1. Watch South Park
Friendly faces everywhere.
[Cartman voice] Ehhhhh … you guys? South Park is seventeen years old. That means it’s older than a lot of the people watching it. That’s kinda disturbing, don’t you think, you guys? And you know what else? It’s still funny, you guys. Not as funny as it was, but pretty funny, and every few episodes there’s a really great bit that, uh … You guys? Wait up. I said wait up, you @#$^%*&! RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH! —Matt Zoller Seitz
Comedy Central, September 25, 10 p.m.
2. Read Book of Ages
It’s all about the Janes.
Compact rave: Go read Jill Lepore’s Book of Ages. A biography of Jane Franklin, Benjamin’s sister, it is simultaneously a fascinating look at early America, a meditation on one remarkable mind by another, and, implicitly, a biography of all the other Janes—history’s anonymous and overlooked women. —Kathryn Schulz
Knopf, October 1.
3. See Irving Penn: On Assignment
Still in Vogue.
For over six decades, the American genius Irving Penn shot work for magazines—or, as he put it, “the printed page.” This wowie-zowie show gives us cityscapes, still lifes, and portraits of artists, athletes, authors, and people on the street. Deep insight, mystic vision, and wild lucidity prevail. See what changing the world while being a working artist is all about.—Jerry Saltz
Pace Gallery, 510 W. 25th St., through October 26.
4. See The Nose
Voices that are anything but nasal.
The polarizing operatic event of 2010 was William Kentridge’s production of Shostakovich’s absurdist comedy The Nose. Fussy or inventive, distracting or spectacular, the show returns to the Met in all its manic glory this week.
Metropolitan Opera, September 28.
5. See Deborah Rush in Women or Nothing
Out of prison, onto the New York stage.
Orange Is the New Black’s Deborah Rush, as an impassively randy ice queen in Ethan Coen’s gnomic nature-nurture farce, takes a simple running gag about the Updikean bed-hopping of yesteryear and transforms it into a brief, brilliant comic operetta. —Scott Brown
Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater, through October 13.
6.–7. Watch Anytown, USA and Street Fight
A look at the young Cory Booker.
Two terrific documentaries, both from 2005, both set in New Jersey, just got newsworthy. Kristian Fraga’s Anytown, USA followed the mayor’s race in Bogota, New Jersey, which pitted Mayor Steve Lonegan against a group of newcomers. Marshall Curry’s Street Fight followed Newark City Councilman Cory Booker as he tried to defeat Sharpe James, mockingly referred to by some locals as “Mayor for Life.” You know how that second one came out, and we’ll add that if you’re remotely interested in Jersey politics, especially as Booker’s run for the Senate goes to a special election on October 16, these films offer fascinating and in some ways essential background. —M.Z.S.
8. Stream The Fuzz
Yahoo!’s latest attempt to reinvent itself is a potty-mouthed puppet crime show, set in a graffiti’d Brooklyn ghetto called “P-town,” where the illegal-jellybean trade runs rampant and humans subjugate the furry guys. Sample line of dialogue, from the oppressor: “Don’t forget who the boss is, or I’ll cut you into maxi-pads. I hate uppity puppets.”
9. See The Old Friends
Betty Buckley, back onstage.
This lost play, unearthed by Michael Wilson, is Horton Foote as unapologetic potboiler: half Chekhov, half Dallas, and great gooey gobs of grim suhthun’ fun. Betty Buckley releases yet another kraken, in the form of vicious, perma-toxicated farming empress Gertrude Ratliff. —S.B.
Signature Theatre, through October 2.
10. Hear El Gran Combo
Fifty years in, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico remains one of the world’s tightest, hottest bands, serving salsa prepared from the traditional recipe: ardent romance, driven by brass and percussion. —Jody Rosen
Radio City Music Hall, September 29.
11. Hear Cher’s Closer to the Truth
Her 798,289th album drops.
Okay, it’s actually her 26th (!) studio album, her first in twelve years. Yes, the cover photo appears to have had even more work done on it than the lady herself. But the free streaming on Amazon last week—a limited-time preview of the album—sounded good. Surely you want to Believe?
12. See Documerica
The sounds of a big country.
In the seventies, the United States government dispatched photographers across the country to shoot America’s complicated relationship with nature: smog-hazed cityscapes, pristine peaks, hillsides etched with cul-de-sacs, wilderness kayakers. Now the intrepid string quartet Ethel has assembled new music and some of those old photos into an environmental meditation. —Justin Davidson
Brooklyn Academy of Music, October 2 through 5.
13. Hear Superchunk
The Chapel Hill indie foursome is still at it, after 24 years. Chug a Cheerwine before you go.
