Don’t get me wrong, the Olympics are great. And over the course of these 18 days of the 2018 Winter Olympics, I’ll tune in for an event or two. But mostly, I see the Olympics – Winter and Summer – as great times to catch up on TV shows (or movies or books) I haven’t had time for while keeping up with my regular shows.
This catch-up period is perfect, if you’re not into the games, because except for a couple of reality shows (“The Bachelor,” “Bachelor Winter Games” and “Big Brother Celebrity Edition”), the competing networks mostly air reruns so they don’t have to compete with NBC’s winter sport juggernaut.
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With that in mind, here are some suggestions for other forms of entertainment you can check out through the final medal count.
‘This Is Us’
The big show of the moment is NBC’s “This Is Us.” If you’ve been wondering over the past few weeks what the heck all the fuss is about, take this opportunity to dive in. The show is back Feb. 27 with new episodes, so if you commit yourself, you can watch Season 1 and what you’ve missed so far in Season 2 and be ready. It’s not all sad, but you will need to get a box of Kleenex.
How to watch: First of all, you must watch from the beginning. This is not a show you can just jump into anywhere. And it’s not on Netflix.
▪ NBC.com – NBC has all episodes on its website, but you’ll need to sign in with your log-in info from your cable provider to watch anything more than the previous two or three eps. Start here: nbc.com/this-is-us.
▪ Hulu – Hulu has all of the episodes to stream. Hulu costs $7.99 a month ($11.99 for commercial free access) but there’s a free trial period.
‘Game of Thrones’
I like to call this “The Other Winter Games.” Or “Winter Games with Murder and Dragons.” George R.R. Martin’s wildly popular HBO series is set to end with Season 8 (which isn’t coming until sometime in 2019), so you have plenty of time to watch all seven existing seasons before then. The seasons are short, so if you’re dedicated, you could even finish before the Closing Ceremony on Feb. 25.
How to watch: Again, this one isn’t on Netflix. Your best option is HBO, but there are a couple of different ways to do that.
▪ HBO Go – If you already have HBO you can watch all episodes of pretty much any HBO series with the HBO Go app, which you can use on a mobile device or stream through a device like Roku or AppleTV or Samsung Smart TV.
▪ HBO Now – If you don’t have HBO, you can sign up for HBO Now, a standalone HBO streaming service that doesn’t require a cable subscription. That costs $15 a month (if you have cable, you can add HBO to your account for about the same price).
You can still go out to the theater and see a few of the Oscar-nominated films, but some are also available to watch from home.
▪ “Get Out,” the socially relevant thriller-comedy from Jordan Peele, is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. It’s available on HBO Go or HBO Now. You can also purchase on iTunes ($14.99), Amazon Video ($9.99), Google Play ($14.99) or YouTube ($14.99).
▪ “The Big Sick,” an unconventional (but based on a true story) romantic comedy from Kumail Nanjiani and Winston-Salem native Emily V. Gordon, is nominated for Best Original Screenplay. You can stream it on Amazon Prime, included with membership. Or you can rent from Amazon ($4.99) or download to own ($14.99). Also available on Google Play (rent for $4.99, own for $9.99) or YouTube (rent for $4.99 or own for $9.99).
▪ “The Darkest Hour” is a World War II movie focusing on the early days of the war when Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler or fight. It’s nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Oldman). You can purchase the download via YouTube ($14.99), Google Play ($14.99) or iTunes ($14.99).
▪ “Dunkirk,” the Christopher Nolan World War II film, is nominated for a bunch of awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. You can stream it on Amazon (rent for $5.99 or own for $19.99), YouTube (rent for $4.99) and Google Play (rent for $4.99 or own for $14.99). Purchase on iTunes for $19.99.
▪ “Mudbound” is the historical drama nominated for four Oscars – Best Supporting Actress (Mary J. Blige), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song (“Mighty River”) and Best Achievement in Cinematography (Rachel Morrison). It’s a Netflix original, so that’s where you’ll find it.
▪ “Strong Island,” in which filmmaker Yance Ford explores the murder of his brother and the justice system that let his killer walk free, is nominated for Best Documentary. This won awards at the 2017 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham. It’s currently on Netflix.
▪ “Last Men in Aleppo,” also a winner at Full Frame in Durham last year, has a Best Documentary nomination. This story of the Syrian rescue group White Helmets is streaming on Netflix.
▪ “Abacus,” another movie that screened at Full Frame, is nominated for Best Documentary. It’s available on Amazon Prime, free with membership.
▪ “Loving Vincent” is nominated for Best Animated Feature film. This Vincent Van Gogh tribute is called “the world’s first fully painted feature film.” You can see it on Amazon (rent for $4.99, own for $12.99), Google Play (rent for $3.99 or own for $9.99), YouTube (rent for $3.99, own for $9.99) or iTunes ($12.99).
Here are a few books from 2017 you’ve been meaning to read.
▪ “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders – In this Man Booker Prize-winning novel, Abraham Lincoln, grief-stricken over the death of his son, inhabits the “bardo,” the transitional place between life and death, where he is surrounded by ghosts of the past and present.
▪ “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward – Ward’s Mississippi-set story is about a 13-year-old boy and his baby sister who live with their grandparents but are taken on a journey by their drug-addicted mother to meet their father when he’s released from Parchman Farm prison. This is Ward’s second National Book Award-winning novel.
▪ “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng – Ng’s story explores what happens in a small town in Ohio when a childless couple decide to adopt a Chinese-American baby left at a fire station, and everyone in the town has an opinion about it.