Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone who’s a Claire Denis completist (or wants to be).
The French filmmaker’s latest, “Both Sides of the Blade,” inspired film critic Justin Chang to work up a primer on her work for those interested in a deeper dive — or those who just want to dip a toe in the water. And with all of it available to watch from the comfort of your couch, it’s a masterclass you can complete at your own pace.
Also in this week’s Screen Gab, two TV series to stream and a conversation with actor/writer/producer Dan Bucatinsky about what he’s watching. And as always, we’re looking for reader picks: Send your TV or streaming movie recommendations to with your name and location. Submissions should be no longer than 200 words and are subject to editing for length and clarity.
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For fans of ‘The Chi,’ these actors ‘steal the show.’ No shock: They grew up on it: As Showtime’s drama marks its fifth season, Alex Hibbert, Michael Epps and Shamon Brown Jr. reflect on their friendship and coming of age on TV.
The late Ray Liotta is perfectly cast in ‘Black Bird,’ his final TV performance: Liotta plays a supporting role in the Apple TV+ series about a convicted drug dealer sent to elicit a confession from a murderer.
‘Stranger Things’ star Joseph Quinn breaks down Eddie Munson’s fate: Actor Joseph Quinn expects to see “a gaggle of Munsons” this Halloween. He tells The Times about his surreal experience on a Netflix blockbuster.
Danny Roberts is HIV-positive. So why did ‘The Real World’ leave that out?: “It’s probably easier … to leave out that dark story and just not touch on it,’ Roberts told The Times, ‘in the service of the great forgetting.”
Recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times
Developed by Justin Adler and Maggie Mull (“Life in Pieces”) from a short film by Tim Curcio, “Maggie” (Hulu) is a charming sitcom about a professional psychic who really is psychic, but whose own fate is veiled to her, until she glimpses herself in a reflection in a vision of someone else’s romantic future.
A slow-paced romantic comedy in which the distant ends will keep present relationships in a kind of abeyance, the series, which was originally heading to ABC, has a frictionless network vibe that keeps things pleasant even when they’re going awry. On a deeper level, you can divine the questions of how you shape present expectations around what you think tomorrow will bring and whether it’s best to just surrender to the moment.
Rebecca Rittenhouse, just emotionally disheveled enough, makes a sweet lead, but it’s fundamentally an ensemble piece, likably populated with Nichole Sakura as the cockeyed best friend, David Del Rio as the man in Maggie’s vision, Adam Korson as the man at least temporarily in her life, and the bonus of Chris Elliott as Maggie’s father. (And the bonus bonus of co-creator Mull’s father, Martin Mull, guest starring in one episode.) —Robert Lloyd
My intermittent exploration of anime avoids apocalyptic scenarios and monsters and giant robots in favor of films or series more in tune with daily life. The title was enough to draw me to the mysterious manga-based “Kotaro Lives Alone” (Netflix), about a solemn, smart, strangely formal, self-reliant and yet quite vulnerable 4-year-old boy who moves into an apartment building on his own.
His neighbors — a manga artist struggling with deadlines, a nightclub hostess, a loud man in a leopard suit — accept this state of affairs even as they can’t quite figure it out, and form a sort of protective circle around him. (Though they are more led than leading.) Scenes are set around a preschool, a convenience store, a bathhouse, various offices and living spaces, ordinary places made strange by the character and the premise. It’s hard to say just who this was made for, adults or children.
A vein of sadness runs through it, and an awareness of how children are made to suffer, and how one constructs a life and a view of life from whatever bits and pieces one can grasp — including in Kotaro’s case an anime swordsman called Tonosaman, whom he attempts to emulate — when the stuff of a whole life is not available.
Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about
The revered 76-year-old French filmmaker Claire Denis is having a year. She recently unveiled two new movies — the Paris-set melodrama “Both Sides of the Blade,” which opens in theaters this week, and the English-language thriller “Stars at Noon” — which won major festival prizes at Berlin and Cannes, respectively. The double whammy speaks to the range and volume of Denis’ output over her decades-spanning career, during which she’s racked up critics’ raves yet remained an under-appreciated figure, especially among audiences in the U.S.
Happily, many of her features are available for home viewing. It’s admittedly not the ideal way to process Denis’ rapturously beautiful images or her sometimes enigmatic narratives; certainly an acknowledged masterpiece like “Beau Travail” (Criterion Channel), her 1999 retelling of “Billy Budd” set among French Foreign Legionnaires in Djibouti, needs the big screen to achieve the full measure of its power. Even still, no encounter with the work of this singular and uncompromising artist should ever be turned down.
