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What to Watch This Week: June 15 to 21

From a new comedy special from Hacks star Hannah Einbinder to the return of Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, we round up our top 10 shows to watch this week

1. Hannah Einbinder: Everything Must Go – Saturday, June 15, HBO Canada

Hannah Einbinder: Everything Must Go on HBO Canada. Pictured: Hannah Einbinder takes the stage.
Eddy Chen/Max

The daughter of original Saturday Night Live cast member Laraine Newman made her own seismic impact on the world of comedy in 2021, co-starring in zeitgeist-throttling hit Hacks. That particular show just took a bow for season three (with season four already ordered!) — but now it seems that acting on a series immersed in the world of standup has inspired Hannah Einbinder to take her own stab at the art form.

Her very first special, Everything Must Go, finds Einbinder waxing comedic on “being queer, her faith, climate change and her stoner roots” — plus, sharing stories about her parents’ unrequited desire to have a son, a moment of “divine intervention” at her grandma’s funeral and why she simply cannot meditate. 

2. House of the Dragon – Sunday, June 16, HBO Canada | Season Premiere 

House of the Dragon on HBO Canada. Pictured: Matt Smith and Emma D'Arcy.
Ollie Upton/HBO

This Game of Thrones prequel is back with a second season, returning viewers to the world of Westeros 200 years prior to the events of the original series. As the schism within the Targaryen dynasty widens, a vile assassination pushes the competing factions closer to civil war.

3. Fiennes: Return to the Wild – Sunday, June 16, National Geographic | Series Premiere

Fiennes: Return to the Wild on National Geographic. Pictured: (left to right) Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Joseph Fiennes.
National Geographic

English actor Joseph Fiennes first set our hearts aflutter with Oscar-winning romance Shakespeare in Love — before making our blood boil as despotic Commander Waterford in The Handmaid’s Tale

Many fans already know that Joseph is the brother of fellow actor Ralph Fiennes (a.k.a. Harry Potter’s nemesis Lord Voldemort and James Bond’s boss “M”). Some lesser-known trivia: he’s the cousin of a man described as “the world’s greatest living explorer,” Sir Ranulph Fiennes — who has trekked everywhere from Everest to the Nile to Antarctica. 

Now, in Nat Geo’s two-part miniseries, these cousins unite onscreen to recreate Ranulph’s famed 1971 Canadian expedition, navigating treacherous rapids and cursed valleys from Northern B.C. to the Yukon, all the way down to the U.S. border.

Beyond just scaling mountains, watching whales and other picturesque derring-do, the show finds our heroes reflecting on “male aging, frailty and love” in the wake of Ranulph’s recent diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease.

As Ranulph himself said in a press release: “Completing this journey with Joseph and exploring the beautiful Canadian scenery has been more than just an adventure; it’s been a reunion of hearts and spirits. Together, we’ve rediscovered the strength of our bond and the power of shared experiences. Retracing the route of my 1971 adventure has been immensely fulfilling, made even more enjoyable by experiencing it with a family member.”

Adds Joseph: “It’s not just about conquering physical challenges; it’s about rekindling the bonds of family and embracing life’s unpredictable twists. I invite everyone to join us on this remarkable expedition, where we explore the depths of friendship, resilience and the beauty of shared experiences.”

4. My Life is Murder – Monday, June 17, Acorn TV | Season Premiere  

My Life Is Murder on Acorn TV. Pictured: (left to right) Ebony Vagulans, Lucy Lawless.
Acorn TV

Lucy Lawless returns for a fourth go-round as New Zealand detective Alexa Crowe — the retired cop turned private eye who catches killers via her own, eccentric methodology. Always one for colouring outside the lines, Alexa often finds herself handed the city of Auckland’s most peculiar cases by her police contact, Harry (Rawiri Jobe). Yet with the help of her tech-savvy young protégé Madison (Ebony Vagulans), she always manages to make sense of the criminal absurdity.

Season four of this breezy crime dramedy kicks off with two new episodes. In the first, Alexa and the gang must immerse themselves in the world of high society gossip to solve the murder of a socialite who left her entire fortune to a cat. Then, it’s on to the suspicious death of a tennis instructor — alas, another P.I. is on a mission to crack the case before Alexa.

5. Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution – Tuesday, June 18, Netflix 

Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution on Netflix. Pictured: Queer comics have challenged the status quo.

Standup comic-turned-filmmaker Page Hurwitz asks a provocative question: have queer comedians changed the world? The answer can be found in this new documentary that is as hilarious as it is thought-provoking, taking a deep dive into the history of queer standup comedy in order to explore how LGBTQ+ comedians have influenced a culture of social change in America and beyond. 

From archival materials to standup performances and interviews with comedy titans — including Lily Tomlin, Margaret Cho, Rosie O’Donnell, Sandra Bernhard, Tig Notaro, Hannah Gadsby, Eddie Izzard, Fortune Feimster, Bob the Drag Queen and others — the film examines what nearly a century of struggle can do to marginalized performers, and its historic aftermath.

“Despite the battles, queer comics have risen to the top by nurturing the unshakable bonds of community, continuously challenging the status quo and never denying an audience the power of laughter,” notes the synopsis. “Blending standup comedy with documentary, viewers are welcomed backstage by a show-stopping lineup of comedians who explore the definitive history of queer comedy.” 

