What's Worth Watching: Every Brilliant Thing, Twin Peaks, Independent Lens and more for Monday, December 26
Every Brilliant Thing (8/7c, HBO): Disclosure: I have a special connection with this endearing, dare we say brilliant, performance piece by Duncan Macmillan, starring British comic Jonny Donahoe as a young man whose seemingly endless list of brilliant things—the color yellow, Star Trek movies with even numbers—is intended to ward off the shadow of death. In particular, his mother's suicide. Sounds heavy, but it's anything but, as the audience (at the off-Broadway Barrow Street Theatre in Greenwich Village) recites items off the narrator's list and occasionally enacts characters from his past. At the show I attended two Decembers ago, I was plucked from the stage to play the dad, who in a poignant scene of role-reversal becomes the 7-year-old boy repeatedly asking his father "Why?" (In the dad's other big moment—you'll know it when you see it—my first improvised line was, "I never saw this coming.") Producer-directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato shoot Donohoe's charmingly intimate interactions in black and white, bringing a timeless quality to this testimony of hope against hopelessness, with romance and humor and redemption adding colors along the way. It's a brilliant experience, whether seen live or on TV.
Inside Monday TV: Twas the day after Christmas, and Showtime has a treat for Twin Peaks fans anxiously awaiting the show's reinvention in 2017. Starting today, every episode of the groundbreaking David Lynch/Mark Frost masterpiece of weirdness from 1990-91 will be available for binge-watching on Showtime's streaming service, On Demand and Showtime Anytime platforms. Brew up some damn good coffee and dig in. … NBC repeats the exuberant Hairspray Live! (8/7c) musical from early December, invaluable if only for capturing for posterity Harvey Fierstein's marvelous performance as Edna Turnblad, whose daughter Tracy (Maddy Baillio) dances her way into Baltimore's heart. … PBS's Independent Lens captures a real-life romantic comedy in Meet the Patels (9/8c, check local listings at pbs.org), in which Indian-American actor Ravi Patel is subjected to a year's worth of his parents' matchmaking, all captured by his filmmaker sister, Geeta.