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Weekend Binge Guide: April 2017

Have the weekend free? Going out is overrated! Binge-­watch one of these shows instead:   If you want to laugh:   Best Friends Forever See all reviews for Best Friends Forever Alas, this gem of a sitcom was too good for this world. But the nearly perfect six-episode run is the ideal binge. From the equally subversive and sweet minds of real-life besties Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham, the show kicks off with Len convincing a soon-to-be divorced Jess to move back to Brooklyn to figure out her next move. There's a bit of a three's-company situation with the women and Lennon's live-in boyfriend (an excellent Luka Jones), a will-they-or-won't-they vibe with old friend and neighborhood bar owner Rav (Stephen Schneider), and some serious sass from the young neighbor with an old soul, Queenetta (Daija Owens). They're all fantastic. But this show rests on the leading ladies' shoulders. If you've seen their current USA comedy Playing House , you'll recognize the mix of heart and laughs.   If you want to cry:   This Is Us See all reviews for This Is Us If you've been living under a rock, you're probably very dirty. Jump in the shower, have a nice meal, and then strap yourself in for the TV season's twistiest new show. The entire first season has aired, so it really is time to watch this remarkable ensemble series, starring GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINEE MANDY MOORE, king of television daddies Milo Ventimiglia, and one of the best actors working in TV today, Sterling K. Brown. This is one of the very few shows that not only lived up to the early hype (which began as soon as its trailer was released), but surpassed it. Even more surprisingly, it's one of broadcast network TV's increasingly rare ratings winners, pulling an Empire by improving each week. So really, give in and tune in, because it's the real deal. Just make sure you have a tissue or three on hand.   If you want to scream:   National Treasure See all reviews for  National Treasure This four-part U.K. series examines the impact of a beloved comedy star being accused of sexual misconduct earlier in his legendary career. Robbie Coltrane plays Paul Finchley, a "national treasure" whose life is turned upside down when he is arrested on suspicion of raping a woman in 1993. Soon, several other women come forward. Coltrane, a multiple BAFTA winner in the '90s for his work in Cracker , is perhaps best known in the U.S. for playing Hagrid in the Harry Potter films. He's exceptional here, causing viewers to question his guilt until the end; Julie Walters also is superb in a very challenging role. The series draws inspiration from the wide-reaching scandal involving Jimmy Savile, but clearly will remind American viewers of Bill Cosby's woes, making it feel depressingly raw and familiar to all.   If you want to think:   Born This Way See all reviews for  Born This Way In the first minute, we watch Steven and Sean in a bar enjoying a couple of beers and talking about dating. Playfully egging each other on, they ask the woman next to them if she's single. She's sitting with her boyfriend, she replies good-naturedly. "OK, this is awkward," Sean says, smiling. And some viewers might think this reality show about young people with Down Syndrome could be awkward to watch. After all, it comes from Bunim-Murray Productions, the people behind The Real World and Keeping Up With the Kardashians . Given that producers manipulate situations and that editors wield considerable power over how a person is portrayed, there was concern that this could be an exploitative mess. The result, however, is a heartwarming, inspirational, humorous, and thought-provoking look at the reality of life with DS.   div.post p { text­align: justify; }

The Most Important Shows on TV: Week of February 27, 2017

Which TV series will your friends (and the entire internet) be talking about this week? Stay informed — or at least be able to fake it — with SideReel's weekly guide to The Most Important Shows on TV.   When We Rise (Series Premiere) Monday at 9 p.m. on ABC Why: This ambitious, four-part miniseries from the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Milk uses the stories of three activists in San Francisco to show the remarkable changes that occurred during the turbulent 40-year period between the early '70s, when being gay still was considered an illness, and 2013, when same-sex marriage was legalized (again) in California. It's an important and inspirational history lesson, but it's not a particularly great series. Especially during the first part, there's something too old fashioned, bordering on cheesy, about the production. While it makes sense that producers wanted to find a home for this project on a broadcast network, it seems like cable might have been a better fit. The performances are mostly good — and the star power is impressive — but the actors playing the main activists during their earlier and later years can seem jarringly different (particularly Emily Skeggs and Mary-Louise Parker as Roma Guy). Despite the flaws, this is worth watching. Especially now. Prepare to talk about: How fitting it is that the show's original four-night schedule was interrupted by Tuesday's presidential address; how this would have come across as a victory lap had the election gone the other way; whether this would have worked better on HBO or FX.   National Treasure (Series Premiere) Wednesday at 3 a.m. on Hulu Why: In a plot that is sadly timely on both sides of the pond, this four-part U.K. series examines the impact of a beloved comedy star being accused of sexual misconduct earlier in his legendary career. Robbie Coltrane plays Paul Finchley, a "national treasure" and one half of a long-running comedy act whose life is turned upside down when he is arrested on suspicion of raping a woman in 1993. Coltrane, a multiple BAFTA winner in the '90s for his work in Cracker , is perhaps best known in the U.S. for playing Hagrid in the Harry Potter films. He's exceptional here, as is Julie Walters in a very challenging role. The series draws inspiration from the wide-reaching scandal involving Jimmy Savile , but clearly will remind American viewers of Bill Cosby's current legal battles, making it feel depressingly raw and familiar to all. Prepare to talk about: Whether Paul Finchley is guilty or innocent (don't worry, it's made clear in the finale); Coltrane's superb performance in a dark role.   Feud: Bette and Joan (Series Premiere) Sunday at 10 p.m. on FX Why: Could anything be more Ryan Murphy than an anthology series dramatizing the legendary feud between Old Hollywood icons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, who (sort of) set aside their differences to (barely) collaborate on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? The answer is no. So it's no surprise that this works so well. Not perfectly, mind you (we'll get to that). After revitalizing her career with a four-year run on American Horror Story , which earned her two Emmys, Murphy's drafted Jessica Lange to play Crawford alongside new muse Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis. These Oscar-winning actresses devour the scenery, but they also find some space to ground things, touching upon themes like ageism and sexism in Hollywood. It wouldn't be a Murphy production if there were just two stars, so the stuffed series employs a loose documentary style to pull in commentary from Kathy Bates and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Joan Blondell and Olivia de Havilland, respectively. There also are appearances by Sarah Paulson, Stanley Tucci, and Kiernan Shipka. It's a little much, but that's Murphy. Prepare to talk about: Judy Davis as notorious gossip columnist Hedda Hopper; the inevitable feud jokes talk that will accompany the two stars' wild award season; the real Baby Jane movie, which is insane.   T.J. DeGroat is the editor of SideReel. His actual most important show this week can be found here . Follow him on Twitter . div.post p { text-align: justify; }