Streaming Must-Sees (Both Good and Bad) in September 2021
This month's Tune In or Turn Off features 'Reservation Dogs,' 'The Chair' and the new season of 'Sex Education'
Published Sep 17, 2021As of this writing, we're in the midst of the Toronto International Film Festival and the film industry is kicking into high gear. Of course, a return to cinemas doesn't come at the expense of at-home content, since every streaming service has brought a new pile of titles to feast on.
It's not all gold, but there's still plenty to enjoy, including a whodunnit series that's surprisingly satisfying and some gripping documentaries. When you're deciding whether to Tune In or Turn Off this month, these are the shows and movies to keep in mind.
Tune In: Bitchin': The Sound and Fury of Rick James
The complicated and ultimately tragic life of funk superstar Rick James is explored in this well-paced Showtime documentary. Despite being a musical pioneer, James was also a drug addict who went to prison on charges ranging from assault to kidnapping. In his lifetime, he was sexually assaulted as a child, dodged the draft by jamming with a pre-fame Neil Young in Toronto, and narrowly missed being at the scene when the Manson family struck in Los Angeles. Though he died just after Chappelle's Show made him a national joke in 2004, Bitchin' makes it clear that his life was no laughing matter.
Turn Off: The Chair
Sandra Oh's just-fine academia comedy goes down easy — but it's about as memorable as a Friday afternoon Chaucer lecture. Oh is magnetic as the newly appointed chair of English at a prestigious university, while costar Jay Duplass is grating rather than charming as a rakish professor in the department. The show's main conflict is that the new generation of students don't care about old-school English lit studies, which begs the question: why make a TV show about it?
Turn Off: Kate
Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Woody Harrelson star in the latest entry in the "assassin reconsidering their life choices" sub-subgenre of shoot-em-up action. The fight scenes are decently artful, but even the neon visuals and high-stakes plot — in which Winstead's titular protagonist has 24 hours to avenge her own death after getting poisoned — can't keep this from feeling like a lesser John Wick or Bourne.
Tune In: Only Murders in the Building
This self-referential meta satire of true crime is way more charming than it has any right to be. Some washed-up boomers (Steve Martin, Martin Short) and a directionless millennial (Selena Gomez) launch an investigative podcast following a mysterious death in their swanky NYC apartment building. It initially seems a little too smugly clever, but it finds genuine heart in its depiction of big-city loneliness.
Tune In: Sex Education, Season 3
Now three seasons in, Sex Education's slapstick horniness is starting to get a little limp thanks to its increasingly unrealistic depiction of sexuality, but it still has plenty of touching moments of love and friendship. The inclusion of a few new characters make up the heart of the show — particularly Jemima Kirke as the tyrannical new principal and Dua Saleh as a non-binary student who fights back against school uniforms.
Tune In: Reservation Dogs
Co-created by Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo, Reservation Dogs follows four Indigenous teenagers in Oklahoma who commit crimes in an attempt to raise enough money to move to California. With a perfect blend of highly specific social commentary and universal adolescent ennui — not to mention laugh-out-loud jokes — it has all the makings of an absolutely classic teen show.
Tune In: Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror
The shock and fear of the 9/11 terrorist attacks has been conveyed by many survivors over the years, but this remarkably insightful series delves into why it might have happened in the first place. With access to key historical figures and scholars in Afghanistan and the US, and employing a time-travelling narrative (virtually identical to that used in The Last Dance), Turning Point is a revelatory and damning analysis of extremism and ideological hatred in America, Afghanistan, and beyond.
Turn Off: The Voyeurs
Fresh off a brilliant performance in The White Lotus, Sydney Sweeney stars in this erotic thriller about a couple who become fixated on watching their neighbours in neighbours. With its upsetting and insensitive depictions of abuse and suicide, the overall impression is decidedly un-sexy.