I’m a complete TV nerd so much so that, each week, I pour through the listings for the upcoming week to make sure I know what’s on and that I’m not going to miss anything. This week, I noticed quite a few documentaries that sounded good enough to share with the group. Unfortunately, all but one of these are on Showtime or HBO, so apple-ologies to those of you unable to play along … but they’ll surely wind up on the Netflix Instant soon enough (some are already available on DVD or rentable through other online streaming channels).
First up, tonight HBO premieres The Loving Story, a documentary about the Lovings, an interracial couple who married in the late 1950’s and wound up getting sentenced to prison for violating Viriginia law. Their case went all the way to the Supreme Court and the resulting decision, Loving v. Virginia, threw out the Virgina law, ended race-based restrictions on marriage, and become a cornerstone of the modern civil rights movement. It’s an important story in and of itself (obviously) and, given the current battle over gay marriage, a still-relevant one. To be fair, two men or two women can be together today without winding up in jail. On the other hand, the law of the land still treats their relationship as something less than a “proper” marriage. It’s disgusting and, in a generation’s time, give or take, will hopefully be a thing of the past. Maybe The Loving Story will help those in doubt see why they’re so fucking wrong.
And then tomorrow night, the Science Channel hits us with the latest episode of an ongoing series, “Prophets of Science Fiction: Isaac Asimov”. I’ve caught a few episodes of the show so far — exec produced by Ridley Scott, the series aims to show us how the ideas written down by some of our greatest sci-fi writers have come to fruition. This week focuses on Isaac Asimov, obviously, with an emphasis on robots and all the cool things robots do these days. The show isn’t great, but it is imminently watchable if you’re a science or science fiction nerd. Plus, Isaac Asimov was the shit, and more people need to know more about him. (He was insanely prolific, and the multitudes of his amazing nonfiction science writings are one of the key reasons I wound up studying physics and almost becoming an astrophysicist — in fact, one of the most cherished entries in my book collection is a first edition of his 1960 two-volume guide to “modern” science).
This clip comes from the Philip K. Dick episode:
On Thursday, we get two more documentaries, but we’re back to the premium pay channels unfortunately, with HBO’s premiere of Exporting Raymond and Showtime’s premiere of Heart of Stone. Exporting Raymond is a documentary I heard about over a year ago, on some podcast or other. It shows us producer Phil Rosenthal’s journey to Russia to assist in the development of “Everybody Loves Kostya,” a remake of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
It looks light and entertaining, the perfect companion to the more “serious” Heart of Stone, which is yet another documentary about a broken school and one person’s attempt to fix the system. In this case, the school is Newark, New Jersey’s Weequahic High School, and the person trying to make a change is principal Ron Stone. Sure, we’ve seen this story before. But the problems with our educational system are major, though we’ve heard the story before, remain vastly under-appreciated (and it’s an issue that I personally take to heart, so I’m a sucker for these stories every time).
Finally, on Saturday, Showtime airs The Ride, a documentary which follows “The Amazing Race” host Phil Keoghan on a cross-country cycling trip in support of an MS cause. This documentary has three things going for it. One, Keoghan is a very entertaining personality, a “good guy” who you would want to hang out with over a beer or five. Two, riding a bike across the country sounds fucking insane, and looks to be (unsurprisingly) brutal, which is exactly the type of thing that makes for a good story. And three, it helps put the focus on MS, one of those “fuck you” diseases that’s often overshadowed by the likes of Cancer (if you wanna do a mitzvah, go support my close friend Deanna in her running of the Boston Marathon for MS).
Documentaries, y’all. Learn about some shit.