From modern fairy tales to the latest from Queen Bey, we round up the top 10 shows to watch this week
1. The Book of Negroes – Sunday, July 26, 8 p.m., CBC
CBCIf this acclaimed six-part miniseries flew under your radar when it aired in 2015, CBC is offering a chance to catch up and binge, airing back-to-back episodes over three consecutive nights. The story follows Aminata Diallo (Aunjanue Ellis), kidnapped in Africa and sold into slavery, as she navigates a revolution in New York, isolation in Nova Scotia and the treacherous jungles of Sierra Leone, all in an attempt to gain her freedom.
2. Celebrity Call Centre – Monday, July 27, 7 p.m. & 10 p.m., E!
E!Based on a popular U.K. series, Nick Cannon both produces and headlines this novel reality romp. In each instalment, regular folks call in to the titular star-studded helpline in search of advice on topics like family, friends, romance and work. The twist? They’ll never know who might answer the phone. Joining Cannon are stars like Brie and Nikki Bella, Kandi Burruss and Todd Tucker, Todd Chrisley, Vivica A. Fox, NeNe Leakes, Dorinda Medley and Alyssa Milano. Each time one of these celebs answers the phone, they dive into an intimate, one-on-one conversation with an average person, in the process opening up about their own experiences, failures and triumphs in an effort to set these folks on the right path. No topic is off-limits, so expect plenty of twists, shocking confessions and delicious reality TV ridiculousness along the way.
3. Frontline – Tuesday, July 28, 7 p.m., WTVS; 10 p.m., KCTS
PBSThe documentary United States of Conspiracy investigates how trafficking in outlandish, easily disproven conspiracy theories went from the fringes of U.S. politics into the White House, examining exactly why the United States appears to be losing the battle between truth and lies.
4. Tell Me A Story – Tuesday, July 28, 9 p.m., The CW
The CWSome stories are worth telling twice. The CW evidently believes so, since it’s taking a series from a sister outlet to broadcast television. Recently cancelled by streamer CBS All Access after two seasons, Tell Me a Story begins anew on Tuesday, as The CW starts airing the fairy tale thriller from the beginning. As you’ve no doubt guessed, this is yet another development brought about by the COVID shutdowns, which have left several networks struggling to find fresh content.
Executive produced by Kevin Williamson (The Vampire Diaries), this show puts a contemporary, more mature and really just downright creepy twist on classic bedtime stories. Season one interweaves Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and The Three Little Pigs in modern-day New York.
Danielle Campbell, of Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals, plays Red Riding Hood surrogate Kayla. Relocating to the Big Apple with her father (Sam Jaeger, Parenthood) after her mom’s death, she meets an unusual high school teacher (Billy Magnussen, Game Night)—one of two Wolves in this first season.
5. The Hater – Wednesday, July 29, Netflix
NetflixWhen a disgraced law student takes a job at a shady PR company to earn enough cash to impress his crush’s family, his life is consumed by the dark side of social media. FYI, this Polish-made flick was the absolute toast of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.
6. A..holes: A Theory – Thursday, July 30, 8 p.m., CBC
CBC/Assholesatheory.comMonty Python legend John Cleese offers his commentary in this Canadian-made documentary that focuses on what makes people act like complete jerks, exploring why this type of personality tends to thrive in specific environments and, more importantly, why voters keep electing them.
7. Crossing Swords – Thursday, July 30, 10 p.m., CTV Comedy
CTV ComedyImagine, if you will, a kingdom where corruption, libidinousness and avarice are admired, where cheaters always prosper and the virtuous are laughed at and derided. Such is life in the medieval world of Crossing Swords, a decidedly adult stop-motion animated comedy from Robot Chicken exec producers Tom Root and John Harvatine IV.
The show centres on a goodhearted young peasant named Patrick (voice of Nicholas Hoult, Mad Max: Fury Road), who harbours lofty dreams of landing a squire position at the royal castle, much to the disdainful amusement of his father (voice of Breckin Meyer, Robot Chicken) and mother (voice of Wendi McLendon-Covey, The Goldbergs), who regard him as the black sheep of the family.
