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Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

It’s almost fall already? Time flies when you’re … what’s been going on? The spring and summer were a bit of a blur, for some reason.

September is usually loaded with TV premieres, but 2020 is leaner than previous years due to delayed productions and overall existential dread. At least new seasons of The Boys (Prime Video) and A.P. Bio (Peacock) have dropped, though they don’t make up for the cancellations of Drunk History (Comedy Central), High Fidelity (Hulu) and Altered Carbon (Netflix).

But! There are actually some fresh shows streaming in September, pandemic be damned. Here are eight new series, and one returning champion, all premiering this month.

Raised by Wolves (Thursday, Sept. 3 on HBO Max): A pair of androids, known as Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim), are charged with raising a group of human children on newly discovered planet Kepler-22b. Sounds perfectly utopian, so of course humans—from outside and inside the tribe—are going to cock it up. Raised by Wolves is hard, high-concept/higher-budget sci-fi from Ridley Scott, with a side of religious jabs. (Ultra-Christians destroyed Earth!) Set expectations accordingly.

Away (Friday, Sept. 4 on Netflix): If you like your sci-fi a little less science-y, here’s Hilary Swank as an astronaut leading a mission to Mars—but she has to leave her husband and daughter behind! All the feels! Away comes from producers behind TV tearjerkers like Parenthood and Friday Night Lights, so no one’s going to confuse this melodrama with Netflix’s otherwise-very-similar Another Life. Netflix should have just dropped Season 2 of that Katee Sackhoff series and sent this Away.

Woke (Wednesday, Sept. 9 on Hulu): A comedy about racism? The times are (always) right. Woke is based on the life of cartoonist Keith Knight (The K Chronicles/(th)ink, which run in this fine publication), starring Lamorne Morris (New Girl) as “Keef,” a Black artist who avoids politics and social issues in his work—that is, until he’s roughed up by cops for no reason, and the trauma manifests as his cartoons coming to life and hilariously prodding him to finally take a stand. Woke handles heavy topics with a light, surreal touch—watch and learn.

Julie and The Phantoms (Thursday, Sept. 10 on Netflix): Talented teen Julie (Madison Reyes) loses her will to sing after the death of her mother—until cute-boy “rock” trio The Phantoms suddenly appear … literally. Yes, they’re ghosts of a band who never made it before their demise, but now they have a second chance with Julie on the mic. (People can see The Phantoms when they play with her.) Julie and The Phantoms is dumb, High School Musical-ish fun, but just imagine if she’d been haunted by Motörhead instead.

Coastal Elites (Saturday, Sept. 12 on HBO): In what could have also been titled Hot Liberal Porn Action, Coastal Elites is an ultra-now commentary on the state of the union and deplorables in MAGA mode. (Fox News should produce a rebuttal movie called The Deplorables.) Bette Midler, Dan Levy, Sarah Paulson, Issa Rae and Kaitlyn Dever deliver Zoom-style monologues that were meant for the theater stage before COVID-19 hit, some better than others. (Maybe fast-forward through Midler’s rants.)

Ratched (Friday, Sept. 18 on Netflix): Speaking of Sarah Paulson, she’s taking on the classic role of One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest’s Nurse Ratched for Ryan Murphy. Sure, Murphy’s productions have been hit-and-miss affairs for several years, but the 1940s-set Ratched recalls the colorful camp-gore glory of American Horror Story: Murder House and the underrated Scream Queens—and Paulson owns every second of it. Also featuring left-field cameos from Rosanna Arquette (!) and Sharon Stone (!!).

Utopia (Friday, Sept. 25 on Prime Video): It’s way too soon for a conspiracy thriller about a deadly global pandemic, but here’s this: A group of comic-book geeks discover a veiled threat to humanity in their favorite graphic novel, Utopia, and soon learn that’s all too real (and already under way). Upping the prestige, Utopia was adapted by Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn from the British original, and co-stars John Cusack as a sketchy biotech mogul and Rainn Wilson as a college professor with The Answer. Damn, 2020.

