True stories are all the rage on TV this month, with nonfiction looks at Richard Nixon’s darkest hour, the booming business of art trading and the political side of the N.B.A. (as well as scripted takes on an IRL prison break and bad romance, respectively). On the fiction side, HBO’s got one import from Britain and another from Italy, each structured around a woman seizing control of her life; and AMC drops an intense John le Carré adaptation. Here’s what you’ll be tuning in to this November. (For our best-of-the-month streaming options, click here.)
Axios (HBO, Nov. 4th)
It launched last year under the stewardship of three defectors from Politico — now the news site Axios will try to establish their premium-cable bona fides with this four-part documentary series. On deck: Incisive commentary from their own staffers on such hot-button issues as the opioid epidemic, cryptocurrency, US-China relations and the ongoing evolution of Venezuela’s government and economy. Their press release promises a balanced mix of reportage, short profiles and exclusive interviews, along with their trademarked “smart brevity” — it’s just the thing for those news junkies in search of a slightly more buttoned-up alternative to HBO’s partnership with VICE.
Dirty John (Bravo, Nov. 25th)
A romance too good to be true, ending in deceit, passion, and danger — it sounds like the outline of a smoky film noir, but it’s all 100-percent factual. This true-crime anthology series kicks off with a long-form adaptation of the Los Angeles Times articles relating the tragic tale of John Meehan (Eric Bana) and Debra Newell (Connie Britton). A single mother to two adult daughters, she was feeling a little lonely; a decent, well-mannered, single man was the answer to her prayers. But when her kids (Juno Temple and Julia Garner) started asking questions about Mr. Right, things went very wrong.
Escape at Dannemora (Showtime, Nov. 18th)
In 2015, at a prison tucked away in the fields of upstate New York, two inmates engineered a daring escape. They pulled it off thanks to a mixture of daring, go-for-broke desperation and the assistance of a female guard … with whom they had both gotten romantically involved.. Their sensational breakout and the ensuing manhunt form the basis for this ripped-from-the-headlines thriller directed by Ben Stiller in an unexpected serious turn. Benicio del Toro, Patricia Arquette and Paul Dano make up TV’s most bizarre love triangle of the year.
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC, Nov. 19th)
South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook comes to television for the first time to direct star-on-the-rise Florence Pugh, dashing beanpole Alexander Skarsgard and the singular Michael Shannon in a taut spy thriller from the pen of John le Carré. An English actress is recruited by Israeli intelligence to infiltrate a Palestinian terrorist cell; once she gets too deep in the muck, she finds it harder and harder to tell who are the good guys and who are the bad ones. An agent with unsteady nerves can be a dangerous thing indeed.
My Brilliant Friend (HBO, Nov. 18th)
The first in Elena Ferrante’s series of widely acclaimed “Neapolitan Novels” comes to life with this eight-episode miniseries. An elderly Elena Greco looks back on a half-century of friendship with her dear Lila upon the latter woman’s mysterious disappearance, with a full ensemble of actresses on board to portray the pair through their girlhood, teen years and adulthood. All true besties encounter a little jealousy, competition or the occasional fight, making for a rich and complicated dynamic over a span of decades. Cue “Thank You for Being a Friend.”
The Price of Everything (HBO, Nov. 12th)
Art collectors will part with tens of millions of dollars just for the privilege of mounting something worth a mansion in their foyer — and the bragging rights of owning something that their fiercest social rivals don’t. This documentary examines the high-stakes business of painting and sculpture trading — from the artists resentful of a market reducing their life’s work to dollars and cents to the scheming dealers and almost comically vain buyers. You won’t find a more perfect symbol of bourgeois excess this year than the multi-million-dollar golden toilet.
Sally4Ever (HBO, Nov. 11th)
Sally (Catherine Shepherd) can feel the weight of her own life bearing down on her — and when the boyfriend (Alex Macqueen) she can barely stand decides to pop the question, our lady starts looking for an exit strategy. She finds it in Emma (Julia Davis, who also wrote and directed this black comedy series), an unpredictable actress-singer-author-poet-musician with a zest that Sally sees as all too refreshing. They spend a couple torrid nights together, but neither can detach themselves from the other as easily as they thought. It’s hilarious and painfully awkward and your new favorite imported show.
Shut Up and Dribble (Showtime, Nov. 3rd)
Executive produced by LeBron James and his longtime friend Maverick Carter, this docuseries considers the role of the celebrity athlete in a society that insists they leave politics off the court. An all-star lineup of talking-head ballers — from Kareem Abdul-Jabar to King James himself — weigh on the role of N.B.A. movers and shakers standing up for causes and civil rights, as well as the long legacy of black players speak out against racism and exploitation. From the Olympics to the White House, director Gotham Chopra traces a line between our entertainment and the social currents that ripple out from it.
Tales from the Tour Bus, Season 2 (Cinemax, Nov. 2nd)
On loan from his main gig at Silicon Valley, Mike Judge returns to his side project with another pack of colorful, rollicking anecdotes from the music world. The first season employed a fusion of interviews (rotoscoped for maximum trippiness) and animation to formulate an oral account of country music’s great outlaws; the new episodes shift focus to the equally wild history of funk music. In candidly ribald fashion, firsthand witnesses recount a testy run-in between Rick James and police in the Deep South; larger-than-life antics from James Brown; and Bootsy Collins’ days running with George Clinton. Until you can live the rock star life, hearing about it will have to suffice.
Watergate (History, Nov. 2nd)
“I am not a crook.” With those five words, the course of American politics changed forever — and Richard Nixon’s baldfaced denial of guilt casting a pall on the office of the President for the rest of the 20th century. Over three nights, this top-to-bottom documentary from Charles Ferguson (Inside Job) unpacks the context, timeline and significance of the biggest con in the history of the executive branch. Nixon orchestrated the break-in to DNC headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in order to tamper with the upcoming general election; any troubling parallels that the doc points out regarding our country’s current administration and its seeming disinterest in earning the public’s trust. Even so, nobody was tricky quite like Tricky Dick.