The It List: 'I Promise' tells the story of LeBron James's efforts to close the educational achievement gap in his hometown, Demi Lovato hunts for UFOs, 'Grey's Anatomy' returns and the best in pop culture the week of Sept. 27, 2021

·12 min read

The It List is Yahoo's weekly look at the best in pop culture, including movies, music, TV, streaming, games, books, podcasts and more. Here are our picks for Sept. 27 - Oct. 3, including the best deals we could find for each. (Yahoo Entertainment may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page.)

STREAM IT: LeBron James makes a power move for kids in new doc I Promise

One of the most dramatic movies of the year isn't a comic book adaptation but a documentary about, of all things, an elementary school in Akron, Ohio, founded by NBA superstar LeBron James. Emmy-winning director Marc Levin followed the Los Angeles Lakers player during the first year of the school he founded for underprivileged kids in his old neighborhood. We see teachers, students, parents and, of course, James himself as they struggle to ensure that the little ones succeed academically, rather than become victims of the achievement gap. "Obviously, I didn't know the ins and outs of how to create a school," James says in the trailer. "But so many kids like myself have dreams, and the only thing that stop those dreams from becoming a reality is the support around it." Still, the odds against them don't look good, with just 11 out of 223 students expected to pass an upcoming academic standards test. "And what's at stake?" James says. "Their lives." — Raechal Shewfelt

I Promise premieres Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 12 p.m. on YouTube.

WATCH IT: Could La Brea be NBC’s 2020s answer to Lost?

Anyone who’s been to the Los Angeles’s La Brea Tarpits surely has to appreciate the premise to NBC’s highly publicized yet still shrouded-in-mystery one-hour drama-thriller series: What if a sinkhole opened up underneath the tarpits — which have preserved the bones of trapped animals over centuries — plunging a group of strangers (including Natalie Zea and Chiké Okonkwo) to the depths of a dangerous primeval land? Part Lost, part Land of the Lost, fully intriguing, NBC is hoping this big fall premiere can find viewers the way Lost, especially, sucked us in 17 years ago. Check out an exclusive clip from the series above. — Kevin Polowy

La Brea premieres Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. on NBC.

STREAM IT: My Name Is Pauli Murray explores the life and times of the pioneering Black civil rights activist

As the saying goes, activist and author Pauli Murray was fortunate to live in interesting times, and those times are depicted in the new documentary from Julie Cohen and Betsy West. Born in 1910, Murray came of age during the nascent civil rights movement and joined the cause early on, working to end segregation on public buses as early as 1940 and writing multiple books challenging the status quo. Beyond race, Murray also held pioneering views on gender identity — born Anna Pauline, Murray later picked the gender-neutral name, Pauli — and religion, eventually becoming the first Black person perceived as a woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest. Cohen and West previously directed the Oscar-nominated documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RBG, and the late Supreme Court justice appears in this exclusive clip from the new film describing how Murray inspired her own work in the area of gender equality. “We were not inventing something new,” Ginsburg explains. “We were saying the same things that Pauli had said years earlier at a time when society was not prepared to listen.” — Ethan Alter

My Name Is Pauli Murray premieres Friday, Oct. 1 on Amazon Prime Video.

WATCH IT: It’s John Malkovich vs. Jonathan Rhys Meyers in The Survivalist

We’ll watch Sir John Malkovich in anything (and nope, doesn’t matter if he’s been knighted out, he’s still Sir John Malkovich to us). But as a gang leader hunting down a woman (Ruby Modine, daughter of Matthew) being protected by a former FBI agent-turned survivalist (Match Point’s Jonathan Rhys Meyers) in a chaotic, violent, dystopian world where the government no longer exists? And firing off lines like “I’m the one who decides who lives and who dies” in the most Malkovichian mode possible? Our apologies in advance if we’re rooting for the villain in this one. Check out an exclusive clip from the film above. — K.P.

The Survivalist opens in theaters and on VOD Friday, Oct. 1. Get tickets on Fandango.

STREAM IT: Catch up with Mr. Corman before the Joseph Gordon-Levitt series streams its season finale

When Joseph Gordon-Levitt commits to a project, he goes all in. The Inception star created, executive produced, wrote, directed and stars in the Apple TV+ series Mr. Corman, which premiered on the streaming service in August and drops its Season 1 finale on Oct. 1. There’s a reason why Gordon-Levitt has his hands all over the show: It’s inspired by his own life — or what his life might have been had certain things gone differently. The actor plays L.A. public school teacher Josh Corman, who escapes the day-to-day grind via fanciful fantasy sequences, ranging from alternate realities to superhero brawls. In this exclusive clip from the finale, Josh and his latest love interest Emily (Jamie Chung) imagine a world where they were able to go on a first date together, instead of being stuck in separate homes because of the pandemic. — E.A.

