From political turmoil to the best of Broadway, we round up the top 10 shows to watch this week
1. Roadkill on Masterpiece – Sunday, November 1, 6 p.m. & 10 p.m., WTVS; 9 p.m., KCTS | Series Premiere
PBSPeter Laurence (Hugh Laurie) is a Conservative cabinet minister, a self-made man who’s risen to the top of British politics from humble beginnings. Just as we are dropped into his life, the charismatic Laurence is taking on a newspaper for libel, confident that he can talk himself out of any situation, even when what he’s being accused of is the truth. But as he prepares to make his way further up the greasy pole that is politics, enemies prepare to take apart his charmed life—no doubt full of indiscretions swept under the rug.
In his four-hour drama, prolific playwright David Hare—also the creator of Netflix’s Collateral starring Carey Mulligan—was inspired to explore the current culture wherein politicians no longer aspire to live up to high moral standards, and there appear to be no consequences for bad, or even illegal, behaviour. “There’s something new in the 21st century, which is that there is a shamelessness in it,” says Hare. “We have a prime minister that has been sacked twice for lying, yet he’s [still] the prime minister. His principal adviser is Dominic Cummings, who has consistently lied about breaking the lockdown. Nobody’s really worried about that. [The U.S.] president said if he shot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue, nobody would be much concerned. The idea of shame has disappeared from politics. There used to be something called ‘disgrace,’ and when a politician was caught doing something wrong, there was meant to be calamity. Now, nothing follows.”
Playing a politician who scrambles as his poor decision-making threatens his professional ascent, Laurie’s challenge was showing big emotions in little flickers, as the plot slowly unravels. “I think the fun for an actor is to allow the audience an opportunity to decipher things rather than simply present it to them in bold captions,” Laurie explains. But some of the difference between this performance, and, say, the theatrics of American politics lays in the cultural differences between two countries. “We are a smaller country in many, many dimensions and we are a more restrained country in many ways,” says the British actor. “I feel some sympathy for American politicians who are going through a television meat grinder on a daily basis and appearing in front of vast rallies where a more operatic style is called for.”
2. The Good Lord Bird – Sunday, November 1, 8 p.m., Crave1
CraveThe story of 19th-century abolitionist John Brown is brought to idiosyncratic life in an irreverent limited series, now in the midst of a seven-episode season. In The Good Lord Bird, Brown is portrayed by Oscar-nominee Ethan Hawke, but the tale is really told from the perspective of Henry “Onion” Shackleford (Joshua Caleb Johnson, black-ish), a fictional enslaved kid who becomes a member of Brown’s band of motley abolitionist soldiers during the 1850s Bleeding Kansas, when the state was the site of skirmishes between pro- and anti-slavery factions.
Brown and his men eventually found themselves fighting in the infamous 1859 raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, which failed to initiate the slave revolt he intended but did ultimately ignite the Civil War. Brown was hanged shortly thereafter.
The story is based on the National Book Award-winning novel by African-American author James McBride, who, with Hawke, is an executive producer here. Like the book, the show endeavours to blend humour with tragedy as it touches upon a sensitive subject, slavery.
“This is not the typical story of the white saviour that comes to save African-American people,” McBride explains. “This is the... African-American perspective on the white saviour that comes to save us, and so it’s a lot different, and that’s why it’s so funny. It’s a story of caricature... I personally am kind of tired of the ‘Go on. Go down.’ I don’t want to see stories like that, and I don’t want to read books like that.
3. The Undoing – Sunday, November 1, 8 p.m. & 12:55 a.m., HBO Canada
CraveFollowing last week’s harrowing premiere, the Nicole Kidman-Hugh Grant series gets deeper and darker. In chapter two, Grace continues to seek refuge from her scandalized life at her father’s house, but the reprieve is shortlived, after some detectives come knocking.
4. Election Night 2020 – Tuesday, November 3, Various channels
Jonathan Simcoe/UnsplashAs you may have heard, our neighbours to the south will be holding their presidential election this week, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, unprecedented unrest and cultural divisions that haven’t been this deep since the Civil War.
This election promises to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before, given President Donald Trump’s tacit endorsement of white supremacist militias to intimidate voters at the polls, his debunked conspiracy theories that mail-in voting is riddled with fraud and his blatant hints that he has no intention of accepting the results if he loses.
