En español | All hail Frances McDormand, one of our finest actors, who is back in Oscar contention with her singular, heartfelt performance in Nomadland (arriving this week on Hulu). But there’s so much more to settle in on the sofa for this week: a riveting documentary about Woody Allen, a juicy thriller about elder scamming gone wrong and much more. Set your watchlist with our critics’ picks, below, and pass the remote!
The movie you’ve been dying to watch is now coming to your small screen
If you liked Frances McDormand in Fargo, you’ll love her as Fern, a prickly sixtyish widow who loses her job in Empire, Nevada, and hits the road in an RV, picking up work wherever she can: drugstores, restaurants, grim Amazon warehouses. Some of the folks she meets on the road are real people telling their own stories. A fiction film, it’s inspired by a nonfiction book. But it also plays like an epic myth, set in spectacular landscapes John Ford movies made famous. McDormand makes Fern a symbol of stubborn persistence, solitary yet also social, deeply responsive to nature, too independent to yield to the courtship of a wonderful fellow nomad (genius actor David Strathairn) or her sister’s wish to live a settled, conventional life. Fern is living proof that not all who wander are lost.
Watch it: Nomadland, in theaters and on Hulu
Dig into this blockbuster documentary about Woody Allen
Allen v. Farrow (HBO, Feb. 21)
Documentary titans Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering present the horrifying case against Woody Allen in a four-part blockbuster starring his daughter Dylan, ex-wife Mia Farrow, son Ronan Farrow, family friend Carly Simon, prosecutor Frank Maco and many others who support Dylan’s accusation that Allen sexually assaulted her when she was 7. There could be a counter-documentary starring Allen, his wife Soon-Yi Previn and Mia’s estranged son Moses, who accuses her of abuse and defends Allen. But until they make one, this documentary will dominate Allen’s public image.
Watch it: Allen v. Farrow, on HBO
SVU fans, have we got news for you
Stabler is back. Ten years after he left Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to star in very un-SVU shows like True Blood and Pose, Christopher Meloni — as his popular character, NYPD detective Elliot Stabler — has put his badge back on. On April 1, Meloni (and Stabler) will return in NBC’s newest Law & Order series, Law & Order: Organized Crime. Meloni, who turns 60 the day after the show launches, sat down with AARP to talk about what it’s like bringing back this memorable character.
Read it here: Christopher Meloni Is Back in SVU Spin-Off
Here’s a juicy watch for a winter night
I Care a Lot (Netflix)
Evil legal guardian Marla (Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike) is delighted to meet Jennifer (Woody Allen’s Oscar-magnet actress Dianne Wiest), because the elderly lady has no close relatives and oodles of cash — the perfect person to defraud and rob. But surprise! Jennifer also has a Russian gangster friend (Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage) who’s a match for Marla.
Watch it: I Care a Lot, on Netflix
RELATED: Protect yourself and loved ones with AARP’s Fraud Watch Network: Scam, Fraud Alerts
You’ll never look at Amazon the same again after watching this documentary
A dramatization of the astounding real case of Ross Ulbricht, aka Dread Pirate Roberts, the tech whiz kid who invented the online site Silk Road, where anyone could buy drugs, weapons and poison as easily as a toothbrush on Amazon, only you had to pay with bitcoin, not cash. Ulbricht made over $1 million a day and now spends life in prison. Not a sensationally great movie, but what a story!
If it’s February there must be a bunch of new great stuff on Netflix!
And you wouldn’t be wrong to think that. While you’ve been getting The Queen’s Gambit and Bridgerton under control, our critics have been poring over this month’s new batch of films and series for a short list of what you’ll want to catch. Open your calendar to mark the dates and films, right here: The 11 Best Things Coming to Netflix in February
The best thing on Netflix this week is out of this world (and so is its star)
What do AARP and George Clooney have in common? Our biggest cinematic honor, it turns out. The 59-year-old actor and director will receive AARP Movies for Grownups’ annual Career Achievement Award, at the Movies for Grownups Awards, broadcast for the fourth consecutive year by Great Performances on PBS. Read all about it here: George Clooney: Movies for Grownups Career Achievement Honoree
And don’t miss his recent Netflix directorial/acting film
The Midnight Sky, PG-13
As the star of this existential drama about a dying scientist racing to prevent a group of astronauts (David Oyelowo, Demián Bichir, Felicity Jones and Kyle Chandler) from returning to Earth after an apocalypse that destroyed civilization, George Clooney acts beautifully. He directs many space-calamity scenes on a par with the seven-time Oscar-winning Gravity (where he played an astronaut), as well as a cross-country Arctic trek that’s often as gripping as ones in The Revenant (which The Midnight Sky’s writer also wrote). But the plot has fuzzy logic, and the characters are a bit sketchy. Still, there’s about an hour’s worth of epic, ambitious, thoughtful, deeply heartfelt story in there. Clooney remains one of our most promising up-and-coming directors.
Watch it: In select theaters and on Netflix
Who’s a Wheel watcher?
