Watching: What to Watch This Weekend

A new British drama.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

The MTV show “Jackass” premiered 20 years ago this week. Time really does fly when you are watching people barf up goldfish. Ah, memories.

Have a safe weekend. See you Monday.


This weekend I have … a half-hour, and I would love to dehydrate something

Sohla El-Waylly on her new web series “Stump Sohla.”YouTube

‘Stump Sohla’

When to watch: Now, on YouTube.

Sohla El-Waylly was one of the stars of Bon Appétit’s videos and one of the bravest voices in calling out the publication’s racism. Now she has a new web series, part of the “Binging With Babish” extended universe, in which she takes on outlandish cooking challenges like making mac and cheese with 18th century techniques or preparing a seven-course tasting menu from only bodega ingredients. Her cheer, imagination and expertise are in full force. If you like creative problem-solving or consider “ooooh, a project!” to be a personal and special incantation, watch this.


… an hour, and I care about voting

Tracee Ellis Ross, left, appearing on “The Dick Cavett Show” as the Voting Rights Act on “black-ish.”ABC


When to watch: Sunday at 10 p.m., on ABC.

The new season of “black-ish” doesn’t start in earnest until Oct. 21, but in the meantime there’s this two-part election-oriented special. When Junior (Marcus Scribner) discovers he’s been purged from the voter polls, he gets a full history lesson on Black voter suppression and American democracy. In typical “black-ish” fashion, that includes funny asides, like having Tracee Ellis Ross embody the Voting Rights Act. The second half is animated instead of live-action, but the show’s voice and rhythms are so well-established now that it just feels like a solid episode of “black-ish.”


… an hour, and I love secrets

Francesca Annis, left, and Stephen Rea on “Flesh and Blood.”Masterpiece

‘Masterpiece: Flesh and Blood’

When to watch: Sunday at 9 p.m., on PBS. (Check local listings.)

I wouldn’t call it a British Murder Show™, but this four-part mini-series is British, and there is a murder — or is it an accident? Think “juicy domestic drama with a dark side” rather than “bummertown crime times with occasional family chitchat.” Francesca Annis stars as a widow with a new boyfriend, but her adult children aren’t taking news of the romance very well. Still, who are they to judge? They’re all deeply mired in their own messy mistakes — which the audience learns about through a perhaps nosy, perhaps sinister, or perhaps merely observant neighbor, played by Imelda Staunton. You can hear the teacups clattering on their saucers from here.

Your newly available movies

Jim Parsons, left, and Matt Bomer in “The Boys in the Band.”Scott Everett White/Netflix, via Associated Press

We’re trying something different by rounding up the week’s new movies today instead of Monday. (Our usual Friday double-feature recommendations will move to Wednesdays.) This week, two Netflix documentaries stand out: “Dick Johnson Is Dead,” Kirsten Johnson’s one-of-a-kind collaboration with a father who has dementia, and “American Murder: The Family Next Door,” a chilling true-crime study of the 2018 Watts family murders in Colorado.

Some independent films are available via “virtual cinemas,” which share the rental fees between distributors and theaters. Unless otherwise noted, other titles can generally be rented on the usual platforms, including Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube. — Scott Tobias

‘American Murder: The Family Next Door’ (A Critic’s Pick; Netflix only)

I’ve struggled with this genre of storytelling and whether the voyeuristic attraction of such gruesome tragedy justifies the watching. But Popplewell’s film presents the Watts story as more than a crime story. It is a thematic film about marriage and the deception of social media, as well as a piercing examination of domestic violence constructed with care and undeniable craft. — Bilal Qureshi (Read the full review here.)

‘The Boys in the Band’ (Netflix only)

[The director Joe Mantello] does “open up” the play with impressionistic flashbacks, in which characters recall pivotal points of discovering their own sexuality. These don’t add much, but they’re not overly distracting either. Mostly, his fluid camera swoops and swerves to capture the bitchy, hilarious, sometimes wounding banter between the party guests. — Glenn Kenny (Read the full review here.)

‘A Call to Spy’

“A Call to Spy” is based on real-life stories, and as a result, the film’s challenge lies in how it portrays long and multifaceted lives in two hours. The film’s attempts are good, but the sometimes heavy-handed dialogue and stilted character development make it difficult to fully appreciate the quality of the narratives. — Lovia Gyarkye (Read the full review here.)

‘Dick Johnson Is Dead’ (A Critic’s Pick; Netflix only)

Critics like to pigeonhole movies using familiar categories — fiction, nonfiction, happy, sad — but one of the charms of “Dick Johnson Is Dead” is how slippery it is. Pitched artfully between the celebratory and the elegiac, it is an inarguably serious documentary with light, surrealistic flourishes that, at times, veer into exuberant goofiness. — Manohla Dargis (Read the full review here.)

‘The Glorias’ (streaming on Amazon Prime Video; for sale on other platforms)

Encountering new places and people can unsettle our assumptions, Gloria Steinem wrote; being on the road “specifies,” preventing us from taking refuge in the familiar “generalities.” Under the direction of Julie Taymor, “The Glorias” never truly engages with this idea, skating along the contours of a long life that’s so eventful and accomplished that the end result comes across like a two-plus hour, slickly produced highlight reel. — Jennifer Szalai (Read the full review here.)

Also newly available:


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