En español | Remember when the Summer Olympics would trump any regular programming for a few heady weeks every four years? We know we’re all still going to watch the Tokyo Games. But just in case you’ve got a little remote fever, we’ve got a bunch of great TV to pick from this week, from the new season of Ted Lasso to a soulful documentary about bluesman Buddy Guy. So take a victory lap, TV fans … and pass the remote!
Stoke that Olympics fever with these gold-medal movies
In between watching the Tokyo Olympics live, check out our critics’ championship list of the best Olympics films streaming now — plus, watch the 10 best Olympics opening ceremonies of all time, ranked.
Get the list: 14 Inspiring Movies About the Olympics
Celebrate an American treasure: Bluesman Buddy Guy
Buddy Guy: The Blues Chase the Blues Away (PBS)
Buddy Guy got a $2 two-string guitar from his Louisiana sharecropper daddy, grew up and moved to Chicago, where bluesmen Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf launched their careers. Though badly mismanaged by Chess Records, he became a crucial inspiration to the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, and broke into stardom at last in his 60s. Just in time for his 85th birthday, on July 30, PBS’ American Masters celebrates the last living master of the Chicago electric blues.
DON’T MISS THIS: 10 Fabulous TV Shows for People Who Love Musicals
Ted Lasso is back!
Ted Lasso, Season 2 (Apple TV+)
If you watch only one show this summer, make it this one, a heartwarming, dark-horse hit comedy that’s the antidote to our bitter times. Jason Sudeikis plays a relentlessly upbeat American football coach who knows nada about soccer but gets hired to coach a soccer team in England. Apple TV+ has a first-week-free offer, and if you bought a new iPhone lately, you probably have a year’s free subscription on it.
Watch it: Ted Lasso, on Apple TV+
DON’T MISS THIS: 10 Facts You Need to Know About Jason Sudeikis’ Hit Show Ted Lasso
Your Netflix must-watch of the week is here!
Django Unchained, R (2012)
The most haunting thing about Quentin Tarantino’s Southern western is Samuel L. Jackson, 72, Hollywood’s number one box-office star. He plays the sinister Stephen, in theory enslaved by a planter (Leonardo DiCaprio) but in some ways the scheming mind behind the throne.
Watch it: Django Unchained, on Netflix
DON’T MISS THIS: The 23 Best Things Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix in July
Love game shows? You’re going to love this watch list!
Turn the nostalgia up to 11, because network TV is officially in love with all our favorite game shows of the past and is rebooting them. We’re talking new versions of everything from The Dating Game and Supermarket Sweep to Name That Tune. Our critics have the lowdown on all the new shows and where to watch them. What is amazing TV for $1,000, Alex?
Ready to LOL?
Remember when that fresh-faced, red-headed comedian hit late-night TV with his cutting wit and crazy humor? It seems like yesterday that Conan O’Brien (58) burst onto the scene, but after 11 years of hosting Late Night, he’s stepping down. In tribute to his genius, we sifted through his best bits and rounded them up. Our critics have the list (and hilarious clips to watch). Get it all right here: Conan O’Brien’s 10 Most Hilarious On-Screen Moments
Pssst… we know what’s coming to TV this fall!
The first look at the fall 2021 season is here, and our critics have the low-down on all the new shows and what you’re going to want to watch. Be the first to know what’s up by checking it all out here: First Look: What’s Coming to TV Screens for the Fall 2021 Season
Who wants their MTV?
Whether you’re a hip boomer or a card-carrying Gen Xer, you no doubt remember the revolutionary launch of the music video channel in 1981 and all the hits and stars who emerged from that brave new world. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of MTV, our critics have highlighted the iconic albums and videos from the first 10 years, and it’s a wild trip down memory lane. Read and watch it all, right here: Every Essential Album (and Music Video) From the Golden Age of MTV
Some of the summer’s hottest new films are coming to ... your TV!
Yes, movie theaters are back (in part), and yes, some of summer’s blockbusters are opening on big screens, but streaming powerhouses like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ are also opening big films on small screens this summer. Check out what’s coming with our critics’ guide, and plump the sofa cushions!
Check it out: AARP's Summer 2021 Movie Preview
From football and ice hockey to professional wrestling, these TV comedies are all-star fun
Take your local live sports seriously? We know, we know. But there’s a wonderfully funny world of sports sitcoms out there, and what with Ted Lasso ruling the airwaves right now (have you watched?), our critics thought it was high time we named names. From Coach to this week’s new show Big Shot, check out our hottest new watch list: The Best Sports-Themed Sitcoms to Stream Now
Love Law & Order? Have we got a list for you!
