No matter what your plans are this week, it’s probably a good idea to find a few hours to unwind in front of your TV, so here are recommendations for three new things to watch, as well as a roundup of the week’s entertainment news.
The captivating mystery behind the pizza bomber
If you want to disappear into a true-crime saga this weekend, Evil Genius, a new Netflix series produced by the Duplass Brothers (the creators of Togetherness and Room 104), is a strong choice. This four-part documentary tells a gripping, stranger-than-fiction tale that revolves around a terrifying incident involving a pizza delivery person in Erie, Pennsylvania, nearly 15 years ago.
On August 28, 2003, an employee of Mama Mia Pizzeria named Brian Wells left the restaurant to drop off a pizza to an address a few miles away. An hour later, Wells entered a nearby bank with an active bomb fastened around his neck and a cane-shaped gun in his hand, along with a set of instructions on how to rob the place. After a teller surrendered around $8,000 in cash, Wells left the bank and was apprehended by police in a strip mall down the road. A bomb squad was dispatched to the scene (along with local news crews), but the situation quickly spiraled out of control.
As the authorities began to investigate how Wells got sucked into this robbery/bombing plot, another equally grisly crime revealed itself just down the road from where the pizza guy made his delivery on that fateful day. Surely, these incidents must be related... but the police and the FBI had a hard time stitching together enough evidence to link the two.
Like any great true-crime saga, Evil Genius explores not just the evidence behind the crimes, but also the lives of the suspects, the victims, and their families. The result is a multi-layered look at how a small community was rocked by a series of unbelievable events and the investigations that followed.
Streaming recommendations du jour
Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives
Stream it on: Netflix
The gist: This hour-long stand-up special features a mix of topical and observational humor from the charismatic comedian behind the terrific documentary The Problem With Apu.
Kondabolu doesn’t shy away from hot topics, but the funniest bits are often the ones that draw from his own personal experiences, like his story about a failed attempt at acting in a prestige drama opposite David Oyelowo, or the tale about the time someone at a coffee shop inexplicably thought he was Kid Rock.
Warn Your Relatives also features a few memorable food bits, including an ode to eating mangoes and an extended riff on why using “curry” as a racist insult is utterly stupid. “Oh, Indian people like to eat curry,” Kondabolu says in a mocking voice. “Yeah, we do. Do you know who else does? Everybody. What is wrong with you?”
Later in that segment, the comedian also quips: “By the way, if you use the phrase ‘ethnic food,’ you probably don’t know too many ‘ethnics.’”
Vice on HBO, “Iran in Iraq & Dying on the Vine”
Stream it on: HBO/HBO Go, Friday night at 11 p.m.
The gist: This episode of Vice’s weekly news show includes an informative look at how climate change is impacting the world of winemaking.
The abnormally hot, dry weather in Northern California last fall laid the groundwork for the wildfires that decimated dozens of independently-owned vineyards in Sonoma County and the Napa Valley. And over in the Burgundy region of France, winemakers are now seeing their grapes ripen weeks before they traditionally have in the past, and in some cases, entire crops are being ruined by unpredictable morning frost.
One wine expert tells reporter Gianna Toboni that some farmers are losing 80 to 90 percent of their grapes due to problems that can be linked to climate change. The one glimmer of hope in all of this is that winemakers are now teaming up with scientists to find suitable grapes that can adapt to these changes, and hopefully keep these businesses alive.
In other entertainment news…
- Eating Animals, a film born out of a notorious email exchange between Natalie Portman and Jonathan Safran Foer, looks like it has the potential to be the big food documentary of the summer.
- Anthony Bourdain ate a ton of meat during his visit to Uruguay, and now audiences are going to see him eat a bunch of fish in the Newfoundland episode of Parts Unknown.
- The new Sweetbitter series on Starz is pretty good so far. The author of the book and co-creator of the show, Stephanie Danler, recently told Eater: “I think a lot of television is about aspirational lifestyle... and we worked really hard with Sweetbitter to work against that.” Stay tuned for a recap of episode two on Monday.
- Somebody Feed Phil, the travel show where Everybody Loves Raymond co-creator Phil Rosenthal mugs his way through meals around the world, returns for a second season on Netflix this July.
- Abby’s, a sitcom about an unlicensed backyard bar in San Diego, is getting picked up to series by NBC.
- A choice detail from Kim Severson’s profile of Rachael Ray: The wildly successful TV chef has an ATV on her property that was a gift from Guy Fieri. Her 84-year-old mom uses it to drive around the Ray compound.
- And finally, fameball chef Gordon Ramsay has a cartoon cameo in the new Rocky & Bullwinkle series on Amazon.