The Comey Rule (Sunday, Sept. 27 on Showtime): It’s way too late for a conspiracy thriller about the 2016 U.S. election, but here’s this: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (Brendan Gleeson) and then-FBI Director James Comey (Jeff Daniels) go from bros to foes during Trump’s rise to power. The Comey Rule, based on Trump Sucks Book No. 105, Comey’s A Higher Loyalty, is a miniseries with no heroes—just a spectacle of actors playing real-life politicos. It’s for wonks and masochists only; real humans, steer clear.

Fargo (Sunday, Sept. 27 on FX and Hulu): It’s been three years—three years!—since the third season of Fargo, a wrongly derided chapter that I would recommend you rewatch. (It’s better than you remember, not unlike the second season of True Detective.) Season 4 is set in 1950s Kansas City—Fargo is just a state of mind now—and stars Chris Rock as a crime boss employing Black escapees of the Jim Crow South (shades of HBO’s Lovecraft Country). Weirdest S4 casting: Indie-rocker Andrew Bird.

Published in TV

Movie theaters are over. Sure, you might for a minute feel nostalgic for the privilege of driving to the Gigantaplex, buying tickets, forking over a lump sum for an XXXL BladderBuster Diet Coke and MegaButter popcorn, and then being marched to your Assigned Corporate Seat, amongst the other chumps—but you’ll get over it. You probably already have.

Video-on-demand releases during These Uncertain Times™ have proven that good content is venue-fluid. Hamilton on Disney+? Fantastic. Palm Springs on Hulu? Amazing. Extraction on Netflix? Didn’t see it, but it’s there and ready to kick my eyes in the balls with a single click.

VOD isn’t without its downsides—after all, plenty of garbage also slips through the cracks. Here are 10 of the absolute worst movies to premiere over video-on-demand streaming in the past four months: If you haven’t been suckered into watching any of these yet, beware.

Money Plane (VOD): A pro thief (Adam Copeland, aka WWE ’rassler Edge) and his luxurious man bun are forced to pull One Last Job: robbing a flying casino of its … bitcoin? … for crime kingpin “The Rumble” (Kelsey Grammer). Instead of ass-kicking combat (It’s Edge!) and aerial action (It’s a Money Plane!), all you get is interior shots of goons ambling around what appears to be a Days Inn in Reno, along with Frasier chomping a cigar on Zoom. Also starring piranhas (!) and Thomas Jane (?).

Irresistible (VOD): You’d think an election-year satire starring Steve Carrell and Rose Byrne as dueling political consultants would be impossible to screw up. But director Jon Stewart, of all people, somehow instilled Irresistible with fewer laughs and less insight than an NPR segment on the ethics of soy hot dogs. Instead of playing up Red v. Blue, Irresistible is as dull and passive-aggressively preachy as your Libertarian friend on Facebook who won’t stop posting Joe Rogan clips.

The Rental (VOD): Two couples spend the weekend in a seaside AirBnB … and that’s about it. The Rental shifts from a boring relationship quadrangle into a boring horror film after what seems like five hours (it’s only 90 minutes long), wasting a killer cast (including Alison Brie, Dan Stephens and Toby Huss) and enough fog-machine juice for an entire summer of EDM festivals. First-time director Dave Franco almost nails a creepy vibe in the homestretch; good luck making it that far. (For the record, my colleague Bob Grimm liked The Rental a bit more than I did.)

The High Note (VOD): R&B superstar Grace (Tracee Ellis Ross channeling her mother, Diana Ross) clashes with her record label over coasting on live albums rather than recording new material … because it’s 1978? No, it’s now, when no one cares about record labels and live albums. The High Note is a cloying Boomer fantasy about a music industry that no longer exists, and further proof that Dakota Johnson (as Grace’s assistant-turned-producer) should stick to Fifty Shades flicks.

We Summon the Darkness (VOD): In 1988, three girlfriends (led by Alexandra Daddario) rock at a death-metal concert and drag a trio of knucklehead musicians to their remote house to party. Surprise! The girls are part of a Satanic cult (Daughters of the Dawn—eh, not bad), and the dudes are dead meat. We Summon the Darkness could have been a rock ’n’ roll classic, but it never fully commits to the requisite gore and sex—not even Johnny Knoxville as a TV preacher can liven things up. Fail Satan.