Those looking to see “Both Sides of the Blade” in theaters might also want to check out Denis’ two earlier collaborations with Juliette Binoche: 2017’s funny, loquacious romantic comedy “Let the Sunshine In” (multiple platforms), in which Binoche basically plays a French version of a Nancy Meyers heroine, and 2018’s mesmerizing outer-space odyssey “High Life” (multiple platforms), in which she plays a reproduction-obsessed mad scientist who forcibly collects astronauts’ sperm.
If that sounds scary, Denis’ chilly cannibalism thriller, “Trouble Every Day” (multiple platforms), is scarier still, though this story of love and hunger is also incongruously tender to the touch; critically maligned on its release in 2001, it’s since been reclaimed as an important forerunner of what had not yet been dubbed the New French Extremity. Less gory but no less unsparing is Denis’ 2013 thriller, “Bastards” (multiple platforms), a pitiless film noir about the evil that men do for profit and its devastating human toll.
Denis was born in France and grew up in West Africa, and some of her finest films — including her 1988 debut, “Chocolat” (Criterion Channel), and her 2010 Isabelle Huppert drama, “White Material” (multiple platforms) — methodically lay bare the horrors of European colonialism without registering as specifically autobiographical. My own favorite Denis movie, 2009’s luminous and moving “35 Shots of Rum” (multiple platforms), revisits Yasujiro Ozu’s “Late Spring” from the standpoint of a Black father and daughter living on the outskirts of Paris; it’s one great filmmaker’s tribute to another. —Justin Chang
A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching
Ancestry and genealogy have inspired enough TV series at this point to qualify as a subgenre, and “Who Do You Think You Are?” just might be the granddaddy of them all. Executive produced by “The Comeback” collaborators Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky, the documentary series, which traces the family history of celebrity guests like Allison Janney, Nick Offerman and Billy Porter, launched on NBC in 2010, moved to TLC for seven seasons, and returns to NBC this Sunday for a new run.
With sharper investigative tools than ever and armchair genealogy all the rage, Bucatinsky swung by Screen Gab to discuss what he’s discovered about his own family history, prospects for a “Comeback” comeback and his abiding love of Meryl Streep. —Matt Brennan
What have you watched recently that you are recommending to everyone you know?
“Gaslit” on Starz, created by and executive produced by Robbie Pickering and Sam Esmail (known for “Mr. Robot,” which I have to admit I never watched) and directed by Matt Ross, who did “Captain Fantastic.” This period limited series — a historical account of Watergate through the lens of a heartbreaking and hilarious Martha Mitchell — is genre-bending in the best way.
It takes an often irreverent and humorous approach to a dramatic story we’ve all seen adapted so many times. But Julia Roberts is a revelation, as are performances by Dan Stevens and Chris Bauer and Chris Messina and of course a brilliantly made-up Sean Penn. I know this show divides many viewers, but all the best stuff does. I loved it.
What’s your go-to “comfort watch,” the movie or TV show you go back to again and again?
I’m a massive Meryl Streep fan. Maybe because I’m living and breathing, and my brain stem is attached! So, any time “Postcards From the Edge” comes up on my feed or is on TV I can’t help but watch it. It’s funny, touching and honest because Carrie Fisher was so unflinchingly brave in telling her story, and beautifully realized by Mike Nichols. But the performances by Meryl and Shirley MacLaine are what keep me coming back.
What kind of ancestral/genealogical research have you done about yourself? What has been the most surprising detail you’ve discovered?
Over the 10-plus years we’ve been making “Who Do You Think You Are?” I’ve held back on doing my own research. Just in case. But of course, I never wanted to do the show over some of the amazing talent we are able to research each year. So… maybe I’ll do a deep dive one of these days. I did once download a ship manifest Ancestry helped me find of my Argentinian ancestors heading to London! I have to do some further research to find out why these Eastern European Jews escaped Russia, landed in Buenos Aires and then took a ship to England! The plot thickens!
When we last spoke, you told me that “everybody wants to do” a third season of “The Comeback.” As the ultimate Valerie Cherish stan, I am duty bound to ask: Any updates you can share?
There is no end to the number of stories we would want to tell about Valerie Cherish. In a perfect world, we’d never stop making “The Comeback.” It’s a show near and dear to our hearts. Always and forever. But each season, to us, told the perfect story for its time. I think if the perfect story emerged in the minds of Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King — something that would top the amazing second season we put out in 2014 — then I think everyone would want to jump in. It’s just a matter of finding that perfect story!
Recommendations from Screen Gab readers
“June Again” on Prime Video. This Australian film about a woman’s brief reprieve from dementia starts out sad but goes on to be a warm and funny story of a quirky family’s love.
Mary Katherine Reeber
Listings coordinator Matt Cooper highlights the TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on
Friday, July 8
“Black Bird” (Apple TV+): A convict (“Rocketman’s” Taron Egerton) tries to coax a confession out of a serial killer in this new drama. The late Ray Liotta also stars.
