From an L.A. riots doc to a reality TV respite: 5 shows to watch this week


At a moment already suffused with horrifying, even traumatizing images — of police violence against black people; in turn against citizens protesting said violence and the journalists covering it; of looting and vandalism across the city and country — it’s understandable if more TV to watch is the last thing on your mind.

But TV is also one of the primary mechanisms for receiving information about, or momentarily escaping from, the often-frightening world beyond our walls. In can clarify who are leaders are — and aren’t. It can expose, and perhaps challenge, our privilege. And it can reframe crises in powerful ways. Here are five shows to watch this week, whether you need a break from the news or want to learn more about its historical antecedents.

Netflix reality series “Magic for Humans,” starring Justin Willman, joins “Upload,” “American Housewife,” “Search Party” and an Ian McShane classic this week.

May 26, 2020

“Let It Fall: LA 1982-1992”
Available on: Netflix


In light of the eruption of demonstrations around the country protesting the killing of unarmed black men by police, John Ridley’s documentary about the origins of the 1992 uprising in Los Angeles should be required viewing. The Oscar-winning screenwriter (“12 Years a Slave”) teamed up with ABC News’ Lincoln Square Productions for the project, which examined violent incidents in the decade preceding the riots, as well as their aftermath. Many of the issues that Ridley probed in the documentary can be linked to the current outrage. The film was shown in theaters, while a shorter version was broadcast on ABC.

Greg Braxton

“Amy Schumer Learns to Cook”
Available on: Food Network

Imagine if Ina Garten suggested viewers put a “butt-ton of salt” in a dish or “get a shot of this with my dirty nails.” The latest addition to the Food Network features comedian Amy Schumer and her husband, chef Chris Fisher, turning their at-home food escapades into a fun, perfectly unpolished and relatable antidote to the network’s other fare. But unlike some other series being produced remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic , this one won’t make you feel like you’re stuck in another work meeting. As their son naps, the couple shoots the series from the homey kitchen of the cabin where they are riding out the stay-at-home order. Instead of using video conferencing platforms, cameras are strategically placed around the kitchen (a camera operator mans the movements remotely) and their son’s nanny, Jane, records with a handheld camera — often giggling while she does so because, in reality, Schumer is barely learning to cook. She’s making us laugh! Whatever skills she lacks on the cutting board are made up for with funny commentary as Fisher focuses on the meal; her entertaining libation recipes; and phone calls to her dad or bestie Jennifer Lawrence. It’s an added bonus that the hosts are sporting the same unkempt sweats and T-shirts combo I often do in the kitchen and that the dishes featured on the show don’t feel intimidating to make. Plus, they somehow make fennel a scene stealer.

Yvonne Villarreal

Sarah Cooper has become one of the social media sensations of the coronavirus era thanks to her lampooning of President Donald Trump.

June 1, 2020


“Central Park”
Available on: Apple TV+

This lively, lovely, lyrical animated series from Loren Bouchard (“Bob’s Burgers”), Josh Gad and Norah Smith is a musical comedy set in and around Frederick Law Olmsted’s great green space, with contributions from Sara Bareilles, Fiona Apple and Cyndi Lauper, among other songwriters. Gad takes the role of busker and “Our Town” narrator Birdy, with the action centered on the Tillerman family, who live there: fretful park manager Owen (Leslie Odom Jr.), who manages it all, fretfully; wife Paige (Kathryn Hahn), who writes for “a small weekly newspaper that is the No. 1 most-left-on-the-subway newspaper in the city”; lovelorn daughter Molly (Kristen Bell), an aspiring comic book artist, whose sketchbook drawings — which become a cartoon within a cartoon — resist her own hopeful narrative; and son Cole (Tituss Burgess), who wants a dog. (Hearing Burgess wrap his voice around “free rich people ice cream” is almost as good as having Titus Andromedon back.) Threatening the sanctity of the space is hotel owner Bitsy Brandenham (Stanley Tucci, voicing across gender), who has a plan to develop it. Having been represented so often on-screen, either as a location or soundstage re-creation, the park is universally understood as a paradise, playground and refuge; “Central Park” does it justice.

Robert Lloyd

Available on: AMC, AMC Premiere

This may not seem like the time to recommend a show about a guy coughing repeatedly in a crowded TV studio, but “Quiz” is just too good to pass up. In three brisk, funny episodes, “Quiz” relates the story of Charles and Diana Ingram (played by the dependably brilliant Matthew Macfadyen and Sian Clifford), a middle-class couple accused of cheating on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” during the height of its popularity in the U.K. Their 2003 trial became a tabloid sensation, with most of the British public assuming they were guilty, but the drama from director Stephen Frears and writer James Graham is much less conclusive. With an episode that largely focuses on the development of the “Millionaire” format at ITV and pivotal events unfolding on 9/11, it also provides insight on the cultural and political climate of the early aughts, when reality TV was ascendant and the governments of the U.S. and the U.K. were building the case for war like prosecutors in a legal procedural. While this particular scandal may be less familiar to American viewers than, say, O.J. Simpson, the absurdity of the Ingrams’ saga — and the media coverage of it — is something we can all understand.

Meredith Blake


“Instant Hotel”
Available on: Netflix

You may have never thought you wanted to combine the tranquil escapism of HGTV’s “House Hunters on Vacation” with the deliciously judgmental quality of TLC’s “Four Weddings.” But this Australian competition — which has duos of do-it-yourself hoteliers staying at each other’s Airbnbs all over the country — is equal parts travel program, interior design showcase and trashy reality show. The guests assess each property not just by its decor but also its pricing, quality of overnight rest and local activities (some of which are way more appealing than others). The second season is even better than the first, with a streamlined scoring system and a final episode that’s a legit nail-biter.

Ashley Lee