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 Dec. 5-11.
It’s a lousy week if you’re looking for new TV shows — the holidays will do that — but it doesn’t matter like it might have mattered 20 years ago. There are too many good shows waiting for you on streaming, and a glance at critics’ top 10 lists (here’s mine) will probably give you some good ideas.
The streaming world continues to grow and change. The research firm Parks Associates released its annual ranking of streaming outlets in the United States, and there is a significant new development this year. Netflix, usually the No. 1 service, has moved to No. 2. Now, Amazon Prime is the reigning champ, at least in the States; Netflix continues to dominate globally (with more than 223 million subscribers).
1. Amazon Prime
5. HBO Max
8. Apple TV+
I don’t have a beef with Netflix, which just came out with an ad-supported tier of service that costs $6.99 per month. The company certainly has a lot of stuff, enough to keep you poking around for a show for hours. But I haven’t found Netflix’s original series very exciting for a while. I think viewers sometimes forget that Netflix isn’t a utility that merits automatic renewals. Like most streamers, it’s worth getting for a month or two before jumping to another service to watch their shows.
The holidays might be a good time for you to switch up a bit, let one service go and try another. I tend to find more compelling shows on Apple TV+ and HBO Max, but cycle through all of them over the course of a year.
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. One of my favorite scripted series from 2020 is returning for a second eight-episode season on Friday. Each half-hour episode of Apple TV+’s “Little America” gives us the tale of one immigrant and his or her experiences in America, in coming to America, or in adjusting to America. (Here’s the trailer.) It’s not a political series, by the way, even if the subject of immigration is politically charged; the goal is to make each ordinary immigrant character (based on a real person) fully human and to portray their experiences with intimacy. In some episodes, America is a savior, in others it is a tangle of red tape, and in others it is a new cultural universe to be learned and understood.
2. On Tuesday at 10 p.m., PBS’s “Frontline” series is airing two features. The first is “Crime Scene: Bucha,” a visual investigation of the atrocities committed in a Ukrainian town during Russia’s month-long occupation earlier this year. Using hours of CCTV footage, intercepted phone calls, and a 3D model of Bucha, it looks into the more than 450 deaths. The second short documentary is “After Zero Tolerance,” the story of a Honduran family’s struggle to reunite after being separated at the US-Mexico border three years earlier under the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
3. Reba McEntire — the Orange Wonder, the Sweet Potato Sovereign, the Tigress Lily — gets her due on Thursday at 10 p.m. ABC is premiering a tribute to the country music star, charting her career and her personal ups and downs. Called “Superstar: Reba McEntire,” it will feature interviews with Carrie Underwood, Wynonna Judd, Vince Gill, Lainey Wilson, Luke Combs, Miranda Lambert, Nick Jonas, Darius Rucker, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Dolly Parton, and Kristin Chenoweth. Guess what? They all like her a lot.
4. Matthew Heineman’s documentary “Retrograde” looks back at the final nine months of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan (trailer). It focuses on one of the last US special operations forces units deployed there, an Afghan general and his corps defending their homeland, and the civilians trying to flee as the Taliban take over. It’s on National Geographic on Thursday at 9 p.m.
“People’s Choice Awards” Kenan Thompson hosts. NBC, Tuesday, 9 p.m.
“His Dark Materials” The eight-episode third and final season. HBO, Monday, 9 p.m.
“The Sex Lives of College Girls” Season two coasts on the characters’ appeal. HBO Max
“Fleishman Is in Trouble” A strong adaptation by Taffy Brodesser-Akner of her novel. Hulu
“The Crown” A compelling new season with a new cast. Netflix
“The White Lotus” An entertaining new season of Mike White’s satire. HBO
“Magpie Murders” A clever whodunit inside a whodunit from PBS’s “Masterpiece,” starring Lesley Manville. GBH 2
“Interview With the Vampire” Anne Rice’s complex, sensual creatures survive the transition to TV. AMC, AMC+
“Reboot” An affectionate satire of Hollywood that’s also a workplace comedy. Hulu
“The U.S. and the Holocaust” A powerful three-part documentary from Ken Burns and his team. GBH 2