Watching: What to Watch This Weekend

Let “Friday Night Lights” help.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

I hope that you’re safe and that you have what you need. I “attended” two online birthday parties this week, and it really did help.

Also helping me: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Frasier” and more “Cheers.” If you are using some of your social distancing time to watch or rewatch a classic show, I’d love to hear about it:

Have a good weekend. Here are some online jigsaw puzzles.


This Weekend I Have … a Half-Hour, and I’m Pop-Savvy

A scene from “Harley Quinn.”DC Universe

‘Harley Quinn’

When to watch: Now, on DC Universe.

This irreverent, adult take on Gotham had a fantastic first season that started late last year. Now Season 2, which starts Friday, is here with more tales of violence and chaos, but told with a brash brightness that adds both silliness and genuine depth. The show is reminiscent of a naughty “30 Rock” or “Community” — creative and surprising, with episodes that satirize their own genre from within. If you feel you’ve watched all the usual TV suspects and are a little tired of everything, try this.


… a Half-Hour, and I’m Filled With Longing

Ben Sinclair on the season finale of “High Maintenance.”David Russell/HBO

‘High Maintenance’

When to watch: Friday at 11 p.m., on HBO.

The Hallmark Channel has been airing its cornball holiday fare under the title “we need a little Christmas” for comfort during our pandemic. If you find that concept appealing but not that content, watch “High Maintenance” instead. On the season finale this week, it’s Christmas and Hanukkah, and a snowstorm forces everyone, including “the guy” (played by Ben Sinclair), to stay in the city. This show’s thoughtful melancholy feels particularly apt right now, its understanding of collective loneliness prescient but weirdly reassuring.


… Many Hours, and My Heart Is Ready

Kyle Chandler, left, and Zach Gilford on “Friday Night Lights.”Bill Records/NBC

‘Friday Night Lights’

When to watch: Now, on Hulu, or free on IMDb TV.

If you haven’t been back to Dillon in a while, or if you’ve never experienced the emotional potency of one of the best domestic dramas ever, now’s the time. The show is set within the world of Texas high school football, but you don’t need to care about football at all. Good dramas have big central questions: Who am I? What is justice? Is love real? and so on. The central question of “Friday Night Lights” is: What is a team? The show explores that with sports, yes, but also with marriages, families, friendships, you name it. It also has one of my favorite pilots, and the performances (particularly from Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton) are so good you forget the show is pretend.

If you’re wondering how Coach Taylor might respond to our current circumstances, the show’s executive producer Jason Katims wrote a scene about just that for Vulture.

Your Weekend Double Feature: Toshiro Mifune

Toshiro Mifune made 16 films with the director Akira Kurosawa, including the 1961 samurai movie “Yojimbo.”Criterion Collection

‘Mifune: The Last Samurai’ and ‘Yojimbo’

In honor of the actor Toshiro Mifune’s 100th birthday, the Criterion Channel is kicking off April with a 27-film retrospective of his work, including 15 of his 16 collaborations with the director Akira Kurosawa. The series offers a helpful primer in “Mifune: The Last Samurai,” a 2015 documentary that includes interviews with several actors who worked with Mifune, along with his two sons and filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. The film offers good context for his turbulent life and career, including a history of the samurai tradition and an account of Mifune’s experiences in World War II, when he trained kamikaze pilots.

As many of the talking heads note, Kurosawa was known as a tough micromanager. But he gave Mifune complete latitude to create his own characters and invest each role with the actor’s signature intensity and power. The two never made a bad movie together, but for newcomers, the best place to start might be “Yojimbo” (1961), a samurai film that drew influence from Hollywood Westerns but also influenced “A Fistful of Dollars” and countless other international films.

The image of cool under pressure, Mifune plays a ronin mercenary who strolls into a town where two crime lords are fighting for supremacy — and the coffin makers can’t work fast enough. Both sides court the deadly swordsman with money, but he opts to play them against each other, quietly summoning his inner integrity and moral courage. He roots out corruption in his own crafty, vastly entertaining way. — Scott Tobias

Stream “Mifune: The Last Samurai” on Criterion Channel. Rent it on Apple TV, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play and YouTube.

Stream “Yojimbo” on Criterion Channel. Rent it on Apple TV and Amazon.

Wait, one more thing

HBO has made some of its catalog free to stream on HBO Go and HBO Now, including “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Veep,” “Succession,” “True Blood,” “Barry,” “Ballers,” “Silicon Valley” and “Six Feet Under,” as well as some documentaries and films.


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