Mr. Corman is currently streaming on Apple TV+, and the Season 1 finale airs Friday, Oct. 1.

WATCH IT: A fan-favorite returns for Season 18 of Grey's Anatomy

ABC's long-running medical drama is back with stars Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey), Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey) and James Pickens Jr. (Richard Webber) reprising their roles on the hit show. Last season saw some beloved characters depart, like Jesse Williams (Jackson Avery) and Giacomo Gianniotti (Andrew DeLuca), but fans should get excited about who will roam the halls of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital once again. Kate Walsh returns as Dr. Addison Montgomery in multiple episodes, although specific details have been kept under wraps. The actress previously starred on Grey's for three seasons before landing the show's first spinoff, Private Practice. Enjoy the juicy drama while you can... Pompeo recently hinted (per usual) the series might end soon. — Taryn Ryder

Grey's Anatomy Season 18 premieres Thursday, Sept. 30 on at 9 p.m. on ABC.

STREAM IT: The Sopranos prequel film, The Many Saints of Newark, should be your chosen one

By now we should all instinctively know to expect the unexpected from Sopranos creator, David Chase. Handed the opportunity to make a prequel film to his groundbreaking HBO series, the famously idiosyncratic writer delivers something that’s far more ambitious than a Tony Soprano origin story. Yes, a younger version of James Gandolfini’s beloved mobster is present in the film — played by the late actor’s son, Michael Gandolfini — but he’s just one part of the larger tapestry that Chase weaves in his evocation of his New Jersey stomping grounds in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Holding down the center of the frame is Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), the father of Tony’s doomed nephew, Christopher, who feels the constant push-pull between the life he’s leading and the life he feels he should lead. Filled with Easter eggs for hardcore Sopranos fans, The Many Saints of Newark also tells its own distinct story about human frailty in the face of temptation, building to one of Chase’s typically blunt and divisive endings... minus the Journey music cue, of course. — E.A.

The Many Saints of Newark premieres Friday, Oct. 1 in theaters and on HBO Max.

HEAR IT: Brandi Carlile’s silence is golden

On In These Silent Days, the long-awaited follow-up to Carlile’s Grammy-sweeping 2018 breakthrough By the Way, I Forgive You, the Americana superstar looks inward, as the record was written in 2020 when she was quarantining at home with her longtime collaborators/bandmates, twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth. “Never before have the twins and I written an album during a time of such uncertainty and quiet solitude,” Carlile recently told Rolling Stone. “I never imagined that I’d feel so exposed and weird as an artist without the armor of a costume, the thrill of an applause and the platform of the sacred stage. Despite all this, the songs flowed through — pure and unperformed, loud and proud, joyful and mournful.” The album also finds Carlile reuniting with By the Way, I Forgive You producers Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings. — Lyndsey Parker

In These Silent Days by Brandi Carlile is available Friday, Oct. 1 to download/stream on Apple Music.

STREAM IT: The host of The Daily Show returns in The Problem With Jon Stewart

Comedian Jon Stewart hasn't been a regular fixture on TV since 2015, when he signed off of his much lauded The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Now he's returning with something a little different: a show where he sometimes gets up from behind the news desk and goes out to interview the players in important stories. He'll tackle one of them, such as the treatment of veterans or potential ways to support America's working class, on each half-hour episode, which are scheduled to air once every two weeks. "I got burnt out on the pace of The Daily Show and also just my inability to evolve it to another satisfying place," Stewart told The Hollywood Reporter this month. "I knew that I could play out the string, but that didn't feel particularly satisfying for me or for the audience, and wouldn't it be nice to give people a chance to fall in love with the show again in a different way? And then of course get disappointed with it in a different way because that's the cycle." Stewart promised that, unlike some public affairs shows these days, his show will be civil. "So far, there's no fisticuffs, and any interview that doesn't end in fisticuffs has to be considered a positive." — R.S.

The Problem With Jon Stewart premieres Thursday, Sept. 30 on Apple TV+.

