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What to Watch on TV and Streaming This Week

Dolly Parton’s star-studded holiday special, plus the best Thanksgiving TV episodes of all time

En español | It’s a week for holiday wonder and moving life stories, from a glittering marvel led by the one and only Dolly Parton to a star-studded adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ memoir. SNL fans, we’ve got one for you, as Belushi — a heartfelt and revealing documentary about one of the show’s first bright lights to be snuffed out early — comes to Showtime. It’s sofa season, friends! Pass the cranberry sauce … and the remote!

If you watch only one thing this week, watch ...

Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square

Sure, Dolly Parton helped finance the COVID vaccine — but what’s she done for us lately? How about this 14-tune musical that combines the appeal of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life and Tennessee’s legendary songbird? Dolly plays the guardian angel who gives Scrooge-like Christine Baranski the holiday spirit of forgiveness.

Watch it here: Netflix

RELATED: Make sure you haven’t missed any of the best new arrivals to Netflix this month, before the December wave hits! We’ve got your go-to list right here: The 12 Best Things Coming to Netflix in November


You know what we’re thankful for? Great TV shows and movies about Thanksgiving!

Feast your eyes on AARP’s lists of must-see movies and TV shows about Turkey Day


AARP Membership Black Friday Special 
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If you liked 12 Years a Slave, you’ll like this

Lovers Rock, Unrated

This Oscar-bound stunner is a buoyant, brash, shaggy, artfully spontaneous film by Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) about one day in the life of West Indians in London who are preparing for a reggae house party. Singing, stew-stirring, dressing up and partying down, drinking and kissing and fighting until the wee hours, they shift and come into focus as a vibrant ensemble. The freest McQueen movie, it’s also among his best, an authentic, joyous, heart-expanding party in a picture, and one of five feature-length films in Amazon’s Small Axe series. —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.)

Watch it here: Amazon Prime

RELATED: Which streaming services are really worth your money? Apple, BET, CBS, Disney, HBO, NBC? Here’s what you need to know.


Put this at the top of your Netflix queue right now

The Life Ahead, PG-13

At 86, Sophia Loren is back! In her terrific new tearjerker, directed by her son Edoardo Ponti, she heartwarmingly plays a former prostitute, Holocaust survivor and caretaker for streetwalkers’ children. She looks after an orphaned African street kid (Ibrahima Gueye), grudgingly at first, and develops a deep bond with him.

Watch it here: Netflix

RELATED: Sophia Loren tells AARP about her comeback and her six life lessons


You think you know Frank Zappa? This fantastic new doc may surprise you

Zappa, Unrated

Genius, smart-ass, rebel and leader of the Mothers of Invention, Frank Zappa was felled by cancer in 1993 at age 52. This compelling, entertaining and no-B.S. documentary, directed by Alex Winter (Bill & Ted Face the Music) and produced by Frank’s son Ahmet, gives a full picture of the Italian American musical iconoclast who wanted to be a composer like his highbrow idol Edgard Varese, and did so by founding the most subversive rock band. He was that true American, getting his freak on while realizing his unique voice. And he had international impact as an icon for the Czech Velvet Revolution led by his fan, President Václav Havel. —T.M.A.

Watch it here: In theaters and on demand


Star-studded watch of the week

Between the World and Me (HBO, available free Nov. 25-30 on HBOMax.com, HBO.com and free on demand from participating partners)

This terrifically entertaining, star-studded adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ award-winning memoir Between the World and Me recounts the author’s experiences growing up Black in Baltimore’s inner city, combining a 2018 Apollo Theater stage adaptation, family movies, animation and powerful readings from Coates’ book by Oprah Winfrey, Angela Davis, Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance and Joe Morton.

Watch it here: HBO/HBO Max

RELATED: Scandal star Joe Morton tells AARP about his new movie, cooking with his kids and being creative in COVID times.


Old-school SNL fans will love this one

Belushi (Showtime)

John Belushi’s nearest and dearest friends (and a few non-fans, like SNL castmate Jane Curtin) shed a newly revealing light on the appealing, appalling actor, and the personal hungers that drove him to a tragic end — yet also powered his performances. Belushi documents his tragic fall, but the focus is not on his notorious overdose — it’s on his heart. Animal House director John Landis told the filmmakers he advised Belushi to model his Bluto character on Harpo Marx and the Cookie Monster: “What both Harpo and the Cookie Monster have, despite their destructive tendencies, is they’re both very, very sweet. And that’s the strength of John’s performance.” The doc has lots of never-before-seen stuff, like his band performing “Louie, Louie” at the wrap party for TV’s Taxi and John’s personal thoughts recorded for a never-published memoir. —T.A.