There’s also a very real chance that those results may not actually be known on election night. Case in point: America’s 2018 midterm elections featured numerous races that appeared to be dominated by Republicans on election night, only to have the dial slide to the Democrats after all the votes were counted days later.
5. American Ninja Warrior – Wednesday, November 4, 9 p.m., CTV2 & NBC | Season Finale
CTV2The remaining Ninjas have overcome so very much in this quarantine season, but as fans well know, the hard part’s still to come. This obstacle course is notorious for the body- and soul-crushing challenges it unrolls in stage three, and tonight’s finale should be no exception.
6. Mom – Thursday, November 5, 9 p.m. CBS; 10 p.m., City | Season Premiere
CityThe acclaimed sitcom returns for season eight, but it’s doing so without star Anna Faris, who’s moving on to pursue other career prospects. But hey, the show’s actually named after Allison Janney’s character anyway... and she’s not going anywhere!
7. Operation Christmas Drop – Thursday, November 5, Netflix
NetflixWe know what you’re thinking: “After 25 years, Disney is finally making a sequel to the modestly received Ray Liotta-Danny Glover vehicle Operation Dumbo Drop! At long last, my prayers have been answered!” Or maybe that’s not what you’re thinking. Actually, here’s hoping that you aren’t thinking that, because—spoiler alert!—it’s not what this movie is at all, but you probably guessed that just by virtue of the fact that it’s not on Disney+ (although the original movie is, just in case you were wondering).
In fact, this is a Netflix holiday flick starring The Vampire Diaries’ Kat Graham as Erica, a congressional aide who’s all business... like, to the extent of bypassing Christmas with her family in favour of travelling to a U.S. Air Force base in the tropics that she’s trying to shut down. Upon arrival, she promptly meets Capt. Andrew Jantz (Vikings’ Alexander Ludwig), at which point you’ll recognize this as a romantic comedy, since he’s handsome, she’s beautiful, and they immediately start bickering. Ah, but enmity slowly turns to passion after Erica learns about his pet project: Operation Christmas Drop, a tradition where supplies and gifts are dropped via parachute onto the islands neighbouring the base.
In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s a real thing, and it’s been taking place at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam since 1952. But it’s a fair bet it’s been more than a little romanticized for the purposes of this film, since it is a romantic comedy, after all. On that note, the flick is directed by Martin Wood, a man who knows a thing or two about the warm-and-fuzzy genre, given that he’s an exec producer on Netflix series Chesapeake Shores.
8. Young Sheldon – Thursday, November 5, 8 p.m., CTV & CBS | Season Premiere
CTVDespite having graduated from high school in record time, Sheldon suddenly starts to freak out about the prospect of tackling his next big milestone: college, fearing that he may not be ready. Meanwhile, Dale (guest star Craig T. Nelson) tries to apologize to Meemaw.
9. Great Performances – Friday, November 6, 6:30 p.m., WTVS; 9 p.m., KCTS
PBSBefore hosting The Late Late Show, James Corden won a Tony for his performance in the Broadway run of hilarious farce One Man, Two Guvnors. This Great Performances presentation features a filmed version of one of those stage shows. Set in the British resort town of Brighton during the Swinging ’60s, unemployed musician Francis Henshall (Corden) becomes a bodyguard-minder to Roscoe Crabbe, a petty East End crook. Little does he know that “Roscoe” is actually the crook’s sister, Rachel, now masquerading as her dead brother, who’s been killed by her boyfriend, Stanley Stubbers. To complicate matters even more, Francis takes on a second job with Stanley, who is hiding out from the police and waiting to be reunited with Rachel. To prevent discovery, Francis must keep his “two guvnors” apart, an increasingly difficult predicament resulting in comic mayhem that allows Corden to show off his skills at spectacular sight gags and slapstick pratfalls.
10. The Wife – Friday, November 6, 11:55 a.m., Crave 1
IMDBGlenn Close picked up her seventh Oscar nomination (still no wins!) last year for playing the title role in this poignant drama about a gifted writer who’s sacrificed both dreams and dignity to support her much-less-talented husband (Jonathan Pryce), who’s nonetheless the toast of the literary world.