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culture

Televisualist: Welcome To Earth!

Each week, Torontoist examines the upcoming TV listings and makes note of programs that are entertaining, informative, and of quality. Or, alternately, none of those. The result: Televisualist.

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“Siberia” – it’s like camping, but EVIL.

Monday

It’s summer, and that means it is time for NBC to occasionally and semi-randomly air episodes of American Ninja Warrior, the North American qualifiers for the legendary Japanese obstacle course show Sasuke (a.k.a. Ninja Warrior in English-speaking countries). Sasuke / American Ninja Warrior is great because they take the entire obstacle course dead seriously and treat the competitors with the utmost respect, because the obstacles are genuinely very difficult and getting through any stage of the course requires excellent physical fitness and a lot of practice beforehand. It is Very Good Television. Hooray! (NBC, 8 p.m.)

It’s kind of odd to realize that the 1975 film adaptation of The Sunshine Boys served as a comeback vehicle for George Burns, who was 79 at the time and only took the gig because Jack Benny was forced to bow out because he was dying of cancer, and when we say “comeback” we mean that Burns then started getting high-profile acting jobs all the time after years of touring. The Oscar he won for the film probably helped, too. The entire Oh, God! franchise would not have happened without The Sunshine Boys, and whether that is for good or ill, that is the truth. (Turner Classic, 9 p.m.)

Siberia is a fairly clever concept that has been done once or twice before, but this is a very strong execution thereof: a spooky thriller disguised as a Survivor-style reality show, using basically unknown actors with no real previous exposure to maintain the illusion. The show is so dedicated to maintaining this illusion that it is not until about 80 per cent of the way through the pilot that they start hinting that this isn’t an actual reality show. But yeah, it’s a spooky thriller, and a fun one by the looks of it. (NBC, 10 p.m.)

Tuesday

The Simpsons rerun of the week: “Homerazzi,” wherein Homer becomes a paparazzo because, well, it’s a bad episode really and this isn’t a good week for Simpsons episodes. We mean, Paris Hilton is a guest voice. That’s just wrong. “This is that fancy supermarket where all the celebrities shop. You’re going to help me ambush them. Look at this spread. Imported beer? Seedless grapes? Chewing gum? Look, the clown on this cereal box is just a person.” (Comedy Network, 8:30 p.m.)

Wednesday

Okay, we’ve never seen the late ’60s Doris Day comedy With Six You Get Eggroll, but man, is that a implied-racist title or what? (Turner Classic, 8 p.m.)

Thursday

It is the Fourth of July and that means our southerly neighbours are going to put on some fuckin’ fireworks! Specifically the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular, because the best types of fireworks are the ones you watch on television. Said nobody ever. Dear NBC: 30 Rock was joking when they did this. (NBC, 8 p.m.)

Those of you who like Aaron Sorkin, even with all the multiple problematic natures to his work, should be jazzed to catch The American President, which is like an introductory-level version of what he would later do on The West Wing-which is to say it’s often much stupider than The West Wing, but it wears its heart on its sleeve, has good performances (especially Michael J. Fox’s political fixer and Richard Dreyfuss’ sneering Republican Senator villain person), and understands that political process can be extremely dramatic. (CTV2, 9 p.m.)

It wouldn’t be Independence Day without Independence Day! “Welcome to Earth!” We know people make fun of this movie, but be honest and admit you saw it at least twice in theatres when it came out. Unless you were a baby then, which is possible because of this whole “aging” thing, of which Televisualist do not approve. (A&E, 8 p.m.)

AMC is airing a mini-marathon of the first season of The Walking Dead, except this time it’s in black and white rather than in colour. Which is… interesting? We have to admit we’re intrigued to see if the cinematography of the show—which has never been afraid to use a desolate, sun-bleached palette—still works in black and white. (8 p.m.)

Friday

If you missed the premiere of Satisfaction last week, hey! Here it is again! On cable! (Comedy Network, 9:30 p.m.)

The Weekend

If you didn’t already tinker with your Netflix so you can watch American Netflix instead and catch The Fall accordingly, you might want to give it a go now that it’s on Canadian TV. This BBC police procedural series starring Gillian Anderson isn’t your standard procedura—for starters, the murderer’s identity is revealed quickly within the first episode—but it’s got a slow, meditative design to its story that makes it totally unlike most cop shows. Not everybody’s cup of tea, but interesting. (Bravo, 9 p.m. Sunday)

Oh hey it’s The Thomas Crown Affair! We never tire of the 1999 remake of the original Steve McQueen vehicle, because it’s actually an improvement on the original (rare for remakes of good movies): Pierce Brosnan’s Thomas Crown makes much more sense as an art thief than Steve McQueen’s did as a bank robber, and Rene Russo just smolders in the rare Hollywood movie that is willing to admit that fortysomething women can still be smoking hot. And the movie’s use of music is flat-out brilliant. And you get a great supporting turn from Denis Leary. What we’re saying is: this is a great goddamned movie. (Bravo, 10 p.m. Sunday)

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