Watch it here: Showtime


Who’s a Wheel watcher?

Pat Sajak interacts with the contestants on Wheel of Fortune

Carol Kaelson/ViacomCBS

If you’re anything like us, you cut your Q&A teeth on America’s great quiz and game shows, all the way from To Tell the Truth and What’s My Line? to The $10,000 Pyramid and the newly rebooted Supermarket Sweep. Our critics risk Double Jeopardy by not only naming the best game shows in TV history but ranking them all the way to No. 1. Do our answers match yours? Survey says!: The Best Game Shows in TV History, Ranked


Cue the whistling

Few TV shows have been as beloved — and memorable — as The Andy Griffith Show. To celebrate its 60th anniversary this month, we’ve created the ultimate trivia quiz on your favorite small town and its memorable characters: Andy, Opie, Aunt Bee, Barney and the rest of the gang. Test your Mayberry IQ and challenge your friends to take the same trivia trip down memory lane: Quiz: How Well Do You Know The Andy Griffith Show?


Speaking of Hulu, here are the 10 shows you can stream and be as hip as your grandkids

Pedro Pascal in the Disney Plus series The Mandalorian and Jane Levy in the NBC show Zoeys Extraordinary Playlist

Lucasfilm Ltd.; Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

We might be the land of TV for grownups here, but that doesn’t mean we don’t keep our eye on what younger viewers are loving — especially when those shows are worth the time and attention of the AARP crew. In fact, our critics rounded up 10 terrific series that millennials and younger are watching, which means you’ll have a whole new bunch of stuff to talk about with your young coworkers or grandkids. Check out the whole list (and take 20 years off your TV-watching age), here: 10 TV Shows You Should Watch So You Can Talk About Them With Your Grandkids


If you recognize the name “Joe Exotic,” have we got the list for you

A production still from Tiger King

Netflix

Truth is stranger than fiction — especially lately. So there’s never felt like a better time to indulge in some absorbing, perhaps even lurid, true crime series. We’ve rounded up the best like Carole Baskin rounded up Joe Exotic. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Check out the whole list, and maybe keep the lights on.

Get the list here: The 15 Best True Crime Shows to Binge Right Now


Calling All Friends Fans ...

Could we be any happier that HBO Max is running all 10 seasons of Friends? And can you believe that the entire cast is now age 50-plus? In honor of one of TV’s best ensemble casts ever joining the AARP cohort, we’ve gone down the trivia rabbit hole and emerged with a brand-new TV for Grownups quiz: How Well Do You Know These “Friends”? We’ve got trivia about the real cast members as well as their characters. Have fun testing your recall, and challenge your fellow fans.

Take the quiz here: How Well Do You Really Know These “Friends”?


AARP Talks With …

Get behind the scenes of the biggest shows on TV right now with our brand-new interview with ABC reporter Bob Woodruff, 58, who joins up with his son for a new travel show on Disney+; plus Killing Eve’s Sandra Oh, Mrs. America’s Margo Martindale, Making the Cut’s Tim Gunn, and Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi.


Also Catch Up With ...

The Crown, Season 4

(Netflix)

The real-life melodrama about Great Britain’s royal family was already the most addictive show on TV ... but now it’s way better, with the best actress yet (Olivia Colman) playing Queen Elizabeth II, in 1982; Emma Corrin as the much-cheated-on Princess Diana; and The X-Files’ Gillian Anderson as the triumphant and vanquished Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Bet you can’t watch just one episode.

Watch it here: Netflix

RELATED: 7 Other Shows About British Royals for Fans of The Crown


Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

(Netflix)

You didn’t know Forest Whitaker started out as a singer? He joins Keegan-Michael Key, Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville and Phylicia Rashad in a musical about a toymaker who finds new hope in his kind and curious granddaughter.

Watch it here: Netflix


Roadkill

(PBS, Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)

Wouldn’t it be great if there were another show as worthy of the gifts of Hugh Laurie, 61, as his hit series House? Now there is! Theater great and Oscar nominee David Hare (The Reader, The Hours) presents this cleverly plotted, utterly cynical four-part miniseries about a British politician (Laurie) promoted by a hard-as-nails prime minister (Helen McCrory). He has just won a libel lawsuit against a disgraced young alcoholic reporter (Sarah Greene), but what about his mistress, or the unknown illegitimate prison-convict daughter he just discovered (awkward, since he supervises prisons)? Or the car mishap that inspired the series’ title? Or the new story that the disgraced journalist is onto that may torpedo him?  

