Sure, Sunday tends to be overcrowded with high-end TV, including “Boardwalk Empire,” “Eastbound and Down,” “Homeland,” “Masters of Sex,” “The Walking Dead” and more, but what to watch the rest of the time? Every Monday, we bring you five noteworthy highlights from the other six days of the week.
HBO tends to utterly dominate the short doc Oscar category, and all three of these films — about a Long Island beauty salon that opens free of charge for cancer patients once a month, Africa’s only free cardiac hospital and eight Rwandan children who journey to have surgery there and can and bottle collectors in New York City — were up for a 2013 Academy Award in the category, though the prize ultimately went to a non-HBO film, “Inocente.”
Michael Apted’s landmark documentary series has been following the same set of children since 1964, checking in with them every seven years. The “kids” are now 56 and have weathered middle age, and all but one, Charles, has returned to participate in this latest installment. Is it true that, as the maxim that inspired the series claims, “Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man”? Certainly no series has encompassed the temporal scope of the “Up” films, reminding us of how the children people begin as inform the adults they become.
“Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle”
Tuesday, October 15 at 8pm on PBS
PBS attempts to cash in on the superhero craze with this series of docs hosted and narrated by Liev Schreiber that trace the history and rise of the comic book genre from its Depression-era roots. There are three films in the series, airing back-to-back: “Truth, Justice, and the American Way (1938-1958)” at 8pm, “Great Power, Great Responsibility (1959-1977)” at 9pm and “A Hero Can Be Anyone (1978-Present)” at 10pm. Stan Lee, Adam West, Lynda Carter, Michael Chabon and Jules Feiffer are among the interviewees.
Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter play Hollywood icons and famously tempestuous lovers Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in this BBC/BBC America co-production, directed by Richard Laxton and written by William Ivory (“Made in Dagenham”). The film is set in 1982, as the two prepare to make their final stage appearance together in a critically maligned Broadway revival of Noel Coward’s play “Private Lives.”
Chiwetel Ejiofor is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination for his role in Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” which opens this Friday, and it can’t be a coincidence that Starz has chosen to premiere his British miniseries “Dancing on the Edge” the same weekend. A five-part period drama, “Dancing on the Edge” features Ejiofor playing Louis Lester, who heads with his jazz band to 1930s London, where they’re a fashionable hit amongst progressive socialites but made unwelcome by other members of the upper crust, a scenario inspired by accounts of the Duke Ellington Band in Europe. The BBC miniseries is written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff (“Close My Eyes”).
Also worth a look: Netflix has been quietly releasing comedy specials, the latest of which is “Notorious”/”Russell Peters vs. the World,” a stand-up performance from and accompanying docu-series about the Canadian comedian that went live on Monday, October 14th at 12:01am PT; ESPN examines a notorious 1980 rematch between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran in “30 for 30” doc “No Mas” on Tuesday, October 15th at 8pm; Epix takes a look at the billion-dollar business of college sports in the doc “Schooled,” airing Wednesday, October 16th at 8pm; dependable USA show “White Collar” is back for a new season on Thursday, October 17th at 9pm; Bob Odenkirk returns to television, in sketch comedy form, as the executive producer and a performer in new IFC series “The Birthday Boys,” premiering Friday, October 18th at 10:30pm; Starz historical drama “The White Queen” ends its reign and its 10-episode run on Saturday, October 19th at 9pm.