Watching: What to Watch This Weekend

Two wonderful comedies.

By Margaret Lyons

Dear Watchers,

Starz announced this week that “The Girlfriend Experience,” which has not aired a new episode since 2017, will return for a third season in May.

Have a safe, maybe even springy weekend.

This weekend I have … 15 minutes, and stress actually nourishes me

This is what the episodes of “Calls” look like.Apple TV+

‘Calls’

When to watch: Now, on Apple TV+.

This new collection of short-form thrillers uses spooky phone conversations set against minimal visuals — mostly just text and screensaver-like animation — to surprisingly gripping effect. Based on a French series, “Calls” feels like “The Twilight Zone” mixed with the podcast version of “Homecoming,” all juicy and twisty: Is the world ending? What’s that bright light? Gone for a half-hour — why, you’ve been gone for years! If you like eerie sci-fi but fear commitment, or if your super power is identifying celebrity voices and you want to flex your skills, watch this.

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… a few hours, and I want a comedy

David Mitchell in a scene from “Back.”Sundance Now

‘Back’

When to watch: Now, on AMC+ or Sundance Now.

All of Season 2 of this British comedy is now streaming (and will air weekly on IFC in April), and it’s as funny and lovely as the first. David Mitchell stars as Stephen, a depressed alcoholic who is surprised at his father’s funeral to meet Andrew (Robert Webb), who claims to be a long-ago foster brother. This show crams more jokes and details into its episodes than some shows manage in a season, and although it sometimes depicts dirtbagginess, it holds its characters in tender regard. If you like the farce and brotherly conflicts of “Frasier,” or if you ever loved “Peep Show” or “That Mitchell and Webb Look,” watch this.

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… a few hours, and I want a different comedy

Wyatt Cenac (center) in the first episode of “People of Earth.”Jan Thijs/TBS

‘People of Earth’

When to watch: Now, on Hulu.

Those feeling adrift while waiting for new episodes of “Search Party” should try this two-season comedy about a support group for people who have been abducted by aliens. Wyatt Cenac stars as Ozzie, a reporter writing an article about the “experiencers,” who discovers more than just a journalistic interest in their stories. I was crushed when this show was canceled in 2018 and remain so now — it deserves a better ending! — but at least it’s finally streaming. This is one of the better ensemble comedies of the past few years, and as we slowly emerge from a year of isolation, a show about social support feels especially apt.

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Your newly available movies

Regis Myrupu in “The Fever.”KimStim

Excited for the four-hour cut of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”? If so, we’re not going to stop you. But consider that you can squeeze in any two of our four Critic’s Picks this week in less time, including “Operation Varsity Blues,” Chris Smith’s documentary about the college admissions scandal, and “Wojnarowicz,” a shattering portrait of the queer artist David Wojnarowicz.

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

‘Before the Dying of the Light’ (A Critic’s Pick, via MoMA virtual cinema)

Even for viewers with little grounding in Moroccan history, [the director Ali Essafi’s] film offers an inspiring view of a roiling period of artistic exploration. — Glenn Kenny (Read the full review here.)

‘The Fever’ (A Critic’s Pick, via Film at Lincoln Center virtual cinema)

The film never spells out its secrets, which nonetheless invest every shot with ethereal beauty: The cranes that move giant cuboid containers at Justino’s port inscribe geometric poetry into the sky, while a rich layer of ambient sound envelops the film, adding texture even to its silences. — Devika Girish (Read the full review here.)

‘Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal’ (A Critic’s Pick; Netflix only)

The gripping documentary “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal” shifts the spotlight back to [William] Singer, played in re-enactments by Matthew Modine with dialogue taken directly from wiretaps, to understand how a flip-flop-clad former basketball coach rebranded himself as an academic glad-hander for the 1 percent. — Amy Nicholson (Read the full review here.)

‘Wojnarowicz’ (A Critic’s Pick, via Kino Marquee virtual cinema)

The movie eschews contemporary talking-head interviews, instead showing speakers such as Fran Lebowitz, a close friend of Wojnarowicz and [the photographer Peter Hujar], as they were in the late ’70s and early ’80s. This is a strategic move, designed to make the movie’s final scene — in which several survivors of the artist and the era, now much older (a couple more frail than others), are shown attending a 2018 Whitney retrospective of Wojnarowicz’s oeuvre — more powerful. It works. Shatteringly. — Glenn Kenny (Read the full review here.)

‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ (HBO Max only)

Here’s an indelicate orgy of special effects, fight scenes burdened with slow-motion attacks set to Tom Holkenborg’s tirelessly didactic score. More blasts! More impalings! More decapitation! The film seems to want more of everything except the quality that it most needs but can’t fully comprehend. — Maya Phillips (Read the full review here.)

Also newly available:

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Also this weekend

A scene from the 700th episode of “The Simpsons.”Fox
  • All of “The Office” is free to stream on Peacock through March 24.
  • “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is now streaming on Disney+.
  • If you live with a child who likes “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” try “Drama Club,” which premieres Saturday at 8:30 p.m. on Nickelodeon.
  • “The Simpsons” airs its 700th episode Sunday at 8 p.m. on Fox. Weirdly, it’s a Christmas episode.
  • If you like foggy foreign dramas, the Australian series “The Gloaming” starts Sunday at 9 p.m. on Starz.
  • “Q: Into the Storm,” a six-part series about QAnon, starts Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.
  • The season finale of “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on CNN. (He goes to Sicily.) The series has been renewed for a second season.

EXTRA-CREDIT READING

Critic’s Notebook

TV’s Battle of the Binge: Why the Wait Can Be Worth It

Streaming TV promised to free us from schedules, but series like “WandaVision” show that weekly rituals still have power.

By James Poniewozik

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Zack Snyder’s Rough and Tumble Ride With ‘Justice League’

The director digs into his exit from the original version of the epic and what led to his edit, the Snyder Cut, which HBO Max will release Thursday. “Am I a provocateur? A little bit.”

By Dave Itzkoff

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How Honest Can Demi Lovato Be?

The singer is opening up about her queerness, her near fatal overdose and her journey to living her truth. “I’m ready to feel like myself,” she said.

By Caryn Ganz

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Making a Movie About a Genocide That Some Still Deny

For years, Jasmila Zbanic hoped someone else would dramatize the worst atrocity of the Balkan wars. Instead, she did so with “Quo Vadis, Aida?” and it has been nominated for an Oscar.

By Alex Marshall

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Review: ‘Genius: Aretha’ Speaks Loudest When It Sings

Cynthia Erivo is dynamic in a bio-series that is strongest when it makes the case for the Queen of Soul as a creative force.

By James Poniewozik

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Nischelle Turner Becomes First Black Woman to Host ‘Entertainment Tonight’

The broadcast veteran will join Kevin Frazier to co-host the long-running entertainment and celebrity news show, CBS announced.

By Sarah Bahr

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‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’: What You Need to Know

The heroes of this new Disney+ series share a complex relationship that has evolved over multiple films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here are the most crucial bits of history and context.

By Simon Abrams

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Can the Makers of ‘Money Heist’ Mint Another Hit With ‘Sky Rojo’?

Álex Pina is back with another glitzy, over-the-top Spanish thriller for Netflix. This time, he and his creative partner say, the story is even leaner and the excess is even more over-the-top.

By Elisabeth Vincentelli

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