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Winter TV Watch List: True-Life Adventures You’ll Never Believe

Pam and Tommy, Bill Cosby, the Olympics, and more!

Truth, as they say, really is stranger than fiction, and this week’s line-up certainly suggests that the old adage is true. From a ’90s-era sex tape scandal to an app-based conman to the continuing discussion of a disgraced comedian, this week is full of stories that originated in real life, rife with strange and seemingly impossible details. (Given the state of the world, the inclination might be to escape into grandiose fantasy worlds. But when our own world is so provocative and full of odd detail, it’s pretty irresistible.) Also, the Olympics are back and even weirder than ever!

Anyway, on with the television!

Pam & Tommy
Hulu

“Pam and Tommy”
Wednesday, February 2, Hulu

This based-on-a-true-story miniseries dramatizes the events surrounding the release of the weirdly groundbreaking sex tape that inadvertently starred Pamela Anderson (then a Playboy pinup and star of syndicated hit “Baywatch”) and Tommy Lee (drummer for ’80s heavy-metal act Mötley Crüe). Lily James plays Anderson and Sebastian Stan plays Lee, each actor disappearing completely into their respective roles, both physically (thanks, in part, to uncanny prosthetic makeup effects and never-ending fake tattoos) and psychologically, as they go through the emotional roller coaster of having a private tape leaked and becoming a commercial phenomenon. Seth Rogen plays a scorned contractor who accidentally discovers the tape (Rogen also produced the limited series), and Nick Offerman is Uncle Miltie, his porn kingpin buddy who was key to the tape’s wide distribution. The first three episodes were directed by “I, Tonya” and “Cruella” mastermind Craig Gillespie, who infuses the story with a wild, hedonistic energy comparable to that of the two young lovers. This is a show full of zooming cameras, crude language and a sequence where Tommy Lee talks to his penis as it whips around like a boa constrictor. Plus, more ’90s-era needle-drops than all three “Fear Street” movies combined. If you’re ready for a blast of ’90s nostalgia that still takes time to illuminate all of the players who got caught up in the scandal, this is for you. [REVIEW]

winter tv finale
And Just Like That, Sarah Jessica Parker
HBO

“And Just Like That…”
Thursday, February 3, HBO Max

It’s hard to think of a show in recent memory that has generated as much discussion, conversation and controversy as “And Just Like That,” which began life as a seemingly innocuous continuation of “Sex and the City” but has blossomed into a true water-cooler show. (Considering how few of us are back in offices, the water cooler might be of the virtual variety.) The point is that this is a finale has already become a lightning rod and it hasn’t even aired yet (Chris Noth, aka Mr. Big, was deleted from the episode following sexual assault accusations). So you will definitely want to see this one, if only to be able to discuss it fully. Will Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis return for the further adventures of their “Sex and the City” characters? Or was this revival one-and-done? That too remains to be seen. [REVIEW]

winter tv watch list movie
The Tinder Swindler
Netflix

“The Tinder Swindler”
Wednesday, February 2, Netflix

Since we cannot get enough scammer stories (have you watched “The Puppet Master” yet? Holy moly!), the producers behind the deeply disturbing documentary sensation “Don’t F*ck With Cats” are back with another real-world scenario that will undoubtedly have you screaming “WTF!?!?!” This documentary feature chronicles the crimes of the man known as the Tinder Swindler, someone who “has seduced and swindled young women for millions and is a fugitive from justice in several countries.” The trailer makes it seem like it’ll be part whodunit, part revenge tale, and all incredibly juicy. Those looking for a new documentary obsession might have just found it. And you didn’t have to download a single extra app. [TRAILER]

winter tv watch list documentary
Showtime

“We Need to Talk About Cosby”
Sunday, January 30 at 10 p.m., Showtime

Filmmaker and comedian W. Kamau Bell’s new four-part series recently debuted at the (virtual) Sundance Film Festival. The series, which examines both Bill Cosby and his crimes, has gotten positive notices so far out of the festival. The official logline promises that Bell “explores the complex story of Cosby’s life and work, weighing his actions against his indisputable global influence through interviews with comedians, cultural commentators, journalists and women who share their most personal, harrowing encounters with Cosby. Through archival footage, Cosby reveals who he may have been all along – the antithesis of the principled, public figure who became a hero, not only to African American people but to all people.” This will undoubtedly be a fascinating, at times deeply troubling look at the curdling of an American icon. [TRAILER]

