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. 18-24.
WHAT WE’RE STREAMING
The streaming service Peacock paid $500 million to buy the rights to “The Office” for five years. Does that seem like an excessive price for a show that has been off the air since 2013, one that ended its run on a low, with an average of 5 million weekly viewers (down from a peak, in 2008, of 9 million), and with creative fallout from star Steve Carell’s 2011 departure?
Well, now that Nielsen is releasing most-streamed lists, that price tag is starting to make sense. (Likewise the $425 million HBO Max paid for five years of “Friends.”) Recently, the ratings company released an account of the most-streamed TV for the year 2020, and guess what was No. 1, having been viewed for 952 million hours during the year? Right, “The Office.”
And that number, along with all the others on Nielsen’s streaming list, does not take into account viewing of a show or a movie that wasn’t watched on a TV. All the streams via cellphones and computers — and I’m betting there are many — would drive those numbers even higher.
And so it seems that older shows are having a super-duper afterlife, far bigger than old-fashioned syndication (“The Office” can still be seen on Comedy Central). They’ve become more essential and lucrative than most newer series.
Here are Nielsen’s two TV lists for 2020 streaming. Note that all of the entries, except for Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” were on Netflix. (These 2020 numbers do not include Apple TV+, HBO Max, and Peacock.) Also note, the more episodes a show has, the more hours of viewing it will accumulate.
1. “The Office” (952 million hours)
2. “Grey’s Anatomy”
3. “Criminal Minds”
5. “Schitt’s Creek”
8. “New Girl”
9. “The Blacklist”
10. “Vampire Diaries”
1. “Ozark” (508 million hours)
3. “The Crown”
4. “Tiger King”
5. “The Mandalorian”
6. “The Umbrella Academy”
7. “Great British Baking Show”
8. “Boss Baby: Back in Business”
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. In case it has slipped your mind, haha, the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is on Wednesday. The scaled-back ceremony, featuring Lady Gaga singing the national anthem, a performance by Jennifer Lopez, and a poetry reading by Amanda Gorman, will begin in the morning at around 11:30, so that Biden can be sworn in before noon, when the new presidency officially begins. It will air live all over TV and the Internet. On Wednesday night at 8:30, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute TV special called “Celebrating America,” to replace the traditional balls, with guests including Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato, Ant Clemons, and Justin Timberlake. It will air on ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, and MSNBC and be streamed across platforms including Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon Prime Video.
2. As a warm-up for the inauguration, PBS’s “Frontline” is featuring “President Biden” on Tuesday night. The documentary, directed by Michael Kirk (“The Choice”), looks at how tragedy has shaped the president-elect and may affect the way he governs during a time of crises. It airs on GBH 2 at 10 p.m.
3. Edward Burns, who started his career with “The Brothers McMullen” way back in 1995, has written, directed, produced, and starred in a new six-episode series called “Bridge and Tunnel.” Set in 1980, the half-hour dramedy is about recent college graduates from Long Island pursuing their dreams in Manhattan, to use blurbspeak. It’s on Epix, and it premieres Sunday at 9 p.m.
4. In the six-episode unscripted series “Painting With John,” actor-musician-director-artist John Lurie works on his watercolor techniques, reflects on what he’s learned about life, and discusses tapping into your childlike artist side. It’s Lurie being Lurie, exactly 30 years after his six-episode series (featuring Tom Waits, Matt Dillon, Willem Dafoe, Dennis Hopper, and Jim Jarmusch) called “Fishing With John,” and it premieres Friday at 11 p.m. on HBO.
5. Hulu has imported a British thriller called “The Sister” that was written by Neil Cross, who also wrote Idris Elba’s “Luther” series (and forthcoming movie). Russell Tovey, from “Looking” and the extraordinary miniseries “Years and Years,” stars as a man still running from a night long ago that resulted in the death of a young woman. The four-parter, available Friday, costars Bertie Carvel, Amanda Root, and Amrita Acharia.
6. Rebooting Chuck Norris’s “Walker, Texas Ranger” was definitely on my bingo card. Why should it be exempt from our endless, random cultural exhumations? On Thursday at 8 p.m. on the CW, “Supernatural” star Jared Padalecki will play a widowed Texas Ranger and father of two teenagers. Mitch Pileggi and Genevieve Padalecki also star. This time out, the series is simply called “Walker.”
“Salt-N-Pepa” A fictionalized movie about the pair’s rise to stardom starring GG Townson and Laila Odom. Lifetime, Saturday, 8 p.m.
“Euphoria: [Expletive] Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob” A one-hour placeholder for the series, focusing on Hunter Schafer’s Jules, while we wait for season 2. HBO, Sunday, 9 p.m.
“Losing Alice” An eight-episode Israeli thriller about a female movie director who becomes obsessed with a young screenwriter. Apple TV+, Friday
“Miss Scarlet & The Duke” A six-part “Masterpiece” series about a woman solving crimes in Victorian England is a light procedural. GBH 2
“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
“The Flight Attendant” The thriller starring Kaley Cuoco takes you for a ride that doesn’t always track but almost always entertains. HBO Max