Why ‘Welcome to Flatch’ is the other docu-style network comedy you should be watching

"Welcome to Flatch" actors Sam Straley and Holmes.
Sam Straley, left, and Holmes in a scene from Fox’s “Welcome to Flatch.”
(Fred Norris / Fox)

Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone on the hunt for a laundromat photo opp before the Oscars this weekend.

We understand some of you may be trying to catch up on a few nominees before film’s big night, and we won’t interfere, but Times TV critic Robert Lloyd also makes the case that Fox’s “Welcome to Flatch,” set in small-town Ohio, is worth your time if you’re in the market for comedy that isn’t afraid to be moving.

Also in this week’s Screen Gab, we ask an “Abbott Elementary” writer about that viral moment between Jacob and Gregory and offer streaming recommendations for your weekend. As always, we want to know what you’re watching. Pretend we’re at the water cooler and give us your review of a TV show or streaming movie you’ve loved; it may be included in a future edition of Screen Gab. (Submissions should be approximately 100 to 150 words and sent to with your name and location.)



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Catherine Zeta-Jones stars in "Chicago."
( Miramax Films)

‘Chicago’ shouldn’t have won best picture in 2003. Here’s what should have: Times film critic Justin Chang and columnist Glenn Whipp discuss why the motion picture academy’s choices 20 years ago were far from heavenly.

Chris Rock slaps back at Will and Jada Pinkett Smith — hard — in live Netflix special: Nearly a year after Will Smith’s shocking assault at the 2022 Oscars, Rock broke his silence Saturday in the live Netflix special “Selective Outrage.”

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‘History of the World, Part II’ review: The school of Mel is in session: Mel Brooks’ 1981 film “History of the World, Part I” gets a TV series sequel with assists from Nick Kroll, Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes and a cast of dozens.

Turn on

Recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times

An image from "Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence."
( Hulu)

I’m a sucker for a cult documentary and the morbid fascination that comes with watching people — often smart and accomplished — fall prey to obvious charlatans. But even I wasn’t prepared for the sheer levels of WTF-ery on display in “Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence” (Hulu), a three-part docuseries about Larry Ray, a middle-aged dad who moved into his daughter’s dorm, befriended her roommates and proceeded to coerce, abuse and extort money from several of them for the next decade. (Ray was convicted last year on federal charges of sex trafficking, extortion and racketeering.) In the first two episodes, director Zach Heinzerling uses extensive audio and video recordings to show how Ray cruelly manipulated his victims, while the final hour looks at the aftermath of his psychological reign of terror. “Stolen Youth” never really gets to the bottom of Ray’s allure, but it seems content in leaving that mystery unresolved — which ultimately makes it such an unforgettable and unsettling viewing experience. — Meredith Blake

For fans of “The Challenge,” this is a golden era of the venerable reality competition series — and now the ever-expanding mega-franchise has its own “Avengers”-style crossover event. Following the questionable outcome of “The Challenge: USA,” the show has bounced back in a big way with entertaining iterations from Australia and the U.K. — its cycle through Argentina drops in April — to recruit top-level new players to pair with franchise legends in “The Challenge: World Championship” (Paramount+). Linking up those international winners with big names such as Jordan, Tori, Jonna and — yes — Johnny Bananas has been a ripping good time thus far. The level of competitor is very high, daily challenges have been well-designed and the first elimination was a corker. “USA,” “UK” and “Australia” are also streaming on Paramount+ now, so you can binge those heroes’ origins before diving into the tournament of champions (recommended — though you can pretty much skip through “USA” to its terrible finale). — Michael Ordoña

Catch up

Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about

Sam Straley and Holme in a scene from the Fox sitcom, "Welcome to Flatch."
Sam Straley and Holmes in a scene from Season 2 of Fox’s “Welcome to Flatch.”
(Michael Lavine / Fox)

The American small town has long been a canvas for comedy, from Booth Tarkington to Preston Sturges, from Mayberry, N.C., to Pawnee, Ind. In that estimable tradition is Fox’s weirdly lovely “Welcome to Flatch,” whose second season recently concluded. (The first is currently available via Prime Video, while the second season streams on Hulu, with episodes also available via Created by Jenny Bicks (“Divorce,” “Men in Trees”), it’s farcical and funny, but unexpectedly can grow moving with just a look or remark. Its documentary framing and Midwestern setting might call to mind “Parks & Recreation” — not a bad thing to be reminded of, after all — but notwithstanding a “Parks”-like rivalry with a more prosperous neighboring town, the resemblance ends there. If anything, the series’ fictional Flatch, Ohio , is more “Schitt’s Creek” than Pawnee, and where “Parks” was a workplace comedy, “Flatch” is rooted in the community.

