"Summer Dreams" (CBS, Saturday). A vivid, elegantly made, two-hour documentary centering on the
It's not necessary to know much about basketball, or that there is a thing called March Madness going on now (in the broadcasting of which CBS is also involved), or even care about sports particularly, to understand the action and get involved with the characters. (I am the proof of this, America. Indeed, the first sentence of this pick contains virtually all I know about this game.) Without sentimentalizing overly, as is often the case when TV looks at athletes -- I am not a sports fan, but I am often a sports film fan -- and in relatively brief strokes, executive producer Michael Tollin and his team have created something that feels intimate and alive, following six characters without giving any of them short shrift. In no small part, this is because it's beautifully shot, so that whatever else is happening in the story, in home or hotel room or arena, there is a constant, enriching stream of visual detail, much of it poignant in a quotidian sort of way.
It is also less about the game than it is about individual desire, on the one hand, and human relations on the other -- families and friends and coaches. (It's more than usual, I'd guess, about mothers and sons.) It is, in fact, rather sweet. Tollin -- whose other credits include not only
That the tone is positive and all the characters likable is conceivably not representative of the whole of the sport; at the same time, one of the films' points is that, positivity aside, desire and talent are not always -- not usually -- present in equal measure, and that, not only is not everybody a star, not everybody even gets onstage. To be really, really good but not quite great is a dilemma reserved for those who are better at what they do than almost everybody, but a dilemma all the same.
"Billy on the Street" (Fuse, Wednesdays). Billy Eichner, whom you may know as the volatile Eagletonian Craig on
"Live From Space" (
Not to make this special any less special, but NASA, who partnered in "Live From Space," regularly broadcasts from the space station via NASA TV. (You can find it online, as a streaming channel, and on cable and satellite television.) Like the space station itself, its existence is easy to ignore, and the fact that much of its programming day consists of clips, or mostly fragments of clips, sometimes interrupted by other clips, presented without context in weirdly random rotation, is not liable to draw in the general audience the Space Administration ought to be courting. But as video wallpaper for space geeks, it is pretty cool and, literally, far out.