Ultimately, the film reveals that queer comedians — whether they intended to or not — have indeed contributed to altering the fabric of society, one joke at a time.

6. Black Barbie – Wednesday, June 19, Netflix 

Black Barbie: A Documentary on Netflix. Pictured: Black Barbies.

Barbie was introduced in 1959, but it wasn’t until decades later that Mattel introduced the first Black version of the iconic doll. The story behind that doll is not widely known, and Black Barbie celebrates the momentous impact that three Black women at Mattel had on the evolution of the Barbie brand as we know it. “Through these charismatic insiders’ stories, the documentary tells the story of how the first Black Barbie came to be in 1980,” notes the film’s synopsis, “examining the importance of representation and how dolls can be crucial to the formation of identity and imagination.”

7. Federer: Twelve Final Days – Thursday, June 20, Prime Video

Federer: Twelve Final Days on Prime Video. Pictured: Roger Federer in front of promotional poster.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Prime Video

Originally filmed as a home video that was never intended for public viewing, this doc captures tennis great Roger Federer at his most vulnerable and candid as he says goodbye to a sport at which he excelled, and which had shaped his life for the past two decades.

8. America’s Sweethearts: The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders – Thursday, June 20, Netflix | Series Premiere

America's Sweethearts: The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders on Netflix. The Dalls Cowboys Cheerleaders enter the playing field.

For decades, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have been just as iconic as the NFL franchise they cheer on. This new docuseries takes viewers deep inside the squad to reveal how much effort, energy and sacrifice is required to step into those bright white knee-high boots. Following the cheerleaders through the 2023-’24 season, America’s Sweethearts tells the personal stories behind the uniforms, revealing the ambition and drive shared by the cheerleaders and their coaches. “The kind of access and creative freedom we need to make the kind of work we want to make is not easy to come by — especially when dealing with a brand as large as the Dallas Cowboys,” series creator Greg Whiteley told Netflix’s Tudum. “To their infinite credit, the Cowboys offered unfettered access for the year we filmed the DCC and left us alone. The result is an authentic portrait of one of the most storied and beloved institutions we have in American pop culture.”

9. Trigger Warning – Friday, June 21, Netflix

Trigger Warning on Netflix. Pictured: Jessica Alba.

Jessica Alba goes full John Wick in this visceral new action pic that centres on Parker — an elite Special Forces soldier who’s recalled from the battlefield after her father suddenly passes away. 

Having inherited the family bar, Parker reacclimates to life in a small town where her ex-boyfriend Jesse (Mark Webber) now happens to be the sheriff. It soon becomes clear that something is amiss in this once-wholesome ’burgh, as a vicious gang is running roughshod. And the more she digs, the more it seems like this new criminal element has ties to Jesse’s all-powerful father, the Senator (Anthony Michael Hall). Enlisting the help of an old hacker pal from her special-ops days (comedian Tone Bell) and forging an unlikely alliance with a local drug dealer (The Night Agent’s Gabriel Basso), Parker resolves to root out the evil that’s taken hold of Swann County.

Despite the aforementioned allies, she’s essentially waging a one-woman war against a whole bunch of tough customers. But Parker’s particular set of skills are not to be underestimated.

The movie was directed by Indonesian filmmaker Mouly Surya, who gravitated towards one specific theme hidden underneath all the butt-kicking. “I think one of the things that attracted me is there’s loss in this film,” Surya said in an interview with Tudum. “And I really connected with that grief of losing my father a few years before.” 

Similarly, Alba told Tudum that she was thinking of her late grandfather while filming — and also, of several female action movie icons: “I loved Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita. I also loved Ripley [in Alien] and I love Sarah Connor in Terminator.” To live up to those icons, the erstwhile star of Fox action series Dark Angel did have to brush up on her combat skills — and learn the intricacies of Indonesian knife fighting: “I really wanted it to be a more intimate kind of fighting experience if I needed to take somebody out.” 

10. Roots of Comedy with Jesus Trejo – Friday, June 21, WTVS & KCTS | Series Premiere 

Roots of Comedy with Jesus Trejo on PBS. Pictured: Jesus Trejo.

Quite aptly described as “part comedy, part social commentary, part travelogue,” this new PBS series finds Mexican-American standup Jesus Trejo hitting the road to explore how comedy is informed by community. 

Visiting Denver, Portland, Minneapolis, Austin, Los Angeles and the Navajo community of Chinle, Arizona, Mr. Trejo picks the brains of a different rising young comic in each locale.

“One of the things that I pride myself in is that I talk about my upbringing, my family, the things I feel that I’m an expert on, which is my lived experience,” Trejo told NBC News of his own standup act. “My rich upbringing as a Mexican-American in Long Beach with immigrant parents is the basis for my storytelling. I can bring that storytelling and that experience to any project that I take on.”

He furthermore noted that, in speaking with these six comedians during the course of his road trip, “sometimes the stories behind the jokes are even more riveting than the jokes themselves.”

It all begins tonight with back-to-back episodes. The first features a chat with Ali Sultan in Minnesota, who opens up about mental health, followed by one with Vanessa Gonzalez in Texas, about growing up in a border town. 

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