The week in watching: Ray Romano’s serious acting chops, Oscar curiosity, MTV’s repulsive reality show
Your TV GPS, Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert’s look at the week ahead in television, appears every Monday morning on BostonGlobe.com.
It’s a treat for audiences, and most likely for actors too, when an actor known for comedy gets to show off his or her dramatic chops.
The most famous example may be Bryan Cranston. He was Hal from “Malcolm in the Middle” for seven seasons (and three Emmy nominations) before blowing minds as the disturbing Walter White on “Breaking Bad.”
Bill Murray (“Lost in Translation”), Maya Rudolph (“Away We Go”), Jerry Lewis (“The King of Comedy”), Jim Carrey (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Kristen Wiig (“The Skeleton Twins”), Sarah Silverman (“I Smile Back”) — the list goes on. One of my little causes in life is to remind people that Ben Stiller is also a powerful dramatic actor as well as a comic, as he has shown in a number of films including one of my favorites, “Greenberg.”
But this week I’m thinking about Ray Romano, whose power as a dramatic actor came as a big surprise to me after nine seasons watching his hangdog humor on the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
His first regular series role after “Raymond” was “Men of a Certain Age,” a truly fine drama that TNT failed to handle properly. It lasted only two seasons but that gave Romano (along with Andre Braugher, Scott Bakula, LisaGay Hamilton, Richard Gant, and others) enough time to shine.
He played a failed professional golfer newly separated from his wife and dealing with a dark rage struggling to break through his nice-guy exterior. Since the show went off the air in 2011, he has played a number of other dramatic roles, including a strong supporting gig on the disappointing “Vinyl.”
This week, Romano clocks more drama time with a new Netflix release called “Paddleton.” The movie, which premiered at Sundance earlier this month, is about friendship, specifically the friendship between two neighbors when one of them is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Mark Duplass stars opposite Romano, and he also co-wrote the film with director Alex Lehmann.
Due Friday, the film currently has a score of 80 on Metacritic.
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. With all the groaning about a host-less Oscars, a proposed “Best Popular Film” award, threats to include only two song performances, and fewer on-air presentations, I am quite curious to see how it works out. Maybe this year’s Academy Awards ceremony will be better than the hosted ones; awards-show hosts so often tank. The peak movie prizes of the year air Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC, with plenty of red carpet bother and blather on E! (at 5 p.m.) and ABC (at 6:30 p.m.).
2. It’s streaming on Hulu, but here’s a chance for non-subscribers to watch the Oscar-nominated documentary “Minding the Gap.” Directed by Bing Liu, who collected 12 years of footage, the film has its national broadcast debut Monday on the PBS documentary series “POV” on WGBH-2 at 9 p.m. It’s about three inner-city skateboarders and their painful life challenges.
3. Particularly at this moment in time, with viral rumors and non-apology apologies, being a celebrity public relations agent sounds like a nightmare. Let’s see how “Flack” plays it. Anna Paquin stars in the new six-episode Pop series, which premieres Thursday at 10, as an American PR agent in London who knows how to fix other’s problems but not her own. The cast looks good: Bradley Whitford, Marc Warren, Rufus Jones, and Sophie Okonedo.
4. Energetic TV talk hosts Desus Nice and The Kid Mero from the Bronx have gone from a podcast, to a Viceland program, to – beginning on Thursday at 11 p.m. – a Showtime series. Their first guest? US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In a Twitter video, AOC goofed on the ever-growing group of Democratic presidential candidates: “Today, I am proud to announce that I am forming an exploratory committee – to be the first guest on ‘Desus & Mero.’”
5. If you have awards-show stamina, you may be able to tolerate two in a row. As usual, the “Film Independent Spirit Awards” are the day before the Oscars, and you can watch them Saturday at 5 p.m. on IFC. They do have a host: Aubrey Plaza.
6. If you love documentaries, as we live through a heyday of the form, you have no excuse for avoiding “Documentary Now!” And even if you hate nonfiction, you should be watching this very funny parody series. Created by Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, and Rhys Thomas, the IFC show recreates — and spoofs — the likes of “The Thin Blue Line” and “Grey Gardens” to, this season, “Let’s Get Lost” and the Netflix series “Wild Wild Country.” It returns for its third season on Wednesday at 11 p.m., and the upcoming guest stars include Cate Blanchett, Natasha Lyonne, Michael Keaton, Owen Wilson, and Taran Killam.
“The Big Bang Theory”
It’s a cameo-palooza, with Wil Wheaton, William Shatner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, director Kevin Smith, and Joe Manganiello playing themselves. CBS, Thursday, 8 p.m.
It’s the 38th season, which is exhausting to think about. CBS, Wednesday, 8 p.m.
Jeffrey Wright plays a convict nearing the end of his quarter-century prison sentence. HBO, Saturday, 10 p.m.
AND THE AWARD FOR MOST REPULSIVE NEW REALITY SHOW GOES TO . . .
I try to focus on the good stuff in this column, I really really do. But I can’t resist the chance to be totally and openly repulsed by MTV’s new dating show “Game of Clones.” I haven’t seen it yet, but just the idea of it makes me cringe.
The show, which premieres on MTV on Thursday at 9 p.m., may be trying to steal the crown from what has been the reigning king of ugly reality TV for 14 years now: MTV’s “I Want a Famous Face,” that 2004 treat that found vulnerable, troubled, self-loathing people getting cosmetic surgery to look like their favorite celebrities.
“I Want a Famous Face” took fame-a-holism to a whole new level of pathology, as it celebrated people trying to erase their individuality in order to look like Pam Anderson or Jennifer Lopez.
On “Game of Clones, MTV’s reality stars — think Pauly D from “Jersey Shore” — get to date seven clones of their celebrity crush. So, since Pauly D has a crush on Megan Fox, seven women who are done up to look just like Fox show up for a date. He will have to choose from among them, supposedly learning a lesson about something or other in the process. Cara Maria, apparently familiar to MTV viewers from her appearances on “The Challenge,” is obsessed with Khal Drogo (played by Jason Momoa) from “Game of Thrones,” so she will take on seven of them.
There’s no surgery involved, as far as I can tell based on the preview, but the level of celebrity worship is twisted. The better show that I’d watch: Megan Fox and Jason Momoa getting grossed out while watching “Game of Clones.”
REVIEWED AND RECOMMENDED
“The Umbrella Academy”
The beautifully shot Netflix series about a dysfunctional family of superheroes has a lot of character drama amid the action.
Natasha Lyonne kills it — and gets killed over and over again — in this “Groundhog Day”-like Netflix treat.