Watching: A News Series With a Twist

And a lovely Japanese anthology.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

One of my neighbors had a socially distanced stoop party yesterday evening, with music and cheery voices briefly replacing the bizarre, terrified quiet of the last three months. For a few strange minutes, along with the chirping birds, the wailing sirens and the imposing thump of hovering helicopters, I could hear Stevie Wonder singing “Happy Birthday” as police officers barricaded my block.

Stay strong, stay safe. See you Friday.


I want something informative

Wyatt Cenac and Heather Farrell in “Energy Problems, Millennial Problems, Community Policing Problems,” an episode of “Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas.”HBO

‘Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas’

When to watch: Now, on YouTube.

HBO posted the 10-episode first season of “Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas,” which aired in 2018, to YouTube this week. The show is a spin on a newsmagazine series, with an aesthetic straight from 1970s public affairs programming and occasionally a wry sense of detachment. Episodes cover a variety of social matters, but each includes a section on policing issues, including police sexual misconduct and the criminalization of mental illness. Cenac, a former “Daily Show” writer and correspondent, is more interesting in the field than he is in the studio, where his monologues can feel a little stifled.


So far, HBO has made only the first season available free. Season 2, which is less focused on policing but still covers significant cultural crises, is available to HBO subscribers.

You know how after you go ice skating, when you take off your skates and walk around, your legs feel wobbly and wrong for a little while? My brain feels like that.

A scene from “Forged in Fire: Beat the Judges.” He’s literally forging it in fire, folks.History

  • “Forged in Fire: Beat the Judges” (Wednesday at 9 p.m. on History Channel) is the newest member of the “Forged in Fire” franchise. It’s basically an all-star version of the show, with champion bladesmiths facing off anew for the chance to challenge one of the show’s expert judges. I’m not otherwise particularly invested in the blade, but I love an earnest craftsperson show.
  • New-to-streaming episodes of the lovely anthology series “Midnight Diner” (in Japanese, with subtitles) are now on Netflix. Each episode follows different patrons of a small late-night diner, and the individual stories work as stand-alone pieces while still adding up to a more meaningful whole. If you want a show with real human emotions and some wistful love stories — but nothing too upsetting or heavy — watch this.


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