If you’re anything like us, you cut your Q&A teeth on America’s great quiz and game shows, all the way from To Tell the Truth and What’s My Line? to The $10,000 Pyramid and the newly rebooted Supermarket Sweep. Our critics risk Double Jeopardy by not only naming the best game shows in TV history but ranking them all the way to No. 1. Do our answers match yours? Survey says!: The Best Game Shows in TV History, Ranked
Here are the 10 shows you can stream and be as hip as your grandkids
We might be the land of TV for grownups here, but that doesn’t mean we don’t keep our eye on what younger viewers are loving — especially when those shows are worth the time and attention of the AARP crew. In fact, our critics rounded up 10 terrific series that millennials and younger are watching, which means you’ll have a whole new bunch of stuff to talk about with your young coworkers or grandkids. Check out the whole list (and take 20 years off your TV-watching age), here: 10 TV Shows You Should Watch So You Can Talk About Them With Your Grandkids
Calling All Friends Fans ...
Could we be any happier that HBO Max is running all 10 seasons of Friends? And can you believe that the entire cast is now age 50-plus? In honor of one of TV’s best ensemble casts ever joining the AARP cohort, we’ve gone down the trivia rabbit hole and emerged with a brand-new TV for Grownups quiz: How Well Do You Know These “Friends”? We’ve got trivia about the real cast members as well as their characters. Have fun testing your recall, and challenge your fellow fans.
Take the quiz here: How Well Do You Really Know These “Friends”?
AARP Talks With …
Get behind the scenes of the biggest shows on TV right now with our brand-new interview with ABC reporter Bob Woodruff, 58, who joins up with his son for a new travel show on Disney+; plus Killing Eve’s Sandra Oh, Mrs. America’s Margo Martindale, Making the Cut’s Tim Gunn, and Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi.
Also Catch Up With ...
Lidia Celebrates America: A Salute to First Responders
(PBS, Fridays, 10 p.m. ET, check local listings)
Beloved best-selling cookbook author, Emmy-winner and PBS host Lidia Bastianich spent a year talking food and pandemic heroism with firefighters, cops and medical workers on the front lines of the crisis. What’s food got to do with it? “Food is my love language,” Bastianich says. “I hope that I can inspire viewers to reach out to thank the first responders in their communities, or even to become first responders themselves.”
Watch it: Lidia Celebrates America, on PBS
GET BEHIND THE SCENES: Chef Lidia tells AARP about her astounding life — read it here: The Big Heart of Lidia Bastianich
Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy
(CNN, Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)
Who needs a real trip to Italy? It’s more fun to tag along with The Hunger Games star and eloquent gourmand Stanley Tucci as he returns to the land of his forebears, noshing and sipping his way through six cities and their signature dishes — from Naples tomatoes to Milanese pizzoccheri.
Watch it: Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, on CNN
GET BEHIND THE SCENES: Tucci talks with AARP about his touching new film Supernova, which follows a couple (played by Tucci and his longtime real-life pal Colin Firth) on a last sentimental journey to England’s picturesque Lake District, the land of Romantic poetry, as Tucci’s character copes with early-stage Alzheimer’s. Read it here: Stanley Tucci Explores the Landscape of Love and Early Dementia
(CBS, Sundays, 8 p.m. ET)
More macho than Edward Woodward in the original 1980s show and cooler than Denzel Washington in the movie versions, Queen Latifah takes on their old role as an ex-CIA agent who goes rogue in a good way, defying authorities and standing up for the downtrodden. Is she tough? She stages a prison break on a motorcycle!
Move over, The Queen’s Gambit and Bridgerton — Netflix’s new unexpected No. 1 hit is Lupin, whose 70 million viewers will exceed those other addictive must-see series. The dazzling Omar Sy plays a thief and master of disguise whose crimes avenge his father’s false imprisonment and death at the hands of a monstrous plutocrat, society’s puppet master and orchestrator of a massive conspiracy against the downtrodden, especially the hero’s family. The thief bases his capers on a 1905 French children’s book starring Arsène Lupin, gentleman burglar, and his exploits keep you guessing, while the spectacular French locations keep you wishing you could go there. The ideal show for COVID escapist viewing.
Watch it: Lupin, on Netflix
All Creatures Great and Small
(PBS, Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)
Want to escape America in 2021? Flee to comforting 1930s Yorkshire, as a newcomer veterinarian (Nicholas Ralph) copes with small-village folkways, lovable dogs, difficult cow pregnancies, an irritable boss (Mr. Selfridge’s Samuel West) and eccentric animal owners like Mrs. Pumphrey (the late Diana Rigg in her last role), who just might pamper her Pekingese puppy Tricki Woo to death. It’s an all-new version of the classic book, just republished in a 50th-anniversary edition.
Watch it: All Creatures Great and Small, on PBS
Sam Pollard’s devastating documentary concerns the FBI’s surveillance of, and obsession with, the civil rights leader, from 1963 to his 1968 assassination. Prolific Emmy winner Pollard (who has chronicled Zora Neale Hurston, Sammy Davis Jr. and August Wilson) weaves rich black-and-white archival footage with the shrewd insights of political experts and historians.