If you’ve been part of Law & Order nation since Jerry Orbach was shaking his head at corpses on the mean streets of New York in the 1990s, we know you’ve followed the spin-offs and have watched some of them become blockbusters. But which ones are the best of the best? Our critics have ranked all seven Law & Order iterations, plus offered up the very best episode from each series to watch right now. It’s a dream come true. Check it out here: What’s the Best Law & Order Series of All Time?
Also Catch Up With ...
In a six-part series, uber music producer Rick Rubin sits with Sir Paul McCartney to discuss the inside stories of his songs and his bands, starting with the first tune he wrote. Plus he offers insights on colleagues such as Pink Floyd and opening act the Kinks, and crucial influences like Fela Kuti, James Jamerson, and the Everlys. There’s personal stuff, too, like his teenage bond with John Lennon over losing their mothers, but this one is for music nerds.
Watch it: McCartney 3,2,1, on Hulu
In Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels’ lampoon series, Keegan-Michael Key and SNL top comic Cecily Strong star as backpackers trapped in a small town where everyone (including Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Fred Armisen and Jane Krakowski) lives in a 1940s musical.
Watch it: Schmigadoon!, on Apple TV+
DON’T MISS THIS: 10 Fabulous TV Shows for People Who Love Musicals
Bob Dylan’s ‘Shadow Kingdom’
Only a deadly pandemic could derail Bob Dylan’s “Never Ending” tour and reroute him to cyberspace. After a forced hiatus of 19 months, Dylan, 80, returns to the spotlight with “Shadow Kingdom,” a ticketed webcast concert July 18 on livestreaming platform Veeps. It’s his first broadcast special since MTV Unplugged in 1994 and his first public streaming performance. Nobody knows what he’ll play (it’s Dylan, after all), but fans are particularly eager to hear "Murder Most Foul," a dense, provocative reflection on JFK’s assassination that, at nearly 17 minutes, is the longest song he’s ever released. —Edna Gundersen
Watch it: “Shadow Kingdom,” on Veeps, available until July 25, 11 p.m. ET.
The Movies That Made Us, Season 2
Did you know 1985’s Back to the Future was nearly entitled Space Man From Pluto, starring Eric Stoltz? Learn the inside scoop on Michael J. Fox’s hit, plus Jurassic Park (1993), Pretty Woman (1990) and Forrest Gump (1994).
Watch it: The Movies That Made Us, on Netflix
Atypical, Season 4
In a smart, heartwarming family show by the talented auteur of Horrible Bosses, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Rapaport play the parents of a son (Keir Gilchrist) coming of age on the autism spectrum.
Watch it: Atypical, on Netflix
DON’T MISS THIS: Jennifer Jason Leigh Isn’t Afraid of Anything
The White Lotus
Writer-director Mike White (School of Rock, Enlightened) presents a six-episode limited-series satire about a resort on Maui where dark shadows lurk under sunny skies. The outstanding cast includes Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, Steve Zahn and Molly Shannon.
Watch it: The White Lotus, on HBO
Bosch, Season 7
Talk about a landmark event! After scoring a perfect 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes five years in a row, the last season of this series — creator Eric Overmyer’s (69) adaptation of Michael Connelly’s novels about brooding Philip Marlowe–like LAPD detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch — is devoted to a case inspired by a real one from Connelly’s L.A. Times reporter days: an unsolved arson fire that killed children. Few shows boast a better grownup cast: Lost’s Titus Welliver (59) as the hero, and a crime-busting team played by ER’s Amy Aquino (64), The Wire’s Jamie Hector (48) and Lance Reddick (58) and The Rapture’s Mimi Rogers (65). It’s also got an intergenerational aspect, which we’ll soon see in an IMDb TV spin-off featuring Bosch and his daughter Maddie (Madison Lintz). Meantime, don’t miss what may be the most binge-able show you don’t yet know in its grand finale.
Watch it: Bosch, on Amazon Prime Video
Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions presents the Netflix film adaptation of Matthew Logelin’s memoir Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love. Kevin Hart plays Logelin, a Yahoo manager who proposes to his high school sweetheart Liz, a Disney exec, on a romantic trip to Kathmandu, then becomes a first-time dad — and a widower when Liz dies 27 hours after giving birth. Who can he turn to for parenting advice? Perhaps Liz’s mom (Alfre Woodard).
Watch it: Fatherhood, on Netflix
DON’T MISS THIS: Quiz: Which Classic TV Dad Said What?
