Watching: What to Watch This Weekend

If you need a break.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

Our newsletter turns 4 this weekend, and on a more typical anniversary, the residents of Watchington would gather in our office for a sheet cake and a toast. You can’t imagine how much I wish we’d been able to do that today — or actually, I bet you can. Like everyone, I’m looking forward to when there’s more to celebrate and less to mourn. Until then, at least there’s plenty to watch.

If you have a question for my TV advice column, well, now is the time! You can read the previous installments right here and then send your questions to

Have a socially distant weekend, but let’s hang in there.


This Weekend I Have … 6 Minutes, and I’m Hanging On by a Thread

Baaaaaask in “Shaun the Sheep: Adventures From Mossy Bottom.”Netflix

‘Shaun the Sheep: Adventures From Mossy Bottom’

When to watch: Now, on Netflix.

This stop-motion charmer, part of the “Wallace and Gromit” universe, is a perfect show to watch with imaginative kids or extremely stressed adults. There is almost no dialogue but still plenty of story, most of it in the silly shenanigan vein, with a lot of physical humor and things that go splat. It’s wildly creative, about as cute as can be, not annoying at all, and each 13-minute episode is actually two even shorter episodes, making the “Can I watch one more?” question easy to answer.


… 24 Minutes, and I Need a Real Break

Amy Sedaris stars in “At Home With Amy Sedaris.”TruTV

‘At Home With Amy Sedaris’

When to watch: Now, on the TruTV website or DirectTV.

Transport yourself to a stranger, more wonderful and peculiar plane of existence with this warped happy-homemaker show. Amy Sedaris balances a sunny wholesome exterior with a deranged gooey center, like “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” but more comfortable with silly-squirmy humor. At a time when many of us are climbing the walls, a show that is both escapist and domestic feels right. All of the episodes are available with a cable login, and one is available for free without.


… 4 Hours, and I’m Steering Into the Skid

A scene from “College Behind Bars.”Skiff Mountain Films

‘College Behind Bars’

When to watch: Now, on Netflix or PBS Passport.

If you are paying particular attention to the health crisis facing prisoners right now, or if you have long been interested justice reform, or if you like well-constructed documentaries that capture the human condition in beautiful and surprising ways, watch this. “College” aired on PBS late last year, and it follows participants the Bard Prison Initiative, a program that provides a challenging college education to a small number of prisoners in New York State. There are only four episodes, and I would space them out because they are quite evocative.

Your Weekend Double Feature: The Great War

George MacKay, center, in a scene from “1917.”François Duhamel/Universal Pictures, via Associated Press

‘1917’ and ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’

The common denominator of World War I movies is a focus on grunt-level experience — the rationale for sending these young men to the slaughter is either obscure or arrogant or some combination of both. World War I has been the subject of some of the greatest antiwar movies ever made, tied to arresting images of soldiers hunkered down in the trenches, with barbed wire and machine-gun nests awaiting them on the surface.

In some respects, Sam Mendes’s “1917,” now available for digital rental, feels freer than other World War I movies because those trenches and machine-gun nests have been abandoned by a retreating German army. But the retreat is a gambit to coax the British into a devastating trap, and it’s up to two young soldiers (played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) to rush this urgent information to the far-off battalion. Mendes renders their mission as one harrowing, near-continuous journey through haunted terrain.

Still the gold standard for World War I movies — and for antiwar movies in general — the 1930 best picture winner, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” starts as a German teacher rallies his students to enlist, then watches as nearly all of them are killed or wounded by aerial bombardments or trench combat. The scope of the film is much broader than that of “1917,” and the message blunter, but it serves as a potent warning about how society’s elders exploit the patriotic instincts of the young and able-bodied. — Scott Tobias

Rent or buy “1917” on Apple, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play and YouTube.

Rent or buy “All Quiet on the Western Front” on Apple, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play and YouTube.

Also This Weekend

“Vagrant Queen,” feel the beat from the tambourine. Pictured, right: Adriyan Rae.Marcos Cruz/Vagrant Productions, via SyFy

  • The terrific “American Masters: Terrence McNally — Every Act of Life” is free to stream on the PBS website and on the PBS app until April 1. McNally died Tuesday.
  • All of “Samurai Jack” is now free to stream on the Adult Swim website.
  • “Making the Cut,” the new “Project Runway”-type series starring Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, is now streaming on Amazon. The first two are out now, an another two come out every Friday for the next five weeks. I’ve seen the first six episodes, and I liked them a lot. (I wrote more about the show here.)
  • Season 3 of “Ozark” is now on Netflix.
  • If you miss “Wynonna Earp,” try “Vagrant Queen,” which premieres Friday at 10 p.m. on Syfy, has a similar vibe and counts Tim Rozon among its leads.
  • ESPN is airing four 20-strikeout baseball games all day Saturday starting at noon. If that’s not enough baseball for you, I’m obsessed with this new, strange documentary series about the Seattle Mariners.
  • “Call the Midwife” returns for its ninth season Sunday at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).


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