DEATH BECOMES HIM
In her new documentary Dick Johnson Is Dead, director Kirsten Johnson crafts a tribute to her elderly father, reflecting on his life and work as a psychiatrist as he slowly succumbs to dementia. But this film isn't merely an unflinching portrait of aging: It's also a macabre, occasionally absurd meditation on everything from religion to mortality, as Johnson elaborately stages fantasy sequences in heaven and imagines grisly death scenarios, all with dear old dad at the center. The result is a singular, witty, surrealistic experience, filled with moments that had me choked up and laughing at the same time. It's streaming now on Netflix. (NATHAN WEINBENDER)
TRUE TV LOVE
I was skeptical going into Love on the Spectrum, the Australian reality show tracking the romantic efforts of autistic adults, now on American Netflix. I was worried the series would be more exploitative than illuminating, but I was way off. In fact, Love on the Spectrum is a reality show that actually brings joy to viewers and cast alike. The show makes use of the usual dating-show tropes as they go out on blind dates and share their hopes before and reactions after. The best part, though, is watching the cast members with their families and counselors, scenes that show just how broad and beautiful that spectrum in the title is. (DAN NAILEN)
What do you do when your employer wants you to be ready at a moment's notice to go back to work, but won't pay you the full amount of your contract because of the changes under COVID? That was the dilemma for Mitch Horacek, a minor league baseball player. It's just one of the many ways the pandemic has derailed the careers of professional athletes, as detailed in the new "Game Changer" series by the Death, Sex & Money podcast. Other interviews include an asthmatic NFL player who speaks out against racial injustice and a BMX cyclist trying to make it on the Olympic team. (QUINN WELSCH)
BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL
One of my top pandemic binges has been a show I'd never seen pre-lockdown — NBC's Superstore, on the air since 2015. Set in a fictional big-box chain, it's in the tradition of classic workplace sitcoms like WKRP in Cincinnati but with the rat-a-tat dialogue and absurdist humor typical of The Office or Parks & Recreation. It stars America Ferrera, Mad Men's Ben Feldman and Mark McKinney of Kids in the Hall, it's sweet and funny and frankly underrated, and it tackles issues like immigration, and income inequality in clever, unexpected ways. Its sixth season premieres Oct. 29. (NATHAN WEINBENDER)
THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST
Some noteworthy new music hits online and in stores Oct. 9. To wit:
FUTURE ISLANDS, As Long As You Are. The stellar live band dares to release new music when they can't tour. Good on 'em!
METZ, Atlas Vending. The Sub Pop trio sounds in great form on single "A Boat to Drown In."
BLUE OYSTER CULT, The Symbol Remains. The first one to make a "more cowbell" joke gets it. (DAN NAILEN)