Watching: What to Watch This Weekend

A crusading documentary series.

Dear Watchers,

Good news! “The Great British Bake Off” announced that it managed to film a new quarantine-appropriate season at an undisclosed location somewhere in the wilds of England. No word yet on when this new batch of nail-biting, finger-licking crème pat cliffhangers will arrive on Netflix, so here’s a documentary, a kids’ movie and an awards show to get you through the weekend, at least. Does anyone know a local source for prinsesstarta?

Bon appétit. See you Monday.


This weekend I have … an hour, and I don’t believe in love

In “Love Fraud,” a group of women seek justice against the same man.Showtime

‘Love Fraud’

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

For two decades, women say, Richard Scott Smith romanced them, married them, then took what little money they had. In this four-part documentary series, from the directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, several fleeced ladies hire Carla, a grizzled female bounty hunter, to track him down. After hearing their stories, she offers her services pro bono. “If Richard Scott Smith came in and robbed me like he did these other women, I’d be in prison,” Carla rasps. “I’d have slit his throat and watched him bleed to death.” A tale of crab cakes and treachery, set mostly in Kansas, it’s less lurid than “Dirty John,” another recent series based around a fraudster, but maybe more seductive in its twisty structure and unpeeling of multiple layers of deceit. In the early episodes, Carla and her clients try to track Smith down. Later, other mysteries emerge.


… 90 minutes, and I want to bust somebody

Phineas and Ferb return in a new movie.Disney+

‘Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe’

When to watch: Now, on Disney+

In a rare upside of the Covid-19 lockdowns, my kids have discovered “Phineas and Ferb,” a semiprecious gem of a Disney series about two S.T.E.M.-adept stepbrothers and the teen sister always trying to catch them in the act. It’s smart and dumb in all the best ways, and there are musical numbers, too. The series wrapped up in 2015, after 222 episodes, but its creators have now briefly revived it. In this movie, Candace accidentally blasts onto another planet and it’s up to her brothers — with a possible assist from a spacewalking platypus — to rescue her. (Assuming she even wants to be rescued … and who says she can’t rescue herself?) The movie probably works better if you know the show well and can enjoy the formula beats and the jaunty callbacks. But it will likely delight the uninitiated, too, especially when Ali Wong shows up to voice the alien baddie.


… a few hours (maybe more for the preshow), and I want my MTV

The Weeknd will be among the performers at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards.Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

The 2020 MTV Video Music Awards

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

In a moment when live performance is either illegal or a really bad idea, the MTV Video Music Awards are a nice reminder that music has been enjoyed remotely since phonographs were high-tech. Still, the logistics for the 2020 ceremony have skittered around like a middle-aged dad trying to do the Toosie Slide. Originally scheduled to take place in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the V.M.A.s will now unfold in outdoor locations across New York’s five boroughs. Then last week J Balvin, who contracted Covid-19, and Roddy Ricch announced that they would not appear. So what will Sunday’s broadcast include? Keke Palmer as host, some new categories, like Best Music Video From Home and Best Quarantine Performance, plus performances by Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and The Weeknd, who are all up for the Video of the Year award. At least social distancing means no “I’mma let you finish” episodes. (Or is that a bad thing?)

Your Friday double feature: Paul Newman Antiheroes

Patricia Neal and Paul Newman in “Hud,” from 1963.Paramount Pictures

When you’re one of the most handsome and charismatic leading men in Hollywood history, playing the antihero sets you against an audience that naturally extends its sympathies. And yet Paul Newman insisted on challenging his image, not merely with the rascals and rebels of popular hits like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting,” but with men whose redeeming qualities are tougher to find.

Leaving Hulu and Amazon Prime Video at the end of August, Martin Ritt’s 1963 neo-western “Hud,” based on the Larry McMurtry novel “Horseman, Pass By,” cast Newman as the selfish, unscrupulous and violent rancher of the title, who alienates the people closest to him. Hud rejects the salt-of-the-earth righteousness of his father (Melvyn Douglas), especially once his inheritance is at stake, and he’s a toxic influence on the nephew (Brandon deWilde) who idolizes him and the housekeeper (Patricia Neal) that Hud secretly loves. Newman reveals only hints of the bruised soul within this character, and the integrity of his performance is underlined by the film’s stark treatment of ranch life and the austere beauty of James Wong Howe’s Oscar-winning black-and-white photography.

Two years earlier, Newman was at the center of another gorgeous black-and-white drama, playing a con artist who’s particularly adept at swindling himself. As “Fast Eddie” Felson in Robert Rossen’s “The Hustler,” Newman works smoke-filled pool halls as a shark among fish, with enough talent for “straight pool” to challenge legends like Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). But he has an equal knack for self-immolation, too, chasing wins with careless losses and inflicting more harm on the damaged woman (Piper Laurie) who clings to him. You may want to root for Fast Eddie, but Newman doesn’t make it easy. — Scott Tobias

Stream “Hud” on Amazon and Hulu. Rent it on Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

Rent “The Hustler” on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.


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