Unstreamable is a weekly column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on major streaming services in the United States.*
US, 2004-2017, 60 min episodes
The Apprentice is still on TV, I think, but let’s just talk about its original US season since that’s the one I watched when it aired live on NBC in 2004, and it’s also, regrettably, the season I own on DVD.
For the imaginary reader who is somehow unaware: Our former twice-impeached president was a reality TV star before becoming a tax-funded insurrectionist. Trump hosted a show called The Apprentice, where he invited “aspiring capitalists”—as the AP once described them—to compete for who can get their tongue the farthest up his ass. I think there would be no President Trump without The Apprentice’s Trump, and that producer Mark Burnett should go to hell for pushing Trump’s con on NBC viewers throughout the 2000s.
Trump’s behavior was clear from the get-go. Contestants have claimed he frequently asked male contestants if they would fuck the show’s female contestants—in front of everyone—during unaired boardroom segments, reported AP in 2016. And if you somehow needed more evidence of his dictatorial aspirations, The Apprentice’s promotional song, “I’m The Dictator,” makes things clear.
We think this cursed series is a necessary Unstreamable addition—while it was on Tubi for about a year, it’s currently unavailable through official channels—because it underscores how men in media enabled and created Trump’s brand for decades. But this definitely isn't a recommendation. CHASE BURNS
US, 1946, 94 min, Dir. Harve Foster, Wilfred Jackson
In light of Chase writing up The Apprentice, I thought I'd pile onto the misery with Song of the South, the forbidden (and racist) fruit of Disney lore. To be honest, I can't believe it took us this long to get here.
Taking place in the Reconstruction-era South and based on Joel Chandler Harris's stories, the film follows young white boy Johnny (Bobby Driscoll) as he's told tales by the amicable Uncle Remus (James Baskett) about Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear. The movie blends live-action and animation, serves as the origin of the song "Zipp-A-Dee-Doo-Dah," and inspired legendary Disney park ride Splash Mountain. It's also insidiously racist, pulling from minstrelsy and depicting recently freed Black slaves as kindly old Magical Negroes. I got the shivers watching the film.
Around the launch of Disney+, former Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company doesn't plan on adding the film to its online library as it "wouldn't necessarily sit right or feel right to a number of people today." I would argue it has historical importance, as Disney still banks on music and imagery from the film. And Song of the South was never officially released on VHS or DVD in the United States, already a source of embarrassment for Disney by the time home media became a thing. Scarecrow has a European VHS copy in its archive that you need a European VCR to play. (I ended up sourcing my DVD on, um, Facebook Marketplace. Yes, it was a rip.)
Like Chase said in his blurb, this definitely is not a recommendation! JASMYNE KEIMIG
Germany, 2002, 100 min, Dir. Doris Dörrie
Let's loosen things up a bit. German director Doris Dörrie made many popular sex comedies that I’m working through: One is Me and Him, which is about a man whose penis starts to talk to him, and another is Naked.
Naked has a fun trailer that promises nudity (fun!) between three straight couples (pass!) who meet for what seems like a typical dinner, but somehow ends with the couples getting naked, blindfolded, and daring each other to identify their partners based exclusively on how their bodies feel. (Sound isn’t allowed, and they’re all sprayed with perfume so scent is also off the table.) The trailer pitches this game as the movie's central drama, but it turns out to be only five or so minutes of the film. The couples' relationship woes make up the meat of the movie. Not exactly sizzling, but Dörrie does two things I really like.
First, I love the way she directs her actors to move. They’re constantly shifting around their apartments. The quickest way to kill a film is with static staging—Dörrie’s actors basically twirl through every scene. Love that.
Second, the sets. The ridiculous, modern, improbable, sexy dining room where the main dinner takes place feels like it’s out of Jacques Tati’s Playtime or My Uncle. I saw Naked a week ago and I'm still thinking about its design. CHASE BURNS
The Netherlands, 1980, 120 min, Dir. Paul Verhoeven
Spetters is a coming-of-age dramedy done Verhoeven-style. But there are certainly some familiar tropes throughout the film. Teenaged characters—in this case, motocross racers—aspiring to lives outside their boring-ass provincial town. Sexual hijinks. A hot, slightly older seductress whom the three boys at the center of the film—Rien, Eef, and Hans—all have boners for. Religious parents who have no clue the shit their sons get up to. Etc. etc.
But then there are elements that are sooooooo Verhoevian in their extremeties. Like when Rien, Eef, and Hans violently assault a gay man walking down the street. Or when they participate in a literal dick-measuring contest and start to visibly jack their limp penises off to get a more accurate measurement. And, in the most disturbing scene, when Eef gets gang-raped by gay hustlers in retaliation for ripping them off. (This rape, apparently, helps him come out of the closet.)
The film never condones the antics but condemns the sort of masculinity and conservatism fomented in Dutch culture. Still, it’s tough and shocking. And it was one of Verhoeven’s last films in Holland before he dove face-first into the ample bosom of Hollywood. The negative response to Spetters was so strong, he thought his career in his home country was over. “They felt that I was degrading the cinema and degrading the whole of society, especially in Spetters,” he told Empire in 2014. He directed the still unstreamable The 4th Man in 1983 and then dipped for California. JASMYNE KEIMIG
*Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or any of the other 300+ streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn't find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. Yes, we know you can find many things online illegally, but we don't consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.