This week’s TV: An ‘SNL’ misfire, a passel of premieres, fun facts about ‘The Crown’

Ben Platt stars in “The Politician,” Ryan Murphy’s first series for Netflix.
Ben Platt stars in “The Politician,” Ryan Murphy’s first series for Netflix.Netflix

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. 23-29.


“Saturday Night Live” returns this week after a burst of publicity over the hiring — and then the firing — of Shane Gillis for his history of racial slurs and derogatory comments.

Some have argued that Gillis’s jokes about Asians, gays, and Muslims are about racism and homophobia and, as Gillis wrote in his own defense, about a comic who “pushes boundaries.” Others, including me, think that his jokes are simply racist and homophobic. “It’s not risky to be racist,” author Roxane Gay tweeted. “It’s boring.”


Some have argued that “cancel culture” is turning us into knee-jerk jerks; others, including me, think that racism never deserves a bigger platform, just consequences.

Gillis was reportedly hired by Lorne Michaels to appeal to conservative viewers, to counterbalance all those mean liberal sketches, that nasty woman impersonating Jeff Sessions and Rudy Guiliani, and Angry Alec, who turns the president into a grotesquery. Having candidate Donald Trump host the show in 2015, apparently, has not affected its reputation.

In the process of hiring and firing Gillis, Michaels made “SNL” look stupid for its indecision and apparent lack of vetting and, ultimately, he gave the comic a career bump that is potentially bigger than if he’d actually been on the show.

So bravo.

This week’s host will be Woody Harrelson, with Billie Eilish as the musical guest. I’m assuming there will be a sketch about the brouhaha-hahahaha. Upcoming hosts include Eddie Murphy, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, David Harbour, and Kristen Stewart.


1. It’s premiere week, which means it will be dense with new and returning network shows. In my fall preview, I’ve covered most of them, as well as those set to arrive in the coming weeks; you can find it here.


Amy Landecker (left), Gaby Hoffmann, and Jay Duplass as the Pfefferman siblings in “Transparent: Musical Finale.”
Amy Landecker (left), Gaby Hoffmann, and Jay Duplass as the Pfefferman siblings in “Transparent: Musical Finale.”Amazon Studios

2. The Jeffrey Tambor sexual misconduct mess and his resulting firing left the excellent “Transparent” in a tricky spot. As Maura Pfefferman, he was the show’s lead and the catalyst for much of Maura’s children’s drama. The way out? “Transparent: Musicale Finale,” a series wrap-up movie featuring song and dance. It will be available on Amazon on Friday.

3. A rich California high schooler named Peyton Hobart (Ben Platt) is all about being the next high school president, mostly so he can get into Harvard and then become the next US president. Hey, crazier things have happened, amirite? “The Politician,” Ryan Murphy’s first Netflix series under his megadeal, will follow Peyton’s career with one campaign featured in each season. The humor is satirical, as it tears apart the very timely issue of campaign ethics, and the cast is colorful, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Lange, Dylan McDermott, Bette Midler, January Jones, Bob Balaban, and Lucy Boynton. Season one arrives Friday.

4. Buzz Bissinger is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose work has led to one top-notch TV series (“Friday Night Lights”) and one excellent movie (“Shattered Glass”). In 2015, he wrote the Vanity Fair story in which Caitlyn Jenner first talked about being trans, and in the process of writing it and helping her with her memoir, he learned a few things about himself. In the documentary “Buzz,” on HBO on Wednesday at 9 p.m., Bissinger talks about his own sexual awakening and gender questioning. I’ve found only one review of “Buzz,” in the L.A. Times, and it’s not positive. The movie “fumbles the identity politics ball” and “Bissinger’s professed internal struggles play less like ‘Who am I?’ and more like ‘Hey, look over here!’ ” So proceed at your own risk.


5. When I’m not hating NBC’s “This Is Us,” I’m loving it, especially the fractured storytelling approach. I’ll be there for them when the fourth season arrives on Tuesday at 9 p.m. At the end of season three, we got a flash-forward set at a house belonging to Kevin and his son. Toby wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, and Rebecca was bedridden, with Uncle Nicky by her side. A few new faces will be in season four, including Omar Epps, Jennifer Morrison, M. Night Shyamalan (yup), and Tim Matheson.

6. “Bluff City Law” premieres on NBC Monday at 10 p.m. It’s a legal drama set in Memphis, with do-good father (Jimmy Smits) and brilliant daughter (Caitlin McGee) practicing together. Here’s the thing: McGee, who is excellent in the pilot, is one of our own. She grew up in Newton and acted at Newton North High School’s Theatre Ink.

7. Fork yeah! I am a big fan of NBC’s “The Good Place,” which arrives for its fourth and final season on Thursday at 9 p.m. The fact that the show is ending — by choice — after this round of episodes is just more goodness from show creator Michael Schur, whose resume includes “Saturday Night Live,” “The Comeback,” “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Master of None,” and one of the best episodes of “Black Mirror,” called “Nosedive.”


Sara Gilbert and John Goodman return for season two of "The Conners."
Sara Gilbert and John Goodman return for season two of "The Conners." Eric McCandless/ABC


“All Rise”

A network courtroom drama has judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers dealing with a flawed system. CBS, Monday, 9 p.m.

“Prodigal Son”

A criminal psychologist helps the NYPD with advice from his jailed serial-killer dad, played by Michael Sheen. Fox, Monday, 9 p.m.

“The Conners”

Roseanne who? The family returns for a second season sans matriarch. ABC, Tuesday, 8 p.m.


The second sequel of Kenya Barris’s “black-ish” tells the backstory of Tracee Ellis Ross’s character in a mixed-race family. ABC, Tuesday, 9 p.m.


The 39th season premieres, featuring Boston Rob as a mentor. CBS, Wednesday, 8 p.m.

“A Million Little Things”

There’ll be a birth and a death in the second season of the Boston-set ensemble drama. ABC, Thursday, 9 p.m.

“In the Shadow of the Moon”

A movie featuring a female serial killer and Michael C. Hall. Netflix, Friday


It’s the fifth and final season of the pretty “Masterpiece” drama. WGBH-2, Sunday, 9 p.m.

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth in the third season of “The Crown,” premiering Nov. 17.
Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth in the third season of “The Crown,” premiering Nov. 17. Netflix


“The Crown” was not in the mix at the Emmy Awards because it has been 20 months since season two became available on Netflix. As tons of shows come back this fall, I find myself most eager for the return of the Queen Elizabeth drama. Why? I think Olivia Colman is going to be great. From the start, creator Peter Morgan has said that the cast would change as the characters aged — it will change twice, in fact, first with season three, and again with season five.


1. Season three, covering 1964-76, will be available on Nov. 17.

2. Joining Colman: Tobias Menzies from “Rome” and “Outlander” as Prince Philip, Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, Ben Daniels as Lord Snowdon, and Jason Watkins as Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

3. Gillian Anderson will play Margaret Thatcher, but she won’t appear until season four. Likewise Emma Corrin as Princess Diana.

4. Camilla Parker Bowles, played by Emerald Fennell (“Call the Midwife”), and her early romance with Prince Charles will be featured in season three.

5. Seasons three and four of “The Crown” are being filmed back-to-back, so we may not need to wait almost two years for season four.

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