Watching: What to Watch This Weekend

Here is your next comedy binge.

By Margaret Lyons

Dear Watchers,

Let no story go un-rebooted: There’s a new “Little House on the Prairie” adaptation in the works, according to Entertainment Weekly. At least there’s still plenty of time to get an orange for your stocking.

Have a safe weekend.

This weekend I have … an hour, and I want political drama (but not this)

Rachel Griffiths, left, and Deborah Mailman in a scene from “Total Control.”Sundance Now

‘Total Control’

When to watch: Now, on Sundance Now.

Rachel Griffiths and Deborah Mailman star in this prickly Australian drama as the prime minister and a local-hero-turned-senator. “Total” depicts state violence and other instances of egregious abuse, but it also has a knack for tricky, smaller kinds of conflict — moments of friction that only one person in the conversation perceives, bargains where the parties disagree on what’s being exchanged but neither realizes it. There are six episodes, and new installments come out on Thursdays.

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… a few hours, and I crave discipline

A scene from “On Pointe.”Disney+

‘On Pointe’

When to watch: Starting Friday, on Disney+.

This six-part documentary series follows a season at the School of American Ballet, but it’s much less about dance qua dance than it is about sacrifice and determination. The students profiled here, from bubbly little kids up through more withholding older teens, are bright and passionate and sometimes startlingly sophisticated in their capacities to explain their interests and artistry; they also often describe their lives as “stressful.” As far as ballet shows go, this is pretty by-the-book, but as with any polished pursuit-of-excellence tale, it’s engrossing.

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… a few hours, and I crave naughtiness

Harley Quinn and the Joker, voiced by Kaley Cuoco and Alan Tudyk, as seen in “Harley Quinn.”WBTV

‘Harley Quinn’

When to watch: Now, on HBO Max.

HBO Max has had a bumpy rollout, but it’s finally available through Roku and Amazon Fire devices, among other methods, and its library has a terrific signal-to-noise ratio. If you like the joke pacing on shows like “Happy Endings” or “Community,” but want something racier and more contemporary, or if you miss the banter-y parts of “BoJack Horseman,” watch this iteration of the Harley Quinn story, even if you’re not typically a big Batman or comics person in general. The show plays around with form and satire in funny and surprising ways, with reference upon reference upon reference, and it has an almost junk-food, give-me-more-more-more sense of forward momentum. If you’re looking for a comedy binge, watch this.

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Your newly available movies

Chadwick Boseman in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” his final screen performance.David Lee/Netflix, via Associated Press

After a fraught theatrical release in late summer, Christopher Nolan’s time-bending spectacle “Tenet” is finally available for home viewing. And our critics are enthusiastic about Chadwick Boseman’s final screen performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” a Netflix adaptation of August Wilson’s 1982 play.

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

‘Another Round’

Middle-class lives do come unspooling in “Another Round,” but this odd little film turns out to be neither farce nor moralistic provocation. It’s a sweet, strangely modest tragicomedy about the pleasures of (mostly banal) excess. — Devika Girish (Read the full review here.)

‘The Art of Political Murder’ (HBO Max only)

The director, Paul Taylor, who uses re-enactments to visualize the night of the crime, clearly faced certain limitations of material, and the film has dry stretches as the interviewees relate a complicated history better-suited to a book. But the movie succeeds at weaving a web in which justice appears impossibly elusive — which gives the ending all the more punch. — Ben Kenigsberg (Read the full review here.)

‘The Last Blockbuster’

As this pleasant but ultimately inconsequential movie’s narrative thins out, it emphasizes again and again that there is, as of now, only one operating Blockbuster in the world. — Glenn Kenny (Read the full review here.)

‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ (A Critic’s Pick; Netflix only)

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is a powerful and pungent reminder of the necessity of art, of its sometimes terrible costs and of the preciousness of the people, living and dead, with whom we share it. — A.O. Scott (Read the full review here.)

‘Tenet’ (A Critic’s Pick)

Ideally presented in 70-millimeter Imax, Nolan’s preferred, towering aspect ratio, arrayed with the telegenic faces of a cast of incipient superstars, gorgeously shot across multiple global locations and pivoting on an elastic, time-bending conceit (more on that later/earlier), the film is undeniably enjoyable, but its giddy grandiosity only serves to highlight the brittleness of its purported braininess. — Jessica Kiang (Read the full review here.)

Also newly available:

EXTRA-CREDIT READING

Kaley Cuoco Thanks You for Flying With ‘The Flight Attendant’

Cuoco, the star and executive producer of the HBO Max thriller, and the showrunner Steve Yockey discuss the season finale and their ideas for Season 2.

By Jennifer Vineyard

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‘The Stand’ Review: Stephen King’s Pandemic Story Hits TV Again

A mini-series from CBS All Access adapts the sprawling novel about opposing camps of survivors in a post-apocalyptic America.

By Mike Hale

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‘The Stand’: Tracing the Stephen King Epic Through Its Many Mutations

King’s post-apocalyptic novel about the aftermath of a deadly pandemic has been adapted into a new mini-series for CBS All Access. But the story has a complex history of its own.

By Sean T. Collins

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With ‘Bridgerton,’ Scandal Comes to Regency England

For her first Netflix series, Shonda Rhimes and her team infuse period-drama escapism with modern-day sensibilities.

By Julia Jacobs

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critic’s notebook

Mariah! Dolly! Carrie! 2020 Can’t Quarantine This Cheer

Pop stars try to pull off a Christmas spectacular in tough times, with three sparkly but heartfelt specials now on streaming services.

By Lindsay Zoladz

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Emerald Fennell’s Dark, Jaded, Funny, Furious Fables of Female Revenge

A brilliant young show runner from “Killing Eve” unveils her first film, “Promising Young Woman,” bringing macabre feminist wit to experiences that no one wants to talk about.

By Carina Chocano

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‘Break It All’ Celebrates the Oppositional Energy of Latin Rock

A new six-part Netflix series explores half a century of music under pressure.

By Jon Pareles

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Are We Ready to Laugh About Covid-19? A British Sitcom Hopes So

With ‘Pandemonium,’ the BBC is betting that an audience will find humor in reliving the ordeals of a very awful year.

By David Segal

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