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Fran Lebowitz gives an unrestrained tour of NYC in Martin Scorcese’s new doc series, ‘Pretend It’s a City’

To walk the blocks of Manhattan with abandon—no mask, no fear of contracting a deadly infectious virus—is the ultimate fantasy right now.

Imagine how it would feel to dip into an old-school diner for a coffee and slice of pie. Maybe you’d strike up a conversation with the server or patron beside you about the music that’s playing in the background, or the weather outside. What if you could spend an hour sat on a park bench in Washington Square to soak up life around you, at ease. Unconcerned that you are breathing in droplets of an unmasked passerby. Perhaps not in January, but you get the idea: a regular day in New York City, without rules or agenda, would be positively dreamy.

Directed by Martin Scorcese, Pretend It’s a City is a testament to the magic that abounds in everyday life in New York, through the eyes of Fran Lebowitz, one of its most beloved characters. From packed nights at The Mercer in the early seventies, to subway car stories and routine walks around her neighbourhood, Fran honours the grit of New York City by sharing colourful anecdotes from the past, and social commentary about the city she remains fiercely loyal to today.

“There are lots of things on the ground in New York,” says Fran, as she points out graffiti and historical plaques, while joking that she’s the only one who sees them, “Everybody else is looking at their phone.” Fran has a lot to say on this matter, and her strong dislike for technology gives a much-needed perspective: the obsession with our phone, and social media, is preventing us from seeing what’s actually around us. Or, you know, real life.

CBC host Matt Galloway recently tweeted, “Dreamt of sitting with friends, at a picnic table, in the sun. Simple things not yet possible.” The dream can look many different ways: hitting a gallery opening in the East Village, checking out a concert at a dive bar you love, or simply stopping to chat with acquaintances on a busy street, and not having to negotiate six feet of space between you.

Pretend It’s a City is a straight-shooting doc series that feeds that dream of normalcy that we so desperately crave. Watching an episode or two is the perfect antidote to the chaos and noise of life right now, and gives much-needed pause for reflection with a particular wry wit that only Fran can deliver.

Pretend It’s a City premieres on Netflix on January 8th.

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