What to watch: Catch up on 'Handmaid's Tale' or start the new Star Wars series 'The Bad Batch'

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Published in Entertainment News

Wondering what to watch this week? Check out these film and TV recommendations.

“About Endlessness”

Ah, the merry month of May — perfect for Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson’s latest and perhaps final musings on what it means to live, suffer, endure. And it’s a comedy! Bone-dry, 76 minutes in length, it comprises meticulous vignettes ranging from young women dancing outside a roadside café to Hitler cowering in his bunker to a priest losing faith in his one true God: a bottle of spirits. A new documentary on Andersson, “Being a Human Person,” finds the ailing auteur struggling with alcoholism and its role in his creative life; all his films, Andersson says, are about self-confidence and humankind’s crippling deficit in that regard. Ashen-toned, dourly witty and visually singular in the moving-tableau design of all his work. (VOD, including siskelfilmcenter.org; facets.org; and musicboxtheatre.com) — Michael Phillips


The third and final season of this show co-created by and starring Aidy Bryant (”Saturday Night Live”), premiered this week on Hulu. It’s about a 20-something writer for a Portland alt-weekly, and I’ve always loved her character’s rapport with her roomie and best friend (played by the terrific Lolly Adefope). Another striking detail: The men cast on the show as Bryant’s love interests aren’t especially good looking. In fact, they’re aggressively normal looking. People you would see in real life. I don’t know if this is an intentional casting decision, but it feels like the antithesis (in all the best ways) of most Hollywood TV and film, where only extremely good looking people populate a fictional world. (Hulu) — Nina Metz

“Top Chef: Portland”

It’s hard to believe this is the 18th season of the Bravo cooking competition. Though the core judging panel of Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Padma Lakshmi is still the same, this season has a different feel because it was filmed in 2020 as the pandemic ravaged the restaurant industry. Sure, the show still has sponsored challenges, like a dessert contest inspired by Talenti gelato, but producers also seem to be emphasizing more cultures than ever before. Restaurants that specialize in African food were featured on a recent episode. (Bravo) — Tracy Swartz

“A Black Lady Sketch Show”

“A Black Lady Sketch Show” is back. And the half-hour is everything to kick off your weekend. EVERYTHING! Only two episodes have aired so far in this second season, but already witticisms of epic proportions are being dropped. Case in point: Robin Thede’s Dr. Haddassah Olayinka Ali-Youngman talking to the camera on the season premiere: What does HBO stand for? “He who Bought and Oppressed us? Then the opening credits pays homage to NBC’s “A Different World” (seasons 2-5). Classic nostalgia in a time when we need it. The stars are everywhere — Issa Rae, Kim Coles, and Omarion — to name a few. New faces, familiar sketches and characters are all here, and seeing them is like hugging an old friend after you’ve both been fully vaccinated. Trinity (Ashley Nicole Black) is back as the spy whose astonishingly everyday face makes it impossible for people to notice her, even though she’s the CIA’s top agent. If you’ve been with the sketch team since episode one, you can also take comfort in the ongoing Apocalypse sketch. It’s shaping up to be a funny season. Never leave us “Black Lady Sketch Show.” You were sorely missed. (HBO Max) — Darcel Rockett


“The Handmaid’s Tale”

When Hulu started streaming the first three of 10 episodes of the fourth season — “Pigs,” “Nightshade” and “The Crossing” — I was curious about whether it would continue to scare the hell out of me in the post-Trump-Pence presidency era. With its grotesque treatment of women and Gilead’s imposition of faux religion to justify its cruel authoritarian rule, Season 3 ended with June (Elisabeth Moss) shot after orchestrating a plot ending with a plane filled with 86 children and Marthas landing in Canada. Would this coup begin a path to normalization in the former United States? Season 4 digs in to that issue as well as June’s fate immediately. The series continues to showcase the incredible skills of Moss, who has crossed over the line to a version of insanity (you can see it in her eyes) as she abandons all to find one of her children and extract revenge on the leadership of Gilead. In the midst of the violence, there are poignant moments: when June’s husband, Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) realizes June chose to stay behind rather than be reunited with her family, and when Serena (the coolly passionate Yvonne Strahovski) confronts her husband, Fred, (Joseph Fiennes) as they discuss who will rat out whom while under arrest in Canada. Unfortunately, the third episode spends too much screen time detailing yet more torture of June, distracting from the overarching theme of this season: Can the United States overcome its authoritarian rulers and return to some semblance of normality? It’s a pressing question. (Hulu) — Scott L. Powers

“The Nanny”

I grew up watching reruns of “The Nanny” with my grandmother on Nick at Nite and couldn’t be more thrilled the Fran Drescher comedy is on HBO Max. The hit sitcom, which originally aired in 1993, was created and produced by Drescher and her then-husband Peter Marc Jacobson and was inspired by Drescher’s real life. Just like the theme song, Fran Fine (Drescher) stumbles into becoming the Sheffield family’s nanny after, “working in a bridal shop in Flushing, Queens, ‘til her boyfriend kicked her out in one of those crushing scenes.” British Broadway producer and widower, Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy) hires Fran to become the nanny to his three children: Margaret (Nicholle Marie Tom), Brighton (Benjamin David Salisbury) and Gracie (Madeline Zima). During each episode, you’ll be in awe of fashionista Fran Fine’s outfits designed by Brenda Cooper and laugh along when the butler, Niles (Daniel Davis) hilariously insults C.C Babcock (Lauren Lane), Maxwell’s business partner. (HBO Max) — Hannah Herrera Greenspan

“Shadow and Bone”

Based on the books by Leigh Bardugo, this fantasy series follows Alina Starkov and her best friend, Malyen Oretsev, who live in the mythical kingdom Ravka. The land is divided by the Fold, a dark strip of land full of horrific creatures. Each side has an army: one made up of power-wielding soldiers called Grisha, and the other of non-magical, angry humans. The story begins as a romance as the two friends are torn apart, but becomes a coming-of-power tale as Alina discovers she is the only person who can destroy the Fold and bring the people of Rave together. But every civil war has sides, and Alina must find out who’s trustworthy. This series is slow to start, but once viewers get into the heart of the story, they will have a hard time turning it off. (Netflix) — Lauren Hill

“The Bad Batch”

Anyone who logged into Disney+ Tuesday — “May the 4th be with you” — met with a full deck of options to celebrate Star Wars Day. In a new short, “The Force Awakens From Its Nap,” Maggie Simpson stretches her pacifier into a light saber. It’ll resonate with parents who chuckled through Jeffrey Brown’s comics imaging Darth Vader as dad. Superfans got “Biomes” — something like a 20-minute “Koyaanisqatsi” set in a galaxy far, far away — and “Vehicle Flythroughs,” seven minutes of footage to make you feel as if you’re walking through the Millennium Falcon and a Star Destroyer. And then there was the big premiere: “Star Wars: The Bad Batch,” a spin-off of the 133-episode “Clone Wars” series that ended with a rousing finale last year. Admittedly, I’m a casual watcher — my husband is far more committed — but my initial reaction was, Do we need more “Clone Wars”? Can’t we just move on to the forthcoming Ahsoka Tano series starring Rosario Dawson? I’m willing to see how “The Bad Batch” plays out, though, if only because series creator Dave Filoni has had a hand in some of the more interesting recent Star Wars offshoots, including “Star Wars Rebels.” And in any case: It’s hard to tell much from a single episode (the second drops Friday, May 7). So far it feels familiar, but isn’t that the point? It’s another excuse to retreat into that other galaxy, which for so many, feels like a second home. (Disney+) — Jennifer Day

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