The Problem with Jon Stewart to Diana the Musical: the seven best shows to stream this week

America’s satirist-in-chief returns, a Broadway show about Princess Di will tide you over till The Crown comes back – plus all 180 episodes of Seinfeld

Pick of the week

The Problem with Jon Stewart

Wit mixed with despair … Jon Stewart.
Wit mixed with despair … Jon Stewart. Photograph: Apple TV+

Apple TV+, from Thursday 30 September
Perhaps inevitably, satirist Jon Stewart couldn’t stay away from the dumpster fire that is American public life for long. This new weekly show – which is going to be accompanied by a regular podcast – will tackle one major issue per episode. Stewart will once again be recording his show in front of a live studio audience in New York with a style that mixes sharp wit with a degree of earnest liberal despair. A short teaser, which addressed the pressing problem of Dicks in Space (don’t pretend you don’t know exactly who he’s talking about), suggested a smattering of sketches too, mixing social commentary with an edge of surrealism.

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BMF

Based on a true story … BMF.
Based on a true story … BMF. Photograph: Jessica Miglio/2021 Starz Entertainment, LLC

Starzplay, from Sunday 26 September
Black crime families aren’t generally allowed vaguely sympathetic origin stories in the way that, for example, Italian-American ones are. So, for that alone, this series – executive produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson – is worthy of notice. Set in unruly 1980s Detroit, it’s based on a true story – the rise of the Black Mafia Family of the title, led by Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory and Terry “Southwest” Flenory. Big Meech’s son Demetrius Jr plays his dad, and look out for Snoop Dogg as a morally ambiguous churchman.

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Attack of the Hollywood Clichés!

Meet-cute … Rob Lowe surveys movie tropes.
Meet-cute … Rob Lowe surveys movie tropes. Photograph: Adam Rose/Netflix

Netflix, from Tuesday 28 September
A visual equivalent of Roger Ebert’s Bigger Little Movie Glossary (coiner of the “flame and steam factory” action thriller trope), this one-off comedic documentary from Charlie Brooker’s satirical stable takes a look at the American film industry’s reliance on the trite and the rehashed. Actor Rob Lowe is our guide through a celluloid history of “the meet-cute”, “females running in stilettos” and “walking away from explosions” (pictured below), among many other crimes against originality, with wry commentary from A-list actors, screenwriters, academics and critics.

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Ada Twist, Scientist

Obama-powered fun … Ada Twist, Scientist.
Obama-powered fun … Ada Twist, Scientist. Photograph: Courtesy of Netflix

Netflix, from Tuesday 28 September
“Science is the best,” according to eight-year-old Ada in this bouncy US animated children’s series from Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions. Along with her friends Rosie Revere, engineer, and Iggy Peck, architect, Ada faces everyday problems, such as her older brother’s smelly shoes or how to transport a stash of pet rocks, and tests out hypotheses to solve them. The show keeps the educational aspect light, while a regular epilogue has a real-life scientist giving an accessible mini-lecture about their specialisation.

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Maid

Margaret Qualley with Rylea Nevaeh Whittet in Maid.
Gritty … Margaret Qualley with Rylea Nevaeh Whittet in Maid. Photograph: Ricardo Hubbs/Netflix

Netflix, from Friday 1 October
Inspired by Stephanie Land’s big-selling memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, this drama series from the production team behind Shameless is a gritty but eventually redemptive take on life on the bottom rung of the American ladder. Margaret Qualley is Alex, a woman who flees an abusive relationship for the sake of her infant daughter and soon finds every door slamming shut in her face. It’s the American dream as filtered through precarious accommodation, badly paid work and thwarted aspirations.

* * *

Seinfeld

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jerry Seinfeld
Modern friends … Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jerry Seinfeld. Photograph: YouTube

Netflix, from Friday 1 October
For any lucky person who hasn’t seen the greatest US sitcom, all 180 episodes of Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David’s “no hugging, no learning” comedy are going up on Netflix. Prepare for the ultimate binge-watch – ideally accompanied by a bowl of cereal or takeaway soup. Despite being pre-social media – the show ran from 1989 to 1998 – there is something crisply modern about New York friends Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer’s self-obsession and near-total lack of empathy for their colleagues, their partners, their parents or each other.

* * *

Diana: The Musical

Jeanna de Waal in Diana: The Musical.
Kitsch value … Jeanna de Waal in Diana: The Musical. Photograph: Netflix

Netflix, from Friday 1 October
If you can’t wait for your next fix of The Crown, this Broadway musical might tide you over. Jeanna de Waal lacks Emma Corrin’s harrowed intensity as the doomed princess and, as is often the way with American interpretations of British stories, many of the incidental characters belong in the 1940s. But, at the very least, it has a certain kitsch value that is heightened by the musical involvement of Bon Jovi’s keyboard player David Bryan. Diana’s life often felt like a melodramatic and maximalist power ballad, so why not?

Contributors

Phil Harrison and Simon Wardell

The GuardianTramp

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