Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Let Laura Dern speak to you calmly of serial killers

Illustration for article titled Let Laura Dern speak to you calmly of serial killers
Photo: Courtesy of HBO

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Wednesday, November 18. All times are Eastern. 

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Top pick

Crazy, Not Insane (HBO, 9 p.m., documentary premiere): The 487th film from documentarian Alex Gibney to be released this year (okay, it’s one of three, but three is a lot of movies for one year) is, if you’ll forgive the coarseness of the phrase, some seriously creepy shit. Crazy, Not Insane centers on the work of eminent psychiatrist Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, an expert on the psychology of murder and on dissociative identity disorder—or, as she puts it, on “things most of us would rather not know.”

Gibney intersperses footage, much of it haunting, from Dr. Lewis’ interviews with serial killers like Arthur Shawcross (the Genesee River Killer) with his own interviews with Lewis’ colleagues, not all of whom agree with her. And of course there’s Lewis herself, who speaks directly to the camera and whose writing is given voice by the great Laura Dern, who serves as narrator. It’s an inspired choice, because the qualities of Lewis on-camera presence find an echo in Dern’s vocals. She’s frank, calm, and even occasionally wryly amused by the shortcomings of the legal system. Like its subject, Gibney’s film has no interest in ignoring the many gray areas it encounters in the world and in the brain. As a bonus, it also includes the year’s most unexpected Robert De Niro cameo. If you’re easily spooked, maybe save this one for a bright sunny day, but it’s definitely worth your time. Look for Katie Rife’s review of Crazy, Not Insane along with several other key HBO documentaries this week.

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Also from TV Club

No Man’s Land (Hulu, 3:01 a.m., complete first season): “There are so many angles from which to craft compelling portraits of the individuals fighting on the ground for their lives and their way of life, and so much to cover in terms of how the [Syrian civil war] has spilled over into the rest of the Middle East and around the world, and No Man’s Land fails to communicate even the most basic elements of any of this. A resolutely unimaginative exercise in orientalist condescension, the thoroughly flat No Man’s Land treats the civil war as a tourist destination, and most of its insights about how the conflict became a playground for the West are decidedly unintentional.” Read the rest of Roxana Hadadi’s excellent pre-air review of a less than excellent series.

Regular coverage

The Masked Singer (Fox, 8 p.m.): Keep an eye out for our news coverage, as well as Angelica Cataldo’s coverage (created with some help from her dad).
The Crown (Netflix): binge coverage continues

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For kids

The Wonderful World Of Mickey Mouse (Disney+, 3:01 a.m., premiere): The first two in a series of shorts starring Mickey and friends drop today, which happens to be the official birthday of the world’s foremost celebrity spokesmouse. (Too bad, Charles Entertainment Cheese.) The next batch arrives on Friday, November 27.

Holiday stuff

Holiday Home Makeover With Mr. Christmas (Netflix, 3:01 a.m., complete first season): If you’ve spent the last several days deciding whether or not you can justify setting up your tree or hanging some twinkle lights before Thanksgiving, have we got the show for you.

Wild cards

Time for another wild card lightning round.

Black-ish (ABC, 9:30 p.m.): Pops (Laurence Fishburne) and Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) are getting hitched!

Resist (YouTube, 12 p.m., complete first season): This 12-episode docuseries is a ground-level look at “the grassroots work of multicultural/intersectional organizations fighting the Los Angeles county’s $3.5 billion jail expansion plan in 2018 and examines the issues of cash bail, unlawful arrest, over-policing of Black and brown neighborhoods, and mass incarceration.” It arrives, for free and in full, on the YouTube channel of Patrisse Cullors, co-founder and executive director of Black Lives Matter.

Smoke: Marijuana And Black America (BET, 10 p.m., premiere): Another documentary for you, this one executive-produced and narrated by Nas.

Secrets Of The Dead, “Gangster’s Gold” (PBS, 10 p.m.): Another one for the “based on the title alone” files, this episode will follow three groups of treasure hunters as they attempt to track down the lost hoard of gangster Dutch Schultz.

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!

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