Watching: A Kimmy Schmidt Adventure

Or an ambitious crime series.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

This was supposed to be “upfronts” week, when networks unveil their fall schedules to advertisers and news media, typically at big, in-person events. It’s also when you hear which network shows have been canceled to make way for new series. But we don’t have normal weeks these days, and thus we don’t have normal upfronts, and we probably will not have normal network TV. (Fox still announced its lineup, which includes “L.A.’s Finest” — which aired already, on Spectrum.)

I hope you’re keeping it together, or at least, together enough. See you Wednesday.

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I want something funny and surprising

Always pick “make out”! Who knows what tomorrow holds? True on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend,” true in life.Netflix

‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend’

When to watch: Starting Tuesday, on Netflix.

Netflix tested out its Choose Your Own Adventure format with the interactive episode “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” which was a fun idea but ultimately a joyless exercise in fussy bleakness. But the concept works great here, and “Kimmy vs. The Reverend” is wild feat of format-bending and an excellent episode of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

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Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) is getting ready for her wedding to Frederick (Daniel Radcliffe) when she discovers a mysterious book in her backpack — a book whose mere existence makes Kimmy re-examine some of what she knows about her time in the bunker. At various points in the story, you’re asked to decide a course of action, and there are clever moments that break the fourth wall without totally puncturing the show’s absurd world. I “played” through many, many different options and found them all funny and weird and great.

I could go for a foreign crime show

Will Sharpe and Takehiro Hira, foreground, in “Giri/Haji.”Netflix

‘Giri/Haji’

When to watch: Now, on Netflix.

If you like your violent crime dramas with family subplots and international intrigue, try this eight-part series (in Japanese and English, with subtitles). Kenzo (Takehiro Hira) is a Tokyo detective investigating a murder that seems to be connected to his brother, who was involved with organized crime and is presumed dead. The investigation leads Kenzo to London, where things become even more complicated as he teams up with a British cop (Kelly Macdonald) who does not know his whole story.

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There’s a lot going on in “Giri/Haji,” and scene to scene, it can feel like a patchwork quilt of different shows. But it’s a nice contrast to the dingy austerity of some other crime shows of late; less miserable, more audacious.

Your newly available movies of the week

Linda Leigh, right, inside the artificial environment Biosphere 2.Neon

Documentaries about Michelle Obama’s book tour and about the quarantine experiment of Biosphere 2 are among the many notable new movies on rental and streaming services. Titles can be rented on the usual platforms (Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube) unless otherwise noted. — Scott Tobias

Here’s what our critics wrote about the most talked-about movies from last week:

‘Becoming’ (Netflix only)

The film is being billed as a “rare and up-close look” at the former first lady’s life. But, whereas the memoir offered a partial illumination of a woman who critics and admirers alike have tried to understand for years, the documentary feels more routine. — Lovia Gyarkye (Read the full review here.)

‘Spaceship Earth’ (Stream it on Hulu; rent or buy it on other platforms)

Like the project itself, “Spaceship Earth” winds up caught in the gulf between rigor and showmanship. As entertaining as it can be, it is also disappointingly deferential to its subjects — the work of a filmmaker in thrall to characters who have welcomed him inside the bubble. — Ben Kenigsberg (Read the full review here.)

‘How to Build a Girl’ (Critic’s Pick)

This brisk, breathless story of a socially inept high schooler in the 1990s who finds notoriety as a rock critic has so many peaks and valleys that on paper it would look like Joe Exotic’s polygraph. — Jeannette Catsoulis (Read the full review here.)

‘Driveways’ (Critic’s Pick)

No obvious political points jar the movie’s gentle rhythms, just casual reminders of all-too-common realities: the devastation caused by the 2008 financial downturn, the strain of single parenting, the feeling of not quite fitting in. — Jeannette Catsoulis (Read the full review here.)

‘South Mountain’ (Critic’s Pick)

Talia Balsam is a paragon of acting talent who doesn’t get nearly as many opportunities to fully stand out as she ought. So it’s probable that “South Mountain,” a relatively rare starring vehicle for Balsam, would be worth seeing even if it were not so sharply observed and well constructed. Fortunately, we are not obliged to split any differences here. — Glenn Kenny (Read the full review here.)

Also newly available:

Also this week

Garry Marshall, top left, with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere on the set of “Pretty Woman.”ABC Photo Archives

  • The five-part special “Asian Americans” airs in two blocs, starting Monday at 9 p.m. and Tuesday at 8 p.m., on PBS. (Check local listings.)
  • The tribute special “The Happy Days of Garry Marshall” airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ABC.
  • Season finales this week include: “The Flash” (Tuesday, 8 p.m., the CW), “The Goldbergs” (Wednesday, 8 p.m, ABC), “Survivor” (Wednesday, 8 p.m., CBS), “Single Parents” (Wednesday, 9:30 p.m., ABC), “Katy Keene” (Thursday, 8 p.m., the CW) and “Station 19” (Thursday, 9 p.m., ABC).
  • The series finale of “How to Get Away With Murder” airs Thursday at 10 p.m. on ABC.

EXTRA-CREDIT READING

Wait, one more thing

A link in Saturday’s newsletter directed readers to the wrong article. Here are the 50 best movies on Netflix right now.

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