Lupin, Part 2
Part 1 of this suspenseful, mirthful, utterly wonderful thriller-comedy — inspired by a famous French literary character, gentleman thief Arsène Lupin — was Netflix’s utterly unexpected No. 1 hit this year. Omar Sy portrays the character modeled after Lupin, Assane Diop, who is out to avenge the downfall of his late father at the hands of rich guys who aren’t half as clever.
Watch it: Lupin, on Netflix
1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything
Nostalgia alert! This eight-part docuseries will take you back to the heyday of a few acts you may recall: the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, the Who, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, Elton John, Gil Scott-Heron, Sly Stone, Carole King and more.
Watch it: 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, on Apple TV+
The Underground Railroad
You knew this 10-episode adaptation of MacArthur genius Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer and National Book Award-winning novel about escaping slaves by Oscar winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) would be worth seeing. But it turns out to be an epic, Handmaid’s Tale-topping dystopian masterpiece that dwarfs every other new film or TV show.
Watch it: The Underground Railroad, on Amazon Prime Video
DON’T MISS THIS: 11 Black Filmmakers You Should Know
Comedian/actress and force of nature Wanda Sykes produces and stars in a sitcom about an Indianapolis working-class couple, Bennie and Regina (Mike Epps from Survivor’s Remorse and The Facts of Life’s Kim Fields), who are raising three kids and his teen son from another woman. But Bennie’s biggest challenge is his tart-tongued sister-in-law, Lucretia (Sykes), who thinks he’s a charming, well-meaning and total mess of a man.
Watch it: The Upshaws, on Netflix
DON’T MISS THIS: Wanda Sykes Brings the Funny When We Need It Most
In the intergenerational show of the year, Jean Smart (Designing Women, Mare of Easttown) stars as a Las Vegas comedy legend forced to mentor an up-and-coming comic (Hannah Einbinder). The show is much-buzzed, and insiders predict that Smart, who got Emmy nominations for Watchmen, Fargo and 24, may land her first lead actress nomination for this extremely juicy role. High time!
Watch it: Hacks, on HBO Max
DON’T MISS THIS: Getting Smart: Jean Smart shares her secrets about feeling sexy and nabbing the best roles of her life at 69
Godfather of Harlem, Season 2
(Epix, Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)
Forest Whitaker, 59, returns for his second season as Bumpy Johnson, the real-life 1960s mobster who dated Lena Horne, played chess with Lucky Luciano and befriended Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. Joining the cast are Cliff “Method Man” Smith, as the Philly Black Mafia chief Sam Christian, and Annabella Sciorra, as mob wife Fay Bonanno.
Watch it: Godfather of Harlem, on Epix
Don’t miss this: Forest Whitaker talks with AARP about playing Bumpy Johnson and looks back on his life and shares what he knows now.
The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Singer Andra Day channels Holiday’s haunting voice and haunted soul in Lee Daniels’ film about the jazz genius and Federal Bureau of Narcotics chief Harry Anslinger’s relentless quest to destroy her. Why the obsession? Not merely because Holiday had a drug addiction — the anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit” threatened to become the mournful anthem of a movement. “She kicked off the civil rights movement by defying the government to sing a song about Black people being lynched,” says director Daniels, the first Black Oscar nominee for both best picture and director (for Precious). —Lisa Kennedy
Watch it: The United States vs. Billie Holiday, on Hulu
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Viola Davis and, in his last role, the late Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) star in Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson’s illustrious tale of Ma Rainey, the 1920s Mother of the Blues. It’s hard to say which actor scores the more towering performance. It’s like a duet between geniuses — or, since they’re fighting bitterly over how Ma should record her music, old-dirty-blues-tent-show style or hepcat modern jazz style — an acting duel. Both win, as do all of us.
RELATED: Viola Davis tells AARP about Ma Rainey, August Wilson, aging, her big break, and what happens when you get everything you always wanted. Read it here: Viola Davis Finds a Powerful Voice
Bryan Cranston, who played a good-hearted teacher forced to go criminal to save his family on Breaking Bad, plays a New Orleans judge scheming to help his son escape a hit-and-run accident charge in a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game with the law.
Watch it: Your Honor, on Showtime
RELATED: Cranston talks with AARP about his two good bad-guy roles and his real-life near-recovery from COVID-19: Bryan Cranston Is Back to Challenge Our Loyalties in Your Honor
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: On Netflix
Tim Appelo covers entertainment and is the film and TV critic for AARP. Previously, he was the entertainment editor at Amazon, video critic at Entertainment Weekly, and a critic and writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, The Village Voice and LA Weekly.