The week in TV: Pondering a Top 10, Chrismukkah season, and farewells to Bush

Does "Homecoming," with Julia Roberts, hold up as one of the year’s best?
Does "Homecoming," with Julia Roberts, hold up as one of the year’s best?(Amazon Studios)

Your TV GPS, Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert’s look at the week ahead in television, appears every Monday morning on


Top 10 season is upon us. List-o-mania strikes every year at this time, as all the critics at every newspaper, magazine, and website deliver their best-ofs.

It’s easy to dismiss Top 10s as filler, as a holiday time-kill for the media until the new year arrives with its barrage of fresh TV shows, albums, movies, and books. And, you know, that’s probably true to some extent; I’ll ask my editor.

But the endless Top 10s do have their value (I say this as a writer who loves sharing his annual list). Part of the value is for the critic, obviously; I get to catalog a year of work and reassess. I get to review my reviews and check myself, to see if I was rash or hyperbolic. At the end of the year, do I still think FX’s “Pose” is a superior drama, or has it faded from my senses? Was I out of my mind when I thought that “Homecoming” evoked “The Manchurian Candidate”?

For readers, though, the Top 10 lists offer opportunities. I get so many of my best suggestions — of what to watch, or listen to — in the final weeks of December, browsing the critics’ favorites and sampling. Music and the book Top 10s are both of special interest to me, since I find the number of annual releases overwhelming and appreciate having someone curate them for me.


These lists are particularly valuable nowadays, as more content than ever rains down on our poor little heads. In the old days, lists often had the same titles on them, but these days they tend to include oft-overlooked niche favorites. They’re gems someone else dug up.



A statue of George H.W. Bush at the presidential library in College Station, Texas, where the week’s tributes to the late president will conclude on Thursday.
A statue of George H.W. Bush at the presidential library in College Station, Texas, where the week’s tributes to the late president will conclude on Thursday.(SUZANNE CORDEIRO)

1. Services for former president George H.W. Bush will stretch across the week, and you can be sure cable news is going to cover them. Wouldn’t be prudent not to .

On Monday: At 4:45 p.m. at the Capitol, there’ll be an arrival ceremony with the House and Senate. Bush will lie in state in the Rotunda, for the public, until Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday: Family and friends will gather at the National Cathedral for an 11 a.m. memorial. Bush will then be moved to a Houston church.

On Thursday: There will be a second memorial service at 11 a.m. in Houston, then Bush will be taken by motorcade to his presidential library in College Station, Texas, where there will be another ceremony at 4:45 p.m. followed by the interment at 5:15 p.m.

2. Jason Momoa idrik “Satur-asshekh Addo Ajjalani Thir,” ma Mumford & Rizhs.

2a. [Translation from Dothraki] Jason Momoa is hosting “Saturday Night Live,” with Mumford & Sons.

2b. Note: You’re gonna have to wait yet another week to see Matt Damon take the “SNL” helm. Alas, Kavanaugh is no longer funny.

3. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” returns for a second season Wednesday on Amazon after winning a mess o’ Emmys. It’s the closest thing to a Broadway musical without music, and it’s not for those of edgier tastes. Midge is a total Midge.

4. The circumstances of Sandra Bland’s death by hanging in a Texas holding cell remain inconclusive. She was a black woman pulled over for a traffic violation, and three days later she was dead. Filmmakers Kate Davis and David Heilbroner profile the case and Bland herself, Monday at 10 p.m. on HBO, in the critically praised “Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland.”


Eric Bana as John Meehan and Connie Britton as Debra Newell in Bravo’s hit series "Dirty John."
Eric Bana as John Meehan and Connie Britton as Debra Newell in Bravo’s hit series "Dirty John." (Jordin Althaus)

5. In my review of “Dirty John,” Bravo’s adaptation of the true-story podcast with Connie Britton as a wealthy woman and Eric Bana as the guy who cons her, I said it was little more than a fancy Lifetime movie without insight into motivation. I DID NOT SAY, however, that I wouldn’t be watching the weekly series loyally, savoring each vile deception, on Sunday nights. BTW, 3.8 million total viewers saw the first episode across all platforms and airings, making it Bravo’s highest-rated scripted premiere in years.

6. I’m almost done watching AMC’s “The Little Drummer Girl,” the John le Carre adaptation, on demand. And I’m both dazzled and a little confused by it. The six-parter is arrestingly stylized by director Chan-wook Park, and as the actress going undercover with terrorists in the 1970s, Florence Pugh — recently seen filming “Little Women” in Boston — is a star in the making. But the narrative is muddled, Alexander Skarsgard is miscast, and the motivations are hard to parse.

7. If you missed Michael Douglas during his visit to Boston last week to accept awards from Boston University and the Coolidge Corner Theatre, you can catch him Monday on NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers.” In Boston, talking about “The Kominsky Method,” his new “Grace and Frankie”-like Netflix series with Alan Arkin, he said he and Arkin weren’t friends before working on the show. Based on their warm, lived-in performances, that’s a “wow.’


8. “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Holi-slay Spectacular” is a one-off VH1 special, Friday at 8 p.m., posing eight “Drag Race” favorites against one another in holiday-themed challenges. Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, Ross Mathews, and Todrick Hall will join Ru on the judges’ panel.

9. Speaking of drag queens: Dolly Parton! We can never, ever get enough of the most glamorous of down-home ladies. She’s on three talk shows this week, to promote her music for Netflix’s coming-of-age movie “Dumplin’,” which drops on Friday. She’s on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Late Late Show With James Corden” on Thursday and on “The Talk” on Friday.

“The Good Place,” with Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, airs its fall finale Thursday on NBC.
“The Good Place,” with Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, airs its fall finale Thursday on NBC.(Justin Lubin/NBC)


“The Good Place,” “Will & Grace”

It’s fall finale time for two of the better network comedies. NBC, Thursday, 8:30 and 9 p.m.

“The American Meme”

A documentary that follows four social media influencers, including Paris Hilton, as they build empires out of their online footprints. Netflix, Friday

“Dogs of Berlin”

A German series about two cops investigating the murder of a famous Turkish-German soccer player. Netflix, Friday


A timely scripted movie about a Honduran boy forced to flee his home and seek asylum in the United States, only to find himself trapped in the U.S. immigration system. HBO, Friday, 8 p.m.



“The O.C.“

It’s December, and all the classic holiday specials are upon us, but I’ve been thinking about “The O.C.” episodes about Chrismukkah, the intermarriage of two December holidays that was pioneered by the character Seth Cohen. The son of a Jewish father and a mother he called “Waspy McWasp,” Seth liked the way the hybrid celebration normalized the many Jewish-Christian families dealing with an annual tug-of-war. In his sweet way, he wanted to draw on the best of both sides — eight days of gifts follow by one day of many gifts, plus Chinese takeout on Christmas Day. On the air from 2003-07, “The O.C.” aired four Chrismukkah episodes during its run, provoking objections that the invented holiday made Hanukkah a little less Jewish and Christmas a little less Christian. But the episodes also offered a pop culture salve to families caught between in-laws and rituals. “The O.C.” is available on Hulu, iTunes, and Amazon Prime.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.