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 May 22-28.
The 90-minute “Succession” finale, due Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO, is called “With Open Eyes.” As in all three previous season finales, the title is a phrase taken from poet John Berryman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Dream Songs,” specifically “Dream Song 29″ (see the poem here). A lot of different types of people love “Succession,” with its black humor and great acting, but it has always held a special appeal for word people, who find the dialogue and the literary allusions especially rich.
The previous finale titles from the poem have been, respectively, “Nobody Is Ever Missing,” “This Is Not for Tears,” and “All the Bells Say.” There are, of course, theories online about the connections between this dark poem and the show. The poem is about Henry, a depressed, self-loathing character, parts of whom reflect Berryman’s torment and guilt after his father shot himself when his son was 11. (Watch Berryman as he gives the poem a powerful reading in 1967.) Some link the Berryman poem specifically to Kendall and his struggles regarding his involvement in the first-season death of the waiter from Shiv’s wedding.
I buy into that theory, but I don’t think it’s the only reason for the references to the poem. After all, the Roy children all have daddy issues, like Berryman. “Dream Song 29″ also makes me think of Logan, whose adult life was shadowed by his sister, Rose, who died of polio when they were young. Logan blamed himself for her death, to the point where his semi-estranged brother, Ewan (James Cromwell), even made a point of repeatedly insisting that Logan was not responsible. In a way, Rose was Logan’s Rosebud.
Nope, it’s not easy saying goodbye to “Succession,” but still, I’m glad it’s ending. A tight four seasons is the perfect length for this story, and it would have been tragic to see the writers stretching it out for ratings, the Roys out-clevering one another for a few more years until we no longer care. Here’s HBO’s official plot description of the finale: “Ahead of the final board vote on the Waystar-GoJo deal, Kendall and Shiv try to shore up their opposing interests . . . and get a fix on the whereabouts of a physically and emotionally bruised Roman.”
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. The old blockbuster big shots — Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Al Pacino — have all come to TV. Now it’s actor-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s turn, with an eight-episode action spy series called “FUBAR.” He’s a CIA agent about to retire who, of course, has to do one big last job (here’s the trailer). In a twist, he and his daughter (Monica Barbaro) each discover that the other is also a CIA operative. Cast members include Jay Baruchel, Gabriel Luna, and Adam Pally. The Netflix show arrives Thursday. What does “FUBAR” stand for? Google is your friend.
2. Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen star in this story of a deep, and possibly upending, middle-aged friendship between a man and a woman. Called “Platonic,” the 10-episode comedy co-created and co-written by Nick Stoller (who directed Byrne and Rogen in the “Neighbors” movies) premieres Wednesday on Apple TV+. (Here’s the trailer.) The ensemble cast also includes Luke Macfarlane, Tre Hale, Carla Gallo, and Andrew Lopez.
3. The excellent British series “Happy Valley,” which premiered in 2014, is returning on Monday for its third and final season (trailer here). The six new episodes — which ran to rave reviews in the UK in January and February — will be available to stream on Acorn TV and AMC+, and they will run on BBC America Mondays at 10 p.m. The series is a must-see for those who like very dark crime stories, the kind the Brits do so well. From Sally Wainwright, the creator of “Unforgiven,” “Scott & Bailey,” “Last Tango in Halifax,” and “Gentleman Jack,” it’s about a detective caught up in a case involving the man who drove her daughter to suicide. The detective is played by the remarkable Sarah Lancashire (she’s Julia Child in “Julia”) and the baddie is played by the also remarkable James Norton (he was Sidney on “Grantchester”). By the way, here’s a handy recap of the first two seasons.
4. This spring marks the 20-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Tuesday at 10 p.m. on GBH 2, PBS’s “Frontline” is premiering a documentary about the Iraq war’s defining episodes — the battle to retake Fallujah from a violent insurgency. Called “Once Upon a Time in Iraq: Fallujah,” and directed by James Bluemel, it tells the story through the experiences of Marines, journalists, and Iraqis who were there.
5. Disney+ has a new action-comedy series called “American Born Chinese” that reunites some of the stars of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” including Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu. Premiering Wednesday, it’s an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name, about a high school student whose encounter with a new exchange student from Taiwan gets him caught in a war between gods of Chinese mythology. Here’s the trailer.
6. While it features weekly interviewees, the “Smartless” podcast with Sean Hayes, Jason Bateman, and Will Arnett also gives us a look at Hollywood friendships and how they work. On Tuesday, Max (formerly HBO Max) will go on the road with the trio as they take the podcast on tour (including a stop in Boston). Called “Smartless: On the Road,” and premiering Tuesday, the six-episode series (trailer here, in black and white) will go behind the scenes as they are joined by Conan O’Brien, Will Ferrell, Matt Damon, Jimmy Kimmel, Kevin Hart, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, David Letterman, and others.
7. She was a TV comedy great, transforming from the suburban stay-at-home mom on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” to a career woman on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the 1960s and ‘70s. And we saw, in “Ordinary People,” that her agility in comedy was matched by her dramatic chops. On Friday at 8 p.m., HBO is featuring a documentary called “Being Mary Tyler Moore” about her personal story, her extraordinary work, and her influence. The trailer made me miss her.
“The Clearing” An Australian psychological thriller about a cult. Hulu, Wednesday
“How to Create a Sex Scandal” A three-episode docu-series on a Texas pedophile case. Max, Tuesday
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” The series finale. Amazon, Friday
“The Great” A strong third season of the smart, irreverent, and bawdy period series. Hulu
“Class of ‘09″ An overly complex FBI thriller. Hulu
“Somebody Somewhere” Season two is a warm, low-key paean to friendship. HBO
“Tom Jones” A breezy Henry Fielding four-part adaptation on PBS’s “Masterpiece.” GBH 2
“The Other Two” Season three of this send-up of the entertainment biz shines. HBO Max
“Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” A prequel about the queen’s difficult marriage. Netflix
“Bupkis” Pete Davidson plays a version of himself in this semi-autobiographical comedy. Peacock
“The Diplomat” Keri Russell stars in this political drama set in London. Netflix
“Single Drunk Female” The sobriety comedy returns for season two. Freeform, Hulu
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.