Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Wallace & Gromit track down a 'cereal killer,' 'Cosby Show' marks 25 years, Lev Grossman's latest novel is like 'Narnia' for adults, and more.

Sundance Channel
Jayda (l.) and 'Creep'
Grupo Fantasma

Earth – up close

On Sept. 20, BBC America opens another chapter in its natural-history series, BBC Earth, with five documentaries. Narrated by renowned naturalist David Attenborough, the block begins at 3 p.m. and features three premières that focus on how and why the globe’s 4,000 species of mammals have colonized every corner of the planet, the intimate interactions of lions in their dens, and an up-close encounter with grizzly bears.

Baking tall tales

Break out the crackers, and slice up some Wensleydale! Wallace & Gromit are back! In the award-winning mock-u-mystery "A Matter of Loaf and Death" (now out on DVD), the inveterate inventor has gone into the bread business, converting his house into the Top Bun bakery. But all is not well in the doughmaking world: 12 other bakers have died under mysterious circumstances, and Gromit has to track down the "cereal killer" before Wallace makes it a baker's dozen. A true treat for Anglophiles and animation fans.

A Cosby family marathon

For those who watched TV's Huxtable family charm its way into America's heart under its family patriarch, comedian Bill Cosby, it may be hard to believe it's been a quarter century since the show's debut. On Sept. 20, superstation WGN America celebrates the 25th anniversary of this groundbreaking comedy with a full day of "Cosby Show" programming. For more info:

A city's struggle

Newark, N.J., and its herculean effort to shake decades of decline is the focus of a five-part documentary series, "Brick City," airing on the Sundance Channel beginning Sept. 21 at 10 p.m. Led by the charismatic mayor, Cory Booker, the city struggles to bring down the homicide rate as it reels under budget cuts. But the series is more than a civics lesson, it's a web of personal stories as compelling as any feature film.

Narnia for grown-ups

Novelist Lev Grossman takes a winning conceit and runs with it in his engrossing dark fantasy, "The Magicians." What if the magical realm you longed for as a child was real? Self-absorbed loner Quentin Coldwater wins admission to a Hogwarts-type high school, but becoming a magician is so much less magical than he imagined. References to Harry Potter and "The Chronicles of Narnia" abound as the grown Quentin and his friends find their way into the magic world of Fillory, but discover that (a) it's way scarier when you aren't a character in a children's series and (b) there's no getting away from yourself.

Big band latin funk

Based in Austin, Texas, Grupo Fantasma has perfected its rollicking fusion of salsa, cumbia, funk, and rock for more than a decade, a labor of love memorably infusing the band's latest CD, "Sonidos Gold" (Aire Sol Records). Resisting any easy musical formulas, Grupo Fantasma might just be the most sophisticated "indie" band in US by virtue of stretching Latin club music into a rock mix of surging jams à la Santana and funky vamps à la Prince.

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