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 Jan. 11-17.
CHANGING THE LEAD
I watched the premiere of “Batwoman” on the CW in 2019 and I was unimpressed. Ruby Rose starred as Kate Kane, an out lesbian who becomes a super-fighter for justice when her cousin Bruce Wayne disappears. It was unimpressive, and Rose was terminally bland, and I tuned out, despite its efforts to usher in some superhero diversity.
Well. In May, Rose decided to leave the series, ultimately explaining that she’d had a difficult back surgery and that she’d had a lot of time to think during the pandemic about whether she wanted to return. Rumors of Rose’s on-set unhappiness circulated, too, leading many to believe that the producers were also eager to see her leave. Although her departure, according to TVLine, was framed “as her choice and her choice alone, sources confirm to TVLine that the split was — at best — a mutual one.”
So on Sunday at 8 p.m. the series is returning, but with a new lead playing a new Batwoman. Rather than replacing Rose’s Kate Kane with a different actress, the show has made Kate disappear and brought in Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder, a Black lesbian who, after doing time for drug-running charges, finds Kate’s batsuit and decides to use it for self-empowerment and heroic purposes.
Good luck, “Batwoman.” It’s happened before — lead characters leaving a series — with mixed results.
- “The Office” continued for two chaotic seasons after Steve Carell left, bringing in a number of guest stars (Will Ferrell, James Spader) to try to fill the gap.
- Michael J. Fox left “Spin City” due to his battle with Parkinson’s disease, and Charlie Sheen, playing a new character, took over as the lead.
- A few years later, Sheen was fired from “Two and a Half Men” for his erratic behavior and his anti-Semitic tirade about creator Chuck Lorre, and a new character played by Ashton Kutcher joined the show.
- After accusations of sexual assault and harassment, Kevin Spacey was fired from “House of Cards.”
- After racist comments online, Roseanne Barr was fired from the revival of “Roseanne,” which ultimately returned as “The Conners.”
- Shelley Long quit “Cheers,” and Kirstie Alley stepped in as Ted Danson’s co-lead.
- Farrah Fawcett left “Charlie’s Angels” after the first successful season, and she was replaced by Cheryl Ladd (who played Fawcett’s character’s sister).
- David Caruso left “NYPD Blue” after a little more than one season, reportedly due to contract disputes and his hunger to pursue a movie career. He was replaced by Jimmy Smits.
- Emmy Rossum left “Shameless,” Dan Stevens left “Downton Abbey,” Misha Barton left “The O.C.,” David Duchovny left “The X-Files,” and Topher Grace left “That ’70s Show.”
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. The description of ABC’s “Call Your Mother” sounds very not promising. It’s a multi-cam sitcom about an empty-nest mother who moves cross-country to be near her adult children. Cue the laugh track. But it stars Kyra Sedgwick, and I’m a big fan — have been since “Singles” and “Something to Talk About.” I still think she was remarkable in “The Closer.” Maybe she’ll make this one work? It premieres on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.
2. On Friday, Disney+ is premiering its first of many series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, called “WandaVision.” Wanda Maximoff and Vision (played by Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, reprising their big-screen roles) are super-powered beings living in suburbia. The nine-episode show places them in various classic TV settings, including black-and-white sitcoms and “The Office”-like mockumentaries. Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Kat Dennings, and Randall Park are also in the cast.
3. I’m thinking the title “Everyone Is Doing Great” is being deployed ironically. The show, created by and starring “One Tree Hill” alums James Lafferty and Stephen Colletti, is about two friends who starred in a hit vampire TV drama five years ago. Now the former heartthrobs are trying to navigate their lives post-fame. It premieres on Hulu Wednesday.
4. PBS’s “Masterpiece,” currently celebrating its 50th year, premieres a new mystery series on Sunday at 8 p.m. on GBH 2. Called “Miss Scarlet and the Duke,” it’s about a woman who takes over her late father’s sleuthing business. No one in Victorian England thinks it’s proper for a woman to solve crimes; nevertheless, she persists. She sometimes works — and has flirtations — with her childhood friend, Detective Inspector William “The Duke” Wellington. Kate Phillips and Stuart Martin star.
“Chris Rock Total Blackout: The Tamborine Extended Cut” A longer version of Rock’s 2018 stand-up special, directed by Bo Burnham. Netflix, Tuesday
“Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” The sixth season. TBS, Wednesday, 10:30 p.m.
“Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” On the season finale, Nancy Pelosi, Zac Posen, and Norah O’Donnell. GBH 2, Tuesday, 8 p.m.
“Search Party” The fourth season. HBO Max, Thursday
“Mr. Mayor” The new comedy from TIna Fey and Robert Carlock starring Ted Danson and Holly Hunter is still finding its legs. NBC
“Masterpiece: Elizabeth Is Missing” Glenda Jackson is stunning as a woman struggling with dementia and with the disappearance of a friend. PBS, GBH 2
“Bridgerton” Jane Austen-styled melodrama, through the lens of producer Shonda Rhimes. Netflix
“Your Honor” Bryan Cranston’s uneven return to TV as a judge covering up his son’s guilt in a hit-and-run fatality. Showtime
“My Psychedelic Love Story” Errol Morris’s documentary follows Joanna Harcourt-Smith’s five-year affair with Timothy Leary during his exile. Showtime
“The Flight Attendant” The thriller starring Kaley Cuoco takes you for a ride that doesn’t always track but almost always entertains. HBO Max
“Between the World and Me” A star-studded, poetic adaptation of the bestseller by Ta-Nehisi Coates. HBO