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Planet Earth: Blue Planet II

Hollywood awards season is now in full swing, with this Sunday bringing the Screen Actors Guild Awards live on TNT and TBS. But if long and oftentimes protracted awards ceremonies aren’t really your thing, here are 10 other ways to stay entertained this week.

1. WHAT TO WATCH ON THE BEST SCREEN YOU HAVE ACCESS TO

Planet Earth: Blue Planet II
Planet Earth: Blue Planet II

This documentary series exploring the earth’s marine life, a sequel to 2001’s The Blue Planet, is a real tour-de-force achievement. In fact, making it involved 6,000 hours of underwater filming off the coasts of 39 different countries. Prepare to be dazzled by rarely-glimpsed habitats and aquatic creatures, but also to gain an insight into the way human pollution is affecting our oceans. Premiering Saturday on BBC America, Blue Planet II also benefits from a majestic Hans Zimmer score and typically distinguished narration from Sir David Attenborough.

2. WHAT TO WATCH FOR GLAMOUR, TRAGEDY, AND MELODRAMA

The Assassination of Gianni Versace
The Assassination of Gianni Versace

Following 2016’s riveting The People v. O. J. Simpson, American Crime Story turns its eye to another high-profile ’90s murder. Premiering Wednesday on FX, season two explores the fatal shooting of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion on July 15, 1997. Once again, the casting is delicious: The Girl on the Train‘s Édgar Ramírez stars as Versace, with Penélope Cruz as sister Donatella and Ricky Martin (yes, the Ricky Martin!) portraying his partner Antonio D’Amico. Several episodes were written by Tom Rob-Smith, creator of acclaimed U.K. miniseries London Spy, so expect a slick combination of substance and style.

3. WHAT TO PLAY WHEN YOU NEED AN ENERGY BOOST

Tune-Yards: I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life
Tune-Yards: I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life

Tune-Yards a.k.a. New England musician Merrill Garbus won loads of acclaim for her 2009 debut album, a dazzlingly inventive effort which she recorded in her bedroom using a dictaphone. But this fourth album dropping Friday is Tune-Yards’ catchiest and most accessible yet. Garbus and collaborator Nate Brenner still favor clattering percussion that will have some listeners reaching for the Advil, but their choruses have never been more infectious. Garbus’s lyrics hit home, too, as she explores super-pertinent topics such as pollution, white privilege, and materialism. The result is a bracing listen which packs a hefty punch.

4. WHAT TO WATCH FOR SMART SATIRE THAT ALWAYS HITS ITS TARGET

Portlandia
Portlandia

The cult comedy show sending up the trendy and eccentric characters of Portland, Oregon returns to IFC Thursday for its eighth and final season. If you’ve never watched before, expect playful and surreal sketches parodying hipster culture, alternative lifestyle choices, and the city’s famed indie music scene. But Portlandia succeeds because creator-leads Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen parody affectionately rather than spoofing cruelly. As Armisen acknowledged a couple of years ago, “the characters we do are very much like ourselves.”

5. WHAT TO GO SEE IF YOU FANCY SOME GENTLE ENTERTAINMENT

The Leisure Seeker
The Leisure Seeker

Opening in select theaters Friday, this road movie from acclaimed Italian director Paolo Virzì is most notable for its affecting lead performances. Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland play an older couple from Boston who take a break from their grown-up kids and a growing number of doctor’s appointments by loading up their RV trip for an impromptu trip to Ernest Hemingway‘s house in Key West. Though The Leisure Seeker has some predictable plot developments and over-cozy moments, it’s a pleasure seeing Mirren and Sutherland bouncing off one another so tenderly.

6. WHAT TO TRY EVEN IF YOU’RE SUFFERING FROM “SUPERHERO FATIGUE”

Black Lightning
Black Lightning

Debuting Tuesday, The CW’s latest comic book adaptation looks uncommonly promising. Cress Williams (Hart of Dixie, Prison Break) stars as the title character, a former superhero now working as a high school principal who comes out of retirement to protect his local community from an increasingly belligerent gang. In the late ’70s, Black Lightning made history as DC’s first starring black character, and this show brings him up-to-date brilliantly. On the evidence of early episodes, it’s a grittier and more realistic kind of superhero drama driven by Williams’ charismatic and physical central performance.

7. WHAT TO LISTEN TO AT THE END OF A TOUGH DAY

TROYE SIVAN
Troye Sivan

Australian singer-songwriter Troye Sivan made a great first impression with 2015’s Blue Neighbourhood, an infectious collection of emotionally literate mid-tempo pop songs. Released late last week, “My My My!” is a tasty appetizer for his second album due in the spring. Sivan calls it “a song of liberation, freedom, and love,” so it’s fitting that its slinky, shuffling verses build towards a truly glorious pop chorus. It’s tricky to make music that feels understated and anthemic at the same time, but Sivan has managed it here.

8. WHAT TO WATCH FOR COMEDY WITH PATHOS

Grace and Frankie
Grace and Frankie

It was tough not to root for this sitcom when it debuted in 2015: how many shows give lead roles to two actresses in their seventies? Playing former frenemies who finally bond when their respective husbands reveal they’re in love with another, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin were strong and very watchable from the start. But sadly, the scripts sometimes let them down. Over time though, Grace and Frankie has blossomed into a consistent and likeable comedy series filled with lots of poignant moments. Launching Friday on Netflix, season four features a juicy guest appearance from Lisa Kudrow as a manicurist who comes between the two women — let the zingers fly!

9. WHAT TO GO SEE FOR A DASH OF MAGIC THIS WEEKEND

Mary and the Witch's Flower
Mary and the Witch’s Flower

This charming Japanese anime movie was made by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the Oscar-nominated director of Studio Ghibli favorites When Marnie Was There and The Secret World of Arrietty. If you loved those films, you’ll probably enjoy this sweetly escapist tale about an ordinary young girl who finds a mysterious flower that transforms her into a witch, but for one night only. Opening in select theaters Friday, the English-language version of Mary and the Witch’s Flower has a terrific voice cast led by Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent, and The BFG’s Ruby Barnhill.

10. AND FINALLY, WHICH PERFECTLY NOSTALGIC MUSIC VIDEO TO CHECK OUT

Bruno Mars and Cardi B: "Finesse"
Bruno Mars and Cardi B: “Finesse”

Why is this video racking up tens of millions of YouTube views? Well, partly because it teams Bruno Mars with one of 2017’s biggest break-out stars, Bronx-born rapper Cardi B, whose breakthrough single “Bodak Yellow” hit number one in September. But “Finesse” is also doing the business because it’s so much fun. Decked out in ’90s finery, the two musicians deliver a playful, eye-popping homage to the opening credits of classic sketch show In Living Color. But, be warned: this video might make you want to wear a baseball cap backwards.

What are your plans for this week? 

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By Nick Levine