fb-pixel Skip to main content

This week’s TV: Take-it-or-leave-it binges, ‘Mr. Soul!,’ and a bicoastal Golden Globes

Antonia Gentry (left) and Brianne Howey as daughter and mother in the Netflix series "Ginny & Georgia."
Antonia Gentry (left) and Brianne Howey as daughter and mother in the Netflix series "Ginny & Georgia."COURTESY OF NETFLIX

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 Feb. 22-28.


I’ve been noticing that, especially during the pandemic lockdown, Netflix has been trafficking in Shoulder Shrug Binges, series that, to me, are largely mediocre — yet easy to consume in big batches. You watch, aware that you’re not seeing anything that approaches the many modern classics that are available for you to see, and you let Netflix usher you from one episode to the next with a figurative shrug of your shoulders. Sometimes, in your passivity, you don’t even “skip intro.”


I’m thinking of the likes of “Firefly Lane,” starring Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke as lifelong friends. I found it too long, riddled with tiresome romance and friendship tropes, and unnecessarily time-jumpy. But still I watched, and not for work — I watched, glad to have fresh material, willing to be distracted from the world of political and medical crises with something, anything.

The Shoulder Shrug Binge skews toward shows designed for largely female audiences, and they are generally mixtures of comedy and drama. “Emily in Paris” is another member of this group, a series that, despite its romantic clichés and lame culture-clash comedy, was easily binged, and popular. The grandma of them all could be “Dead to Me,” another stretched out — but intensely binge-able — comedy-drama about the eventful friendship between women played by Linda Cardellini and Christina Applegate.

On Wednesday, a new Shoulder Shrug Binge is showing up on Netflix. Called “Ginny & Georgia,” it may well suck you in, even though it’s tonally awkward and straining to be considered in the same breath as “Gilmore Girls.” Antonia Gentry plays Ginny Miller, a 15-year-old girl; Brianne Howey plays her super-young mother, Georgia, who had Ginny when she was in her teens. The pair are always moving from town to town, but they finally settle in an idyllic New England community. Adding intrigue: Georgia has a few deep, dark secrets, which will presumably rear their heads during the 10-episode season.


Should you watch? [Shoulder Shrug]


1. I was unexpectedly blown away by a five-part Swedish miniseries called “Beartown,” which premieres Monday at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max. It’s a lot like “Friday Night Lights,” with hockey instead of football, and with a much darker theme — the rape of the coach’s teen daughter. Based on the 2017 novel by Fredrik Backman, it’s smartly written, well-acted, and emotionally wrenching. Yes, there are subtitles, but as always, you’ll forget you’re reading five minutes into the show.

2. The meaningless but sometimes diverting “Golden Globes Awards” are coming on Sunday at 8 p.m. on NBC. The event will be bicoastal, and largely audience-free, with all the nominees awaiting their fates at their homes. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are hosting live for the fourth time, but they will be on opposite coasts — Fey at the Rainbow Room at the top of Rockefeller Center in New York, Poehler at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. The presenters, including Awkwafina, Cynthia Erivo, Joaquin Phoenix, Kristen Wiig, Renee Zellweger, Sterling K. Brown, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, will appear live — and safely — with one of the two hosts. This year, Jane Fonda will receive the Cecil B. deMille Award, and Norman Lear gets the Carol Burnett Award.


3. The unscripted “Canine Intervention,” due Wednesday on Netflix, claims that “no dog, no breed, no behavior is unfixable for Cali K9′s Jas Leverette,” an Oakland dog trainer. But wait: Some claim his methods are too aggressive, and there is a change.org petition to get Netflix to drop the show. The petition, which has more than 34,000 signatures, says, “We don’t need another Cesar-like trainer on TV showing inhumane training techniques to animal owners,” a reference to TV personality and author Cesar Millan. Maybe I’ll look elsewhere in my search for someone who can get my sweet little guy to stop eating sticks that make him sick.

Ellis Haizlip, host of the old PBS series "SOUL!," with the J.C. White Singers, as seen in the documentary "Mr. Soul!"
Ellis Haizlip, host of the old PBS series "SOUL!," with the J.C. White Singers, as seen in the documentary "Mr. Soul!"Courtesy of Alex Harsley

4. In 1968, the Black variety show “SOUL!” premiered on PBS and ran for six years (here’s a full episode, with Bill Withers and McCoy Tyner, from 1971). A celebration of Black art, culture, and community it was produced and hosted by Ellis Haizlip and featured guests including Cicely Tyson, Stevie Wonder, and James Baldwin. Now Haizlip’s niece, filmmaker Melissa Haizlip, has made a documentary about the series, called “Mr. Soul!” It airs Monday at 10 p.m. on GBH 2, as part of the series “Independent Lens,” and it features appearances by Harry Belafonte, Questlove, and Obba Babatundé.

5. HBO’s much-discussed docu-series “Allen v. Farrow” continues on Sunday at 9 p.m. It offers unseen footage, including the tape Mia Farrow made of 7-year-old daughter Dylan’s sexual abuse claims against her father, Woody Allen, and it points out official errors in the handling of the case. Here’s my review.


Soleil Moon Frye returns as the title character in a reboot of "Punky Brewster" on Peacock.
Soleil Moon Frye returns as the title character in a reboot of "Punky Brewster" on Peacock.NBC/Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock


“Punky Brewster” Another reboot, starring Soleil Moon Frye and Freddie Prinze Jr. Peacock, Thursday

“Brutal Bridesmaids” One of Jessica’s besties may . . . be . . . dangerous. Lifetime Movie Network, Friday, 8 p.m.

“Superman & Lois” Another DC Comics spinoff starring Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch. The CW, Tuesday, 8 p.m.


“Beartown” A wrenching but rewarding five-parter from Sweden. HBO and HBO Max

“Behind Her Eyes” A suspenseful six-parter about a love triangle that ends with a cop-out twist. Netflix

“It’s a Sin” The five-part miniseries revisits the first years of the AIDS crisis through a group a friends in London. HBO Max

“Firefly Lane” Sarah Chalke and Katherine Heigl star in the story of a long, intense friendship. Netflix

“Clarice” A crime procedural that’s a sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs,” minus Hannibal Lecter. CBS

“Dickinson” The comic series looks back at Emily Dickinson through a contemporary lens. Apple TV+

“The Long Song” A “Masterpiece” three-parter that looks straight at the violence, sadism, and moral depravity of British plantation owners in 1830s Jamaica. PBS, GBH 2

“All Creatures Great and Small” A sunny series that does a good job of taking you far away from the present tense. PBS, GBH 2


“The Sister” A four-part British thriller from “Luther” creator Neil Cross. Hulu

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