Watching: What to Watch This Weekend

A disturbing new documentary.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

Comedy Central has canceled “Drunk History” as part of the network’s shift toward animated shows. What a shame.

I’m off for the next few weeks, but you’ll be in great hands with Alexis Soloski. See you in September.


This weekend I have … an hour, and I’m extremely online

The comedian Rose Matafeo in her new special, “Horndog.”HBO Max

‘Rose Matafeo: Horndog’

When to watch: Now, on HBO Max.

If you’ve ever spent time on forums or in fandoms, or if you just love love, this stand-up special from the comedian Rose Matafeo is for you. Matafeo is part of a larger trend of comedians who incorporate videos and screenshots into their acts, combining their onstage and online personas, and here it feels seamless and authentic. She describes her period-tracking app as “a very sad advent calendar” and goes in on various aspects of a tech-consumed life. Her broader thesis is a solid one — we are our obsessions, but that can be a good thing.


… an hour, and yes, I listened to the podcast

Sarah Edmondson in a scene from “The Vow.”  HBO

‘The Vow’

When to watch: Sunday at 10 p.m., on HBO.

This new nine-part documentary is a thorough examination of the self-empowerment cult Nxivm, whose founder, Keith Raniere, is in prison for racketeering and sex trafficking. Sarah Edmondson and other former members of the organization are forthcoming about their sometimes horrific experiences, but the real asset in “The Vow” is how much of its material comes from participants’ near-constant self-documentation while they were in the group. Videos and recorded phone calls help create a nuanced look at how abuse and manipulation propagate themselves in closed systems.

(If you haven’t listened to the podcast, it’s the CBC series “Escaping Nxivm.”)


… 2 hours, and I am the one person ready for a Covid-19 show

Nicolette Robinson and Leslie Odom Jr. in “Love in the Time of Corona.”Freeform

‘Love in the Time of Corona’

When to watch: Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. on Freeform; starting Monday on Hulu.

I don’t recommend this mini-series as a work of narrative television. But as a demonstration of what’s technologically possible under our current bizarre living situations, it’s an intriguing start: It looks pretty good, it sounds pretty good, and it feels like a “real” show, even if it’s a matryoshka doll of spiritual alienation to watch people on screens watch people on screens talk about isolation. The four episodes follows four households whose inhabitants are in various states of love and marriage, and everything was filmed in the actors’ actual homes, with real-life couples portraying the on-screen couples.

Your Friday double feature: A tale of two Ripleys

From left: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Matt Damon in “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”Phil Bray/Miramax

‘The American Friend’ and ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’

Over five novels, Patricia Highsmith followed the adventures of Tom Ripley, a shape-shifting con artist who dabbled in forgery, identity theft and, with more reluctance, the occasional murder. His essential blankness as an antihero has allowed filmmakers to make their own interpretations of the character and the worlds that he infiltrates.

A loose neo-noir adaptation of the third book in Highsmith’s series, “Ripley’s Game,” Wim Wenders’s “The American Friend” allows Dennis Hopper to play Ripley as an impulsive crook of unclear motives. Currently streaming as part of a Wenders series on the Criterion Channel, the film opens in the grimy port town of Hamburg, Germany, where Ripley is running up the price on forged artworks at auction. When a local framer (the Wenders favorite Bruno Ganz) seems to sniff out the scam, Ripley manipulates him into a doing a hit job for a French gangster. But their relationship grows surprisingly complex over time, and the film becomes less a genre piece than an atmospheric character study.

Hopper’s Ripley has little in common with Matt Damon’s in “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” whose luxuriant Italian backdrop is a far cry from the industrial gray of Wenders’s Hamburg. But the writer-director Anthony Minghella has a similar affinity for this lonely character, who uses his gifts for mimicry and ingratiation to get close to a wealthy playboy (Jude Law) and take over his life. Minghella frames Ripley’s criminal descent as the tragedy of empty ambition and sublimated desire: The first among the lives Ripley erases is his own. — Scott Tobias

Stream “The American Friend” on the Criterion Channel. Rent it on Amazon, Apple TV and Vudu.

Stream “The Talented Mr. Ripley” on HBO Max. Rent it on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.


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