A streak of melancholy unusual for a broadcast sitcom runs through the series from the beginning — not all that surprising, if you remember executive producer Paul Feig’s “Freaks & Geeks” — with the main focus on cousins and argumentative best friends Kelly (the singular, single-named Holmes) and Shrub (Sam Straley), underdeveloped young adults whose dreams run up against their limitations, but who succeed to the extent that they imagine themselves to be successful. Where Kelly fancies herself an entrepreneur, Shrub dreams of love, and both have father issues — Kelly is desperate to connect with hers, nearby but mostly out of her life, while Shrub, in the second season, is searching for his. Somehow they mistake their anger for righteousness. Other main characters include Father Joe (Seann William Scott), formerly of a Christian boy band; his off-on girlfriend, Cheryl (Aya Cash), who edits the local paper; the formidable Big Mandy (Krystal Smith) and, in Season 2, Jaime Pressley as Barb Flatch, who has returned home from a purportedly glamorous life in Miami and sets herself up as a Realtor — not the best business to start in this hamlet, maybe, but appropriately aspirational. — Robert Lloyd

Guest spot

A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching

Janine (Quinta Brunson, center) looks on as two of her students' older sisters argue.

You know Brittani Nichols is making some serious noise in Hollywood because Cate Blanchett once sat on her lap and that’s not even what she’s best known for. After all, the “Abbott Elementary” (ABC, Hulu) writer and “A Black Lady Sketch Show” (HBO Max) alum, who first discovered her creative ambitions while poking around on Tumblr, has trained at two of TV’s best comic laboratories, recently winning an NAACP Image Award for the “Abbott” episode “Student Transfer.” Nichols stopped by Screen Gab to discuss her connection to the field of education, one of Season 2’s standout moments and what she’s watching. — Matt Brennan

What have you watched recently that you are recommending to everyone you know?

Not enough people have watched “High School” [Freevee] based on the Tegan and Sara book! I watched it right when it came out but I still don’t see enough people talking about it so I’m still bringing it up. I’m not a big reality TV person but “Perfect Match” on Netflix has me in a choke hold. I also recently saw “Of An Age” in theaters and loved it.

What’s your go-to “comfort watch,” the movie or TV show you go back to again and again?

I’m constantly re-watching comedies so my comfort watch rotates. Sometimes it feels like a chore just to decide what to watch, so I pick a show I love so I can throw it on during those in-between moments or before bed without having to think. I’ve done this with “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Happy Endings,” “30 Rock,” “Togetherness” and “New Girl.” My latest comfort re-watch was “I Think You Should Leave” [Netflix], which is funny now that I think about it because so much of the comedy is built on awkwardness and discomfort.

The Times has spoken previously to creator and star Quinta Brunson about her personal connection to the material through her mother, a public schoolteacher. Are there any specific people or experiences in your life that particularly inform your writing on “Abbott”?

I have a lot of family members that work in education. The one that I keep in mind the most is my stepmom who is a Chicago Public School teacher. I don’t really pull specific story lines as much as I keep in mind her approach and dedication to the craft. Especially her frustration with all of the systems and forces that complicate teachers’ ability to do their jobs.

This is kind of niche, but I have to ask: Please talk about the origins of this season’s viral “stop or I’ll scream” moment, where Jacob discovers Gregory’s feelings for Janine. I laugh every time I watch it. Which is a lot.

Randall Einhorn’s direction of the scene perfectly encapsulates the power dynamic switch in the middle of the conversation and I think Jacob uncharacteristically being in the driver’s seat helped grab people’s attention. I think Jacob lives in constant fear of making a misstep and that allows him to fundamentally understand what social faux pas would terrify other people. So he knows that causing a scene is the last thing Gregory wants and that’s how I got to “Stop or I’ll scream.” It’s an efficient threat and if there’s anything Gregory respects, it’s efficiency. Everybody knows Tyler James Williams is incredible but Chris Perfetti is also a powerhouse. Not everyone can pull off, “Oh my God is a woman.” I love when people that don’t yet watch the show see clips out of context and are like, “OK, that’s funny.” But then for people that watch every episode, scenes like this, that are building off of dynamics we’ve been developing over time, really seem to hit. Jacob has always been a lubricant for the Gregory and Janine machine but I think people didn’t realize just how much until this scene.

What’s next

Listings coordinator Matt Cooper highlights the TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on

Fri., March 10

“Chang Can Dunk” (Disney+): An Asian American teen chases his hoop dreams in this new coming-of-age comedy. Bloom Li stars.

“Corsage” (AMC+): “The Phantom Thread’s” Vicky Krieps is dressed to empress in this stylish 2022 historical drama set in 19th century Austria.

“Luther: The Fallen Sun” (Netflix): Idris Elba reprises his 2010-19 TV series role as the brilliant but troubled London detective in this 2023 thriller.

“Moonshine” (Freevee): There’s a whole mess of fussin’, feudin’ and fightin’ goin’ on in this Canadian-made dysfunctional-family comedy-drama.

“Most Dangerous Game” (Roku): The hunt is on — again! — in a second season of this action drama. With Christoph Waltz.

“Outlast” (Netflix): Better pack a parka! Sixteen rugged individualists brave the Alaskan wilderness in this new competition.

