Watching: What to Watch This Weekend

A fresh twist on period dramas.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

If you love a neutral gray, or your home décor includes your monogram, perhaps the sitcoms you watch have influenced your taste — in this case “Two and a Half Men” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” according to Architectural Digest. The vintage glass grape industry owes “New Girl” a thank you basket of some kind.

Some days are easier than others. I hope you can string together a bunch of easies in a row. Stay safe, and I’ll see you Monday.

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This weekend I have … 20 minutes, and I like soft comedy

A scene from “The Dress Up Gang.” (Yes, that’s Andie MacDowell.)TBS

‘The Dress Up Gang’

When to watch: Now, on the TBS website or app (cable login required after one episode).

This dreamboat little comedy sat in TV purgatory for a while, but now its happy, offbeat 10 episodes are finally available. The show is about two roommates, their extended social circle and their unusual dynamics, and its through-the-looking-glass hyper-sincerety is both enchanting and warmly deranged. It uses a lot of sketch structures, but it isn’t paced like a sketch show, nor is it like any of the indulgent stand-up auteur comedies. Instead, it feels like the modern version of the shows one discovered on obscure channels in the middle of the night in 1999. If you like “At Home With Amy Sedaris” and “Joe Pera Talks With You,” watch this.

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… 2 hours, and I like grandeur

A moment from “Mass,” as seen on “Great Performances: Leonard Bernstein Mass.”Patrick Gipson/Ravinia Festival

‘Great Performances: Leonard Bernstein Mass’

When to watch: Friday at 9 p.m., on PBS (check local listings).

If you miss live performances and large outdoor gatherings, watch this broadcast of the 2019 production of “Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers” at Ravinia, starring Paulo Szot and conducted by Marin Alsop. “Mass,” commissioned for the opening of the Kennedy Center in 1971, recreates aspects of a Catholic mass, and it’s considered one of Bernstein’s more divisive works. It’s a lot on a lot on a lot, and occasionally involves literal preaching to the choir — though of course, that’s how you make ’em sing.

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… several hours, and I’m saucy

Elle Fanning, left, and Nicholas Hoult  in “The Great.”Hulu

‘The Great’

When to watch: Now, on Hulu.

Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult star as Catherine the Great and Peter III in this cheeky spin on period dramas. Lush, elaborate, vulgar, cartoonish, grand — moment to moment, “The Great” can have the pomp of “The Crown” and the devilishness of “Drunk History” or “Miracle Workers.” Fanning is terrific, and she is often captured looking just offscreen, which adds to the sense of disorientation and imbalance that fuels the first arc of Catherine’s story. There are 10 episodes, which is a few too many. But when it’s firing, “The Great” is pretty darn good.

Your weekend double feature: The apocalypse, over brunch

Jeff Grace, left with Todd Berger in the comedy “It’s a Disaster.”Oscilloscope Laboratories

‘It’s a Disaster’ and ‘Melancholia’

Apocalypse cinema is often about characters who are outside taking action, but these two films are about ordinary people who are futzing around, figuring out how to make those final minutes count.

The hilariously droll indie comedy “It’s a Disaster,” now streaming on Hulu and Amazon, speculates that people will still hang on to their petty grievances under any circumstances. As the eight people at a “couples brunch” get word of a dirty bomb attack that’s wafting fatal levels of radiation in their direction, they duct-tape the doors and windows and have it out over bad relationships, personal betrayals and vegan stew. David Cross, Julia Stiles and America Ferrera are among the more familiar faces in an excellent ensemble, and the writer-director Todd Berger orchestrates their squabbles with the snap of a classic farce.

The two sisters in Lars von Trier’s sci-fi curiosity “Melancholia,” also on Hulu, swing to opposing extremes in response to their apocalyptic event, which takes the disarmingly beautiful form of a rogue planet on a collision course with Earth. In the first half of the film, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) suffers a depressive episode that sabotages the wedding reception Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) has organized at her estate; in the second half, as the planet looms closer, the tables turn and it’s Justine who is weirdly cool as Claire panics about the imminent loss of her well-ordered family life. As in “It’s a Disaster,” the end of the world is a matter of perspective. — Scott Tobias

Stream “It’s a Disaster” on Hulu and Amazon. Rent it on Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

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

Also this weekend

Cate Blanchett does a guest voice on this weekend’s season finale of “The Simpsons.”Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

  • The fifth and final season of “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” is now streaming on Netflix.
  • The seventh season finale of “The Blacklist” airs Friday at 8 p.m. on NBC. It wasn’t supposed to be the finale, nor was the episode finished when in-person production halted, so the episode is a combo of live action and animation. It’s a cool idea, but it just looks like a crummy “Blacklist” video game.
  • “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020” airs Saturday at 8 p.m. on ABC, CBS, the CW, Fox and NBC.
  • “Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj” returns for its sixth season Sunday on Netflix.
  • Other season finales this weekend: “American Idol” (Sunday, 8 p.m., ABC), “Batwoman” (Sunday, 8 p.m., the CW), “Call the Midwife” (Sunday, 8 p.m., PBS; check local listings), “The Simpsons” (Sunday, 8 p.m., Fox), “Bob’s Burgers” (Sunday, 9 p.m., Fox) and “Supergirl” (Sunday, 9 p.m., the CW).
  • The final two episodes of “The Last Dance” air Sunday, starting at 9 p.m., on ESPN.

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