This Week’s Top 5 TV Picks

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There are scores of TV shows out there, with dozens of new episodes each week, not to mention everything you can find on Hulu Plus, Netflix streaming, and HBO Go. How’s a viewer to keep up? To help you sort through all that television has to offer, Flavorwire is compiling the five best bets for the coming week. This week we’ve got the Oscars, we’ve got an ABC miniseries about the gay rights movement, we’ve got some  jokes courtesy of Mike Birbiglia, and we’ve got a very depressing yet vital docu-series on Kalief Browder. Plus, Conan O’Brien heads south to try to mend the fragile relations between the United States and Mexico. In this great country, there’s no problem a heavily televised entertainer can’t fix. Happy viewing, folks.


Sunday: Oscars, baby!

That’s right folks, the 89th annual Academy Awards are this weekend, and you know what that means — total domination by La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s love letter to Hollywood dreams that broke a record at the Golden Globes last month. The musical is expected to sweep this year’s awards, but for many critics and viewers, the real winner of the year is Barry Jenkins’s MoonlightThe host this year is the rather lackluster Jimmy Kimmel, but the show is bound to include some political “moments” akin to Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes. The ceremony begins Sunday at 8:30 p.m. EST on ABC; the red carpet will start at 7 p.m; I’ll be asleep by 10 p.m.


Monday: When We Rise 

This eight-part ABC miniseries about the gay rights movement is more than a tad uneven, despite name-brand stars like Mary Louise Parker and Michael Kenneth Williams. Still, the fact that a series centered on the struggle for gay rights from the 1970s through the legalization of gay marriage in 2013 is airing on a major network during prime time feels like progress in and of itself. The series may rush through the history of the activist movement it depicts, but there are still some powerful moments here, particularly for young viewers hoping to be inspired by the people who put their bodies on the line to enact real social change. When We Rise premieres Monday at 9 p.m. on ABC.


Tuesday: Mike Birbiglia: Thank God For Jokes

Mike Birbiglia could probably make the crowd at a stadium feel like they’re part of a cozy fireside gathering. The comedian and filmmaker — last year he wrote and directed the charming Don’t Think Twice, about improv performers — is back with his second Netflix special, Thank God For Jokes. The special is a taped version of Birbiglia’s same-named one-man show, a very funny and whip-smart meditation on humor and faith that he toured across the country in 2016. Check it out this Tuesday on Netflix.


Wednesday: Time: The Kalief Browder Story

“They said most likely we’re gonna let you go home. But then I never went home.” You’ve probably heard the story of Kalief Browder, the Bronx native who was arrested in 2010 at age 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack — a crime he insisted he did not commit. Nevertheless, he spent 1,000 days on Rikers Island awaiting trial, 800 of them in solitary confinement. He was eventually released in 2014, only to commit suicide less than a year later. Time, a six-part docu-series executive produced by Jay-Z, is a more intimate look at Browder, who appears on camera in interviews given after his release as well as footage from his interrogation the night of the alleged crime and surveillance footage from Rikers. It’s a haunting and challenging series, required viewing for anyone interested in criminal justice reform. It premieres on Spike TV on Wednesday at 10 p.m.


Wednesday: Conan Without Borders: Made in Mexico

Conan O’Brien has been mostly left out of the late-night competition in recent months, with Samantha Bee and Stephen Colbert emerging as the front-runners in the battle for Trump-weary viewers’ attention. Still, I’ll always have a soft spot for Conan, and he always shines in his Conan Without Borders series,  in which he broadcasts his show from other countries. Past destinations include South Korea and Germany, but the next one is decidedly more contentious at this particular moment: Mexico. The hour-long special, which airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. on TBS, was shot on location in Mexico City, and features Rogue One star Diego Luna and former Mexican President Vicente Fox — he of the “fucken wall” tweet. It was also shot with an entirely Mexican crew and audience. Will Conan mend the fractures between these two great nations? Eh, probably not.