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George Carlin Returns to HBO, and Letterman's Back on Netflix  - What’s Upstream for May 19 -25

George Carlin's American Dream
(Image credit: HBO)

Fourteen years after his passing, George Carlin (who would be 85 if still alive) is perhaps more culturally relevant than ever, and he's "back" with another posthumous HBO comedy special. Seven years after his retirement from late night, David Letterman has more street cred than just about anyone in terms of getting the leading edge of the zeitgeist to come on his Netflix interview show. Yeah, we hear it all the time -- streaming is a young person's business, but Sissy Spacek (72) and J.K. Simmons (67) are leading an Amazon Prime Video original sci-fi series, while Angelyne, another septagenerian who built her own powerfully pink bimbo-chic brand from scratch in the 1980s, is the subject of a Peacock biopic. Here's what's upstream:

Angelyne (Peacock, May 19)

This five-episode miniseries tells the story the  real-life blond Barbie Doll, who rose to fame in 1980s Los Angeles with a series of provocative billboards featuring herself and her signature curvy figure. Being famous for being famous isn’t much of a reach these days, but more than 30 years ago, it was a novelty, rendering this drama something of a Paris Hilton and the Kardashian origin story. The series, starring Emmy Rossum (Shameless), is based on a 2017 The Hollywood Reporter’s article about Angelyne (Renee Goldberg). Per an official synopsis, the series “addresses fame, identity, survival, billboards, Corvettes, lingerie, men, women, women teasing men, men obsessed with women, West Hollywood, crystals, UFOs, and most importantly of all, the self-proclaimed Rorschach test in pink, glow-in-the-dark queen of the universe Angelyne.”

The Photographer: Murder in Pinamar (Netflix, May 19)

For those of you who are already caught up on HBO's The Staircase, this documentary about the murder of Argentinian José Luis Cabezas will satisfy your true crime appetite. In 1996, Cabezas, a well-known news photographer and reporter who worked for Noticias, a leading local news magazine, published a photograph of Alfredo Yabrán, a reclusive tycoon. Yabran was considered by many to be the head of the Argentine mafia, who allegedly had connections to corrupt government officials. In 1997, Cabezas was last seen at an exclusive beach resort known for its powerful Argentine clientele. Cabezas was found dead on January 25, handcuffed\ and charred, inside a burned rental car. The crime shook the country and outraged journalists, who pressured the government to investigate the murder. The documentary uncovers the harrowing case that exposed a political and financial conspiracy. Notable: Netflix dubbed the film and instead of using subtitles.

Legendary - Season 3 (HBO Max, May 19)

Season 3 of the Emmy-nominated queer reality competition series that celebrates ballroom culture will feature 10 episodes and celebrity judges
Keke Palmer (Nope) Leiomy Maldonado (Pose), Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) and Law Roach (America’s Next Top Model). Unlike most reality competition shows, Legendary doesn't do a contestant meet and greet. Instead, it gets right into the action, which is unbelievable dance performances that include plenty of voguing, twirling and dipping. Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race will enjoy this series. The first season of the show garnered a 91% aggregated score on Rotten Tomatoes. “Its messaging is slapdash, but its production value is slick as hell, packaging ballroom as an almost high octane sport. Whether you're an aficionado or neophyte, one has ever seen ballroom presented with such a lavish eye,” wrote Variety’s Caroline Framke.

George Carlin’s American Dream (HBO Max, May 20)

Despite dying almost 14 years ago, George Carlin, whose career spanned half a century and included 14 HBO comedy specials and over 130 appearances on The Tonight Show, is arguably more relevant today than ever before. In recent years Carlin’s takes on abortion, police brutality, organized religion and the planet have proven eerily prophetic. In this two-part documentary, directors Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio explore Carlin’s visionary quips, as well as the stand- up’s rise to fame, his struggle with cocaine, his two marriages and his arrest in 1972 following his performance of “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.”

