The Woodstock ’99 documentary that’s airing this month on HBO (and streaming on HBO Max) is a remarkable record of the disaster that three-day event became. From a sanitation failure on the first day, leaving attendees to wallow in human waste, to thousands of bottles and other objects thrown at performers onstage, to the looting and bonfires set by the crowd on the last night, it was — as someone who was there says — “a breakdown of humanity.” It got so bad that MTV staff, who covered and broadcast much of the concert, were told by higher-ups their safety could not be guaranteed, so they should get the hell out of there (which they did).
Worse than any of that were the misogyny and brutal sexual assaults on women by men described by one commentator as “savages.” It all added up to destructive bro culture at its worst, instigated by idiots like Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit telling the crowd to let their negative feelings out and “start breaking things.” Watching the aggressive, young, white men in the crowd causing havoc, I couldn’t help but think that some of them, 22 years later, were no doubt among the aggressive, middle-aged, white men attacking the US Capitol on January 6th. The documentary is not easy to watch, but a fascinating time capsule of a weekend when the “Lord Of The Flies“ became far too real.
HBO also has a new documentary series, “Small Town News,” about the owner and staff of KPVM-TV in Pahrump, Nevada (population: 37,000). The owner/general manager is Vern Von Winkle (I kid you not) who, with his wife Ronda, has run the station for more than two decades, but still struggles financially. That means he doesn’t pay employees enough nor offer them health insurance, so the turnover rate is high, and the series doesn’t hesitate to focus on each team member’s departure. Then there’s Deanna, the long-suffering news director who anchors the station’s evening newscast and still has to cover stories and oversee a bunch of rookies. Having worked at family-run radio stations, I could identify with a lot of the goings-on in “Small Town News,” but I lost interest in the series after just the first two episodes.
I’ve also given up on “Schmigadoon,” the Broadway musical satire on Apple TV+ which was mildly amusing at first, but by the third episode the idea was already wearing thin. I’m a fan of Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, but I won’t be around to see how long they and the creative team can stretch out the show’s rather thin premise.
During the pandemic, my wife and I were drawn to the Spanish series “Money Heist” when it streamed on Netflix. Since we were cooped up with nowhere to go, we binge-watched its four seasons and thought that was that. But no! Netflix has produced a fifth season, which will stream in two parts beginning next month. Five new episodes will premiere on September 3, followed by another five on December 3. Let’s hope they’re as captivating as the others were. And if this is the first time you’ve heard of “Money Heist,” consider adding it to your queue — but I recommend you opt for the subtitled rather than dubbed version.