"Los Jets" (NUVOtv). This six-part documentary about an all-Latino North Carolina high school soccer team is also a tale of the changing face of the South and asks again that elastic and inexhaustible question, What Does It Mean To Be an American? Created and directed by Mark Landsman ("Thunder Soul," "Peace of Mind"), it takes off from a 2007 book by head coach Paul Cuadros, "A Home on the Field: How One Championship Team Inspires Hope for the Revival of Small Town America." (This isn't mentioned in the series itself.) Cuadros, who also teaches journalism at the University of North Carolina, came to Jordan-Matthewes High School, in tiny Siler City, N.C., in 1999, at a time when the state was riven by anti-immigration rallies; seeing kids playing football in the street inspired him to propose that the school field a real team, a hard sell at the time in a town where soccer was identified with otherness. (Bringing home a championship title helped change that.) Thirteen seasons later, Jordan-Matthewes is two-thirds Latino and more students than ever sign up to play soccer. But there are still challenges, from Cuadros' insistence on playing elegant ball in a state where things normally get rough, and from the race-based abuse the team can still encounter on away games. "Take those feelings of anger," Cuadros tells them, "and score more goals."
It's a political story, a sports story and a personal story. The kids have that sleepy sweetness of teenagers photographed up close, and lovingly, in their natural habitats. Some are citizens, others are American in every respect but birthplace and papers, facing a path laid out along a knife's edge; the film is clearly on their side. Director of photography Guy Mossman (
"Children of Tendu" and "Harmontown" (online). Two TV-related podcasts from well-known creator-writer types. I was going to describe them as "successful" creator-writer types, because each does make a living in the business called show -- it is not a hobby they support with day jobs at the car wash or coffee shop -- but they have all had their ups and downs, their ins, their outs. Which is the point, in different ways, of these very different series.
In "Children of Tendu," "producer-level television writers" and fellow Puerto Ricans Javier "Javi" Grillo-Marxuach (creator of "The Middleman," veteran of "Charmed" and
"Harmontown," though expressive of some of the same concerns, has a different flavor. It is inevitably, but not specifically, about television, being the online journal and megaphone of sometimes conspicuously embattled Dan
"90s Sleepover" and "#Funterruptions" (Above Average/YouTube). However short an episode, a series is a series is a series, and these two offerings from "Above Average," the YouTube extension of
"90s Sleepover" is a serial series, covering a single night spent together by three kids on the cusp of 7th grade, played by Amos Vernon, Mike Lane and Nunzio Randazzo. (Collectively known as the comedy troupe Boat, they have ties to the New York chapter of the
In what might or might not be titled "#Funterruptions" -- that could just be a hashtag, just as the whole business might be seen as a series of ads for the cracker shown on a card after each episode -- the lively, divine Abby Elliott turns brief periods of downtime into interludes of Mittyesque daydreams and childlike play. (In an earlier Above Average series, "The Assistant," she played the dual role of boss and PA.) Waiting for a parking space, as a woman fills her trunk with "rubber shoes," Elliott muses "I could check my email and play a game … or [brightening], I could build a dossier on suspicious activity," and then goes full undercover. In another, a lull in a business meeting makes way for a sing-along: "What can I do in a minute and a half?" she asks, stating the premise outright. And a suddenly materializing singing group answers, "You could put all your stuff in alphabetical order/Or crawl under the table and take a quick nap/Grab those tiny teacups and have a tiny tea party/Or practice your splits, girl, you're almost there."
"Wizard Wars" (