Theater Alternatives

Ben Miles
Bill Maher

With so many theaters suspending stagings of live performances – such as the Ahmanson and Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and South Coast Repertory in The OC – it may be time to explore some indoor viewing opportunities. After all, social distance is the advice of the day.

In order to keep conversant with the news of the day, consider HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” The show is topical, irreverent and often laugh-out-loud funny. With such recent guest as New York Times columnist Ross Douthhat; former Trump advisor Steve Bannon; infectious disease specialist Dr. Anne Rimoin; and former presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, to mention only several of the spectrum of luminaries who have undergone the gloves-off interview tactics of Mr. Maher, a wide range of perspectives are given in-depth exploration, discussion and debate.

There’s a lot of dirty talk and innuendo in the hour-long program; it’s not for prudes. But it will appeal to those in search of some comedy honey to help swallow the bad news vinegar that seems to be at overflow capacity these days. “Real Time with Bill Maher” shows at 10 p.m. on Fridays. It’s also available to HBO subscribers On Demand.

Another HBO program that is humorous as well as enlightening is John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.” In its half-hour format, it addresses serious issues, such as the scandalous sheriff’s departments across the nation. Unlike police chiefs who are appointed through a civil service merit process, county sheriffs are elected to office. The process exemplifies the adage that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Elected sheriffs are not only the top law enforcement officer of the county in which they preside, they – for better or worse, mostly worse – also are in charge of their county’s jail system.

With erstwhile sheriffs such as Lee Baca of Los Angeles County and Mike Corona of Orange County now convicted felons, Mr. Oliver’s showcase of this issue, as well as other current controversies, deserves to be watched. Like Bill Maher’s show, Mr. Oliver lubricates the outrages of our era with laughter. The language may not be appropriate for children, but the information is valuable.

 “Last Week Tonight” shows at 11 p.m. on Sundays. It too is available to HBO subscribers On Demand.

Searching Showtime and HBO for movies can be worthwhile. In the middle of March, the 1973 film “Serpico” was airing on Showtime . With a sterling performance by a thirty-something Al Pacino, we learn of the trials and tribulations of Frank Serpico, the unconventional New York City cop who blew the whistle on the rampant corruption of the NYPD. It is an ode to the courage it takes to blow the proverbial whistle on government wrongdoing. “Serpico” is available to Showtime subscribers On Demand.

In the next several editions of the Beachcomber, columnist Ben Miles will likely be reviewing worthy alternatives for theatergoers to indulge in and enjoy while awaiting a return to live theater normalcy.


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