Unstreamable is a column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on streaming services in the United States. Last week, we announced a few updates to the column, so check that out if you haven't.
USA, 1988–1998, 30 minute episodes, Directed by Alan Rafkin
The creators of Murphy Brown really screwed themselves over with what must’ve seemed at the time like a great idea: Incorporate classic Motown songs into just about every episode of this sitcom about life behind the scenes at an evening news show. How could they have known about the tangled thicket of music clearances that streaming services would require thirty years in the future? One of the very qualities that made this show such a hit now keeps it locked away in a vault until someone can figure out how to clear all those rights, or until Respect enters the public domain in 2087, whichever comes first.
But if you do manage to track the show down, one of my favorite episodes is 1994’s “The Anchorman,” in which Jim decides to open a bar in the tradition of the old journalist watering-holes of his youth. (Like many aspects of the news industry, this is a now-vanished tradition: In decades past, reporters often had a particular bar where they would gather to talk shop and gossip — Lowell’s in Pike Place Market was once such a place.) Jim’s place is an instant hit, but it gradually dawns on him that its success is for reasons other than what he anticipated, and soon everyone receives an unexpected crash course in gay history.
Smartly written with sweet characters, Murphy Brown was always a jewel; but by this season 6 episode the cast and crew were so comfortable inhabiting the world of the show that there’s an affectionate familiarity to the proceedings like the best episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. That this is one of the first American sitcoms to show the interior of a gay bar (yes yes, Taxi, Maude, and Murder She Wrote all got there first, but there were few that dared in the intervening years) is an added plus. MATT BAUME
Linda Linda Linda
Japan, 2005, 114 minutes, Directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita
This Aughts classic from Japan, ranked by critics as one of the best Japanese films of the 21st century, follows four teenage girls as they make a band that performs music from the famous Japanese punk band The Blue Hearts, specifically the band's song "Linda Linda." The film that plays out is thoughtful and joyous, feminist in its approach, and while it can at times be slow-moving, overall it rocks.
I was late to this movie, first noticing it through The Linda Lindas, which you should know from this video. NPR confirmed that the American band, which is creating an album with Epitaph Records, is named after Linda Linda Linda. How did these Zoomers, aged 11 to 17, find this deep cut, which came out a few years before the youngest member was born? Maybe good taste just runs in the family—Eloise Wong, the band's bassist and singer, is the daughter of "Chinatown punk savior" Martin Wong. He helped create the Asian American pop culture magazine Giant Robot.
I'm hoping these punk kids will bring a renewed interest to this indie gem (copies are currently pretty pricey). But while we wait for someone to release this on blu-ray, The Beacon is hosting a rare screening of it next Saturday. That little theater sells out quickly, so get tickets while you can! CHASE BURNS
The Netherlands, 1975, 100 minutes, Dir. Paul Verhoeven
I've now written about almost every early Paul Verhoeven movie filmed in his native Holland in this column. Today I'm adding another one to that big ole list: Keetje Tippel (a.k.a Katie Tippel in America). Set in the late nineteenth century and based on Neel Doff's memoirs, Katie Tippel follows the rather turbulent life of Katie (Monique van de Ven) as she goes from impoverished rural living to sex work in Amsterdam. And like nearly every one of Verhoeven's early films, it features Rutger Hauer, in this instance as a manipulative playboy who keeps Katie around just for fun.
While the storytelling is impressive, Katie herself is a bit hollow as a character and it’s hard to see how she’s grown from her (often horrific) experiences. That’s a point Verhoeven agrees with, and he's expressed his displeasure with the film in many interviews, saying he would have done things differently now. "Looking back, Keetje was a bit of a missed opportunity,” he said in 2002. "I was completely obsessed with sex, so a lot of the real motives didn’t turn out that well.” Still worth a watch as Katie’s journey from rural life to big city to love is very similar to Verhoeven’s masterpiece Showgirls.
Thanks to Unstreamable reader Steve for suggesting this pick. Some distributor needs to put together an early Verhoeven boxset, stat. JAS KEIMIG
Every week we feature one formerly unstreamable title that's now available to watch online.
USA, 1997, 96 minutes, Directed by Jill Sprecher
"Waiting for your life to change... can be a full-time job," reads the tagline on Clockwatchers' poster, a thesis relatable to many people during "the great resignation" or whatever we're calling the current vibe. Considering that vibe, this movie about dissatisfied, poorly paid workers feels ripe for a rediscovering. But its real pitch is its cast: Parker Posey. Lisa Kudrow. Toni Collette. Alanna Ubach. Four legends playing underappreciated temps in the late '90s. That should be enough for you to buy this DVD (or now watch it on Starz) and treasure it.
Clockwatchers' pacing and plotting can be inconsistent, but fans of the four lead actors should leave satisfied. All of these women went into the movie arguably famous (Posey: Party Girl; Kudrow: Friends; Collette: Muriel's Wedding; Ubach: Sister Act 2; in addition to lots of other TV show and movie appearances), although it's delightful to me that Ubach, known to Gen Z for her current role on Euphoria, might be the most recognizable out of the group to a younger generation. Still, so many people don't know this film, and I can't help but think that we'd all know about it if it starred a bunch of '90s dude-stars. Watch and make amends. CHASE BURNS
Looking for more? Browse our big list of 350+ hard-to-find movies.
The fine print: Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Shudder, 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.