New this week: Apollo benefit, docs on Bruce Lee, spelling
Here’s a collection curated by The Associated Press’ entertainment journalists of what’s arriving on TV, streaming services and music platforms this week.
—For the first time since World War II, the Scripps National Spelling Bee was canceled this year due to the pandemic. The showdown of spellers had been planned for late May in Maryland, but a handful of films will try to fill in the blanks. On Saturday, the Criterion Channel will stream “Spellbound,” the oddly thrilling and altogether delightful Oscar-nominated 2002 documentary. “Spellbound” is tough to beat; it remains one of the great competition documentary and a good doc starter for kids. But a new Netflix documentary has also stepped up to the microphone. “ Spelling the Dream,” debuting Wednesday, explores the fascination the bee — an intrinsically American institution — holds for Indian Americans.
—Marx Madness: On Friday night, Turner Classic Movies will host four Marx Brothers classics: “Monkey Business,” “Horse Feathers,” “Animal Crackers” and “Duck Soup.” More people are out of work right now than anytime since those movies first played in the ’30s, and they can provide just as much uplift today as they did then. The manic, life-affirming anarchy of Groucho, Harpo and Zeppo is an unstoppable rebellion. In “Monkey Business,” Groucho complains to a ship captain that no one visited his chambers the night before: “Nobody, and that’s my complaint. I’m young. I want gaiety, laughter, ha-cha-cha.” Don’t we all.
—“Be Water”: Bruce Lee didn’t get the most favorable of portrayal in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.” (Brad Pitt threw him against a car.) But no such criticism will be leveled at Bao Nguyen’s “ Be Water,” an affectionate bio-documentary about the kung-fu legend. The film, which details the movie star’s tragically short career, captures the cool power of Lee, an early Asian American big-screen hero. It airs Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT on ESPN as part of the network’s “30 for 30” documentary series.
—AP Film Writer Jake Coyle
Graduation Day: Yes, there will be epic speeches from Barack and Michelle Obama, and even Beyoncé, but there will also be musical performances. YouTube’s virtual commencement ceremony called “Dear Class of 2020” will take place Saturday at 3 p.m. EDT and will include performances from BTS, Lizzo, Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, Chloe x Halle, Maluma, CNCO and Camila Cabello. It will also include appearances from Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Bill and Melinda Gates, Jennifer Lopez, Billy Porter, Malala Yousafzai, Zendaya, Alicia Keys, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Demi Lovato.
“Let’s Stay (In) Together”: The American guitar company Gibson is holding a benefit concert to support the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem featuring Kool & the Gang, Gary Clark Jr, Michael McDonald and Keb Mo. Dionne Warwick and Doug E. Fresh will make special appearances. The live virtual event to kick off Black Music Month called “Let’s Stay (In) Together: A Benefit To Support The Apollo ” was originally supposed to take place Tuesday, but now is happening Thursday because of Black Out Tuesday, a day reserved to reflect and implement change in response to the death of George Floyd and the killings of other black people recently organized by several record labels and music companies. The performances for the Apollo benefit will stream on the venue’s website and are dedicated to the memory of those who have lost their lives due to COVID-19.
— AP Music Editor Mesfin Fekadu
Amanda Peet and Christian Slater star in “ Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story,” the true-crime anthology’s second installment debuting 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday on USA. Dan and Betty Broderick’s marriage hit the rocks amid allegations of infidelity, spawning a 1980s San Diego divorce case so bitter that it drew national attention. Then anger exploded into violence, as recounted from Betty Broderick’s perspective in the eight-part series written, directed and produced by women.
The documentary “We Are Freestyle Love Supreme” could be subtitled “Lin-Manuel Miranda, the early years.” The future “Hamilton” sensation was part of an improv comedy and hip-hop group whose work caught filmmaker Andrew Fried’s eye in the mid-2000s. Fried was on hand again when Miranda and other members of Freestyle Love Supreme reunited 14 years later for a Broadway run, with past and present combining in the film out Friday on Hulu.
“ I May Destroy You ” is a true auteur project, with British-born Michaela Coel (“Black Earth Rising”) the star, writer, co-director and producer of HBO’s drama that dives into the murky waters of sexual consent and assault, informed by Coel’s own publicly recounted experience. The half-hour, 12-episode series follows a writer’s (Coel) effort to unravel and face what happened after a night out ended in the haze of a doctored drink. “I May Destroy You” debuts 10:30 p.m. EDT Sunday.
— Television Writer Lynn Elber
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