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Channel Surfing | December 2016

DARREN MICHAELS/CBS
DARREN MICHAELS/CBS

Man with a Plan

Mondays, 8:30 p.m., CBS

There’s a theory in pop culture circles that no cast member of the iconic show Friends will ever find a project to match its success. Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow—perhaps the strongest actors from the series—have come close, but no major player has been able to trap lightning in a bottle twice. Matt LeBlanc is the latest alum to try with the sitcom Man with a Plan. Whether this CBS series finds an audience remains to be seen.

LeBlanc deftly plays Adam, a contractor who agrees to spend more time with his three children after his wife, played by the formidable Liza Snyder, goes back to work. Adam quickly realizes that his brood is not as perfectly behaved as he thought: they’re addicted to technology, they’re flippant, and they’re prone to wreaking havoc on the home. How Adam navigates his amplified parenting role is the heartbeat of the series, and, overall, it works.

An all-too-common pitfall with sitcom families is that they fall short in reflecting real-life families. They’re too polished, too pretty. Man with a Plan is no exception, but channel surfers should give this series a shot because the role of the father—a television staple until the mid-’90s—is given center stage. And LeBlanc has both the comedic timing and dramatic prowess to carry it.


M. OSTERREICHER/COURTESY OF ESPN FILMS
M. OSTERREICHER/COURTESY OF ESPN FILMS

O.J.: Made in America

Available on Netflix

One of the finest documentaries in recent years, filmmaker Ezra Edelman’s blistering look at the rise and fall of O.J. Simpson should not be missed. Coproduced by ESPN Films, this 467-minute masterwork tells two parallel stories almost simultaneously: the trajectory of Simpson’s life; and the history of police corruption and racial injustice in Los Angeles.

Unflinching, graphic at times, and brutally honest, O.J.: Made in America is as much an examination of the football legend as it is about our national preoccupation with race and fame. While the documentary thoroughly deconstructs the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman—for which Simpson was acquitted in 1995—it takes an even closer look at how racial disparity, the power of celebrity, and police misconduct played a role in that acquittal.

Sensitive channel surfers beware: this seven-hour opus can be grueling to watch. Rough language and violent imagery pepper the narrative—particularly the middle portion. But the film’s true power lies in how uncomfortable the trial continues to make us, even decades after the verdict was rendered. Edelman, a bold voice in documentary filmmaking, proposes, without explicitly asking, if we as a fame-hungry culture built the pedestal on which O.J. Simpson stood for decades—even after he tore it down.