TORONTO — Whether it’s a semi-autobiographical comedy or sharp parodies of the documentary genre, the boundaries separating truth and fiction are especially blurry on streaming services in September.
Here’s a look at several film and TV series worth adding to your must-see lists:
Comedian Ramy Youssef digs deep into his own experiences for the semi-autobiographical story of a twenty-something Arab-American navigating life in New Jersey. As a practising Muslim, Ramy’s identity is caught between his traditional parents and modern conventions that are often at odds with his own beliefs. So what’s a guy to do when even a successful date suddenly ends in an awkward culture clash? Youssef — who writes, directs and stars in the show — brings a hilarious universality to his character and manages to shatter a few stereotypes along the way. (Crave/Starz, Sept. 15)
A selection of faux documentaries launching this month ditch reality in pursuit of a hearty laugh. Among the standouts is the return of Zach Galifianakis to his breakout role playing a fake version of himself — the host of celebrity talk show “Between Two Ferns” — in a feature-length film produced by Netflix. “Between Two Ferns: The Movie,” due on Sept. 20, follows the host as he embarks on a road trip to gather interviews with famous Hollywood faces in hopes of rescuing his flailing career. Add to that the staggeringly weird TV series “Documentary Now!,” due Sept. 10 on CBC Gem, which nails parodies of classic documentaries with some of the industry’s biggest talents. Among the best episodes is a spin on the doc “Grey Gardens” starring Fred Armisen and Bill Hader as two former socialites living in their rundown mansion.
A serial rapist appears to be attacking young women, but police are skeptical about the claims, thinking that one of the teenagers is fabricating her story. Two female detectives (Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) are brought onto the case as the investigation widens and new questions are raised. Based on the ProPublica article “A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America,” the searing examination of how sexual assault claims are treated by investigators is bound to stir up conversation. (Netflix, Sept. 13)
“Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020”
Japan’s reality-TV obsession gets a fresh edition set in Tokyo, the bustling city where it first began. The show’s basic concept will sound familiar to North American viewers — six beautiful strangers shack up in an amazing home to seek love and friendship in front of the camera — but that’s where the similarities with the usual reality-TV fare end. This isn’t “Big Brother,” and there aren’t any overblown moments. Instead, the housemates live their usual lives, toiling away at their regular jobs while dating fellow housemates. Each episode is bookended by a panel of personalities who dissect every cast member’s move. It sounds simple, but in the latest season their relationships get complicated very quickly. The first round of “Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020” episodes debuted on Netflix Japan earlier this summer, but international viewers get the show in batches several months later. This season will crescendo timed with Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Olympics. For the curious, three past “Terrace House” seasons are already available: “Boys & Girls in the City,” “Open News Doors” and the Hawaii-set “Aloha State.” (Netflix, Sept. 10)
“RuPaul’s Drag Race”
It’s a veritable drag-a-palooza as “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a quest for America’s next drag superstar, moves into its new home on Crave. All 11 seasons of the Emmy-winning competition series, as well the four seasons of spinoff “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” will premiere on the platform as part of a larger agreement to produce an upcoming Canadian edition of the show. The “Drag Race” collection adds to Crave’s growing library of drag queen programming, which includes HBO documentary “Wig,” a dive into New York’s annual Wigstock celebration, and the Vice talk-comedy series “The Trixie & Katya Show,” which features two of RuPaul’s alum getting raunchy on topics ranging from relationships to phobias. New episodes of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” will continue to be available on the lower priced OutTVGo, which also maintains a back catalogue of the “Untucked” after show. (Crave, Sept. 13)
In Case You Missed It (titles already streaming):
There’s plenty of clown to go around for viewers planning to hype themselves up for “It: Chapter Two,” arriving in theatres on Sept. 6. The mythos behind Pennywise begins with “Stephen King’s It,” the 2017 reboot of the Hollywood franchise, which is now available on Netflix. Historians of the killer clown’s lore can jump back even further to Tim Curry’s unsettling performance in the first adaptation of King’s novel, the 1990 TV movie “It,” available on Starz through Crave. If that’s not enough to awaken your coulrophobia there are heaps of other options, including clown horror flick “Terrifier” (Netflix) and Federico Fellini’s “The Clowns” (Amazon Prime Video), a documentary in defence of the circus where the famed Italian director ponders why his films were often infatuated by the entertainers.
“If Beale Street Could Talk”
Barry Jenkins’ poetic follow-up to best picture Oscar winner “Moonlight” adapts James Baldwin’s 1974 novel into a textured and tragic romance. The New York-set film tells of a young black couple in the midst of a romance that would be perfect, if it wasn’t at odds with the world around them. After 22-year-old Alonzo (played by Toronto-raised Stephan James) is accused of a rape he didn’t commit, his expectant fiance Tish (KiKi Layne) is pulled into tragic circumstances out of her or her family’s control. Jenkins delicately paints a story a two lovers whose fate seems inseparable from the racial injustices thrust upon them. (Amazon Prime Video)
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David Friend, The Canadian Press