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. 27-Oct. 3.
I know, this is a TV column. But “The Many Saints of Newark” is a TV-bred movie, a prequel to what I think is the best TV series ever made. The movie hits theaters and HBO Max on Friday, and I’m betting “Sopranos” obsessives already have it on their calendar.
In promoting the film on the podcast “WTF With Marc Maron,” show creator David Chase talks about how he always felt stuck in TV. His artistic goal was to make movies, but he got caught up writing for the likes of “The Rockford Files,” “Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” and “I’ll Fly Away.” But, as Maron points out, Chase wound up changing TV into a more movie-like art form.
“The Sopranos” was the series that triggered an industry-wide upgrade in the approaches to serial storytelling on TV. After “The Sopranos,” movie talent behind and in front of the cameras ran to cable, where there are no content restrictions or advertisers to please. There was no need to dumb down.
The movie, cowritten by Chase and Lawrence Konner and directed by Alan Taylor, is set in Newark in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Narrated by Michael Imperioli’s Christopher Moltisanti, it focuses on Christopher’s father, Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola). Ray Liotta is also in the cast, as Dickie’s father. Liotta, according to Chase on “WTF,” was the first choice to play Ralph Cifaretto — a role that Joe Pantoliano ultimately made very much his own.
Here are some familiar characters and the actors playing younger versions of them in the movie.
• Vera Farmiga plays Livia Soprano, originally played by Nancy Marchand.
• Corey Stoll plays Uncle Junior, originally played by Dominic Chianese.
• Michael Gandolfini plays Tony Soprano, originally played by his father, James Gandolfini.
• Billy Magnussen plays “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri, originally played by Tony Sirico.
• John Magaro portrays Silvio Dante, originally played by Steven Van Zandt.
• Samson Moeakiola plays Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, originally played by Vincent Pastore.
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. Based on Stephanie Land’s memoir, “Maid” is about a single mother (played by Margaret Qualley from “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) who leaves an abusive relationship and becomes a housekeeper to make ends meet. John Wells, of “Shameless” and “ER,” is among the producers of the 10-episode miniseries, which also features Andie MacDowell ( playing Qualley’s bipolar mother), Nick Robinson, and Anika Noni Rose.
2. Jon Stewart returns to TV this week with a current affairs show that looks more like John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” than his former vehicle, “The Daily Show.” Called “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” it will feature one central topic per episode. Unlike Oliver, though, each episode is an hour and Stewart will interview people involved with the issue at hand. It premieres Thursday on Apple TV+, and a new episode will be released every other Thursday. Also: There will be podcasts for each episode, to expand the conversation.
3. “Saturday Night Live” returns this week with a live audience of vaccinated people. Owen Wilson will host for the first time, with musical guest Kacey Musgraves. Perhaps cast member Melissa Villaseñor will present Wilson with her impersonation of him. By the way, Lorne Michaels & Co. still haven’t announced which cast members will and will not be returning.
4. Disaster-movie TV is here. In “La Brea,” a massive sinkhole opens up in Los Angeles, and hundreds of people fall through it into a primeval world that includes scary beasts. The pretty cast in this special-effects-a-thon includes Natalie Zea, Eoin Macken, Jon Seda, Nicholas Gonzalez, and Chiké Okonkwo. It premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC.
5. The PBS science series “Nova” takes on weed this week on Wednesday at 9 p.m. on GBH. The documentary “The Cannabis Question” will look into the plant’s effects on the body and brain, including its potential risks and medicinal benefits, as well as the demonization and criminalization that has disproportionately harmed communities of color.
6. There may be some local interest in the new HGTV series “Houses With History,” which premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. History buff Mike Lemieux, carpenter Rich Soares, and designer Jenn Macdonald uncover the backstories of old properties in Plymouth, and then work to save them from continuing to fall apart.
“Grey’s Anatomy” The 18th-season premiere is a crossover with “Station 19,” which follows it. ABC, Thursday, 9 p.m.
“Fiasco” A documentary series about the Iran-contra affair based on the podcast. Epix, Sunday, 10 p..m.
“Attack of the Hollywood Clichés” Rob Lowe hosts a clip show making fun of overused movie tropes. Netflix, Tuesday
“Unidentified With Demi Lovato” A four-part series about Lovato and friends searching for UFO truths. Peacock, Thursday
“Sex Education” The excellent third season brings more wisdom about teen self-awareness, honesty, and self-acceptance. Netflix
“The Big Leap” A dramedy about amateur dancers looking for a second chance in a reality dance show. Fox
“The Morning Show” Season two goes off the rails, entertainingly. Apple TV+
“The Premise” B.J. Novak’s anthology comedy-drama explores modern moral questions. FX on Hulu
“American Rust” Jeff Daniels and Maura Tierney star in an eight-part murder-mystery miniseries. Showtime
“Impeachment: American Crime Story” A 10-part miniseries about the scandal involving Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp, and Bill Clinton. FX
“Guilt” A PBS “Masterpiece” miniseries about the fallout from a hit-and-run accident. GBH 2
“Clickbait” An eight-episode thriller that twists itself into silliness. Netflix
“Only Murders in the Building” A warm comedy starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez as amateur sleuths in New York. Hulu
“The Other Two” The second season of the comedy about jealous siblings is even better than the first. HBO Max