Watching: A Gorgeous Mini-Series

And a whole bunch of movies.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

I hope you are all safe and supported. I watched a lot of “Cheers” this weekend, caught up on some “Grey’s Anatomy,” immersed myself in “Tiger King” discourse and decided to learn “Cabin Fever” from “Muppet Treasure Island” on the ukulele. Social distancing is going … fine for now.

If you have a TV problem you need help with, I have a TV advice column that does just that. You can read the previous installments right here and then send your questions to

See you Wednesday.


I Can’t Make a Big Commitment

Shira Haas on “Unorthodox.”Anika Molnar/Netflix


When to watch: Now, on Netflix.

This mini-series tips the scales at just four hours and is the rare streaming series that feels like the right length. The show follows Esty (Shira Haas), a young woman who decides to flee her insular Hasidic community in Brooklyn and forge a different path for herself in Berlin. It’s a coming-of-age story paced like a mystery, so you get the “I will now experience an emotional transformation in a body of water” along with the “you can tell this guy is extra bad because he hangs out at brothels.” “Unorthodox” is done beautifully, with real emotional literacy and grounding. And because I am a total cheese, I even loved the 20-minute making-of featurette, a format I miss from the DVD age. If you like “Shtisel” or “Deutschland 83,” watch this. (Read James Poniewozik’s review here.)


I Need Another Kids Show, Obviously

Have you ever made up a song inspired by, in the voice of, or dedicated to a sandwich you made? Then you will like “Summer Camp Island.”Cartoon Network

‘Summer Camp Island’

When to watch: Now, on the Cartoon Network website.

If you’re not quite ready to conquer “Adventure Time” but you still want something dreamy and imaginative, watch this cartoon about two BFFs, Oscar and Hedgehog, and the magical summer camp they attend. Episodes are 11 minutes long and cover unexpected topics like reluctant werewolfdom or developing the ability to freeze time. Everything is anthropomorphized into total adorableness, including the moon, who is one of the main characters. There are 39 episodes available with a cable login, three of which are also available without. (They are good ones!)


Movies: The Week in New Arrivals

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in “Bad Boys for Life.”Ben Rothstein/Sony Pictures

Another week under quarantine, another deluge of studio movies that either were shifted from theaters to home video or are beating their previously scheduled release dates. Meanwhile, Hulu subscribers can watch one of the best and most romantic films of last year free.

Unless noted, the other films listed can be purchased on the usual platforms — Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube — but a rental option is usually available within a few weeks.

Here’s what our critics have to say about this week’s selections:

‘The Call of the Wild’ (available now)

This “Call of the Wild,” however defanged and updated, doesn’t lack for exciting canine brawls or tense rescues from frozen waters. It also doesn’t lack for an almost soothing corniness. — Ben Kenigsberg (Read the full review here.)

‘Downhill’ (available now)

Not a completely terrible movie — mostly thanks to Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus — but one that strands its stars in situations that are at once impossible and insufficiently challenging. — A.O. Scott (Read the full review here.)

‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ (available now, on Hulu — a Critic’s Pick)

A subtle and thrilling love story, at once unsentimental in its realistic assessment of women’s circumstances and almost utopian in its celebration of the freedom that is nonetheless available to them. — A.O. Scott (Read the full review here.)

‘Bad Boys for Life’ (Tuesday)

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith get the job done — delivering a mildly enjoyable movie that committed fans of the franchise will rate a lot higher — but they have to hack through a lot of by-the-numbers plotting and indolent characterizations to get there. — Glenn Kenny (Read the full review here.)

‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ (Tuesday)

Jim Carrey gives his most spry, “Ace Ventura”-like performance in years as the know-it-all villain, Dr. Robotnik. Only his physical and verbal contortions make the film feel remotely animated. — Ben Kenigsberg (Read the full review here.)

‘Invisible Life’ (Friday, on Amazon — a Critic’s Pick)

A modern melodrama that’s proud to be one. Its mix of vivid period detail and raw frankness about sexuality and poverty and women’s oppression is heady and bracing; its depiction of female friendship and love is pointedly ferocious. — Glenn Kenny (Read the full review here.)

‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ (Friday — a Critic’s Pick)

A low-key knockout, the film tells a seldom-told story about abortion. And it does so without cant, speeches, inflamed emotions and — most powerfully — without apology. — Manohla Dargis (Read the full review here.)

Also This Week

Christmas comes to “The Magicians.”James Dittiger/Syfy

  • Animal Planet is airing a Puppy Bowl marathon all day Monday and into Tuesday morning, and then it’s airing a marathon of “My Cat From Hell” starting Tuesday at 6 a.m. This is an ideal background show, and an A+ option for anyone spending much more time with their pets at the moment.
  • “One Child Nation” airs on PBS Monday at 10 p.m. (check local listings).
  • If you are missing college basketball, watch the documentary “The Scheme,” about corruption in the NCAA, Tuesday at 9 p.m. on HBO.
  • “Miracle Workers: Dark Ages” has its season finale Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. on TBS. So far it has not been renewed, but fingers crossed for this anthology series.
  • The series finale of “The Magicians” airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Syfy.
  • The MTV staple “The Challenge” returns for its 35th season Wednesday at 8 p.m., with participants who hail from a whole variety of reality-show backgrounds. Yes, CT from “Real World: Paris” is still among them.
  • “How to Get Away With Murder” returns for its sixth and final season Thursday at 10 p.m. on ABC.


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