.
In addition to basking in its Emmy nominations for ‘Ted Lasso,’ in August the service brought back the series ‘Truth Be Told’ and ‘See’ and dropped the movie ‘Coda,’ a well-deserved festival darling garnering awards buzz. Next month brings another major salvo, including a presentation of the Broadway musical ‘Come From Away,’ Season 2 of the star-studded ‘The Morning Show’ and a huge sci-fi bet in ‘Foundation,’ an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s novels under the stewardship of genre veteran David S. Goyer.
Granted, Apple’s hardly alone among streamers in making a major bid for attention, and the tech giants playing this game (Amazon included) have the advantage of enormous resources to spend. Even so, the current roster feels like the most concerted push since the service launched in 2019.”
9 reasons I’m still watching ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’
I have a question: What’s the world record for the amount of time it takes one person to watch a single episode of television? Last week, it took me two days to watch the latest episode of “Nine Perfect Strangers.” And when I finished, I realized another episode had just posted. I audibly groaned, then asked myself, ‘Why am I still watching this?’ So I made a list:
- Bobby Cannavale
- Melissa McCarthy’s rich lady outfits
- I want to see the goat rise from the dead and get revenge
- Bobby Cannavale
- Every time someone says “Mah-shah”
- The theme song and trippy opening credits, which someone described to me as “better than Xanax.”
- Establishing shots of foliage
- To support Asher Keddie, who was delightful on “Offspring”
- Rhymes with “Cobby Dannavale.”
Hidden (from me) gem
I really hate when I finish a great TV show and feel like I’ll never watch another great TV show again. After I finished the latest season of “Fleabag,” I was convinced all other TV shows should move to Florida, retire and just give up because they’d never top it. It happened again when I watched “Unorothodox” on Netflix, again when I watched “Trying,” again when I watched “Ted Lasso,” again when I watched “White Lotus.” See a pattern?
Enter now a show that, like “Fleabag,” is a quirky import comedy — “This Way Up.”
It’s my hidden gem TV show of the week because I haven’t seen nearly as many people talking about it as I wish there were — and this includes last month when this latest season was released here in the US via Hulu. I found it this week when my algorithm finally decided to tell me about its existence, and it took me a mere two days to finish the 12 episodes that make up its first two seasons.
Starring Aisling Bea, the comedy revolves around two sisters (the other played by the delightful Sharon Horgan), one of whom is fresh off a breakdown and battles depression. Sound funny? I know it doesn’t, but it is. The dialogue is packed with quips, and the show has a stellar cast (particularly the sisters, who play wonderfully off straight man, Aasif Mandvi). If you, like me, enjoy your laughs with a side of heartbreak, you must give this a try. Tobias Menzies (yes, the evil guy from “Outlander”) also stars, and he’s very not evil in this role.
But now, readers, I’m in a dilemma. This time I’m certain: No other TV will top “This Way Up.”
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