Week in watching: ‘Good Place’ ending in a good place, crime with a Boston accent, the games people play
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 June 10-16.
GOODBYE AND THANK YOU
This feels like a sweet moment, when one of the sharpest comedies on TV — certainly the best one on the networks — is bowing out by choice after four seasons.
Michael Schur has just announced that he’ll end NBC’s “The Good Place” after the next season. Rather than letting it run on and on, Schur is bucking the assumption that more is always good, that the goal of a sitcom is to live for eternity in cable syndication. He is respecting the creative DNA of his series, whose constant premise-shifting could become tiresome after too long.
Can you imagine 200 episodes of “The Good Place,” with its twisty ethics questioning and its formal reinventions? Sounds very chaotic, leading nowhere good in the long run except perhaps to repetition and tedium. As Schur pointed out last year in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, “The Good Place” is not a “hangout show” like “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory,” where viewers share the daily lives of their weekly pals. It’s a philosophical fantasia, one that needs to stay smart or die.
NBC will lose its top-performing sitcom in the 18-49 demographic, but that’s beside the point. The network will find other shows. Meanwhile, the TV industry will gain in creative integrity. The more that shows like “The Good Place,” along with “Catastrophe” and “Broad City,” opt out while they’re still fresh, the better. With all due respect to the long-lived “Modern Family” and “The Office,” or the sloppy revival of “Arrested Development,” we’re all better off being left wanting more.
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. Are you ready fah anotha show set in ahr fair city? Will you be watching fah actual Boston views? Are you prepared to tolerate yet anotha set of actors trying ahr world-famous accent, the one deemed the second sexiest accent in America? “City on a Hill” premieres on Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime, the channel that gives us the Boston squawking of “Ray Donovan.” The crime drama takes place in the early 1990s and stars Kevin Bacon, Cathy Moriarty, Jonathan Tucker, Aldis Hodge, Rory Culkin, and Kevin Chapman. Oh, and DUH: The list of executive producers includes Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
2. I’m inordinately excited about this documentary, which is directed by Martin Scorsese (perhaps you’ve heard of him). Called “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese,” it’s a film about the legendary 1975-76 Dylan tour featuring a ton of guests. Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, Allen Ginsberg, Sam Shepard, and Mick Ronson are just a few of the artists who put in time during the tour’s run. (Mitchell met Shepard on Rolling Thunder and wound up writing one of her best songs, “Coyote,” about him.) The film, which includes original concert footage and newer interviews, is available Wednesday on Netflix.
3. “Pose” is back for a second season, which is fantastic. The first season of the FX drama was a treat, a deep dive into the early years of AIDS and the 1980s Harlem ballroom scene, where LGBT people formed a ritualistic sense of belonging around the runways. The acting, largely by trans actresses, is stunning — with all the drama queenliness you might expect anchored by a wide range of emotional subtlety. Season two, which premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m., picks up as Madonna’s “Vogue” ushers ballroom culture into the mainstream.
4. A new HBO series is always worth a look-see, so I’m planning to look at and see “Euphoria,” an American adaptation of an Israeli series. From Sam Levinson, the show follows “a group of high school students as they navigate love and friendships in a world of drugs, sex, trauma, and social media,” according to the pay cabler. The ensemble cast includes Zendaya, Maude Apatow, and Eric Dane, and it premieres Sunday at 10 p.m.
5. Netflix brings us another starry comedy on Friday, called “Murder Mystery.” About a New York cop who gets involved in a homicide case while on vacation with his family, the film stars Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Gemma Arterton, Terence Stamp, and Luke Evans.
6. If you haven’t been watching HBO’s “Gentleman Jack,” about open lesbian Anne Lister in 19th-century England, you’ve been missing one of the best performances of the year. As Anne, Suranne Jones is a great force — funny, vibrant, brilliant, and at moments tragic. The show, which was just renewed for a second season, wraps up its first one on Monday at 10 p.m.
7. Some believe that George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series is an allegory for climate change. No guessing here, though: The HBO documentary “Ice on Fire” is about our escalating environmental crisis and some of the possible solutions. The film, airing Tuesday at 8 p.m., is produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.
8. Friday at 9 p.m., Showtime is airing the documentary “16 Shots,” about the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke and the coverup that ensued. Even as these stories have become too familiar, they remain shocking and upsetting. The film, directed by Rick Rowley, has a score of 76 on Metacritic.
9. Cinemax comes up with good dramas every now and then, notably “The Knick.” On Friday at 10 p.m., it’s bringing us “Jett,” a drama about a professional thief played by Carla Gugino who is newly out of prison. Also in the cast, Giancarlo Esposito and Gil Bellows.
10. Late-night campaigning continues this week with Beto O’Rourke on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on Wednesday, Senator Amy Klobuchar on “Late Night With Seth Meyers” on Thursday, and Congressman Tim Ryan on “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah,” also on Thursday.
A six-episode Spanish-language comedy about people who make horror movies, set in Mexico City and co-created by Fred Armisen. HBO, Friday at 11 p.m.
The show returns for its fourth season. OWN, Wednesday, 9 p.m.
Guess what’s getting a reboot? Nickelodeon, Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
Zach Galifianakas and Louie Anderson return for the fourth season. FX, Thursday, 10 p.m.
Unlikely friendships between high schoolers form in a Shoplifter’s Anonymous meeting. Netflix, Friday
“Marvel’s Jessica Jones”
The third and final season. Netflix, Friday
ARE YOU GAME?
It’s really complicated, playing games with other people. The players can be so competitive, and you can be so tired, and life can be a riddle that saps all of your cognitive skills. Summer TV is here for you, to give you games without requiring any effort. The schedules are lousy with competitions, particularly on ABC. Here are the ones that premiere or return this week.
“Awake: The Million Dollar Game”
Host: James Davis
Friday on Netflix
Sleepless for 24 hours, contestants in the comedy game show stumble through challenges for a chance at a $1 million prize.
“Press Your Luck”
Host: Elizabeth Banks
Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ABC
In this reboot of a 1980s game show, contestants play trivia for cash and prizes.
“The Match Game”
Host: Alec Baldwin
Wednesday at 10 p.m. on ABC
The popular game returns with guest panelists Jason Alexander, Gabriel Iglesias, Constance Zimmer, Michael Che, Bridget Everett, and Sheryl Underwood.
Host: Joel McHale
Wednesday at 9 p.m. on ABC
Players juggle questions with a card game in this reboot, hoping to win what ABC loves to call a “life-changing payday” in describing its game shows.
“Deal or No Deal: Million Dollar Ironman”
Host: Howie Mandel
Wednesday at 9 and 10 p.m. on CNBC
The show is back with more risk, reward, suitcases, and the Banker, but it’s now on CNBC instead of NBC.
REVIEWED AND RECOMMENDED
“Big Little Lies” is back on HBO for a second round of drama in Monterey, with Meryl Streep on board.
The affectionate San Francisco soap “Tales of the City” returns for another season, on Netflix, this time with a mix of old characters (Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis) and new (Ellen Page).
The Hulu adaptation of “Catch-22” balances the absurdities of war with the story of a very sane Captain Yossarian.