Now & Then (Apple TV Plus, May 20)

This eight-episode bilingual series focuses on six best friends whose lives are forever changed after a fatal celebratory college graduation weekend. Twenty years later the five survivors reluctantly reunite due to a blackmail text threatening to expose the truth about what happened during that fateful weekend. The Miami-based thriller features an all-Hispanic cast that includes Oscar nominee Rosie Perez. While there are no reviews to speak of, the series is executive produced by Homeland writer Gideon Raff, who also directed the series’ first two episodes. In addition to Perez, the cast features Oscar winning actress Marina de Tavira (Roma).

Night Sky (Amazon Prime, May 20)

Oscar winners J.K. Simmons and Sissy Spacek co-star in this eight-episode series as a married couple who discover a shed in their backyard that leads to a strange, deserted planet. For years they have kept the portal a secret, but when a mysterious young man (Chai Hansen) enters the shed he causes a rift in the marriage, forcing the couple to confront the loss of their son. "Night Sky begins as a beautiful coming-of-old-age story, but it splinters into an overstuffed sci-fi thriller," wrote Entertainment Weekly's Kristen Baldwin. 

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman - Season 4  (Netflix, May 20)

After 33 years as a late night host at NBC and CBS, Letterman semi-retired to this Netflix long-form, sit-down interview series, which in past seasons has featured  President Barack Obama, Jay-Z and Tina Fey. The fourth season of this Emmy-nominated talk show series will include six episodes and new one-on-one conversations with guests including Cardi B, Kevin Durant, Billie Eilish, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ryan Reynolds and Will Smith. Unfortunately, all the episodes were filmed prior to March 2022, so that infamous Will Smith-Chris Rock Oscars slap will not be discussed. That said, what was initially considered a retirement project for Letterman, has proven to be a long term insightful and humorous series.

Love, Death & Robots – Volume 3 (Netflix, May 20)

This adult-skewed animated anthology series was created by Deadpool director Tim Miller and is executive produced by Gone Girl director David Fincher. The third volume of the show consists of nine episodes with runtimes ranging from six to 20 minutes. First released in 2019, the series is a modern-day remix of the concept behind Heavy Metal, a 1981 animated movie based on the French magazine Métal Hurlant. The anthology collection covers almost every genre including science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy. Each short also features unique animation from traditional 2D to 3D and CGI. The Emmy-winning animated anthology has been a hit with critics. Volume two received an aggregated score of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. “As a whole, Love, Death, & Robots is an array of valleys and peaks that's nonetheless an entertaining contribution to the sci-fi genre that's worth each story's runtime, especially for animation fans,” wrote L.A. Weekly’s Erin Maxwell.

Chip’n Dale: Rescue Rangers (Disney Plus, May 20)

Disney Plus is always up for a reboot. This week the streaming service is bringing back Chip and Dale after a 30-year hiatus. In this hybrid live-action/CG-animated movie based on the animated comedy television series that last aired in 1990, Chip and Dale are forgotten stars and no longer close friends. Chip (voiced by John Mulaney) lives in suburbia and works as an insurance salesman.  Dale (voiced by Adam Sandberg), is desperate to relive his glory days, so he undergoes “CGI surgery” and works the nostalgia convention circuit. But when a former cast mate mysteriously disappears, the former friends are forced to realign and take on their Rescue Rangers detective personas once again. “It’s the funniest movie of the year so far, either animated or live-action. Or in this case both, since it ingeniously melds the two forms in the cleverest manner since Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” wrote Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck.

Prehistoric Planet (Apple TV Plus, May 23)

This natural-history series produced by Iron Man and The Jungle Book director Jon Favreau uses CGI to recreate the last days of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. David Attenborough narrates the five-episode series, which features an original score by Academy Award winner Hans Zimmer. The series includes the latest paleontology learnings like the parenting techniques of Tyrannosaurus Rex as well as state-of-the-art technology. The habitats and inhabitants like the well-known T-Rex, Triceratops and Velicoraptors, as well as lesser known dinosaurs are brought to life with CGI, which was developed by the Moving Picture Company, the company behind The Jungle Book and Life of Pi. It's extraordinary to see not only what the earth used to look like, but how dinosaurs existed. If you're a fan of the BBC’s Planet Earth series, then you will appreciate Prehistoric Planet, which was executive produced by BBC Studios Natural History Unit.