Trolls World Tour (VOD): A unity-propaganda cartoon about six tribes of Trolls, each represented by a guitar string, coming together in alleged “harmony”? Puh-leez. In positing that there are only six types of music (pop, funk, country, classical, techno and rock), Trolls World Tour completely denies the existence of the seven-string guitar—there’s no room for Korn in your precious world, Trolls? There couldn’t be a seventh, nu-metal tribe? Korn already looks like Trolls, forhellsake.

Infamous (VOD): Ex-Disney kid Bella Thorne and apparent ’90s Stephen Dorff cosplayer Jake Manley star as an Instagram Bonnie and Clyde, racking up likes and heists on a cross-country crime spree. We all know how Infamous ends, but at least Thorne seems to be trying to make the most of an otherwise phoned-in movie. Come to think of it, her wild-child energy is exactly what We Summon the Darkness needed—if only for this, we’re going to need a do-over, 2020.

Battlefield 2025 (VOD): A random group of campers, escaped convicts, cops—and whoever else was available over the weekend this was filmed—band together to fight off an alien invasion in Arizona. If you’ve ever spent a minute in Arizona, you know it’s a parched hellhole that should just be nuked, paved and converted into overflow parking for California—not worth saving. So who should we root for in Battlefield 2025? Probably the aliens. After this, they should pay a visit to Dave Franco’s Rental.

Force of Nature (VOD): A retired cop (Mel Gibson) takes on a gang of thieves pulling a heist during a hurricane … hold on … wasn’t this already a movie? Literally called The Hurricane Heist? Needless to say, the suckfest of Force of Nature pales in comparison to 1999’s Forces of Nature, wherein a psychotic woman (Sandra Bullock) kidnaps a traveler (Ben Affleck) and dumps him in a pit, from which he emerges as Batman. At least that’s how I remember it; ’99 was a weird year.

Becky (VOD): Thirteen-year-old Becky (Lulu Wilson) takes on a gang of escaped convicts (it’s an epidemic) led by Paul Blart: Neo Nazi (Kevin James) to save her dad (Joel McHale). Becky is sufficiently bloody and brutal, but James isn’t up to playing the big bad guy, which is especially disheartening when you consider that we could have had Simon Pegg (who dropped out before filming) in the role. Hell, maybe Mel Gibson would have made a great Nazi … or is that too on-the-nose?

Published in TV

It’s April 1, no’ foolin. That means one of the most insanely awful months in American history is finally behind us.

How long was March? The obvious, mathematical answer is 31 days. But, man, were those a looooong 31 days.

Here’s how long March was: Remember Pete Buttigieg? When March started, he was still a presidential candidate. Yep: He dropped out on March 1, two days before Joe Biden’s decisive Super Tuesday wins.

Back then, most of us had no idea what in the hell was coming—or if we had any clue, we couldn’t fathom what it all meant.

A story in the print version of the March 1 edition of The New York Times had the headline: “Readiness of U.S. for an Epidemic Raises Fears About Shortages.” It’s worth noting that this story, while on the front page, was below the fold.

The online version of the story had a more search-term-friendly headline and sub-headline: “How Prepared Is the U.S. for a Coronavirus Outbreak?” The subheadline: “The country is better positioned than most but could still face critical shortages of respirators and masks. Hospitals have triage plans in place. State and local governments have broad powers to quarantine.”

Uh … well … yep?

The local BNP Paribas Open was cancelled on March 8, the day before it was supposed to start in earnest. Coachella and Stagecoach were postponed on March 10. The NBA kept playing until a March 11, when a player tested positive, halting a game in Oklahoma City just before tip-off.

That was just three weeks ago. Yeesh.

Now, it’s April … and we’re looking down the barrel of a month virtually none of us could have imagined in our worst nightmares just 31 days ago.

Yet, there are reasons for optimism. We’ve linked to stories in previous days that indicate we’re having success in #flatteningthecurve here in California. And every day means we are one day closer to the end of this, whatever that may mean.