winter tv watch rewatch of the week
MTV/VH1

“Scream”
Netflix

Do you feel that? Yep. It’s “Scream” fever. Between the excellent new film (just called “Scream,” in theaters now), and the gaggle of articles that have been reassessing and ranking the original films, it’s almost impossible to escape the groundbreaking comedic horror franchise. And why not extend that love to the 2015-19 spinoff TV show, which aired for two seasons on MTV and a third on VH1. While the show doesn’t have any real connection to the movies besides a basic slasher movie set-up (the action takes place in Lakewood instead of Woodsboro, for instance), it does share a fondness for putting talented young actors in extreme jeopardy, as well as a real appreciation of the horror genre. Also, the show amassed an impressive roster of indie horror directors behind the camera, including Leigh Janiak (who would go on to the deeply “Scream”-indebted “Fear Street” trilogy), Ti West (“House of the Devil”), Daniel Stamm (“The Last Exorcism”), Gil Kenan (“Monster House”) and original “Scream” editor Patrick Lussier. If you want to extend “Scream”-a-palooza, give the original series a go. [WATCH]

winter tv watch best of the rest

“Kid Cosmic”
Thursday, February 3, Netflix

“Kid Cosmic” is one of the very best animated shows on television. And now it’s coming to an end. The Craig McCracken series, which imagines what would happen to a lonely kid who accidentally finds a magic stone from outer space (imagine if Charlie Brown had the Infinity Stones), aired its first season almost exactly a year ago. And now, with its third season, the book is ready to close on Kid Cosmic and his buddies, who are now known as Global Heroes and reside in a glitzy office building in the middle of a bustling metropolis. The less said the better, but if for some reason you’ve never watched “Kid Cosmic,” get caught up and then plow through these new episodes, which are bursting with all the color, wit, humor, and emotion that the show is known for. [TRAILER]

“Murderville”
Thursday, February 3, Netflix

Are comedic murder mysteries having a big, bloody comeback? As “The Afterparty” continues to air on Apple TV+, Netflix introduces “Murderville,” starring Will Arnett. Based on a BBC Three series called “Murder in Successville,” it’s built around a concept as simple as it is ingenious – each episode has a different guest star, who doesn’t know the rest of the script or the mechanics of the crime. So that star has to ad lib, improvise and generally flounder with Arnett as they try to solve a mystery. How fun is that? Guest stars include Sharon Stone, Conan O’Brien, Kumail Nanjiani, Marshawn Lynch, Ken Jeong and Annie Murphy. Sounds like some viewers might die … laughing. [TRAILER]

“Reacher”
Friday, February 4, Amazon Prime Video

Lee Child’s phenomenally successful novel series, first adapted as a pair of big-screen thrillers starring Tom Cruise, is back as a TV series, with a star that most closely resembles the massive, hulking figure at the center of the books. Alan Ritchson, who definitely looks more like the character than our beloved Cruise, stars as Jack Reacher, an ex-military cop who now lives a nomadic lifestyle, wandering around the country with only his toothbrush and his ATM card. On his journeys, Reacher almost always runs into trouble – there has yet to be an installment where he enjoys a scenic sightseeing tour and a nice dinner at a fine local restaurant – aided by his nose for trouble and his inherent sense of righteousness. This new iteration is based on “Killing Floor,” Child’s first Reacher novel, published back in 1997. [TRAILER]

“Suspicion”
Friday, February 4, Apple TV+

Uma Thurman stars in this highly anticipated new series, an adaptation of an Israeli series called “False Flag.” Thurman (who will also soon be seen in “Super Pumped,” the Showtime series about Uber, and “Hollywood Stargirl,” the sequel to “Stargirl” on Disney+) stars as Katherine Newman, an American media mogul living in England. When her son is kidnapped while on a trip to New York, four suspects are picked up and their lives turned upside down. Eventually they band together to try to figure out the truth. This show, which certainly seems like it’ll be of the edge-of-your-seat variety, is overseen by the executive producers of “Homeland” and “The Americans,” who know a thing or two about crafting a compelling thriller. [TRAILER]   

2022 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony
Friday, February 4 at 3:30 a.m. PT, NBC and Peacock

Yes, this year’s Winter Olympics are going to be very weird for a number of reasons – the pandemic, host country China’s history of human rights violations and ethnic cleansing, the fact that the Summer Olympics just aired like five minutes ago. But it’s hard not to get at least a little bit excited about the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremony, even if you have to wake up super early to watch. And you know that the games taking place in China is going to make for a super weird ceremony! Bring it on!  [HOW TO WATCH]