This week is the halfway mark of 2020. Hard to believe, as this year has felt like one very long day and three years in one, at the same time. Everything is crazy, but at least there’s still TV to watch (for now).
Our recommendations this week include the annual BET Awards, which are taking a unique form due to the pandemic, the premiere of an HBO docuseries about the late crime writer Michelle McNamara and her journey to bring the Golden State Killer to justice, and a pair of shows — Netflix’s Warrior Nun and Amazon Prime’s Hanna — about teen girls who kick major ass. Oh, and the long-awaited movie version of the Broadway sensation Hamilton.
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Sunday at 8/7c on BET and CBS
BET’s award show celebrating Black excellence in entertainment turns 20 this year, and the network is celebrating the milestone with a virtual award show hosted by Insecure‘s Amanda Seales. Performers include Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, Lil Wayne, Megan Thee Stallion, Nas, and Public Enemy. Drake leads all nominees with six nominations, with rappers Megan Thee Stallion and Roddy Ricch following closely behind with five nominations each. It promises to be a vital show that’s informed by the Black Lives Matter movement, and it will be very interesting to see how an awards show happens via teleconference. The show is also airing on a broadcast network for the first time, now that CBS and BET are corporate siblings under the ViacomCBS banner.
Limited series premiere Sunday at 10/9c on HBO
This six-part series is based on the bestselling book of the same name and explores writer Michelle McNamara‘s investigation into the identity of the serial predator she called the Golden State Killer, which led to the arrest of a suspect in 2018. Sadly, McNamara was not around to see the payoff of her work, as she died in 2016. This docuseries, directed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus and executive-produced by McNamara’s widower Patton Oswalt, is a tribute to McNamara’s life and work as well as a harrowing true-crime documentary.
Welcome to Chechnya
Tuesday at 10/9c on HBO
This powerful documentary from director David France chronicles the situation in the Russian republic of Chechnya, where a brutal state-sanctioned campaign of extrajudicial disappearances, torture, and murder of gay men and women has been happening since 2017. It embeds with LGBTQ activists working to aid victims and help get them out of Chechnya, and includes heartbreaking stories of people who are leaving their home country to escape persecution. The documentary uses a novel, sophisticated technique to protect the identities of escapees, whose faces and voices are digitally altered in a subtle but effective way that allows the viewer to form an emotional connection to them while keeping their actual faces concealed. It’s a difficult watch, but an important one, especially during Pride Month, as it shows the cruel stakes that LGBTQ people still face and their bravery in the face of them.
Wednesday on Netflix
Unsolved Mysteries, the…I don’t know if venerable is the right word, but it’s certainly an institution in the cold case/paranormal event investigation/reenactment genre, is back as a Netflix reboot. In the decade the show’s been away, the rules of true crime TV have changed, and the new version has higher production value and a greater focus on character as ordinary people try to figure out what this extraordinary event that happened to them or their loved one was. The reboot comes from the creators of the original docuseries, Cosgrove/Meurer Productions, and 21 Laps Entertainment, the producers of Stranger Things.
Thursday on Netflix
Netflix’s latest supernatural teen action series has a sense of humor and a quasi-religious flavor. It’s about an ordinary orphan girl named Ava (Alba Baptista) who, after waking up in a morgue, discovers that she now possesses superpowers as the chosen Halo-Bearer for a secret sect of demon-hunting nuns called The Order of the Cruciform Sword. Yeah baby. It’s based on a cult favorite ’90s comic book called Warrior Nun Areala and just might be our new favorite show.
Friday on Disney+
If you never got tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, and the rest of the original cast — and chances are you didn’t, because tickets cost about as much as a year of tuition at a state university — this is the next best thing. This film version of the epochal musical about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton was constructed from live performances taped in June 2016, and was supposed to be released in theaters, but that didn’t happen. Instead it’s going straight to Disney+, which will cost you just a few dollars a month. You may know the songs from listening to the soundtrack, but now you can have the visual accompaniment, minus two f-words that are being edited out to keep the musical from getting a R rating.
Season 2 premieres Friday on Amazon Prime Video
The first season of Hanna wasn’t at all bad, but it was too familiar as a retread of the superior artsy action film of the same name (which is now streaming on HBO/HBO Max). In Season 2 of the series, Hanna finds itself without the boundaries of the original story and grows up as its own thing, following young Hanna as she infiltrates the secret government organization that trained her to be a supersoldier in order to rescue her friend from its brainwashing. Esme Creed-Miles is awesome as Hanna, and Mireille Enos has carried Hanna’s frenemy Marissa Wiegler to new heights as that character changes a lot from the film. If you’re into young women snapping the femurs of armed men twice their size, Hanna‘s where it’s at. –Tim Surette
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