“UnPrisoned” (Hulu): “Scandal’s” Kerry Washington plays a single mom sharing a roof with her recently paroled pops (Delroy Lindo) in this new sitcom.

“Kiff” (Disney, 8 and 8:30 p.m.): A spunky squirrel and her bunny BFF have a series of misadventures in this new animated series.

“A Lifeguard’s Obsession” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): He saves her life, but then he goes off the deep end in this new thriller. With Amanda Jones.

“The New York Times Presents” (FX, 10 and 11:30 p.m.): A new two-part episode retells the twisted tale of notorious private eye and fixer-to-the-stars Anthony Pellicano.

Sat., March 11

“Game of Love” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.): A board game designer hooks up with a hunky marketing consultant in this new TV movie. With Kimberley Sustad.

“Girl in the Closet” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): A young girl falls into the clutches of a disturbed relative in this new fact-based TV movie. With Remy Ma.

“Saturday Night Live” (NBC, 8:29 and 11:29 p.m.): “Wednesday’s” Jenna Ortega hosts and English rockers the 1975 perform.

Sun., March 12

“The 95th Academy Awards” (ABC, 5 p.m.): The mind-bending 2022 multiverse fable “Everything Everywhere All at Once” leads the field with 11 nominations at this year’s ceremony. Jimmy Kimmel hosts.

“The Surrogate Scandal” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): A young woman agrees to carry a celebrity couple’s child in this new thriller. With Catherine Dyer.

“The Last of Us” (HBO, 9 p.m.): You haven’t seen the last of Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey as this post-apocalyptic drama ends its first season already renewed for a second.

“Naked and Afraid: Solo” (Discovery, 10 p.m.): They’re alone again, naturally, in this new spinoff of the outdoor survival series.

“A Spy Among Friends” (MGM+, 10 p.m.): Guy Pearce portrays MI6 officer/Soviet double agent Kim Philby and Damian Lewis plays his bereft BFF in this new fact-based drama.

“Alien Abduction: Travis Walton” (Travel, 9 p.m.): An Arizona man’s close encounter of the worst kind in 1975 is revisited in this new special.

Mon., March 13

“Jussie Smollett: Anatomy of a Hoax” (Fox Nation): This new special explores the case of the former “Empire” star who falsely claimed to have been the victim of a hate crime in 2019.

“Great Performances” (KOCE, 9 p.m.): David Strathairn portrays Jan Karski, a Polish resistance fighter who bore witness to the horrors of the Holocaust, in the fact-based solo drama “Remember This.”

“Mean Girl Murders” and “Killer Cheer” (Investigation Discovery, 9 and 10 p.m.): And when they were bad, they were horrid in these two new true crime series.

“The Daily Show” (Comedy Central, 11 p.m.; also Tuesday-Thursday): “Harold & Kumar’s” Kal Penn is this week’s guest host.

Tue., March 14

“Bert Kreischer: Razzle Dazzle” (Netflix): No shoes, no shirt? No problem! The bare-chested comic is back in an all-new stand-up special.

NHL Big City Greens Classic (ESPN and Disney+, 4 p.m.): You can watch the Rangers play the Capitals the normal way or supplemented with kid-friendly live animation. Your call.

“Superman & Lois” (The CW, 8 p.m.): The Man of Steel and his main squeeze are back for a third season. With Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch.

“The Bachelor” (ABC, 8 p.m.): “The Women Tell All,” as is their wont, in this special episode of the dating competition.

“Gotham Knights” (The CW, 9 p.m.): Batman’s gone but his legacy lives on in a new generation of young heroes in this new drama.

“Frontline” (KOCE, 10 p.m.): The new episode “Age of Easy Money” examines the sway the Federal Reserve, a.k.a. the Fed, has over the American economy.

Wed., March 15

“Money Shot: The Pornhub Story” (Netflix): Everything you always wanted to know about the controversial adult entertainment site but were afraid to ask is revealed in this new documentary.

“Ted Lasso” (Apple TV+): The feel-good comedy starring Jason Sudeikis as an American soccer coach in London kicks off a third season.

“Turning the Tables With Robin Roberts” (Disney+): Brooke Shields and Dionne Warwick are among the journalist’s guests for Season 2.

Thu., March 16

“Queens Court” (Peacock): Tamar Braxton, Evelyn Lozada and R&B singer Nivea are single and looking to mingle in this new dating competition.

“Shadow and Bone” (Netflix): This dark YA fantasy drama about an orphan (Jessie Mei Li) with magical powers is back for Season 2.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV; various times.): March Madness gets underway in earnest with a weekend’s worth of matchups.

“Butchers of the Bayou” (A&E, 9 and 10 p.m.; also Friday): This new four-part series recalls a sinister rivalry between two serial killers in 1990s Baton Rouge, La.

“Grown & Gospel” (WE tv, 9 p.m.): Five friends try to make their names in the gospel music game in this new reality series.

“Good Trouble” (Freeform, 10 p.m.): This spinoff of “The Fosters” returns for a fifth season. With Cierra Ramirez and Maia Mitchell.