1. Watch Mom
A new network sitcom that’s actually good!
Mom, about a recovering alcoholic single mother (Anna Faris) and her mother (Allison Janney), is the latest project from Chuck Lorre, who inflicted upon the world a little show called Two and a Half Men. It’s pitched at about the same comic temperature—medium-wacky, with a biting undertone and a willingness to go for really obvious jokes—yet the absence of swagger makes it play as more humane. I don’t want to oversell this show, but there’s potential here. —Matt Zoller Seitz
CBS, Mondays, 9:30 p.m.
2. See Arguendo
Elevator Repair Service speeds up.
Known recently for their marathon great-lit adaptations—Gatz, The Select (The Sun Also Rises)—Elevator Repair Service doffs its briefs in Arguendo, a lightning-quick, 80-minute, astonishingly creative staging of Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc. For non-SCOTUS groupies, that’s the 1991 case in which the Supremes decided that strip-club nudity doesn’t constitute free speech. —Scott Brown
Public Theater, through October 13.
3. See The World of Jacques Demy
A universe under his umbrella.
You can get to know the oddest ball of the New Wave at Film Forum’s comprehensive Demy retrospective, featuring all of the director’s features, plus shorts, plus three films by Demy’s wife, Agnès Varda, plus a restored The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The rarity: Demy’s 1982 Nantes-based “tragic opera” Une Chambre en Ville, in which Dominique Sanda, Danielle Darrieux, and Michel Piccoli sing against “a background of street scenes of labor unrest.” —David Edelstein
Film Forum, October 4 through 17.
4. See You Are My Sunshine
A growing scene.
If you want to see how alive Bushwick is these days, start with this large group show, wedged into a teeny space full of artists doing strange things with plants. Being a serial plant killer, I swooned for things growing on walls, paintings, bricks, junks, and planters. Trees, shrubs, cacti of all kinds, and blooming bushes confirm that something important is in the offing here. Bring it! —Jerry Saltz
Associated Gallery, 566 Johnson Ave., Bushwick; details at associatedgallery.tumblr.com.
5. Hear Fountains of Wayne, Soul Asylum, and Evan Dando
One plus two.
No offense intended, but what are Fountains of Wayne doing on this bill? Soul Asylum and Evan Dando are graying alt-rockers, offering the kind of queasy nineties-nostalgia trip best taken elsewhere—like, by renting Singles and kicking back with a six-pack of Zima. Fountains, on the other hand, are among the great pop bands of the past fifteen years, an indelibly witty and tuneful chronicler of bridge-and-tunnel folkways. In a just world, they’d be headlining the Garden—or at least the Nassau Coliseum.—Jody Rosen
Webster Hall, October 5.
6. See Olivo Barbieri’s Alps—Geographies and People
Barbieri’s show (opening Yancey Richardson’s new space) turns Alpine summits into near abstractions, some with fantastic textures that evoke what you’d see through a microscope. Their formal qualities are so arresting that you’ll almost forget the practical questions: Where did he put his camera to make these pictures, and how on Earth did he get there?
Yancey Richardson Gallery, 525 W. 22nd St., through November 2.
7.–12. Read The Man Booker Prize Short List
Our critic ranks the six titles, in order.
Need something to read? How about six somethings? You’ve got two weeks before the short list for the Man Booker Prize turns into the very, very short list. If you’re pressed for time, I suggest you approach them in this order: NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland, Jim Crace’s Harvest, Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, and Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary. Get cracking. —Kathryn Schulz
Award will be presented October 15.
13. See Valentine Road
It’s screening for just one week in New York.
So much injustice … so many rage-inducing documentaries … Perhaps it will help to see Marta Cunningham’s delicately structured yet devastating documentary Valentine Road with a large, vocal theater audience. (It will be shown on HBO starting October 7.) It’s the story of an effeminate Oxnard eighth-grader shot twice in the back of the head by a macho classmate—and the community’s sympathy for the devil. America—hell yeah. —D.E.
Quad Cinema, October 4 through 11.
14. Watch Bear Stearns Bravo
As @horse_ebooks gallops off into the sunset.
For four years, the Twitter account @horse_ebooks has been accumulating followers based on its aphoristic, presumably robot-produced, borderline-gibberish, weirdly entertaining feed. Last week, the proprietor revealed himself to be not only a human being but an artist, as did the owner of the similarly daft YouTube channel called Pronunciation Book. Last week, at the Lower East Side’s Fitzroy Gallery, the two mystery figures launched a conceptual-art project; a very strange video version of it is up at bearstearnsbravo.com. And it turns out one of the guys has been working at BuzzFeed all along.
