Another weekend, another love story. Nope, not another Netflix rom-com that comes assembled in predictable parts. Just a story about someone finding love, losing it, moving on and maybe finding love-for-keeps at last, but mostly learning about their authentic self. Not the usual thing in the romance-genre.
Love Life (streams on Crave/HBO) returns for a new season, different characters and a different story, and it is formidably good and engaging. Season 1 of the anthology series was the first scripted drama from new streaming service HBO Max, about a woman named Darby Carter (Anna Kendrick) and the relationships that were stepping stones in her life. It was more poignant than rom-com funny.
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This new season is about Marcus Watkins (William Jackson Harper) a married book editor who happens to meet the intriguing Mia (Jessica Williams) at a wedding. (The bride is Darby from Season 1.) Marcus and Mia stay in touch and meet occasionally. You can sense where this is going and no it’s not giving away too much to say that Marcus’s marriage ends. But what happens with Mia is not what you, the viewer, might predict. Marcus has a lot to figure out about love, his work and what he presents to the world.
What makes the series superior is the writing, the acting and the fact that these are smart, articulate people. Marcus is well-read and carefully navigating the fact that friends and colleagues keep telling him he’s like Barack Obama. But a young writer from whom he’s trying to coax a book says he’s not black enough. William Jackson Harper (a star from The Underground Railroad) is a very watchable, subtle actor and Jessica Williams, once a regular on The Daily Show, sure can carry a dramatic role here.
As the series progresses, Marcus has other relationships and each is a kind-of building block for this smart but unsure man. But the focus is not just on him. Entire episodes are devoted to the women and friends in his life, ensuring that not everything is seen only from the male-figure’s point of view. This is a story about love that’s for grown-ups.
Also airing/streaming this weekend
Swagger (streams on AppleTV+ from Friday) is a new drama “inspired” by the real experiences of NBA player Kevin Durant. Regrettably, it’s not very good and will only please basketball fanatics. Mainly it’s about Jace (Isaiah Hill), a 14-year-old basketball phenom aware that he’s being scouted as a probable future NBA star. He’s also arrogant about it. His mother Jenna (Shinelle Azoroh) inveigles a tough coach, Icon Edwards (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) to mentor him. Every possible sports cliché lands with a thud, the dialogue is clunky and the attempt to frame the story as a rebellion against racism falls flat. Some basketball scenes are wonderfully done, but that’s it for merit.
Dr. Death (Sunday, Showcase 9 p.m. and the StackTV platform via Amazon Prime Video) concludes this week. It’s a drama based on the real story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch (Joshua Jackson), an ostensibly brilliant surgeon who destroyed lives with his surgery, but kept escaping punishment. As victim after victim was left maimed or left in horrible pain, two other physicians, Robert Henderson (Alec Baldwin) and Randall Kirby (Christian Slater), set out to expose and stop the rogue surgeon. They faced a brick wall of silence and obfuscation. The entire series (it’s a good idea to stream all episodes on StackTV, and Jackson is great as a wannabe genius descending into a self-created hell) is an indictment of the U.S. medical system. And it is followed on Sunday by the documentary about the case, Dr. Death: The Undoctored Story (Showcase, 10 p.m.), and both shows amount to a true story more frightening than most Halloween fare.
Finally, a reminder that there’s a perfect respite from the coming wintry weather – CNN is running a repeat marathon of four consecutive episodes of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, starting Saturday at 9 p.m.
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