Watching: A Documentary, a Sketch Classic

And new movies.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

We try to keep our newsletter on the breezier side of things, but the truth is today is not a particularly breezy day.

Be safe. See you Wednesday.


I want something relevant

“Policing the Police” first aired in 2016.Frontline (PBS)

‘Policing the Police’

When to watch: Now, on the PBS website and YouTube, or Monday at 10 p.m., on PBS (check local listings).


This Frontline documentary first aired in 2016, and PBS is re-aring it in some areas now. It examines some of the inner workings of the Newark Police Department — whose practices were cited as unconstitutional in a 2014 report from the Justice Department — and follows Jelani Cobb, a journalist for The New Yorker, as he interviews police officers, politicians and local residents.

I want a total escape

Carol Burnett, as seen on “The Carol Burnett Show.”ShoutFactory

‘The Carol Burnett Show’

When to watch: Now, on the ShoutFactory website or the various ShoutFactory apps. (Free.)

All 11 seasons of the classic sketch series “The Carol Burnett Show” are now finally streaming, including some episodes that have not been available since they originally aired. Even though the episodes are the half-hour syndicated versions, rather than the hourlong full episodes, which remain in licensing purgatory, the glass is still more than half full. The show is pretty consistent, so just pick whichever guest you’re most interested in at the moment: Bernadette Peters, Alan Alda, Lucille Ball and George Carlin, Maggie Smith, or many, many others.


Your newly available movies of the week

An image from Lewis Klahr’s “Circumstantial Pleasures,” which is made up of six short movies.Lewis Klahr, via Wexner Center for the Arts

Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross turn “The High Note” into a “Devil Wears Prada” for the recording industry; a first-time director attempts an audacious cinematic evocation of a “Twilight Zone”-style anthology with “The Vast of Night”; and the Sundance lightning rod “On the Record,” a documentary about the allegations against the music mogul Russell Simmons, debuts on HBO Max.

Some independent films are available via “virtual cinemas,” which share the rental fee between the distributor and the art-house theater of your choice. Other titles can generally be rented on all the usual platforms — Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube — unless otherwise noted. — Scott Tobias

‘Circumstantial Pleasures’ (A Critic’s Pick, free via Wexner Center for the Arts)

An archivist par excellence and excavator of the collective unconscious, [the director Lewis Klahr] creates striking, deeply personal assemblages using found images and objects, with jolts of sound and music. His materials vary but are inevitably frayed around the edges, bringing to mind the odds and ends gleaned from flea markets and junk drawers: old ticket stubs, bottle caps, blister packs, medical illustrations and comic books. — Manohla Dargis (Read the full review here.)

‘The High Note’

Like a potted fern held aloft by a forest of well-positioned stakes, Dakota Johnson claims the center of “The High Note” on the strength and general excellence of the actors around her. Every one of them is a blessing, even those (condolences, Ice Cube) enduring trite roles and formulaic setups in a movie that can’t decide if it’s a musical reworking of “The Devil Wears Prada,” an underdog romantic comedy or a feminist arrow to the heart of the entertainment industry. — Jeannette Catsoulis (Read the full review here.)

‘On the Record’ (HBO Max)

The stories of these women hit the familiar beats of the countless #MeToo narratives that have emerged since the reckoning of Harvey Weinstein three years ago: abuses of power, derailed careers, fearful silences, doubts and dismissals. But for black women who have been assaulted by black men, the quest for justice is intersectional. It involves negotiations between solidarity and salvation. — Devika Girish (Read the full review here.)

‘Papicha’ (A Critic’s Pick, via Film at Lincoln Center’s virtual cinema)

Fashion and female friendship become tools of resistance in Mounia Meddour’s partly autobiographical feature, whose extreme tonal flips — from gaiety to trauma, tenderness to tragedy — only make it all the more touching. — Jeannette Catsoulis (Read the full review here.)

‘The Vast of Night’ (Amazon)

Making good use of limited resources and a script by James Montague and Craig W. Sanger, the director Andrew Patterson sets much of the story in claustrophobic rooms and spaces so open the threat could come from any direction (including above). He has strong support — the score and sound design are exemplary — as well as a feel for how to box characters in and for the spookiness of long nights. — Manohla Dargis (Read the full review here.)

Also newly available:


Like this email?

Forward it to your friends, and let them know they can sign up here.

Have feedback?

Email us at

Tips and advice to help you live a little smarter

Since you receive Watching, we think you’ll like the Smarter Living newsletter as well. Every Monday, get a weekly roundup of the best advice from The Times on living a better, more fulfilling life. Sign up here.

Need help? Review our newsletter help page or contact us for assistance.

You received this email because you signed up for Watching from The New York Times.

To stop receiving these emails, unsubscribe or manage your email preferences.

Subscribe to The Times


Connect with us on:

facebook twitter instagram

Change Your Email|Privacy Policy|Contact Us

The New York Times Company. 620 Eighth Avenue New York, NY 10018