Though we set aside our weekly TV recommendations feature to prepare for the Emmy nominations, which were dominated by HBO’s “Watchmen” at the series level and Netflix overall, there’s plenty of new material to keep you glued to the screen — even on a hot summer day.
The most high-profile new release is Beyoncé's Afrocentric visual album “Black Is King” (Disney+), riffing on everything from Nefertiti to “The Lion King” — though one imagines Miss Piggy, on a comeback tour with her fellow felt performers in “Muppets Now” (Disney+), having something to say about that. And Hulu’s catalog now has its own spin on pop music with the British satire “Maxxx,” about an ex-boy bander striking out on his own.
Plus, it’s back to regularly scheduled programming for the Times TV team. Find our usual guide to the five TV shows we’re watching right now below.
The return of two very different unscripted series — “Supermarket Sweep,” now on Netflix, and CNN’s “United Shades of America” lead this week’s TV picks.
“Martha Knows Best” (HGTV)
The title of Martha Stewart’s latest work of television does not indicate the subject, a gardening show produced under lockdown, though it does hint at the conditions she’s living in, sheltering in style with housekeeper Elvira, driver Carlos and gardener Ryan in an ad hoc family on her sprawling Westchester County, N.Y., estate. (“She’s the Boss” might be an alternate, sitcom-derived title.) I don’t know what the “real” Martha is like, and, of course, the very rich are (usually) different from you and me; but I suspect — as a fan, I hope — that she is as her Twitter bio says, a “curious, inquisitive, experimental entrepreneur who cares about the world we live in.” Stewart manages to be both her age and timeless; she projects the capacity to work hard and play easy, an insouciance based on immense capability, practical knowledge, good manners and an attitude of not caring a whit what you make of her: a dame in the high and low sense of the word.
Technically, the show does bear some of the awkward hallmarks of having been produced under lockdown — are Carlos and Elvira running the cameras, while she and Ryan dig and till? — and the jokey title cards are never as amusing as Martha just throwing shade at her ex-husband. But she knows the difference between a shovel and a spade, is unruffled in a hen house, and scores again in this semivoyeuristic TV half-hour that packs in vegetable porn, a remote celebrity visit and calls to ordinary citizens surprised to be taking advice on their raised beds from a domestic goddess. —Robert Lloyd
“BNA’s” biggest appeal is its stunning visuals — particularly its vibrant palette. Set in a world inhabited by both humans and “beastmen,” “BNA” follows the adventures of Michiru Kagemori, a human teenager who has mysteriously become an animal-person (a shape-shifting tanuki). The series opens with Michiru trying to make her way to Anima-City, a metropolitan area created specifically for beastmen, in search of a cure. It’s clear from the opening moments of the show that there are tensions between humans and beastmen, and over the course of the first season “BNA” touches on a number of more serious themes including systemic racism, prejudice, eugenics, antimiscegenation, celebrity culture and religion. While animation involving anthropomorphic/humanoid animal characters that attempts to tackle deeper social commentary is not new (see “Zootopia” and “Beastars”), these topics can’t be properly addressed by quick, allegorical takes and “BNA’s” engagement with these issues falls a bit short. That said, “BNA” features plenty of action and comedy to keep you entertained. —Tracy Brown
Netflix’s “Indian Matchmaking” gestures at, but rarely delves into, the social pressures of the arranged marriage system. Ask someone who’s been through it.
“Frayed” (HBO Max)
Lately I’ve been craving shows that help me forget about our uncertain reality — not through wild fantasy or elaborate science fiction but through modest time travel and settings that are unfamiliar to me, if not exactly exotic. Call it modest escapism. “Frayed,” executive produced by Sharon Horgan, hits the mark on both levels. The dramedy opens in London in 1988, when Simone Burbeck (played by Sarah Kendall, who also wrote and created the series), a posh housewife with a Camilla Parker-Bowles haircut, learns that her husband has died of a massive, drug-and-alcohol-fueled heart attack during a bout of extremely kinky sex. He’s also left their finances in ruin, giving Simone — née Sammy Cooper — and her two teenagers no choice but to return to her hometown of Newcastle, Australia, a depressed port city with little in the way of jobs or culture. Back home, Sammy reunites with her estranged family and is forced to reconcile with the past she tried to leave behind decades earlier. While the riches-to-rags story in “Frayed” may be familiar, the series is elevated by Kendall’s bone-dry performance and the specificity of the characters she’s created, including Sammy’s dim-witted, “Dynasty”-quoting brother, Jim (Ben Mingay), and her co-worker, Abby (Alexandra Jensen), a Mancunian expat obsessed with World War II. — Meredith Blake
“The Repair Shop” (Netflix)
This charming British reality series features a team of furniture restorers with various expertise who help bring beloved family heirlooms back to life. At times, the half-hour series feels like the Calm app of reality TV, with
soothing accents and tight camera work detailing the quiet and meticulous process of cleaning, fixing and sprucing up
such retired treasures as old Gothic clocks, accordions and piano stools — I never knew how tranquilizing it was to watch car body filler being gingerly applied to
a gape along the edge of a ceramic bowl. But what really gives the show the feeling
that you’re being cradled in a comforting hug is the sentimental quality the objects possess and the special memories the owners share about them, which in turn create
emotional reactions once the revived objects are revealed. — Yvonne Villarreal
“Mo to the! E to the!” Oh, how long many have waited to hear the catchy theme song of the formative UPN series. With its who’s-who of notable guest stars, all six seasons of the coming-of-age sitcom — starring ’90s icon Brandy Norwood — were added to the streaming service over the weekend. The only thing that interrupted my binge is the fact that Brandy also dropped her first album in eight years
. Attention must be paid. “Moesha” is the first of seven classic Black sitcoms— along with “Sister Sister,” “The Parkers,” “Girlfriends,” “The Game,” “One on One” and “Half & Half” — that will debut on the service over the next few months. So even if new shows
aren’t coming out at the same rate because of the pandemic, we millennials will be plenty content with this jackpot of nostalgia. —Ashley Lee