STREAM IT: Unidentified With Demi Lovato wants to open your mind

Demi Lovato is a singer, actor, activist and "UFO experiencer." After seeing an unexplained object at Joshua Tree, Lovato was inspired to "investigate the unexplained and unidentified." The four-part UFO docuseries follows the superstar, their friend Matthew and their sister Dallas as the group speaks with experts to try and find the truth about extraterrestrials. "What if extraterrestrials aren't traveling light years to visit us? What if they're already here, waiting for us to reach out?," asks Lovato. — T.R.

Unidentified With Demi Lovato premieres Thursday, Sept. 30 on Peacock.

READ IT: Marvel meets The Bard in William Shakespeare’s Avengers

(Quirk Books)
(Quirk Books)

William Shakespeare never goes out of style. But how would the GOAT feel about a re-imagining of Marvel’s The Avengers movies in his classic literary style? He’d probably say something along the lines of, “Who is't art the aveng'rs???” From Ian Doescher, the New York Times bestselling author of the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series comes an Old English twist on Marvel’s box office royalty, with all four team-up films represented: Assemble, Ye Avengers, Lo, the Age of Ultron, Infinity War’s Tale and The Endgame’s Afoot. No word yet on if your English teacher will allow this as a substitute to King Lear. — K.P.

William Shakespeare’s The Avengers is available Sept. 28 via Quirk Books. Buy it on Amazon.

HEAR IT: Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett feel the love one last time

A decade after the pop diva and the legendary crooner began their beautiful musical friendship (which led to the Grammy-winning jazz duets collection Cheek to Cheek), Gaga joins the 95-year-old Bennett, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2016, for what will be his final official studio album. Love for Sale, which celebrates the Cole Porter songbook, will be followed this winter by the TV special One Last Time: An Evening With Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga (which will document Bennett’s final public performances that took place in August 2021 at Radio City Music Hall), an MTV Unplugged episode and a documentary called The Lady and the Legend. And, so the love will carry on. — L.P.

Love for Sale by Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett is available Friday, Oct. 1 to download/stream on Apple Music.

READ IT: The Odyssey of Star Wars re-imagines George Lucas’s original trilogy as an epic poem

Jack Mitchell's The Odyssey of Star Wars reimagines George Lucas's franchise as an epic poem (Photo: Abrams/Amazon)
Jack Mitchell's The Odyssey of Star Wars reimagines George Lucas's franchise as an epic poem. (Photo: Abrams/Amazon)

Just as George Lucas was inspired by Joseph Campbell to create his far, far away galaxy, celebrated poet Jack Mitchell took his cue from Homer in translating Star Wars into stanza form. The Odyssey of Star Wars reimagines the story of Lucas's original trilogy (plus the climax of Rogue One) as an epic poem, keeping the same dramatic beats, but recounting them in an elevated way. Through Mitchell's pen, Tatooine's twin suns become "rosy discs, eternal partners" and Yoda's "creaky voice, laced with mirth" delivers richly-stated truths rather than jumbled riddles. Lucas's dialogue would never be compared to poetry (just ask Harrison Ford), but The Odyssey of Star Wars drives home why his films remain epic. — E.A.

The Odyssey of Star Wars is available Tuesday, Sept. 28 at most major retailers including Amazon.

WATCH IT: Vanderpump Rules is back — with some babies

After a covid hiatus, the messy reality show returns with several OG stars missing. While Season 9 will still follow the lives of Scheana Shay, Katie Maloney-Schwartz and Tom Sandoval, original cast members Stassi Schroeder, Jax Taylor and Kristin Doute were fired for various reasons. Judging from the preview trailer, there's no shortage of drama, thanks in part to longtime stars Lala Kent and James Kennedy. This year, the crew is popping different type of bottles. Shay and Kent are among those who gave birth during the pandemic, so fans will see a different side of them — or maybe not. — T.R.

Vanderpump Rules Season 9 premieres Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. on Bravo.

HEAR IT: The Doobie Brothers are taking it back to the streets

The legendary boogie-rockers and recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees return with their 15th studio album, Liberté, which was recorded over the past two years with Grammy-winning producer John Shanks (Kelly Clarkson, Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, Miley Cyrus). Its release coincides with the Doobies’s rescheduled 50th anniversary tour, which will reunite them will Michael McDonald. — L.P.

Liberté by the Doobie Brothers is available Friday, Oct. 1 to download/stream on Apple Music.

— Video produced by Anne Lilburn and edited by Jimmie Rhee

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