Summer TV: 'People Of Earth,' 'Last Chance U,' 'Confederate' Controversy

Jul 23, 2017
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

We've been checking in over the last few weeks with some of our favorite TV critics to hear what television they're recommending to go with your air conditioning as you beat the heat. This week, we've invited Margaret Lyons from The New York Times to talk to us. She joins us from their studios in New York City.

Welcome.

MARGARET LYONS: Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK, so what shows are returning to the airwaves this week?

LYONS: Two of my favorite shows are back this weekend. One is called "Last Chance U". That's on Netflix. And the other is called "People Of Earth," which is on TBS.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So Netflix's "Last Chance U" is described as a documentary series that follows this team and its coach at East Mississippi Community College. What do you like about it?

LYONS: It's beautiful. It's really incisive. It has such a perceptive eye about how people interact and describe themselves and the sort of contrast between how we see ourselves and how everyone else sees us and the pressures that society puts around young people and coaches. And you definitely do not have to be a football fan to enjoy it. I am not a particular football fan at all. I don't think I've ever seen a whole football game.

You know, people compare it a lot to "Friday Night Lights" and it shares, definitely, that show's sort of lyricism and sometimes some of its optimism. But it also has a much harsher, bleaker side, too.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And it's going to be the second season - right? - that's coming up. What can we expect? So Season 2, the sort of central theme - and everyone on the show repeats it at some point - is everybody makes mistakes, and everyone deserves a second chance.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "LAST CHANCE U")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Football is what saved my life 'cause I'd probably still be on the streets doing the same stuff and getting into trouble, getting arrested and all that.

LYONS: And we see many different people grappling with the mistakes that they've made or that other people say that they've made - and then trying to figure out who would be willing to give them a second chance, if anyone, and in what ways they can rise to that occasion and in what ways they may or may not fall short of that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. Now a show that's a little less down to earth - you mentioned...

LYONS: (Laughter) Yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ..."People Of Earth," which is about a support group for alien abductees. Tell me about this. I do not know this show, which, considering my interests, is strange.

LYONS: (Laughter) Are you very interested in - they call themselves experiencers...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes, I am.

LYONS: ...On the show?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is anyone not interested in alien abductees? I'm sure that's not true.

LYONS: So the show is set up - Wyatt Cenac plays a reporter named Ozzie who visits Beacon, N.Y., and discovers this support group...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PEOPLE OF EARTH")

WYATT CENAC: This is Ozzie Graham reporting on StarCrossed, a support group for people who believe they've been abducted by aliens - and meet in a Catholic church for some reason.

LYONS: ...And then sort of slowly, over the first season, realizes that perhaps he belongs among them, not just reporting on them. It's a very, very funny show that sort of bounces between this kind of, like, quirky, small-town jokey vibe and then also, like, an alien workplace comedy, where immediately - like, the people aren't crazy. They're not lying. And we sort of get to see both sides of that, whether it's the reptilian overlords or the people also just navigating their, like, day-to-day lives with romance...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Wait, wait, wait.

LYONS: ...And divorce and jobs.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We get to meet the alien overlords?

LYONS: Oh, yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, wait a second. Wait a second. Now you've got me hooked.

(LAUGHTER)

LYONS: I also just really like how much the show likes its characters. Everyone is on each other's side. So it's not necessarily that these characters are against each other, although, obviously, the alien overlords may or may not be friendly. But...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Always the question with alien overlords.

LYONS: (Laughter) Yeah, I guess. But the way the show just sort of holds them so tenderly, I just find that kind of comedy that makes it easy to like and easy to watch and easy to want to watch more of.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Margaret Lyons. She's a TV critic for The New York Times newsletter, Watching. Thanks so much.

LYONS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.