This week in TV: ‘Stranger Things’ is back, channel surfing lives, and TV goes to the movies
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 July 1-7.
I’m all for being mindful about what you watch. Now that we can summon up almost any show we want, and now that there are so many good series to find, there’s really no good reason to surf aimlessly.
And yet there are times when sitting back and watching what’s being served up suits me just fine. Just picking through what the network programmers throw at the wall. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always valued “The Twilight Zone” marathons. Yup, now that the jumbled two-parter called “The First Debate” is over, naturally it’s time for “The Twilight Zone.”
Used to be, the July Fourth holiday meant that Syfy would put on its regular “Twilight Zone” marathon, making me and all the other “Zone” lovers — Zonuts? Zoniacs? — very, very happy. The episodes would unroll randomly, surprising us with their order, putting unlikely episodes side-by-side.
But Syfy has abandoned us, and the Decades channel, which now runs a Fourth of July “TZ” marathon, is not available in this area. So we are forced to do our own curating. The entire series is available on Netflix; all we need to do is queue ‘em up and let ‘em roll. It’s that easy. Rod Serling on demand.
And yet I know I’ll never do that. It’s a different kind of experience. Sometimes, the randomness of the TV schedule throws something unexpected your way. A movie you forgot you adored. A concert by some musician you love. Or maybe an episode of the “Twilight Zone” that touches you at that particular moment.
Serendipity is dead, long live serendipity.
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. Netflix’s “Stranger Things” is back for a third season on Thursday, hoping to become the summer’s TV big buzz feed. I was a bit of a fan, but by the end of the second season I was pretty much done with it — especially with the somewhat nonsensical paranormal stuff. Still, I get it — the 1980s setting and the friendships among the kids are appealing. According to some of the show’s actors, this season is going to be darker, even though “Stranger Things” has been consistently dark since the premiere in 2016.
2. Queen Latifah is headlining this year’s Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, along with Arlo Guthrie, local “America’s Got Talent” semi-finalist Amanda Mena, and vocal trio the Texas Tenors. As usual, the 20-minute fireworks display, accompanied by the Pops, will close the show. You can watch it Thursday on WHDH-TV (Channel 7) and Bloomberg TV beginning at 8 p.m., and it can also be streamed on www.Bloomberg.com.
3. OK, yeah, there are other fireworks shows outside of Boston. Whatever. “Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Special” in New York is on NBC Thursday at 8 p.m., with Luke Bryan, Ciara, Jennifer Hudson, and Brad Paisley. And PBS’s “A Capitol Fourth” in D.C. is on WGBH-2 at 8 p.m. with Carole King, Vanessa Williams, Colbie Caillat, and Vanessa Carlton.
4. Mike Leigh is one of my favorite filmmakers. “High Hopes,” “Life Is Sweet,” “Naked,” and “Topsy-Turvy” are a few of the greats. His “Peterloo” is a historical drama that was in theaters in the U.K. late last year, and on Wednesday it will come to us via Amazon. It’s based on the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, when British troops attacked and killed 15 people at a peaceful gathering to reform voting laws. Leigh is not one to go after big names, but a few of the cast members might be familiar — Rory Kinnear, David Bamber, and Maxine Peake.
5. Netflix’s “The Last Czars” is a six-part miniseries about the history of the Romanov family’s reign and downfall, ending with their murders in 1918. Here’s the twist: It’s a blend of scripted drama and documentary, so that the fictionalized scenes (which make up 80 percent of the movie) are elaborated on by famous historians. The cast includes Susanna Herbert, Robert Jack, and Ben Cartwright, who plays Rasputin. It streams Wednesday.
6. I hope my mixed review of “The Loudest Voice” didn’t steer you completely away from the Showtime miniseries featuring Russell Crowe as Fox News founder Roger Ailes, which airs Sundays at 10 p.m. Yes, it’s overheated and obvious, but it’s also an entertaining and disturbing portrait of a man whose legacy — how he used his outlet to forward his own political views — couldn’t be more relevant.
The third-season premiere of Sarah Jessica Parker’s comedy, set post-divorce. HBO, Sunday, 10 p.m.
Do you want to journey to Africa? Wait, let me rephrase: Do you want to journey to Africa with Idris Elba? BBC America, Saturday, 9 p.m.
“Stories of the Year”
A roundtable talk with 2019 Peabody Award winners, including Hasan Minhaj, “Pose” co-creator Steven Canals, and Terence Nance of “Random Acts of Flyness.” FX, Sunday, 10:30 p.m.
TV AT THE MOVIES
CNN’s documentary series tend to be light surveys, nothing more sophisticated. I sometimes stumble across them and get sucked in. The clips — of movies, TV shows, historical moments — are addictive. On Sundays at 9 p.m., a new one called “The Movies” premieres, and the network is telling us it will explore “American cinema through the decades and the cultural, societal and political shifts that framed its evolution.”
The six-parter will have no shortage of big-name interviewees, include Paul Thomas Anderson, Ellen Burstyn, Tim Burton, Cameron Crowe, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Bill Hader, Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, Holly Hunter, Anjelica Huston, Baz Luhrmann, Julianne Moore, Julia Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, and the late John Singleton.
Here’s the schedule:
July 7: “The Eighties”
The crowd-pleasing titles of the ’80s such as “The Empire Strikes Back,” “E.T.” and “The Breakfast Club.”
July 14: “The Nineties”
The movie stars of the ’90s like Julia Roberts and Will Smith and beloved films such as “Jurassic Park,” “Titanic,” and “Pulp Fiction.”
July 21: “The 2000s to Today”
The popular films of the 2000s such as “Harry Potter,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and “Moulin Rouge.”
July 28: “The Seventies”
The films of the ’70s that pushed the medium such as “The Godfather,” “The Exorcist,” and “Jaws.”
Aug. 4: “The Sixties”
The popular films of the ’60s such as “West Side Story,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” and “The Graduate.”
Aug. 11: “The Golden Age”
The most iconic films from the 1930s through the 1950s such as “King Kong,” “Casablanca,” and “A Star is Born.”