One Night in Miami, R
Oscar- and Emmy-winning powerhouse actress Regina King, 49, directs a talky screen adaptation of Kemp Powers’ 2013 play, which imagines a fictional February 1964 night in Miami. Boxer Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), activist Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), athlete Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and crooner Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) gather, party and discuss what it meant, and what the obligations were, to be a successful Black man in ’60s America.
Watch it: One Night in Miami, on Amazon Prime
(NBC, Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET)
Ted Danson is great in Tina Fey’s new sitcom about a businessman, Neil Bremer, who comes out of retirement to find himself the mayor of Los Angeles, with an irritable liberal, Arpi Meskimen (Holly Hunter), as his deputy mayor. “I am 10 years younger than you, but I’m perceived as a kooky old woman and you’re still a sexually viable man,” Meskimen complains to Bremer. “Thank you!” he says. “Like underwear bought in a drugstore, you’re not going to last two months,” she predicts. Though it’s not quite as good as 30 Rock, the stars’ repartee has a familiar ring, and their show will likely last longer.
Watch it: Mr. Mayor, on NBC
Call Your Mother
(ABC, Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET)
In her new sitcom showing off her comedy chops, The Closer star Kyra Sedgwick plays an empty-nester mom who moves thousands of miles to get back into her kids’ lives. (The premiere airs right after an episode of The Conners, 9 p.m. ET, in which another mom with emotional baggage returns to her kids: Candice Bergen as the tart-tongued, booze-loving mother of Jay R. Ferguson’s Ben, boyfriend of Sara Gilbert’s Darlene. Might be worth watching both shows.)
Watch it: Call Your Mother, on ABC
RELATED: Kyra Sedgwick tells AARP how she dealt with her own empty nest, shares the quarantine baking project she’s obsessed with and explains how Call Your Mother can help us all get through pandemic times: Read more here.
Wouldn’t it be great if Downton Abbey had the wickedness of Gossip Girl? That’s what you get from this escapist romantic period fantasy, the first Netflix series from Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal), the super-producer who shocked Hollywood by defecting from ABC to the streaming service in a historic $100 million deal. It’s like Jane Austen with a feminist spin and a multiracial cast like Hamilton — and like Hamilton, Bridgerton’s Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) may have had Black ancestry. The queen likes to meddle in the social season and loathes her rival: viper-tongued gossip columnist Lady Whistledown (Julie Andrews, who advises ambitious girls to learn “the art of the swoon, managing to faint with nary a petticoat out of place”). It’s all sumptuous, very 1811 and 2021, and altogether swoonworthy.
Watch it: Bridgerton, on Netflix
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Viola Davis and, in his last role, the late Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) star in Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson’s illustrious tale of Ma Rainey, the 1920s Mother of the Blues. It’s hard to say which actor scores the more towering performance. It’s like a duet between geniuses — or, since they’re fighting bitterly over how Ma should record her music, old-dirty-blues-tent-show style or hepcat modern jazz style — an acting duel. Both win, as do all of us.
RELATED: Viola Davis tells AARP about Ma Rainey, August Wilson, aging, her big break, and what happens when you get everything you always wanted. Read it here: Viola Davis Finds a Powerful Voice
(Showtime, Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)
Bryan Cranston, who played a good-hearted teacher forced to go criminal to save his family on Breaking Bad, plays a New Orleans judge scheming to help his son escape a hit-and-run accident charge in a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game with the law.
Watch it: Your Honor, on Showtime
RELATED: Cranston talks with AARP about his two good bad-guy roles and his real-life near-recovery from COVID-19: Bryan Cranston Is Back to Challenge Our Loyalties in Your Honor
The Life Ahead, PG-13
At 86, Sophia Loren is back! In her terrific new tearjerker, directed by her son Edoardo Ponti, she heartwarmingly plays a former prostitute, Holocaust survivor and caretaker for streetwalkers’ children. She looks after an orphaned African street kid (Ibrahima Gueye), grudgingly at first, and develops a deep bond with him.
Watch it: The Life Ahead, on Netflix
RELATED: Sophia Loren tells AARP about her comeback and her six life lessons
The Trial of the Chicago 7, R
An utterly wonderful, vivid dramatization of the trial of Chicago’s 1968 demonstrators, with bravura performances by Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale.
Watch it: The Trial of the Chicago 7, on Netflix
RELATED: Frank Langella tells AARP about The Trial of the Chicago 7, his string of history-based hits and the best time of his life — his 80s — here: All Rise for Frank Langella
Netflix’s Black Lives Matter Collection
Netflix unveils a useful, intelligently curated menu of 48 or so top titles including When They See Us, Moonlight, Malcolm X and the current must-see, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (which could win star Delroy Lindo the Oscar he’s deserved for some time, and maybe the Emmy, too).
Watch it: On Netflix