Watching: What to Watch This Weekend

Cure your vacation envy.

Hey, Watchers,

The holidays are almost here. Maybe that means trimming your tree, polishing your menorah, sending Zoom invites for your coven’s remote Yule or emotional-eating enough gingerbread to feel numb again.

And yet, there’s still time for some good TV first. A personal solstice favorite? “Victorian Farm” (Amazon Prime Video), a superlative BBC reality series about reaping and sowing in low-tech, high-charm fashion. It’s led by a historian and a couple of archaeologists who are game to dress up in period clothing and deliver the occasional lamb. Laundry back then? Harrowing.

Have a safe weekend, and happy Watching.

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This weekend I have … a therapeutic hour, and I want to see other people squirm

Dr. Orna Guralnik in “Couples Therapy: The Covid Special.”Showtime

‘Couples Therapy: The Covid Special’

When to watch: Sunday at 8 p.m., on Showtime.

In 2019, this nine-episode Showtime series followed four real-life couples in treatment with Dr. Orna Guralnik, an elegant psychoanalyst. Back then, they met in her book-lined office. In this tidy hourlong special, which includes two familiar couples and two new ones, Guralnik works remotely as the couples work through the enforced closeness of lockdown. “As much as we still love each other, we’re sick of looking at each other,” one husband says. Two of the couples also work to process the killing of George Floyd and its aftermath. (The two white couples? Mostly they don’t.) The special has all the fidgety intimacy of the original. Will these couples make it? It may depend on the vaccine timeline.

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… an hour, and I love an origin story

Jack Bannon plays a young Alfred Pennyworth in Season 2 of “Pennyworth.”Epix

‘Pennyworth’

When to watch: Sunday at 9 p.m., on Epix.

Before Batman was even a Batfetus, there was Alfred Pennyworth. How did that capable cockney-accented butler come to work for the Wayne family? The executive producers Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon (“Gotham”) crafted Season 1 as a stylish 10-episode dive into the young adulthood of Alfred (Jack Bannon, with a knife-sharp widow’s peak). Before Covid intervened, they had filmed four episodes of Season 2, which air weekly beginning Sunday. Oddly enough, the superhero apparatus isn’t especially essential or gripping. But if you love swinging London and swinging fists, this counterfactual vision of ’60s England has a lot going for it, particularly the fevered production design and the fashions. Not all capes are worn by heroes.

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… all day, and I need a cure for vacation envy

“The Wilds”: Sort of like a teen girl “Lord of the Flies” with fewer pig heads.Matt Klitscher/Amazon Studios

‘The Wilds’

When to watch: Now, on Amazon.

Remember a few years ago when Warner Bros. announced an all-girl “Lord of the Flies” remake? “The Wilds” isn’t that. But also it maybe is? The first of its 10 episodes finds a gaggle of teenage girls en route to a “long weekend of female-centric learning and growth.” Then their plane ditches in the ocean and they struggle to shore with a few clothes and a case or so of Diet Coke. There are “Lost” overtones, of course, and the time jumps offer hints of a sinister conspiracy. (Led from afar by the superb Rachel Griffiths! Who has a very good face for conspiracy.)

But don’t expect too many pig’s heads or conch shells. At least not on the island. As one of the girls says in the pilot, “If we’re talking about what happened out there, then yeah, there was trauma.” But being a teenage girl in everyday America? “That was the real living hell.”

Your newly available movies

Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn, left, and Micheal Ward in “Lovers Rock,” from Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe” anthology.Parisa Taghizadeh/Amazon Prime Video, via Associated Press

With “Education” dropping on Amazon today, Steve McQueen’s five-film anthology “Small Axe” is now available in full, an extraordinary vision of Afro-Caribbean life in Britain from the mid-60s to the ’80s. Our critics also loved documentaries on an August Wilson monologue competition (“Giving Voice”) and on the life of a sow and her piglets (“Gunda”).

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

‘To the Ends of the Earth’ (A Critic’s Pick, via Metrograph virtual cinema)

Kurosawa is best known in the United States for his idiosyncratic horror pictures (“Pulse,” “Creepy,” and others). This, though, is a relatively quiet, sensitive portrayal of cross-cultural exchange and confusion, and a woman looking for herself in a place that’s strange to her. — Glenn Kenny (Read the full review here.)

‘Giving Voice’ (A Critic’s Pick; Netflix only)

Every year, since [August] Wilson’s death in 2005, thousands of students from 12 different cities vie for the chance to perform a monologue from one of his plays for the competition’s final round on Broadway. James D. Stern and Fernando Villena’s uplifting documentary further explores this competition and explains how the playwright’s legacy is inspiring a new generation. — Robert Daniels (Read the full review here.)

‘Gunda’ (A Critic’s Pick, via Film Forum virtual cinema)

Sublimely beautiful and profoundly moving, it offers you the opportunity to look — at animals, yes, but also at qualities that are often subordinated in narratively driven movies, at textures, shapes and light. — Manohla Dargis (Read the full review here.)

‘Let Them All Talk’ (HBO Max only)

“Let Them All Talk” is aptly named, because it’s full of stilted conversations, though they fail to captivate. And despite the talented actors onscreen, Soderbergh’s mannered direction lacks charisma and the characters lack chemistry. — Maya Phillips (Read the full review here.)

‘The Prom’ (Netflix only)

Its canny mix of nostalgia and idealism, old-fashioned conservatism and new-age liberalism will hit the spot for some, even if its vision of American unity is hard to recognize right now. — Manohla Dargis (Read the full review here.)

‘Small Axe’ (A Critic’s Pick; Amazon Prime Video only)

That the entirety of “Small Axe” feels profoundly personal is no surprise. That moments from its component parts leap from the screen with crackling recognition has perhaps less to do with the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement than with the authenticity and heart of the filmmaking. — Jeannette Catsoulis (Read the full review here.)

Also newly available:

EXTRA-CREDIT READING

How ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Is Inspiring Women to Take Up Chess

Fans of the Netflix series, including teenagers and the actress Beth Behrs, are flocking to the game because “women can be rock stars” in chess.

By Dylan Loeb McClain

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Comfort Viewing: 3 Reasons I Love ‘Happy Endings’

In its day, this hangout comedy was lumped in with “Friends.” But its crisp, rat-a-tat style is more like “30 Rock.”

By Kris Vire

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End of ‘One Day at a Time’ Removes One of TV’s Few Latino Families

After being canceled last year by Netflix, the sitcom, a reboot of a Norman Lear classic, found a new but short-lived home on cable.

By Christina Morales

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The Mandalorian

‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2, Episode 7 Recap: Face-off on Morak

Mando joins forces with an old enemy, just one of several major compromises he makes in hopes of rescuing Grogu.

By Noel Murray

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‘Star Wars,’ ‘Pinocchio’ and More as Disney Leans Sharply Into Streaming

A blitz of new projects includes 10 series from the “Star Wars” universe for Disney+, which now has 87 million subscribers. Hulu will also get a major content boost.

By Brooks Barnes

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