Mom and dad would like Patrick to be more like his siblings: Ruben (Adam Ray, Spy), part of a gang of forest bandits; Coral (veteran voice actor Tara Strong), a pirate queen; and Barney (Tony Hale, Veep), an alcoholic birthday clown. Clearly, landing a position at the castle and getting out of that household would be welcome salvation. Except, once he does, the royal couple turns out to be no better. The king (Luke Evans, The Alienist) is a spoiled brat who won’t do anything for himself, while the queen (Alanna Ubach, See Dad Run) will try to bed anything that moves. Patrick, obviously, has a tough row to hoe.
The show began its run on CTV Comedy back in June; July 30 marks the seventh episode of the 10-part first season, but previous episodes are currently available on the Crave streaming service.
8. Black is King – Friday, July 31, Disney+
Disney+A few years back, Beyoncé unveiled her “visual album” Lemonade, debuting on HBO to critical acclaim while launching such hit singles as “Formation” and “Freedom.”
Queen Bey is back with a similar project, offering a powerful and timely message of African-American empowerment in Black Is King, which makes its debut this week on the Disney+ streaming service.
Written, directed and executive produced by Beyoncé herself, Black Is King springs from her role of Nala in last year’s live-action remake of Disney’s The Lion King, and is said to have been a year in the making.
According to the Disney+ announcement, Black Is King “reimagines the lessons of The Lion King for today’s young kings and queens in search of their own crowns,” and utilized “a cast and crew that represent diversity and connectivity.”
The music for the project comes from The Lion King: The Gift, an album of original material that Beyoncé recorded to coincide with the film’s release.
9. Muppets Now – Friday, July 31, Disney+
Disney+The popularity of the Muppets hasn’t waned all that much since the gaggle of critters first scored their own series way back in 1976, but while they’ve remained beloved for several decades, they haven’t always been able to translate that love into ratings, as evidenced by such past series as Muppets Tonight! and, most recently, ABC’s much-buzzed, short-lived 30 Rock ripoff The Muppets.
Now, the power of Disney+ has provided Kermit and the gang with another shot, but this time it’s something a little different: an unscripted series. It’s also unique in that Muppets Now will only be comprised of six episodes, which hopefully means that the creative team is able to give it their all without getting burned out before the season’s over. As far as what the show is actually about... well, as ever, it’s about putting on a show, but what with technology having changed a bit since the old days, the premise involves Scooter having to rush around to meet his deadlines and get the new series uploaded for streaming. (As premises go, it’s also a little bit meta, but that’s on-brand for the Muppets, so we’ll allow it.) We’ve been assured that there’ll be the usual bizarre experiments by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, lifestyle tips from Miss Piggy, and plenty of celebrity guest stars, including Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini, Aubrey Plaza and the incomparable RuPaul.
10. Room 104 – Friday, July 31, 10 p.m. & 1 a.m., HBO Canada
HBO CanadaRoom 104, the quirky anthology series from Duplass brothers Jay and Mark (darlings of the indie-film world), has always seemed like a show without boundaries. Apart from taking place in one specific location, the series has been a collection of eclectic stories told by different filmmakers using different genres. Ironically, as the show returns for one last season, its exec producer Mel Eslyn remarks that what she always enjoyed most were the parameters of the job. “What has always appealed to me, in the way we do everything at Duplass [Productions], is that we do create boundaries — and there is this amazing pushing of the boundaries that comes when you give people rules,” she explains. “In this case, [it was] four walls. I tend to find when you give people a little bit of restriction, they go crazy.”
Some of the guest stars in season four include Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Melissa Fumero, as well as SNL alum Kevin Nealon. Eslyn herself wrote the latter actor’s episode and in so doing was able to live out a personal fantasy: writing an episode of a late-’80s sitcom. “Mark and I worked with Ray Romano on this film, Paddleton, and there was something about working with Ray that just rekindled my love of the sitcom,” says Eslyn. “I went back and watched all of Everybody Loves Raymond and it just triggered this thing in me, like, ‘I have this platform where I could chase my dreams within this room.’ ”