Stay home as much as possible. If you’re one of the “essential workers” who can’t stay at home, God bless you, and be as safe as you can. Enjoy this time, as bonkers as it is, as much as possible.

Oh, yeah, and 1) stop flushing wipes down the toilet, and 2) wash your hands.

On a personal note: Thank you so very much to the 30-plus people who became or maintained being Supporters of the Independent in March (plus today). Whether you gave us $10 or you gave us $500, your support means so much to us.

To Jill Arnold, Morgan James, Ken Alterwitz, Elizabeth McGarry, Alex McCune, Miho Suma, Gustavo Arellano, Howard Goldberg, Richard Fluechtling, Cactus Hugs/Casey Dolan, Debby Anspach, Scott Phipps, John Delaney, Leonard Woods, Michael Herzfeld, Kenneth Theriault, Lynn Hammond/Lynn Hammond Catering, Jeffrey Davied, Harvey Lewis, Vicky Harrison, Joanne Bosher, George Bullis, Joshua Friedman, Darrell Tucci, Scott Balson, Elizabeth Wexler, Deidre Pike, Marsha Pare, Jeffrey Norman, David Ponsar, Lea Goodsell, John de Dios and Anthony Gangloff … thanks for helping us continue to do what we do in these unbelievably tough times.

If you have the ability to join these generous people in helping us continue covering the Coachella Valley with quality journalism, go here for more details … and thank you.

Now, for today’s news links:

If you fear you may be sick: Call Eisenhower at 760-837-8988 or the Desert AIDS Project at 760-992-0407 before you go anywhere.

• I will again be joining Shann Carr, John Taylor and Brad Fuhr tomorrow on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast with Dr. Laura Rush. If you have any questions about this damn virus and whatnot for the good doctor, send them to me before 8 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday) at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

• If you need help, the amazing people at FIND Food Bank are heading to a local town near you to help with its mobile pantry. Get the details and the schedule here.

SiriusXM is offering free streaming through May 15.

• Independent TV columnist Bill Frost points out that a whole lot of the streaming services you normally need to pay for are offering programming for free right now—and he also has information on a dozen streaming services that are ALWAYS free.

• Also from the Independent: What better time is there to go outside and enjoy the stars and planets (as long as everyone is social distancing and stuff)? The Independent’s Robert Victor has the scoop on what to watch for in the heavens in April.

• Related: The Rancho Mirage Public Library and Observatory has moved its Swoon at the Moon program online, starting at 7:30 p.m. tonight!

• Yet another excellent scholarly article from The Conversation offers a silver lining in all of this: Could COVID-19 end the world’s illicit wildlife trade?

• In this era of Zoom meetings, be careful with the filters you have on your phone, lest you wind up becoming a potato.

Being a brand-new parent in the age of the coronavirus leads to a whole bunch of surprising worries, as this story from friend of the Independent Gustavo Arellano illustrates.

Why is Dolly Parton a national freaking treasure, besides, you know, the obvious? Is it because of her amazing generosity? Or is it because she’s going to start reading bedtime stories to us all every Thursday? You decide.

• Another, albeit very different national treasure, Samuel L. Jackson, encourages you to Stay the F**k at Home.

• Need some quick, relatable laughs? Make sure you’re following Leslie Jordan on Instagram.

• LGBT folks and allies, take note: A whole bunch of pride-festival organizers, including Greater Palm Springs Pride’s amazing Ron deHarte, will be hosting an online Global Pride on June 27.

That’s all for today. Wash your hands. Reach out to a loved one. Tomorrow’s a new day. Now go wash your hands again. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

You’re out of a job. You’ve been stuck inside for weeks. You’ve re-watched Tiger King so many times that you’re starting to ask, “What was the crime here? Loving big cats and the Seth Wadley Auto Group too much? Free Joe Exotic!”

Shut-in delirium can only countered with new streams of entertainment—preferably at no extra cost, because that gub’ment check will only go so far.

