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. 21-27.
I suspect some will approach the two-part HBO documentary “Agents of Chaos” as some kind of an attack on Donald Trump’s presidency. But this look into the Russians' actions during the 2016 American presidential election is in fact about an attack on this country. It’s a warning, too, as we head into the final stages of the 2020 election.
“Agents of Chaos” is the latest from Oscar- and Emmy-winning director Alex Gibney, of “Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief” and “Taxi to the Dark Side.” It takes something we’ve heard a lot about and grounds it all in facts and details. Gibney and his team spent years reporting the film, which includes new footage from inside Russian troll farms and videos found on the Russian deep web. They dig into Paul Manafort’s secret communications with Russia during Trump’s 2016 campaign and how the Obama administration failed to stop Russia’s interference. And they show that the “agents of chaos” hoping to undermine democracy weren’t only Russians; there were also players in the United States who helped further Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals.
The documentary also contains new interviews with American insiders, some of whom have not gone on the record before. They include lead Mueller Investigation prosecutor Andrew Weissmann; former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe; former CIA director John Brennan; Trump campaign adviser Carter Page; Trump business associate Felix Sater; and Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Russian state news agency. One interviewee, cyber conflict researcher Camille François, explains how Russia’s online influence agency worked to create chaos by exploiting preexisting divisions via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Fake accounts, fake organizations, fake local media . . . they all threw gasoline on the fires.
In the chilling trailer, Putin is asked if his country is attempting to influence the 2016 election. “Here, I’ll tell you a secret,” he says. “Yes, we will absolutely be doing that.”
It’s on HBO on Wednesday and Thursday nights at 9.
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. The three-year wait is over for season four of Noah Hawley’s brilliant Coens-influenced anthology. The new “Fargo” season is set in Kansas City in 1950, home to warring crime families, one run by Italian immigrants, the other by a Black syndicate. With a peace treaty that has each family giving its youngest son to the other, what could possibly go wrong? The cast includes Chris Rock in his best role yet, along with Jason Schwartzman, Ben Whishaw, Timothy Olyphant, Jack Huston, Jessie Buckley, Glynn Turman, and, oddly enough, Andrew Bird. It premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on FX with two episodes, which then will become available on Hulu the following day.
2. Her emails! Her emails! “The Comey Rule” is a two-part scripted adaptation of James Comey’s memoir about why he did what he did, starring Jeff Daniels as the former FBI director; Brendan Gleeson as Donald Trump; Peter Coyote as Robert Mueller; Michael Kelly as Andrew McCabe; Holly Hunter as Sally Yates; William Sadler as Michael Flynn; Jonathan Banks as James Clapper; Joe Lo Truglio as Jeff Sessions; and Scoot McNairy as Rod Rosenstein. Adapted and directed by Billy Ray, “The Comey Rule” premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime.
3. Maybe a new prime-time network soap opera is just what we need. “Filthy Rich” finds a wealthy Southern televangelist family learning about their patriarch’s three illegitimate children after he dies in a plane crash. Turns out those three are featured prominently in his will. Kim Cattrall from “Sex and the City” stars as the flashy widow, who is also a popular host on their Christian TV network. It premieres Monday at 9 p.m. on Fox.
4. This five-part adaptation of Errol Morris’s true-crime book “A Wilderness of Error” takes on the famous case of Army surgeon Jeffrey MacDonald, who was convicted — perhaps wrongly — of murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters in 1970. Morris appears as host in the series, but he does not direct. That job goes to Marc Smerling, whose producing credits include “Capturing the Friedmans” and “The Jinx.” It premieres Friday at 8 p.m. on FX.
5. “The Amber Ruffin Show,” a new weekly series from Peacock, will feature Ruffin’s take on the week’s news. “No matter what’s happening in the world,” Peacock promises, “Amber will respond to it with a charming mix of seriousness, nonsense, and evening gowns.” The first of nine episodes starring the writer-performer from “Late Night With Seth Meyers” premieres on Friday.
6. In case you still need more information ahead of Nov. 3, “Frontline” has a new installment of its traditional election-year special, “The Choice.” The two-hour show will offer investigative biographies of President Trump and Joe Biden through revealing interviews with those who know the candidates well, including Mary Trump, Valerie Biden Owens, Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, and more. It’s on Tuesday at 9 p.m. on GBH 2.
7. “Utopia” is an eight-episode thriller — an adaptation of a 2013 U.K. series — from “Gone Girl” and “Sharp Objects” author Gillian Flynn, who also serves as showrunner. It’s about comic book fans who are targeted by a shadowy organization when they get hold of a graphic novel that may depict a real government conspiracy. John Cusack, Sasha Lane, Rainn Wilson, Dan Byrd, Desmin Borges, and Jessica Rothe star. It’s available Friday on Amazon.
“Tehran” From “Fauda” writer Moshe Zonder, this eight-part thriller is about a Mossad agent who goes undercover on a dangerous mission in Tehran. Apple TV+, Friday
“I Can See Your Voice” Another singing contest with a twist. Fox, Wednesday, 9 p.m.
“The Murders at White House Farm” An imported scripted drama about a real case in which a family was murdered at their isolated home. HBO Max, Thursday
“Haute Dog” Doggie makeovers. HBO Max, Thursday
Step right up: winners and losers from summer 2020.
“Ratched” Ryan Murphy’s new series, the backstory of the notorious nurse, is an attractive mess. Netflix
“Coastal Elites” Five monologues steeped in rage about Donald Trump’s presidency and the COVID-19 crisis, starring Bette Midler, Dan Levy, Issa Rae, Sarah Paulson, and Kaitlyn Dever. HBO
“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 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+