“Boo, Bitch” (Netflix): “To All the Boys’” Lana Condor is living her best afterlife in this new supernatural comedy.
“Conjuring Kesha” (Discovery+): The paranormal doesn’t start until she walks in in the pop star’s new unscripted series.
“How to Build a Sex Room” (Netflix): Couples seek assistance from one very open-minded interior designer in this risqué renovation series.
“The Sea Beast” (Netflix): A scrappy young stowaway has herself a nautical adventure in this animated 2022 tale from the director of “Moana.”
“Trigger Point” (Peacock): An elite police unit scrambles to stop a series of terrorist bombings in London in this imported drama.
Saturday, July 9
“My Grown-up Christmas List” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.): A reporter hooks up with a hunky soldier in this new holiday romance.
“Flowers in the Attic: The Origin” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): V.C. Andrews’ tale of one seriously dysfunctional family gets a prequel in this star-studded limited series. With Kelsey Grammer.
“Say Yes to the Dress” (TLC, 8 p.m.): The unscripted series is back, just in time for the summer wedding season.
Sunday, July 10
“Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the World” (CNN, 6 and 9 p.m.): One of South America’s most remote wilderness regions is surveyed in this new nature series.
“United Shades of America With W. Kamau Bell” (CNN, 7 p.m.): “Woke culture” is examined in the season premiere.
“Who Do You Think You Are?” (NBC, 7 p.m.): The celebrity genealogy series returns. First up, “Pose’s” Billy Porter.
“Biography: WWE Legends” (A&E): The Undertaker is saluted in the season premiere.
“Nightmare PTA Moms” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): They forgot to bring the cupcakes again in this thriller.
“The Final Straw” (ABC, 9 p.m.): Contestants face supersized Jenga-style challenges in this new game show.
“Grantchester” (KOCE, 9 p.m.): A vicar and a detective walk into a seventh season of this British mystery drama.
“Women Who Rock” (Epix, 9 p.m.): Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, et al. are celebrated in this four-part docuseries.
“Camo Sharks” (National Geographic, 10 p.m.): An all-new “SharkFest” gets underway with this special.
“WWE Rivals” (A&E, 10 p.m.): The premiere episode revisits the storied rivalry between Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Shawn Michaels.
“Bridge & Tunnel” (Epix, 10 p.m.): The coming-of-age drama set in 1980s New York City is back for a second season.
“The Anarchists” (HBO, 10 p.m.): They would rather the rules not apply to them, as detailed in this new docuseries.
“Supreme Team” (10 p.m., Showtime): This true crime series recalls a notorious Black crime syndicate in 1980s New York City.
Monday, July 11
“Days of Our Lives: Beyond Salem” (Peacock; also Tuesday-Friday): The soap-opera spinoff returns for another five-episode run.
“The Bachelorette” (ABC, 8 p.m.): They should really add an “s” to the end of the title, because this time, there are two of ‘em!
“Better Call Saul” (AMC, 9 p.m.; also AMC+): The gritty drama starring Bob Odenkirk returns for its final episodes.
“BBQ USA” (Food Network, 9 p.m.): Host Michael Symon visits barbecue competitions around the country in this new series.
“Claim to Fame” (ABC, 10 p.m.): The relatively unknown relatives of assorted celebrities cohabitate in this new series.
“POV” (KOCE, 10 p.m.): The 2022 documentary “Wuhan Wuhan” looks at life in that Chinese city during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tuesday, July 12
“Bill Burr: Live at Red Rocks” (Netflix): The comic weighs in on cancel culture and other hot topics in this stand-up special.
“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” (Hulu, HBO Max): The Belchers hit the big screen in this hilarious 2022 comedy based on the animated series.
“How to Change Your Mind” (Netflix): Tune in, turn on and drop out with this new series about the therapeutic benefits of LSD, MDMA and other psychedelic drugs.
“The Only” (Paramount+): Trailblazing soccer star Briana Scurry is profiled in this new sports documentary.
“Edge of the Earth” (HBO, 9 p.m.): Elite athletes go off the beaten path in this four-part adventure series.
Wednesday, July 13
“D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!” (Netflix): The decades-long search for the mysterious skyjacker continues in this documentary.
“Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres” (Netflix): The former Israeli prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner is profiled.
“South Park: The Streaming Wars Part 2” (Paramount+): Our favorite foul-mouthed fifth-graders wrap up their latest misadventure.
“Nova” (KOCE, 9 p.m.): The new episode “Ultimate Space Telescope” explores NASA’s latest effort to unlock the mysteries of the cosmos.
“Everything’s Trash” (Freeform, 10 and 10:30 p.m.): “2 Dope Queens’” Phoebe Robinson literally just can’t even in this new sitcom.
“Five Guys a Week” (Lifetime, 10 p.m.): Two is company, three’s a crowd … and then there’s this new dating competition