Pretend It's a City

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Pretend It's a City
Directed byMartin Scorsese
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes7
Executive producers
CinematographyEllen Kuras
  • David Tedeschi
  • Damian Rodriguez
Running time26-31 minutes
Original release
ReleaseJanuary 8, 2021 (2021-01-08)

Pretend It's a City is a 2021 American documentary series directed by Martin Scorsese featuring interviews and conversations between Scorsese and Fran Lebowitz.[1][2] The series was released on January 8, 2021, on Netflix.


Lebowitz talks to her friend Scorsese about living in New York City. The film is interspersed with clips from archived television interviews and video footage of Lebowitz and Scorsese walking around the city.


The New York Times called Pretend It's a City a followup film to Public Speaking, also a Scorsese film starring Lebowitz. According to Lebowitz, the title is a line she'd shout at people when trying to get them to move from the middle of a packed sidewalk. After the COVID-19 pandemic started, she noted, "now people think it has some more lyrical, metaphorical meaning."[1] The chapters are loosely organized around topics like money, athletics, transportation, and others.[3]

The documentary was shot before the pandemic.[4] Filming took place in Manhattan, although Lebowitz said, "we did go to Queens, [and it was] something Marty talked about as if we were going to Afghanistan."[5] Other locations include the Players Club, the New York Public Library and the streets of Manhattan.[6]

The documentary was dedicated to Lebowitz's longtime friend Toni Morrison.[7] In January 2021, Saturday Night Live spoofed the series, with Bowen Yang as Lebowitz and Kyle Mooney as Scorsese.[8]





No.TitleDirected byOriginal release date [9]
1"Pretend It's a City"Martin ScorseseJanuary 8, 2021 (2021-01-08)
2"Cultural Affairs"Martin ScorseseJanuary 8, 2021 (2021-01-08)
3"Metropolitan Transit"Martin ScorseseJanuary 8, 2021 (2021-01-08)
4"Board of Estimate"Martin ScorseseJanuary 8, 2021 (2021-01-08)
5"Department of Sports & Health"Martin ScorseseJanuary 8, 2021 (2021-01-08)
6"Hall of Records"Martin ScorseseJanuary 8, 2021 (2021-01-08)
7"Library Services"Martin ScorseseJanuary 8, 2021 (2021-01-08)

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an approval rating of 90% based on 30 reviews, with an average rating of 7.83/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "If Pretend It's a City can't quite live up to its central duo's creative clout, it's still a delight to see their love for their city—and one another—in full bloom."[10] On Metacritic, the series has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100, based on 11 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[11]

The New Yorker in January 2021 said the documentary's depiction of pre-pandemic New York "feels like a balm in a wildly shifting world."[12] CNN described the series as a Scorsese "vanity project," but did say the show "certainly yields its share of amusing thoughts and wry observations, many of which are worth recording for posterity."[2] gave it 3.5 stars, writing "Fran Lebowitz's delivery is masterful. So, if the first episode hooks you, this is worth binge-watching."[13] The Guardian called it a "pitch-perfect dream of Warholian parties and drinking with friends, soundtracked by Lebowitz's epigrams, which stack up like the hot dog buns of the Manhattan vendor she passes."[14] PopMatters says the series "is about three and a half hours long, by far the biggest dose we've ever had of Lebowitz in one go. The runtime is relentless and the speaker is relentless and the strangers crawling all over New York are relentless and the audience's lust for more minutes is relentless."[15] The Sydney Morning Herald called it "the most fun you can have on Netflix right now."[16] Vogue called the documentary "one of the best things you will watch this year."[17]


  1. ^ a b Itzkoff, Dave (January 7, 2021). "Fran Lebowitz and Martin Scorsese Seek a Missing New York in 'Pretend It's a City'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Lowry, Brian (January 8, 2021). "'Pretend It's a City' lets Martin Scorsese take a (really) long look at Fran Lebowitz". CNN. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  3. ^ Fear, David. "'Pretend It's a City': Martin Scorsese and Fran Lebowitz on Their Guide to NYC". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  4. ^ Specter, Emma (January 13, 2021). "Fran Lebowitz on Her New Netflix Series, Complaining About New York, and Being a 'Slut of Literature'". Vogue. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  5. ^ Gross, Terry (January 11, 2021). "Fran Lebowitz's 'Pretend It's A City' Is The NYC Trip You Can't Take Right Now". NPR. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  6. ^ Izzo, Christina (January 14, 2021). "Fran Lebowitz's 20 New York-iest quotes from "Pretend It's a City"". TimeOut. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  7. ^ Gardner, Chris (January 14, 2021). "Fran Lebowitz on 'Pretend It's a City,' President Trump's Post-White House Career and Making Martin Scorsese Laugh". Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on April 23, 2021. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  8. ^ Alter, Rebecca (January 31, 2021). "Bowen Yang As Fran Lebowitz Is As New York As Machetes on the Subway". Vulture. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  9. ^ "Pretend It's a City – Listings". The Futon Critic. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  10. ^ "Pretend It's a City". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on January 27, 2021. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  11. ^ "Pretend It's a City". Metacritic. Archived from the original on January 19, 2021. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  12. ^ Fry, Naomi. "The Delights of New York, Fran Lebowitz, and Martin Scorsese's Laugh". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  13. ^ Henderson, Odie (January 8, 2021). "Pretend It's a City". Roger Ebert. Archived from the original on January 27, 2021. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  14. ^ Ferrier, Morwenna (January 25, 2021). "Come for the quips but stay for the coats': the enduring style of Fran Lebowitz". The Guardian. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  15. ^ Volpert, Megan (January 12, 2021). "Pretend It's a City Proves Once Again, You Can't Argue with Fran Lebowitz". PopMatters. Archived from the original on April 23, 2021. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  16. ^ Mathieson, Craig (January 20, 2021). "This documentary series is the most fun you can have on Netflix right now". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  17. ^ Collins, Hattie (January 23, 2021). "These are Fran Lebowitz's greatest life lessons in Pretend It's a City". Vogue. Retrieved February 4, 2021.

External links[edit]