This month, streaming TV services Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, CBS All Access, Shudder, Sundance Now, Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel have extended their free-trial windows to 30 days. New streamer Quibi will let you have up to 90 days free, which is nearly enough time to figure out, “What the fuck is a Quibi?”

Beyond all that: There are also plenty of totally free, no-strings streaming TV apps out there to take advantage of through Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast or however you stream (laptops and phones, too). Content Shifter has rounded up 12 for your quarantine needs.

Pluto TV: What was originally just an odd app with a never-ending Mystery Science Theater 3000 loop and a few other iffy feeds (like the Conspiracy Channel—maybe avoid it right now?) has exploded into a rainbow of free TV, movies, docs, music, sports and doggos. (Yes, Dogs 24/7—you need it right now.) Pluto TV was seemingly pre-designed for broke homebodies … conspiracy?

Crackle: Crackle has been around for more than 15 years—and you’ve still never clicked on that orange button. It streams hundreds of old-to-semi-recent movies and TV shows, as well as a handful of originals like tech thriller StartUp, dumb comedy Ski Master Academy, and the sequel no one asked for, Joe Dirt 2. Crackle also has both The Net (1995 film) and The Net (1998 series)!

Tubi: With thousands of movies, TV series and a surprisingly loaded music section (as well as all three Decline of Western Civilization docs!), Tubi is like the last Blockbuster Video at the edge of the world. For every familiar title (Donnie Darko, Minority Report) there are hundreds of obscurities (like 2017 Russian superhero anomaly Guardians), not to mention the Rock of Love oeuvre.

Roku Channel: If your streaming device of choice is a Roku (the unofficial streamer of Content Shifter … still waiting on that endorsement deal), the Roku Channel has stacks of movies, TV series, kids’ stuff, fitness programs and an unhealthy mix of reality shows. (Trees and Forest meditation? Sure. Diagnosis Unknown? No thanks.) Minus a Roku, the Channel works in a web browser.

Shout! Factory TV: A cult-flick aficionado’s digital dream, Shout! Factory TV is stuffed with cheesy action and exploitation “classics” like Bloodfist (parts 1-8!), Cyberzone (space bounty hunter tracks down android hookers!), and Neon Maniacs (self-explanatory), among hundreds of others. If your objective is to shut off your brain, Shout! Factory TV works like a vodka and valium tonic.

Comet: Speaking of sci-fi goodness, Comet is a space-centric channel that broadcasts to rabbit ears (‘member them?) and streams simultaneously. The movies are schlock standards (Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Futureworld, etc.), but the TV series are solid: Battlestar Galactica (the good one), Stargate SG-1, and the underrated ’70s Night Gallery, among others.

Adult Swim: There are well more than 100 original series from the past 20 years available on the Adult Swim app—and a few don’t even require herbal abetment (very few). Currently, AS is streaming full seasons of quintessential series like Metalocalypse, Squidbillies, and the immortal Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule, plus newer shows like Tim and Eric’s sitcom takedown Beef House.

The CW: Unlike most other TV networks, The CW makes all of its shows available to stream the day after broadcast for free—even Dynasty, a reboot no one can prove actually exists. Full seasons to date are available for some newer series, like Batwoman (worth checking out), Nancy Drew (ditto) and Katy Keene (another show of questionable existence). Beats an antenna.

CW Seed: The CW’s secondary streamer, CW Seed, is home to some legit classics that never even aired on the network: Schitt’s Creek, Pushing Daisies, Constantine, Girlfriends, and others. CW Seed also features a few flops that are still good for a laugh, like Hellcats (clashing cheerleaders!), Moonlight (sexy vampire detective!) and Sinbad (not the comic who didn’t play a ‘90s genie).

WhoHaha: Women aren’t funny? Get the fuck outta here. Actress/director Elizabeth Banks created WhoHaha as a “Funny or Die for girls” in 2015, accepting submissions from indie female comics and curating the content. Like Funny or Die, not every digital short lands, but WhoHaha series like Untidy With Marie Kondo (not really Kondo) and No Chill are uniquely hilarious.

