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. 16-22.
John Landgraf, the head guy at FX, came up with the phrase “Peak TV” in 2015. Back then, he did a count and said the total for 2014 was a then-whopping 371 original scripted English-language series on TV. “There is simply too much television,” Landgraf observed. “My sense is that 2016 or 2017 will represent peak TV in America, and then we will see a decline,” Landgraf said.
LOL, as they say. So innocent. Every year, Landgraf does a count and announces it at the TV Critics Association gatherings, and, to his bemusement, the total has just kept on rising. The number of streaming outlets has continued to grow, contributing heavily to the glut; in 2021 there were 559 shows. For comparison: In 2002, before streaming, there were a quaint 182 scripted series on TV (135 on broadcast and 47 on pay and basic cable).
Now Landgraf is saying that last year, with 599 original series, will likely be the peak of Peak TV. “We see a strong indication that we’ll see decline in 2023,” he said last week, while admitting that it’s hard to predict. “That is still my bet, while noting with humility that I’ve been wrong on this prediction twice before.”
I’m hoping he’s right this time. There is so much new TV, much of it mediocre, and good shows are getting lost in the shuffle. TV viewers are overwhelmed by options. And remember: These total-show numbers do not include the many reality and game shows released every year.
Here, thanks to the Hollywood Reporter, are Landgraf’s annual tallies since 2009. The dip in 2020 was due to the pandemic.
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. Hello Wisconsin! “That ’90s Show,” which premieres Thursday on Netflix, is a sequel series to “That ‘70s Show,” the Fox hit that ran for eight seasons. It revolves around Leia, the teen daughter of Eric and Donna from the original series, as she spends the summer of 1995 with her grandparents, Kitty and Red Forman (returning cast members Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith). She hangs out in the basement with her friends, who include the son of Kelso and Jackie. Yup, the smoking circle returns, too; check out the trailer. Look for guest visits from “That ‘70s Show” cast members Topher Grace, Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Laura Prepon, and Wilmer Valderrama.
2. Based on a British series, Fox’s “Accused” will give us a different crime story and a new cast every week. Each episode opens with a defendant entering a courtroom, then flashes back to reveal how he or she got there. From the folks behind “24″ and “Homeland,” it will feature a long list of actors across the season, including Margo Martindale, Wendell Pierce, Rachel Bilson, Michael Chiklis, Abigail Breslin, Rhea Perlman, Jack Davenport, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, and Whitney Cummings. “Accused” — here’s the trailer — premieres Sunday at 9 p.m.
3. Tuesday at 9 p.m. on GBH 2, PBS’s “American Experience” is premiering a new biographical documentary on the groundbreaking author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. Directed by Tracy Heather Strain, the two-hour “Zora Neale Hurston: Claiming a Space” chronicles Hurston’s work as a writer in the Harlem Renaissance (“Their Eyes Were Watching God”) and as a cultural researcher in the South and the Caribbean. Here’s the trailer.
4. I think we can all agree that since “Night Court” left the air in 1992, life has been missing something. Well it’s time to rejoice, Night Courties, because NBC is bringing the sitcom back on Tuesday at 8 p.m. And John Larroquette (with a super-beard in the trailer) will reprise his role of prosecutor Dan Fielding, for which he won four Emmys. This time around, Melissa Rauch (Bernadette on “The Big Bang Theory”) will co-star as Judge Abby Stone, a new character who is the daughter of the original show’s judge (the late Harry Anderson).
“Web of Death” A six-episode docuseries about amateur sleuths using the Internet to solve crimes. Hulu, Thursday
“Fauda” The tense Israeli series returns for season four. Netflix, Friday
“Miracle Workers: End Times” Simon Rich’s anthology series returns, with Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi. TBS, Monday, 10 p.m.
“The Last of Us” An extraordinary end-of-the-world drama. HBO
“Will Trent” Another idiosyncratic detective solves crimes on this network procedural. ABC
“Mayfair Witches” A mediocre Anne Rice adaptation. AMC
“The Capture” Season two of the crime thriller about deep-fakery is worthwhile. Peacock
“Paul T. Goldman” A fascinating and sly series about the making of a true-crime series. Peacock
“Emily in Paris” The prettiest hate-watch on TV. Netflix
“Slow Horses” The second season is driven by Gary Oldman’s masterful performance. Apple TV+
“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