Watching: What to Watch This Weekend

Magic and oddballs.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

HBO and Issa Rae announced this week that the upcoming fifth season of “Insecure” will be the show’s last. Elsewhere in HBO bummers, “High Maintenance” is not returning. Sigh.

Have a safe weekend. Here’s a video of a dog taking “a relaxing bath.”


This weekend I have … 11 minutes, and I need soothing

Joe Pera in “Joe Pera Talks With You.”Adult Swim

‘Joe Pera Talks With You’

When to watch: Now, on HBO Max.

Both seasons of this weird, lovely show about a Michigan chorus teacher and his musings on the world are now streaming. It’s weirdly unbingeable, though — it’s too delicate just to shove into the uncaring maw, too special. In one episode, Joe explains the stages of watching fireworks, which include admiring how hypnotic they are, “just like their brother-in-law, regular fire,” and “thinking about ex-girlfriends.” If you’re feeling pessimistic about the human endeavor, but you think that watching children perform a musical about the rat wars of Alberta, Canada, might cheer you up, watch this. It worked for me.


… a few hours, and I need an escape

Olivia Taylor Dudley in a scene from “The Magicians.” Let this serve as papier-mâché inspo for us all!Eric Milner/Syfy

‘The Magicians’

When to watch: Season 5 arrives Friday, on Netflix.

There’s always a lot going on in the Syfy series “The Magicians,” and the fifth and final season keeps that sense of excess. We’ve got split timelines, multiple quests, battles for power, golems — you know, magician stuff. To go with its wide-ranging stories, “The Magicians” also plays a lot with tone, and some scenes are as weepy as any “Grey’s Anatomy” catastrophe. But the show is just as likely to be snarky, or sultry, or musical. The fantasy elements are sometimes the most important parts, but sometimes they’re the least important, just a funky lens for the trials of self-actualization.


… many, many hours, and I like a shenanigan

Elyfer Torres stars as Betty in “Betty en NY.”Telemundo

‘Betty en NY’

When to watch: Now, on Peacock.

A lot of shows on Peacock are free only for the first few episodes, but not so for this telenovela (in Spanish, with subtitles): All 123 episodes are free. This newest revamp of “Yo Soy Betty, la Fea” — which was also adapted into “Ugly Betty” — stars Elyfer Torres as our heroine, a smart young woman whose ideas and ambition are often dismissed. There’s a gleeful ridiculousness to everything, soapy viciousness but triumphant virtue, too. If you like workplace comedies and can handle observing nastiness, watch this.

Your newly available movies

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as seen in Sam Pollard’s documentary “MLK/FBI.”IFC Films

Mid-January is usually a quiet time for movies, with only a trickle of low-profile studio and art-house titles. But this week is loaded with excellent options, with three Critic’s Picks coming from A.O. Scott alone. Of particular interest are the documentary “MLK/FBI” and Regina King’s directorial debut, “One Night in Miami,” two markedly different angles on Black leadership in the 1960s.

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

‘Acasa, My Home’ (A Critic’s Pick, via Kino Marquee virtual cinema)

It’s both intimate and analytical, a sensitive portrait of real people undergoing enormous change and a meditation on what that change might mean. It taps into something primal in the human condition, a basic conflict between the desire for freedom and the tendency toward organization — an argument, finally, about the meaning of home. — A.O. Scott (Read the full review here.)

‘Film About a Father Who’ (A Critic’s Pick, via Cinema Guild virtual cinema)

This brisk, prismatic and richly psychodramatic family portrait finds [the director Lynne] Sachs assessing her relationship with her father, Ira Sachs Sr., described at one point as the “Hugh Hefner of Park City,” the Utah skiing enclave where the Sundance Film Festival is held. — Ben Kenigsberg (Read the full review here.)

‘MLK/FBI’ (A Critic’s Pick)

The result is at once suspenseful, visually engrossing and intellectually bracing. It also raises urgent, sometimes uncomfortable questions about power, privacy and the ethical challenges of examining the past. — A.O. Scott (Read the full review here.)

‘My Little Sister’ (A Critic’s Pick, via Film Movement virtual cinema)

Distinguished by a modestly discreet directing style that allows the actors to shine, “My Little Sister” offers neither false uplift nor dreary realism. The photography is bright and lustrous, the tone vital and purposeful. — Jeannette Catsoulis (Read the full review here.)

‘One Night in Miami’ (A Critic’s Pick; Amazon Prime only)

It’s just a bunch of guys talking — bantering, blustering, dropping their defenses and opening their hearts. But the substance of their talk is fascinating, and their arguments echo powerfully in the present. This is one of the most exciting movies I’ve seen in quite some time. — A.O. Scott (Read the full review here.)

‘Promising Young Woman’

A hard candy with a sour center, “Promising Young Woman” turns sociopathy into a style and trauma into a joke. — Jeannette Catsoulis (Read the full review here.)

‘Some Kind of Heaven’ (A Critic’s Pick)

[The director Lance] Oppenheim resists easy misanthropy, showing unexpected empathy for people who have cocooned themselves from the outside world, only to confront its headaches anyway. — Ben Kenigsberg (Read the full review here.)

Also newly available:


Martin Luther King Jr. Day: 9 Ways to Honor His Legacy

Marches and parades are on pause this year. But streamed events and exhibitions are still commemorating King’s achievements.

By Alexis Soloski

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‘WandaVision’ Review: That’s Why They Became the Disney+ Bunch

A new TV era for Marvel’s roster of superheroes begins with — a high-concept salute to classic sitcoms?

By Mike Hale

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Right at Home

Feeling Nostalgic for Your Grandmother’s China?

Two reality shows airing this winter grapple with what to do with our family heirlooms.

By Ronda Kaysen

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L.G.B.T.Q. TV Representation Falls for First Time in 5 Years, Glaad Finds

An annual report found that 9.1 percent of characters scheduled to appear on prime-time broadcast series identified as L.G.B.T.Q. in the 2020-21 season, down from 10.2 percent.

By Sarah Bahr

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Rape-Revenge Tales: Cathartic? Maybe. Incomplete? Definitely.

Films like “Promising Young Woman” should be especially urgent in the wake of #MeToo. Instead, they sell female characters short.

By Lena Wilson

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Critic’s Notebook

‘Tiny Pretty Things’ Falls for Big Ugly Ballet Stereotypes

Why is it so hard to show the dance world as it is? This Netflix series about students at a ballet school is yet another cartoonish depiction.

By Gia Kourlas

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What Happens Now to Michael Apted’s Lifelong Project ‘Up’?

His documentary series chronicled the lives of its subjects every seven years since 1964. Now the participants ponder whether it can carry on without him.

By Joe Coscarelli

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What to Watch: ’80s Romantic Comedies

The 1989 release of «When Harry Met Sally …» was «a moon-landing sort of event» for rom-coms. Here are five movies that define the decade.

By David Renard

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