THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT
WHO would have thought you could make chess games riveting and dramatic, much the way boxing and football matches have been portrayed over the decades? Also, who believed the stuffy and intellectual world of chess could be a hotbed of drug and alcohol addiction?
Seven-part series The Queen's Gambit proves it's possible. This cinematic period drama tells the fictional story of Beth Harmon, a highly-intelligent, quiet, but fiercely-determined orphan girl who learns to play chess from her school's janitor and becomes obsessed with learning the game's complexities .
By 13 Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a child chess prodigy, beating experienced male players, and has been adopted by a middle-class couple Mr and Mrs Wheatley. After Mr Wheatley leaves the family due to his wife's drinking, Beth and Mrs Wheatley become close.
Mrs Wheatley acts as Beth's agent as she travels across America competing for money at chess tournaments and attracting media attention, all the while battling an increasing dependence on tranquilizer pills and alcohol.
Admittedly the lack of discrimination and sexism Beth faces in the predominantly male domain of 1960s chess feels unrealistic, but The Queen's Gambit is superbly acted.
Anyone who believed chess was for nerds might be inclined to search for an old checker board after watching this series.
ON TOUR WITH ASPERGER'S ARE US
WE'VE all seen the classic tour documentary where a rock band or comedian troupe perform around America and encounter various trials and tribulations. However, what we haven't seen is a tour documentary with a group of people with Asperger's Syndrome.
Knowledge of the neurodevelopmental disorder is vague among the general populace, which makes On Tour With Asperger's Are Us, not just highly entertaining, but educational too.
Asperger's Are Us are an American comedy troupe where each member has Asperger's or is an "aspy" as they call themselves. While the scenes from their shows are awkward due to their direct and oddball brand of comedy, there is a real heart to the series.
Each member is explored in detail. There's the leader, Noah, who can be autocratic in order to keep the other three on task. Ethan struggles with change and can become withdrawn, Jack frustrates the others with his poor time management and Michael is a Kate Bush fan who eats nothing but pizza and almost destroys one performance by getting drunk.
On Tour With Asperger's Are Us is not exactly funny in the traditional sense, but it's sincere.
THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK
FANS of '60s rock music will love that Stan has added Oliver Stone's film The Doors and Ron Howard's documentary The Beatles: Eight Day A Week to their library.
The latter is a slick presentation of the Fab Four's touring years of 1963-1966 when Beatlemania was a cultural phenomenon.
New viewers will love the raucous live performances, but long-term Beatles fans won't see anything that wasn't portrayed in greater detail in the Anthology series.