Fran Lebowitz is delightfully cranky in ‘Pretend It’s A City’

Martin Scorsese and Fran Lebowitz in "Pretend It's a City"
Martin Scorsese and Fran Lebowitz in “Pretend It’s a City”

Martin Scorsese directed the Netflix series, one that fills a pandemic need for intellectual conversation


With much of the arts moving to online and streaming platforms, here’s a look at a weekly standout:

My pick: “Pretend It’s A City,” a Netflix documentary series about humorist Fran Lebowitz, directed by Martin Scorsese.

Why: One of the things I miss during these quarantined days is art talks. You know, like how after a show gets out, you linger around the theater with friends and strangers having intellectual discussions about what you just saw? Art talks. On a really good night of art talking, you go home filled with new perspectives, recommendations and ideas.

With theater and concerts now mostly happening online, there isn’t an opportunity for these post-show discussions. But “Pretend It’s A City,” an eight-episode series that features conversations with humorist Fran Lebowitz, is the closest I’ve come to getting my art talk fix.

The show is a mix of Lebowitz musing about her many annoyances about New York City, a place she plans to never leave despite the tourists stopping in the middle of the street, the no smoking laws, the cyclists riding and texting at the same time and those pesky planters in the middle of Times Square.

Lebowitz has many opinions — lots of them endearingly cranky like, “Let me tell you what smells horrible on the L train: The passengers.”

The opinions are shared in various forms. There are intimate restaurant conversation with Scorsese, who along with being the director, is also a close friend. There are clips from a live Q&A (held before the pandemic) interspersed with clips from talk shows and interviews the humorist has done over the years.

The series is broken down into eight episodes, but they’re arranged more like chapters: “Cultural Affairs,” which has great footage from the 1970s New York music scene; “Metropolitan Transit,” which is about the city’s transportation but also has a story about Leonardo DiCaprio offering Lebowitz an e-cigarette; and “Hall of Records,” which is all about parties and Cary Grant.

They’re a wonderful substitution for art talks, and I’ll revisit the episodes regularly until we can get back together for in-person conversations.

Find it: “Pretend It’s A City” is streaming on Netflix.