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 Nov. 29-Dec. 5.
After former “Bachelor” star Colton Underwood came out as gay in the spring, a petition appeared on Change.org to get Netflix to stop its planned reality series about it. The petition, which got more than 35,000 signatures, focused on Underwood’s stalking of his final “Bachelor” pick, Cassie Randolph, which led her to take out a restraining order.
“He placed a tracker on her car,” the petition reads, “sent her and her friends anonymous threatening texts, and was even seen standing outside her window extremely late in the night, resulting in her brother attempting to de-escalate the situation. Cassie is a victim of Colton’s abuse, and he does not deserve a platform in any way. Regardless of his sexuality, Colton should not be given a platform as a result of his abusive, manipulative, and dangerous behavior.”
Netflix did not listen, and its six-episode show, “Coming Out Colton,” premieres this week on Friday. Underwood dutifully apologized on “Good Morning America,” to Robin Roberts: “It’s hard for me to articulate exactly what my emotions were and going through that relationship with her was, because I obviously had an internal fight going on. I would just say that I’m sorry, from the bottom of my heart. I’m sorry for any pain and emotional stress I caused. . . . I wish that I would have been courageous enough to fix myself before I broke anybody else.”
Did the petition people really think Netflix would take their issues seriously? Do they believe that Netflix cares whether or not Underwood is using being closeted as some kind of an excuse for dangerous abuse?
Reality TV is not a space where morals and ethics matter. The value system for the genre has more to do with celebrating bad or inflammatory behavior and avoiding sanity and calm lest viewers get bored. It’s about creating a narrative to engage viewers, whether or not that narrative is based in, yes, reality. Netflix is too busy turning the awful Joe Exotic into a celebrity and Carole Baskin into a murderer on “Tiger King” to care.
I’m fully expecting “Coming Out Colton” to frame the one-time poster boy for heterosexuality — who was forced out of the closet because he was being blackmailed — as some kind of hero.
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. The holiday TV movies are marching toward us, on Netflix, Hallmark, and Lifetime. Here’s a parody of them, due Saturday at 7 p.m. on Comedy Central. In “A Clüsterfünke Christmas,” a real estate exec from New York City buys the small-town Clüsterfünke Inn to turn it into a resort. First, she must convince the inn’s spinster owners — played by co-writers Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch — to sell.
2. Here’s another alternative holiday movie: “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas,” due Thursday at 8 p.m. on VH1, features 20 “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestants, along with Charo, Carson Kressley, Ross Mathews, and others. The plot description says that “a workaholic big-city fashion journalist is sent to a Christmas-obsessed small town to dig up a story when she finds herself in the middle of cut-throat housewives, a high-stakes ‘Winter Ball’ competition, and a sinister plot that could destroy Christmas fore-evah!” — but really, the plot is probably not the reason to watch this drag spectacular.
3. The enduring friendship of four women of color in their 30s, that’s the concept behind “Harlem,” a new 10-episode series that premieres Friday on Amazon. Created, written, and executive produced by Tracy Oliver of “Girl’s Trip,” it stars Meagan Good, Grace Byers, Shoniqua Shandai, and Jerrie Johnson as the friends, along with guest stars including Whoopi Goldberg, Jasmine Guy, and Andrea Martin.
4. The voice cast of this adult animated series includes Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, Craig Robinson, Nicholas Braun, Gabourey Sidibe, and Maria Bamford. Oh, you need more? It’s called “Santa Inc.,” and it’s about the highest-ranking elf in the North Pole, Silverman’s Candy Smalls, whose ultimate dream is to be the first woman Santa Claus. The eight-episode comedy premieres Thursday on HBO Max.
5. This new competition series, premiering Thursday on Paramount+, gathers together 14 drag queens from around the world, as they vie to be named “Queen of the Universe” and win a cash prize of $250,000. In each episode, a queen will debut a new musical performance in front of a live audience and the judges panel, which will include Vanessa Williams, Michelle Visage, Trixie Mattel, and Leona Lewis. The host? The one and only Graham Norton.
“Annie Live!” Starring Taraji P. Henson, Harry Connick Jr., Tituss Burgess, Megan Hilty, Nicole Scherzinger, and 12-year-old newcomer Celina Smith. NBC, Thursday, 8 p.m.
“The 89th Annual Christmas in Rockefeller Center” This year’s performers include Carrie Underwood and Norah Jones. NBC, Wednesday, 8 p.m.
“That’s My Jam” Celebs compete in music-related challenges on this new game show hosted by Jimmy Fallon. NBC, Monday, 9 p.m.
“Candified: Home for the Holidays” Candy artists manipulate, cut, glue, melt, and shape pieces of candy to build a fully furnished, life-size holiday house. Hulu, Wednesday
“The Great” The second season of this historical comedy is as wonderfully satirical and witty as the first. Hulu
“The Shrink Next Door” Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell star as an exploitative therapist and his dupe of a client. Apple TV+
“Dickinson” The third and final season of this innovative series is pitch perfect. Apple TV+
“Dexter: New Blood” The revival does not return the show to its early prestige. Showtime
“Love Life” William Jackson Harper shines as the lead in the anthology rom-com’s second season. HBO Max
“Succession” The satirical drama about the rich and powerful returns for season three. HBO
“Insecure” A strong start to the final season. HBO
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” Larry David’s comedy still has its moments. HBO
“Maid” Margaret Qualley stars as a financially struggling single mother. Netflix
“Sex Education” The excellent third season brings more wisdom about teen self-awareness, honesty, and self-acceptance. Netflix