Pretend It's a City

TV review by
Marina Gordon, Common Sense Media
Pretend It's a City TV Poster Image
Docuseries is warm tribute to famously cranky writer.

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Lebowitz's 50-year career (and counting!) of being herself is encouraging to anyone who feels too opinionated, too cynical, too quirky for their time. Parents will likely applaud her example to put away the cellphone and take in the world around you.

Positive Role Models

Lebowitz's friendship with Martin Scorsese is evident and warm -- they appreciate each other, they've shared a lot of time together, and they both adore their city.


Some mean-spirited comments and occasional discussion of violence: "I cannot believe that it is legal to watch human beings beat each other up as a sport. ... But you know what's illegal? Cock-fighting. We eat chickens, but they can't fight with each other, because it's too brutal."


Lebowitz mentions the #MeToo movement, rape, and molestation. She talks frequently about being gay in New York in the 1970s.


Lebowitz swears sparingly (she uses "f--k" and "hell" a couple times).


Though Lebowitz says she loves things, she eschews most modern things (cellphones, computer, etc.).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking is like an off-screen character. Lebowitz is a devout, passionate smoker.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this series features New York City writer and icon Fran Lebowitz getting interviewed. It's directed by Martin Scorsese, but it's nothing like his award-winning violent movies. Instead, his camera is focused on his friend Lebowitz, whose observations about the city and its people can be cutting. Lebowitz uses a few swear words ("f--k," "hell") sparingly. She talks about smoking lovingly, and is frank about her opinions, which are often very funny.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byDanem622 March 4, 2021


This is just Fran being Fran while talking abut NYC. Who is Fran? I had no idea until I decided to watch this. I doubt many other kids my age are really watchin... Continue reading

What's the story?

PRETEND IT'S A CITY, the second documentary that director Martin Scorsese has made about his friend Fran Lebowitz, follows the famously curmudgeonly writer around New York's streets, as well as through a model of New York that was created for the 1964 World's Fair. In addition to new conversations Scorsese conducted with Lebowitz in an old-school bar, we see clips of their public appearances together and interviews she's done over the years with Spike Lee, Alec Baldwin, and Olivia Wilde. Lebowitz's wit is on display in six episodes that cover (to name just a few topics) the internet, Times Square, music, subways, taxis, sports, and money.

Is it any good?

Even if you don't cherish Fran Lebowitz as Martin Scorsese does (he appears to adore every word and guffaws at every joke), three hours with her feels like an afternoon in New York with an astutely acerbic aunt. Pretend It's a City is a love letter to both Lebowitz and the New York she and Scorsese inhabit and exemplify. We see the writer, now in her 70s, stride down Manhattan streets with a level of comfort and familiarity that young people have mimicked for decades.

Lebowitz has remained a keen observer of the world around her, but she is proudly out of step with modern life; she famously doesn't use a mobile phone or the internet or a computer and instead has surrounded herself with 10,000 books. The series hits differently than it would have before the COVID-19 pandemic; even the most mundane interactions can feel nostalgic, as far off as the clips from Lebowitz decades ago. Here's hoping these two quintessential New Yorkers can make a third collaboration.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Lebowitz's rejection of computers, the internet, and cellphones. How do you think that changes her experience of the world?

  • What makes Lebowitz's comments funny? How do you think her humor would work in other parts of the country?

  • Lebowitz and Scorsese are old friends. How do you think that affects the documentary?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy

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