Night Flight: Way back in the ’80s, a weekend cable show called Night Flight kept millions of rockers, stoners and outcasts indoors with a slapdash mix of rock ’n’ roll kicks, cult-flick imagery and subliminal anarchy. The Night Flight app recaptures it, but only a portion for free (access to the full library is $40 annually—anarchy costs in 2020). Still, a taste of a rad flashback ain’t bad.

Red Bull TV: The outdoors were pretty cool, from what I remember. Red Bull TV goes to extremes with mountain biking, skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding, skiing and some insane shit called “ice cross” that’s essentially frozen Rollerball. It’s all high-quality video immersion with little in-your-face Red Bull advertising; check it out to re-familiarize yourself with air and weather.

Published in TV

Think you’re already oversubscribed to streaming TV services? Bend over, and grab your HDMI cables, because November has just dropped two more on you: Disney+ and Apple TV+.

Also, HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi are coming in 2020. But the Purge may happen first.

Back to Disney+ and Apple TV+: Disney+ costs $6.99 a month, while Apple TV+ goes for $4.99—are they worth it? Here are eight original series that may or may not sway you to subscribe to yet another new app.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (Disney+): Right below Twilight and Saw on the list of 2000s reboots no one asked for rests High School Musical, the 2006-08 series of Disney Channel movies (though I’m all in for a Twilight/Saw mashup). In mockumentary HSM:TM:TS, students meta-stage a production of the classic High School Musical. That sound in the distance is the universe imploding—catchy beat, no?

The Mandalorian (Disney+): If you’re among the nerd faction that’s completely on board with Disney owning all things Marvel, Star Wars and Fox Studios, I’m sure your benevolent corporate overlords will never screw you over. It’s fine, just fine. In the meantime, here’s The Mandalorian, about a bounty hunter somewhere in the Star Wars universe. Look, dust and droids! It’s fine, just fine.

The World According to Jeff Goldblum (Disney+): Actor Jeff Goldblum (Run Ronnie Run!) explains everyday items like ice cream, sneakers, tattoos, coffee, denim, RVs, barbecue, jewelry, swimming pools, cosmetics and video games as only he can. Prior to exploring these topics for The World, Goldblum reportedly did zero research to prepare for the episodes. I use the same approach here; totally works.

The Imagineering Story (Disney+): This is a six-hour documentary about Walt Disney’s 65-year-old Imagineering studio that doesn’t touch upon Walt’s purported Nazi sympathies and fascist tendencies at all. Not that it should, because it’s about the studio and the creators who worked there, not the frozen head in a secret vault who thought Adolph had a few good ideas. Allegedly. (Checks security cameras.)

The Morning Show (Apple TV+): Apple spent millions of dollars to lure beloved comedy stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell to streaming TV to headline … a preachy drama about media politics? Bring on the yucks! To be fair, The Morning Show works better than 80 percent of Aaron Sorkin’s similar The Newsroom, mostly by treating women as, stay with me here, humans.

See (Apple TV+): In a post-apocalyptic future … wait, don’t click away yet! A worldwide virus long ago wiped out half the population and rendered the other half blind—until a pair of sighted twins are born to tribal leader Baba Voss (Jason Momoa, Baywatch: Hawaii). Are they the Chosen Ones who’ll lead their people to a new homeland? Didn’t “See” that one coming! Ugh, I know …

For All Mankind (Apple TV+): What if Russia had reached the moon before the United States in the ’60s? Would Joe Rogan still be taking bong hits with moon-landing conspiracy theorists on three-hour podcasts? Probably. For All Mankind presents a science-y, alternate reality of an arguably better world—considering Ronald D. Moore’s previous work (Battlestar Galactica), things could have gone worse.

Dickinson (Apple TV+): Hailee Steinfeld (Between Two Ferns: The Movie) stars as poet Emily Dickinson in a coming-of-age dramedy that pits 19th-century societal constraints against modern millennial ‘tude. In other words, why the hell isn’t this on The CW? As she does in every role, Steinfeld delivers winningly as Dickinson, and you can’t argue with a series that casts Wiz Khalifa as Death.

Published in TV