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TV to Watch This Week: Michael Mann Hits Tokyo and Ken Burns Is All About the Benjamin

Tons to watch this week!

Spring is finally here. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining and there is a colossal amount of new television to keep you indoors and away from both the chirping birds and the shining sun. (Isn’t that always the way?)

This week we’ve got a new Michael Mann show on HBO Max, a new D.B. Weiss movie on Netflix, a new spy movie starring Chris Pine on Amazon Prime Video and documentaries on Benjamin Franklin, a missing pilot and the life of a cow. Sorry spring, you’re going to have to hold a minute.

On with the television!

spring tv watch list premiere

“Tokyo Vice”

Thursday, April 7, HBO Max

HBO Max

Michael Mann, the visionary filmmaker behind “Heat” and “The Insider,” returns to television for “Tokyo Vice.” (Yes, Mann was also one of the people behind “Miami Vice.” But there is no connection between the two beyond the title.) Based on the 2009 book of the same name by Jake Adelstein (played in the show by, um, Ansel Elgort), who in 1993 was hired by one of Japan’s largest newspapers to be its first non-Japanese reporter. Adelstein is soon taken under the wing of a veteran vice cop (Ken Watanabe) and exposed to Tokyo’s dangerous underbelly. This series has been in the works for a very long time and considering how infrequent Mann’s output is these days (his last feature was 2015’s underrated “Blackhat”), it’s very much worth getting excited about, even if Elgort is a bummer. (You can Google why!) Hopefully we’ll be very happy to be on this beat. [TRAILER]

spring tv watch list finale

“Severance”

Friday, April 8, Apple TV+

"Severance" (Apple TV+)
Apple TV+

One of this year’s most odd and intoxicating new series, “Severance” follows Mark (Adam Scott), who works for a mysterious company called Lumon, which has the sinister practice of “severing” their employees once they leave the building, so they can’t remember anything that goes on inside. (Outside, they refer to their “innies,” when they’re inside, they refer to their “outies.”) With the retirement of one of the members of his team (Yul Vazquez) and the addition of a new team member named Helly (Britt Lower), the equilibrium starts to get upended and life changes for just about everybody. Featuring amazing performances from everybody involved (standouts include Patricia Arquette, Christopher Walken and Jon Turturro) and bold stylization, “Severance” has become one of the most addictive and strangely rewarding shows on TV. And this finale will leave you on the edge of your seat and begging for more (don’t worry, they just started shooting season 2). [INTERVIEW]

spring tv watch list movie

“All the Old Knives”

Friday, April 8, Amazon Prime Video

All the Old Knives
Amazon Prime Video

How about a sexy spy thriller starring Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton? What about a twisty storyline where Pine is asked to go after Newton, to see if she’s been compromised? (And you know that during his investigation old wounds will be reopened and new ones will be formed.) How about a cast that also includes Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce? What else do you need to know? [TRAILER]

spring tv watch list documentary

“The Invisible Pilot”

Monday, April 4 at 9 p.m., HBO

Invisible Pilot
HBO Max

What would drive a pilot named Gary Betzner to get up on a bridge and just … jump off? This is the mystery that began in 1977 and continues to this day, and it’s the subject of this new three-part HBO documentary. Filmmakers Phil Lott and Ari Mark are veterans of such basic cable staples “Murder in the Heartland” and “Cold Case Files,” but their ambition is clearly bigger here – to uncover the events that led to an average man’s extraordinary disappearance and fill in all the missing pieces that have dogged investigators and family members for decades. This truly looks like it could be your next true-crime obsession, the kind of thing that makes you scream “WHY HAVEN’T YOU WATCHED YET????” at complete strangers. And that is our kind of documentary. [TRAILER]

spring tv watch list re-watch

“Our Flag Means Death”

HBO Max

Our Flag Means Death
HBO Max

“Our Flag Means Death,” a pirate comedy show, inspired by real life events and executive produced by Taika Waititi, started off as an amiable goof. But as the first season rolled along, awkwardly released in two-episode batches by HBO Max, it revealed itself to be something considerably more complex and emotionally nuanced. Not to ruin anything about the first season, which you can now watch in full on the streaming platform, but it transformed into a surprisingly emotional queer romance, between dandy Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) and Blackbeard (Waititi), the most fearsome pirate on earth. Considering that the LGBTQ+ community is under attack (again), it’s nice to watch a show that is so openhearted and outwardly, wonderfully gay. [WATCH]

spring tv watch list best of rest

64th Annual Grammy Awards

Sunday, April 3 at 8 p.m., CBS

Just a week after this year’s Oscars ceremony (which went very smoothly, nothing really to discuss there), we now have music’s biggest night. Once again hosted by Trevor Noah, the ceremony was moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas due to COVID concerns which is a choice. (Las Vegas has never been associated with any kind of infectious diseases.) And more speedbumps have arisen, like Foo Fighters dropping out of their show-opening performance due to the tragic death of their drummer Taylor Hawkins (they’ll be replaced by the Silk Sonic boys). Expect the unexpected. [TRAILER]

“Benjamin Franklin”

Monday, April 4 at 8 p.m., PBS

Everyone’s favorite Founding Father is getting the Ken Burns treatment with this new four-hour documentary. It looks like typical Ken Burns fare – lots of talking heads and filmed recreations – but Franklin was certainly a character (you ever hear what he did with that kite) and an instrumental, oversized figure in the creation of the country very much worthy of such an in-depth exploration. [TRAILER]

Close Enough”

Thursday, April 7, HBO Max

One of the most underrated “adult” comedies currently airing, “Close Enough” follows thirtysomething couple Josh (series creator J.G. Quintel) and Emily (Gabrielle Walsh) as they grapple with life with a small child in modern day Los Angeles. Of course, this coming from the creator of “Regular Show,” things get pretty weird, pretty quickly. But “Close Enough” is also surprisingly sweet and fun and if you haven’t gotten on board the show (this is its third season since 2020), time to catch up. It’s all on HBO Max and it’s all wonderful. [TRAILER]

“Cow”

Friday, April 8, VOD

The new film by “Fish Tank” director Andrea Arnold is actually a documentary, following the life of a cow named Luma who lives (and presumably dies) in a farm in Kent, England. “Cow” got rave reviews when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last summer and hits theaters and VOD today. Might be enough to turn you vegan. [TRAILER]

“Metal Lords”

Friday, April 8, Netflix

The first Netflix project from “Game of Thrones” showrunner D.B. Weiss is a different kind of royalty: the metal lords. Executive produced by Rage Against the Machine legend Tom Morello, “Metal Lords” is a Netflix original film about a couple of hard rocking nerds (Jaeden Martell and Adrian Greensmith) entering the battle of the bands contest at their local high school. (It was directed by “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” filmmaker Peter Sollett.) Rock on. [TRAILER]

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