The week in watching: Rhoda and TV besties, couples on the couch, and Sacha Baron Cohen, seriously

Mary Tyler Moore (left) and Valerie Harper reprised one of television’s most iconic friendships in the 2000 made-for-TV movie “Mary and Rhoda.”
Mary Tyler Moore (left) and Valerie Harper reprised one of television’s most iconic friendships in the 2000 made-for-TV movie “Mary and Rhoda.”1999 ABC, INC.

Your TV GPS, Globe critic Matthew Gilbert’s guide to what’s on television, appears at the beginning of each week at BostonGlobe.com. Today’s column covers Sept. 2-8.


Rest in peace, Valerie Harper.

As Rhoda, you made the idea of best-friendship irresistible on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” with your tough love and boho headscarves. You were the East Coast to Mary’s Midwest, you were the blunt to Mary’s polite, you were the purple to Mary’s beige, you were the boutique to Mary’s department store.

You were the Jew to Mary’s gentile, to be frank about it, and an opportunity for the show, in an episode called “Some of My Best Friends Are Rhoda,” to take on anti-Semitism in 1972 when Mary’s new friend belongs to a country club that doesn’t allow Jews. Mary’s new friend quickly becomes her ex-friend.


TV comedy has always had a Jewish flavor, from the likes of Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, and “The Goldbergs” (TV’s first sitcom) to “Seinfeld” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Rhoda was an integral part of that history (fact for another time: Harper wasn’t Jewish, and neither was Nancy Walker, who played her mother).

For many of us, your Rhoda Morgenstern was a beacon of possibility, a reminder that we all have a perfect friend match out there somewhere, just waiting for us to move in downstairs. They might challenge us and push us, but solely out of loyalty, support, and caring. They might be our opposite on the surface, in terms of bearing and background, but nonetheless true blue.

You took the Ethel model and gave it a much needed updating and deepening. Scarves and shawls forever.

Sacha Baron Cohen in the Netflix miniseries "The Spy."
Sacha Baron Cohen in the Netflix miniseries "The Spy."Netflix


1. On some TV outlets, this would be something of a thing, but on Netflix it’s just another day. On Friday, the streaming service will release “The Spy,” a six-episode miniseries starring Sacha Baron Cohen and written and directed by Gideon Raff (creator of “Homeland”). Let’s see if it’s any good. The guerrilla comic stars as real-life Mossad spy Eli Cohen, who goes deep undercover in the 1960s as an elite in Syria — and gets a little stuck there. “Taking off the clothes doesn’t work any more,” Cohen’s Cohen (!) says about his fake identity in the trailer. “I can’t put him away.” The cast includes Noah Emmerich from “The Americans.”


2. This one’s gonna require a post-viewing “Silkwood” shower. On Monday, Hulu is releasing “Untouchable,” a documentary about Harvey Weinstein that chronicles his rise and fall — a too-familiar story at this point — but also features interviews with some of the women victimized by him. Directed by Ursula Macfarlane, the film had its premiere at Sundance.

3. He saw a comic opportunity and took it. When Conan O’Brien heard President Trump inquire about trying to buy Greenland, he decided to pay a visit to the Danish territory, greeting local fans at the airport with, “Hi, I’m here to buy your country.” The resulting hourlong special, “Conan Without Borders: Greenland,” airs on TBS on Tuesday at 10 p.m. According to O’Brien, when asked if they want Trump to buy their land, the answers ranged from “No” to “NO!!!”

4. Queen, Elton John, and now . . . Hulu is premiering a new series based on the origin story of the legendary hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan. Created and written by Wu-Tang’s own RZA, “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” is set in early 1990s New York. The cast includes Ashton Sanders as RZA, trying to bring his friends with him to the world of music, as well as Shameik Moore, Siddiq Saunderson, Marcus Callender, Zolee Griggs, and Erika Alexander. Three episodes will stream on Wednesday, with the remaining seven arriving weekly.


5. Amazon bought “Late Night” at the Sundance Film Festival, hoping for a big hit. After all, the film was written by Mindy Kaling and stars Kaling and Emma Thompson, along with Hugh Dancy and John Lithgow. But, even with some good reviews (it has a 71 on Metacritic), it didn’t take off at the box office. Amazon reportedly paid $13 million for it, and $33 million more on marketing, and it has pulled in only $15.5 million in the States and Canada. Do the math; it’s not great. On Friday, Amazon will make the movie available on its streaming service.

6. We’ve already had reality shows about having sex in a box on stage (“Sex Box”), suburban swinging (“Real Life Wife Swap”), and prostitution (“Gigolos”). So it should come as no surprise that Showtime is premiering a reality show about the weekly therapy sessions of relationships in trouble. Called “Couples Therapy,” and featuring “world-class therapist” Dr. Orna Guralnik, it premieres Friday at 10 p.m. P.S. It’s the team behind the documentary “Weiner.”


“Keeping Up With the Kardashians” returns for its 17th season.
“Keeping Up With the Kardashians” returns for its 17th season.Brian Bowen Smith/E!/E!


“Mayans M.C.”

The second-season premiere. FX, Tuesday, 10 p.m.

“Good Talk With Anthony Jeselnik”

An interview series with comedians, including David Spade, Kristen Schaal, Kumail Nanjiani, Nick Kroll, and Tig Notaro. Comedy Central, Friday, 11 p.m.

“Identity Theft of a Cheerleaders”

Two, two, two Lifetime tropes in one. Lifetime, Saturday, 8 p.m.

“Keeping Up With the Kardashians”

The 17th-season premiere. Nope, not a typo. E!, Sunday, 9 p.m.


In honor of Valerie Harper’s Rhoda, I’ve put together a list of some of TV’s best friends. I’ve tried to avoid shows on which the friends are both lead characters, such as “Grace and Frankie,” “Broad City,” “Laverne and Shirley,” or “Absolutely Fabulous.”

Ethel Mertz on “I Love Lucy”

She followed the younger Lucy down any crazy path because she loved the excitement.

Cristina Yang on “Grey’s Anatomy”

She was Meredith’s person across 10 seasons and 10 tons of major drama.

Willow on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

She and Buffy had each other’s back, weathering ups and downs — and demons — together.

Jane Lane on “Daria”

Even misanthropic loners like Daria deserve a bestie, in this case one who is cynical and artsy.

Molly Carter on “Insecure”

They call each other out on life’s hardest issues. Because love.

Barney Rubble on “The Flintstones”

It was bromance, Stone Age-style, between these two members of the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo.

Dr. Watson on “Sherlock”


He and Sherlock sure do lock horns, but there is deep admiration underneath it all.

Turk on “Scrubs”

He and J.D. weren’t afraid of their “guy love” for each other.

V on “Shameless”

She always had Fiona’s back, as Fiona’s life forever spiraled out of control.

B.J. Hunnicutt on “M*A*S*H”

Every prankster needs a foil , and Hawkeye was lucky to find a perfectly mellow one after Trapper John left.

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