While the summer months are perfect for beach reads and thumbing through mindless magazines (not this one, of course), streaming is also a terrific way to beat the heat. Consider these the next time you have your remote in hand.
Wild Isles with David Attenborough
I’ve said it before: If God ever deigned to adopt a human voice, it would sound like Sir David Attenborough. In the 70th year of his television career, Attenborough’s passion and advocacy for wildlife is on full display in Amazon Prime’s Wild Isles.
And while this docuseries doesn’t exactly break new ground within the genre of wildlife filmmaking, Attenborough is worth your time. And the living legend always seems to say, implicitly, that our wildlife is very much endangered given climate change and our role in it. Handle with care.
Waco: American Apocalypse
Thirty years have passed since the Waco tragedy in central Texas, and we’re still no closer to understanding exactly what led us to it. Was it government overreach? Or the denouement of a cult leader gone mad? Director Tiller Russell chooses to let the story unfold gradually and allows viewers to draw their own conclusions. The result is a docuseries of searing power.
Sadly, the ripple effects of Waco are still felt. In the “audience” during the siege was an Army veteran named Timothy McVeigh who would go on to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma two years later, becoming a kind of sick hero to the far right.
Cunk on Earth
History can be fascinating. It can also be tedious, funny, or intensely boring. In this mockumentary series, Diane Morgan plays Philomena Cunk, a journalist with, at best, a peripheral interest in the subjects she’s presenting. Whether she’s reporting on the Renaissance, burgeoning world religions, or the powerful Roman Empire, Morgan’s deadpan delivery is side-splitting. Her interviews with real experts in various fields must be seen to be believed.
Deliberately flip and hilariously insufferable, Cunk presents these moments in history with an irresistible wink (and a yawn).
Everything Everywhere All at Once—which dominated at this year’s Academy Awards—certainly didn’t introduce us to Asian storytelling, so much as it reminded us of how important these stories are to our human family. Though Netflix’s Beef, which includes an impressive cast of Asian actors, is a darker, more cynical exercise, it’s one of the best shows streaming today.
The premise is simple: Ali Wong and Steven Yuen play two Californians involved in a road rage incident that spirals quickly and threatens to upend their lives. Though the show is certainly not for children, the cast is stunning, particularly the two leads who manage to elicit our sympathies even when they don’t deserve them.
The Last Movie Stars
Groucho Marx once said, “Marriage is the chief cause of divorce.” Paul Newman and longtime wife Joanne Woodward might have been the exception to that rule. Married for 50 years until Newman’s death in 2008, the two weathered countless personal and professional storms but always came out stronger.
Unlike most documentaries, The Last Movie Stars dramatizes interview transcripts taken from Woodward and Newman throughout. And while this artistic direction may not always work, here it is used to great effect and humanizes two American acting titans.
Produced by Martin Scorsese, this sweet, six-part series looks at one of the most enduring Hollywood love stories.
Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99
The unofficial mission statement of Woodstock 1969 was simple: celebrating our shared humanity through music. Thirty years later, Woodstock 1999 in Rome, New York, could best be described as a three-day hellscape of corporate greed, filth, and crime. And that is what makes Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 so innately watchable: how far as a culture we’ve fallen.
It’s nearly impossible to summarize all of what went wrong with this festival. But here’s an earnest effort: After three days, five rapes were reported along with dozens of sexual harassment claims. Trench mouth from human waste afflicted many attendees, while the summer sun and a lack of shade—combined with 200,000 concertgoers—created its own “heat island,” where the temperatures are elevated because of human activity. Price gouging, fires, a lack of water, and rampant vandalism would ultimately be its legacy.
Trainwreck is stunning for how shocking it truly is. The Woodstock brand was irreparably damaged because of poor planning and corporate greed. And profit became the priority over the safety and wellness of its audience.