This week’s TV: When Harry Belafonte hosted ‘The Tonight Show,’ a COVID comedy, and ‘Woke’

Harry Belafonte in the Peacock documentary “The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show,” which looks back on an historic week of TV in 1968.
Harry Belafonte in the Peacock documentary “The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show,” which looks back on an historic week of TV in 1968.Big Beach/Peacock

Your TV GPS, Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert’s look at the week ahead in television, appears every Monday morning on BostonGlobe.com. Today’s column covers Sept. 7-13.


Here’s an almost forgotten milestone — almost, but, thanks to the new documentary “The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show,” not. In February 1968, with the country heading toward a divisive presidential election and mired in conflict involving the war in Vietnam and racial inequities, Johnny Carson handed over “The Tonight Show” to Harry Belafonte for a week.

It was historic, with activist and entertainer Belafonte able and willing to use some of TV’s most valuable real estate to focus on civil rights and Black culture. His guests included Martin Luther King Jr. (in his last televised interview), Robert F. Kennedy, Aretha Franklin, Lena Horne, Paul Newman, Dionne Warwick, and Petula Clark.


That’s right: A Black man on one of the network late-night thrones, whose current inhabitants — Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, James Corden, Seth Meyers — are still all white. Directed by Yoruba Richen, and available Thursday on Peacock, “The Sit-In” features clips from the week of shows and interviews with Belafonte, Questlove, Whoopi Goldberg, and Clark.

“I hope that people are entertained by the amazing archive footage that we were able to dig up and find and show the brilliance of these guests,” Richen told Deadline. “I hope that they look at the parallels that are today, and find inspiration in Harry and the work that he was doing at the time, and then also look at television and late night and what it is we can demand from the networks in terms of representation.”

Lamorne Morris in "Woke."
Lamorne Morris in "Woke."Joe Lederer/Hulu


1. Keef is a Black cartoonist on the verge of mainstream success who generally avoids controversy. But after he’s wrongfully detained by a cop, his life changes radically. “Woke” is a new Hulu series based on the life and work of artist and Malden native Keith Knight (“The K Chronicles”), who co-created it with Marshall Todd. Lamorne Morris, from “New Girl,” stars as Keef, with Blake Anderson (“Workaholics”) and Sasheer Zamata (“Saturday Night Live”) also in the cast. The eight-episode first season premieres on Wednesday.


2. Tech alarmists, stand down. The Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” looks into some of the lesser-known consequences of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the others. We enjoy these platforms, and feel as though we use them as we do most products, but we are in fact the product. They use us — our data, our attention. They cause mental health issues, they enable propagandists, and they further politically polarize countries. It’s due Wednesday, if we survive until then.

3. Playwright and screenwriter Paul Rudnick and director Jay Roach have come up with a social-distance comedy for HBO called “Coastal Elites.” Filmed earlier in the summer and premiering Saturday at 8 p.m., it’s about five people coping with the pandemic. It’s also about a promising cast, led by Bette Midler, Kaitlyn Dever, Dan Levy, Sarah Paulson, and Issa Rae.

Marc Warren stars in the PBS miniseries "Van der Valk."
Marc Warren stars in the PBS miniseries "Van der Valk."© Company Pictures and all3media international

4. PBS’s “Masterpiece” has a new adaptation of Nicolas Freeling’s “Van der Valk” detective novels. The three-episode Amsterdam-set series features Marc Warren as Simon “Piet” Van der Valk, a sulky Dutch police commissioner. If you watched the fun British con-artist series “Hustle,” on which he was part of the ensemble, or if you saw the episodes of “The Good Wife” featuring Kalinda’s husband, then you’ve seen Warren, who is generally pretty good. The series premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on GBH 2.


5. The new Netflix comedy “The Dutchess” is an over-the-top, raunchy portrait of an over-the-top, raunchy single mother. Created by and starring Canadian comic Katherine Ryan, it’s a tad like “SMILF,” but it’s set in London and it’s a lot less dramatic. Katherine the character has a preteen daughter, Olive, whom she adores — it’s basically her only good quality. In the name of giving Olive a sibling, Katherine decides she wants to get pregnant by her foolish ex. Brash comedy ensues, on Friday.


“Frontline: Growing Up Poor in America” A look at child poverty in Ohio against the backdrop of the pandemic. GBH 2, Tuesday, 9 p.m.

“Life Below Zero: Next Generation” A spin-off in which young Alaskans choose to live in the wilderness. National Geographic, Monday, 9 p.m.

“Get Organized With the Home Edit” Marie Kondo Who? A pair of expert organizers conquer clutter. Netflix, Wednesday

“Black Boys” Malcolm Jenkins produced this documentary about being young and Black in America. Peacock, Thursday

“Shark Attack: The Paige Winter Story with Robin Roberts” A look into the life of a victim of a 2019 attack. ABC, Thursday, 10 p.m.


Step right up: winners and losers from summer 2020.

“Away” It can be mawkish, but it’s an engaging bad sci-fi series about a three-year journey to Mars and the astronauts’ families left at home. Netflix


“Love in the Time of Corona” A kind of “Love Actually” for this moment, as it moves among four or five stories about love at various stages during quarantine. Freeform

“Ted Lasso” A feel-good sports comedy starring Jason Sudeikis as an American coach in England. Apple TV+

“In My Skin” The heartbreaking and funny five-episode story of a teen girl who hides her grim home life from her friends. Hulu

“Frayed” A warm, funny six-part British-Australian import about a woman who loses her husband and their fortune at the same time. HBO Max

“Lovecraft Country” An exuberant supernatural series about Black characters trying to survive monsters and 1950s Jim Crow America. HBO

“The Capture” A provocative six-episode British crime thriller about the world of deep fakes. Peacock

“We Hunt Together” A “Killing Eve”-like British import series about a pair of oddball detectives trying to track down a pair of oddball murderers. Showtime

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.