15. See Jane Houdyshell and Christian Camargo in Romeo and Juliet
The underbill duo owns this production.
Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad share some epic kisses in this Romeo and Juliet, but Verona’s couple of the year, measured in raw chemistry, is Houdyshell’s no-flies-on-me Nurse and Camargo’s lupine Mercutio. Onstage together for mere minutes, they steal the show. —S.B.
Richard Rodgers Theatre.
16. Watch The Voice: The Best of the Blinds
The show’s internal recap.
The “blind” auditions on The Voice are consistently the most entertaining section of each season’s early stretch; coaches Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, CeeLo Green, and Christina Aguilera put their ears and guts to the test, turning their backs to auditioners and experiencing them as pure sound. If you don’t want to commit to the four previous telecasts that narrow down the list, this condensed version was made for you. —M.Z.S.
NBC, October 8, 9 p.m.
17. Hear Mary Oliver
Rare appearances by the Dog Songsauthor.
Oliver, whom nature would probably appoint poet laureate were it in a position to do so, has a new book out about the subset of the natural world with four legs and waggy tails. Normally a scarce public commodity, she’ll read from Dog Songs twice this week in New York. “Said Ricky to me one day, ‘Why is it you / don’t have a tail?’ / Well, I just don’t.” I can’t guarantee she’ll read that line, but I hope so. —K.S.
Barnes & Noble Union Square, October 8 (free); Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center benefit at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, October 9 (tickets: fawc.org).
18. Hear Brad Mehldau and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Leaderless, but not directionless.
In Beethoven’s youth, what a composer did in public was extemporize at the piano and then write the best improvisations down. That’s precisely what the jazzman Brad Mehldau does today, and the conductor-less chamber orchestra Orpheus opens its season with Beethoven, Brahms, and some fresh Mehldau (Variations on a Melancholy Theme). —Justin Davidson
Carnegie Hall, October 9.
19. See Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul
Halloween arrives a little early with this show of the suspense master’s manuscripts, letters, and early editions. The focus is Poe’s influence on other poets and novelists, making this a fine excuse for the Morgan to show off its terrifically deep holdings, like the manuscript of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Have a sherry afterward, in honor of the man himself.
Morgan Library & Museum, October 4 through January 26.
20. See Soirée Musicale
Wheeldon at his best.
The highlight of last spring’s New York City Ballet gala, Christopher Wheeldon’s lushly romantic work is set to a woozy Barber score. It unfolds like a dream, buoyed by a cast of future stars—foremost among them Lauren Lovette, whose languid elegance extends to the tips of her fingers. —Rebecca Milzoff
David H. Koch Theater, October 3.
21. See The American Symphony Orchestra
Radicalism, ca. 1913.
The term avant-garde doesn’t mean much anymore, because it requires audiences willing to be shocked. But this week, the American Symphony Orchestra tries to reenact the breakthrough of a century ago, when even an orchestra concert could be truly wild if it included the music of noisy composers like George Antheil, Carl Ruggles, and Edgard Varèse. —J.D.
Carnegie Hall, October 3.
22. Hear Jorge Drexler
The best Uruguayan song you’ll hear this week.
The producer Gustavo Santaolalla has an ear for genius, and one of his finer inspirations was to use the song “Al Otro Lado Sel Rio” in the movie The Motorcycle Diaries. The man who wrote it is the velvet-voiced, big-hearted singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler, and he’ll be onstage, courtesy of the World Music Institute, at Ethical Culture on Tuesday. —J.D.
Ethical Culture Society, October 8.
23. Visit The Affordable Art Fair
And maybe come home with a treasure.
That little exhibition of small-time artists has grown tremendously—it’s now in twelve cities, and at the last New York fair, $4 million worth of artwork sold, all for under $10,000 and most of it for far less.
The Tunnel, 269 Eleventh Ave., October 3 through 6.
24. Look at Mother by Elinor Carucci
Her closest subject.
An eight-year project, Mother is totally straightforward in concept. In 2004, Carucci and her husband had twins, a boy and a girl; she started photographing herself during the pregnancy, then continued to shoot the babies, plus herself and her husband, over their first eight years. They are amazingly intimate and self-exposing pictures (and not just because Carucci often reveals her own body)—an uncommonly emotional look inside an almost-ordinary family, with a lovely foreword by Francine Prose. Prestel.
25. See The Dead Dream Machine
Monster chiller horror theater?
In this very strange play, a mad scientist has built a machine that extracts dreams from a young woman’s brain. At the finale every night, a crew of alt-venue stars—drag queens, born-to-showbiz kids, burlesque artists—all join in on a goth performance of a Nick Cave tune.
La Luz, 135 Thames St., Bushwick; details at deaddreammachine.com.