Watch it here: PBS


The Undoing 

(HBO, Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)

If you’d never seen the previous Nicole Kidman murder-themed thriller miniseries by David E. Kelley, Big Little Lies, you’d think this melodrama about Kidman as a rich Manhattan therapist, married to oncologist Hugh Grant and shocked by the death of another mother in their private school parents’ group, was terrifically gripping and stylish. And the first episode really is terrific, just less so than Big Little Lies. Still, it’s worth seeing for the Kidman-Grant acting duel — who’s fooling whom in this marriage? — and Donald Sutherland as Kidman’s infinitely arrogant and judgmental father.  

Watch it here: HBO

RELATED: Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant dish their steamy miniseries, The Undoing, with AARP.


The Trial of the Chicago 7, R

(Netflix)

An utterly wonderful, vivid dramatization of the trial of Chicago’s 1968 demonstrators, with bravura performances by Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale.

Watch it here: Netflix

RELATED: Frank Langella tells AARP about The Trial of the Chicago 7, his string of history-based hits and the best time of his life — his 80s — here: All Rise for Frank Langella


David Byrne’s American Utopia

(HBO)

Spike Lee’s concert film of the Talking Heads front man’s Broadway musical of the same name is an infectiously joyous balm for our uncertain times (especially when we are largely unable to attend concerts of any size or kind). Spike Lee, one of our most consistently dazzling directors, captures not only the show’s fantastic songs and innovative choreography but also its energy, spirit and optimism. It’s one of the all-time great concert films right out of the gate. —Chris Nashawaty

Watch it here: HBO

Related: The 5 Best Spike Lee Films You Haven’t (Yet) Seen


One Day at a Time

(CBS)

Fresh from her terpsichorean triumph on Dancing With the Stars, Justina Machado returns as Penelope Alvarez, the Bonnie Franklin equivalent of the single mom, in this reboot of the classic 1975 sitcom, with Rita Moreno as the Cuban-American family’s matriarch, Lydia. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by watching the only Latinx family on TV. By the way, how cool is it that creator Norman Lear, 98, is still running the beloved comedy and is back on CBS after 45 years?

Watch it here: CBS

RELATED: Puerto Rican–born trailblazer Rita Moreno tells AARP, “I’m having the time of my life!” among other revelations.

Also related: Kudos to the reboot of ODAAT for embracing a Latinx cast and story line. Want to get to know more Latinx directors? We’ve got the ultimate watch list, right here: 12 Latinx Directors You Need to Know


Ratched

(Netflix)

The most lurid, bizarrely sensational-looking show of the year is this prequel to Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which shows how Big Nurse Ratched got to be so wicked. Actually, it does a terrible job of explaining her motives and transformation, but it’s still an addictively entertaining American Horror Story-like melodrama about the nightmarish 1947 mental hospital where she works. The cast is astounding — from Sarah Paulson in the lead role to Judy Davis as a nurse much more like the one in the 1975 movie, and Sharon Stone as a deranged zillionaire.

Watch it here: Netflix

RELATED: Sharon Stone sat down to talk to AARP about her wild role in Ratched, what it means for women and older actresses, and how it relates to her own father’s mental-hospital experiences and her own life. Plus, don’t miss Stone’s personal Spotify playlist, which she created to cheer up AARP readers during the pandemic.

Read it all here: Sharon Stone Tells All About 'Ratched'


Tyler Perry’s Assisted Living

(BET, Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

Tyler Perry, 50, once hailed by Forbes as the best-paid man in American entertainment, will likely earn laughs with his new sitcom about a Chicago patriarch (Na’im Lynn) who gets laid off and moves his family to backwoods Georgia to collect his inheritance. There he finds that his wacky Grandpa Vinny (J. Anthony Brown, who will remind you of Fred Sanford of Sanford and Son) invested it in an assisted living facility that urgently needs more investors.

Preview it here: Tyler Perry’s Assisted Living


Netflix’s Black Lives Matter Collection

Netflix unveils a useful, intelligently curated menu of 48 or so top titles including When They See Us, Moonlight, Malcolm X and the current must-see, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (which could win star Delroy Lindo the Oscar he’s deserved for some time, and maybe the Emmy, too).

Watch it here: Netflix


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