Bowery Ballroom, September 28.
14. Read Half the Kingdom
Lest we forget.
In the market for a witty, paranoid, tangent-happy, 9/11-influenced conspiracy novel? No need to limit yourself to the new Thomas Pynchon. The less heralded but very wonderful Lore Segal’s Half the Kingdom is about terror, aging, insanity, eschatology, our health-care system, and a Blindness-esque epidemic of Alzheimer’s in a post–September 11 Manhattan emergency room. —K.S.
Melville House, October 1.
15. See Stranger Than Fiction
Our favorite New York documentary series.
The ninth year of this fest is under way—seven weeks of premieres and classics, with most directors on hand not just for postshow Q&As but drinks at a nearby bar! October 1 brings Rachel Boynton’s Big Men, an engrossing—and dizzying—portrait of how oil money in Nigeria went straight into the pockets of oily politicians—and how Ghana’s recently discovered mother lode might well be a portal to hell. —David Edelstein
IFC Center, through November 12.
16. Hear Phoenix
Le tout Williamsburg—not to mention the rest of the city’s indie-rock scenesters—will descend on this show by the beloved Parisian band, whose danceable rock maintains its charm even when inflated to fill a great big room. —J.R.
Barclays Center, October 2.
17. See The Masters Series: R. O. Blechman
Wiggle your way there.
You probably know Blechman’s squiggly drawings from New Yorker covers and Red Bull commercials. He rides the edge between illustration and fine art, and thus gets less love than he might. Give him the attention he deserves at his first retrospective—or, if you miss the opening, he’ll be talking with Victor Navasky on the 17th at the SVA Theatre on West 23rd Street.
School of Visual Arts Chelsea Gallery, October 2 to November 2.
18. See The Wicker Man
OMG, there’s more footage of Robin Hardy’s once-mangled 1973 mystery The Wicker Man—as if the trimmed-down version wasn’t grueling enough. “The Final Cut” runs 92 minutes, which (one hopes) means more of Edward Woodward’s prudish Christian cop getting huffy with Christopher Lee’s loquacious pagan while islanders prepare for their own Burning Man. —D.E.
IFC Center, starts September 27.
19. Attend The Poetry Brothel
Auden-on-Auden action will cost you extra.
Fun idea: a speakeasy party with private one-on-one poetry readings. The poets are the “whores”; the read-ees are the “johns”; and this time, Paul Muldoon, poetry editor of The New Yorker, will be among the working girls.
September 29, details at thepoetrybrothel.com.
20. See Wadjda
Lifting the veil.
It’s more a political event than an artistic one, but Wadjda, the first feature shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and by a woman (Haifaa Al-Mansour) no less, is a simple and moving tale of a 10-year-old girl (the vivid Waad Mohammed) too irrepressible to be repressed and her quest to buy a bicycle (a no-no for women at the time). Her performance in a Koran-reciting contest, as her character tries to win money for the bike, is a real coup de théâtre—at once reverent and impudent. —D.E. In theaters now.
21. See Norma
Amid great expectations.
Bellini’s Norma is an ornate drama in search of a great soprano—without one, it’s better left undone. The Met hasn’t always heeded that wisdom, but it’s unearthing its twelve-year-old production, hoping that it has, in Sondra Radvanovsky, an heiress to the lineage of Callas, Sutherland, and Sills. —J.D.
Metropolitan Opera, opening September 30.
22. See Edward Burtynsky: Water
Flooding the zone.
Burtynsky shoots the natural world where it’s been massively interfered with: mine tailings that have turned a river orange, or an oil patch that makes a windswept desert seem as grimy as Bushwick. This double show is all about the immense lengths to which people will go to keep the faucets running.
Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery and Howard Greenberg Gallery, through November 2.
23. Hear Atoms for Peace
Radiohead’s head, onstage.
Worth it just to watch Thom Yorke dance.
Barclays Center, September 27.
24. See Gallim Dance
Makethe trip to Jersey.
Try cadging a ride to see Andrea Miller’s Fold Here, inspired by a Raymond Carver short story and danced on a stage eerily full of cardboard boxes. Her viscerally physical movement wrings every inch of life from her dancers—and you’ll be holding your breath, too. —Rebecca Milzoff
Peak Performances, Montclair, N.J., September 26 through 29.
25. See Nude in Public
Now that we have your attention …
The subtitle is “Sascha Schneider, Homoeroticism and the Male Form circa 1900,” and the show celebrates that German painter, quite successful in his time, whose reputation vanished after his death in 1927.
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, 26 Wooster St., through December 8.