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 Oct. 7-13.
IMPEACHMENT + TV = ?
I’ve been wondering what it will look like on TV, if Congress proceeds with impeachment. We’ve been through two sets of impeachment-related hearings, Watergate and the impeachment of Bill Clinton, since the advent of TV. But now that we’ve got social media and a thousand billion news outlets online, as well as the heightened curiosity factor regarding President Trump, it will surely play out differently – perhaps with even more audience saturation, if that’s possible. Here are some questions:
• Will the live testimony be a ratings boon, as the Brett Kavanaugh, James Comey, and Michael Cohen hearings were?
• Will Fox News ignore the proceedings as often as possible, as it has been looking away from the current inquiry whenever it can? Or will it make Trump’s case, even featuring interviews with Trump himself?
• Will live-streaming outlets get a massive bump, as Americans watch it all in a corner of their screens while working?
• Will new news-anchor stars emerge from the rubble, as they have during past major governmental crises?
• Since Trump is used to owning the media narrative, how will he cope with losing it to the Democrats? And how will he try to take it back?
• How will impeachment coverage affect the 2020 campaign once it’s at its peak, if the two overlap? Will viewers tune out the impeachment proceedings to focus on the election?
Back in May 2017, satirist Andy Borowitz anticipated these questions in the New Yorker. He wrote a comedy piece in which he had the crowd-size-obsessed Trump boasting about his impeachment ratings numbers. “Everywhere I go, people tell me that if I am impeached, they’re going to watch it,” Borowitz has Trump saying. “The ratings are going to be through the roof.” Borowitz also has Trump claiming that his impeachment ratings will be “many, many times” the size of the audience for Bill Clinton’s impeachment, that “the ratings for Bill Clinton’s impeachment were a joke.”
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. Here it is. I guess no one listened to my griping about sequels, prequels, and revivals of great shows. [Shoulder shrug.] The “Breaking Bad” story continues this week with a movie sequel about what happens to Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman after the events of the series finale. Called “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” and directed and written by Vince Gilligan, it shows up on Netflix on Friday. Next, a deep dive on Skinny Pete?
2. I don’t care what you think of “Riverdale,” this episode is gonna pack a punch. The CW series returns for season four with an episode about the death of Fred Andrews, who was played by Luke Perry before he died in March. As it shows Archie getting the bad news about his father, and the town at Fred’s funeral, the trailer makes it clear that no one’s gonna get out of the episode — called “In Memoriam” — dry-eyed. It airs Wednesday at 8 p.m.
3. I liked the first season of “Succession,” but I loved the second season. The writers found a way to focus on the best stuff, including the buffoonery of Tom and Cousin Greg, and they added in some new twistedness, including Roman’s “relationship” with Gerri. On Sunday at 9 p.m., HBO will air the 10th episode, which is the season finale.
4. When the whole college admissions scandal came to life, one of my first thoughts was: Are they all trolling Lifetime? Looks like it worked. On Saturday night at 8, the channel is airing “The College Admissions Scandal,” a somewhat-fictionalized version of the story that follows two wealthy mothers (played by Penelope Ann Miller and Mia Kirshner) who’ll do anything to get their kids into college. At 10, Lifetime is airing an hourlong “Behind the Headlines” look at the real scandal, with Gretchen Carlson.
5. Say what now? Syfy has a new movie called “The Banana Splits,” Saturday at 9 p.m., that intends to make you question your entire childhood. It uses the beloved children’s series as the basis for a horror movie. A boy and his family attend a taping of the band’s show, but the taping turns into BWAHAHA city. The trailer looks an awful lot like a “Saturday Night Live” fake trailer. Will it be the next “Sharknado”-like sensation?
6. David Harbour takes the helm of “Saturday Night Live” this week. He’s the dude from “Stranger Things,” in case you’ve managed to avoid the Upside Down and don’t recognize his name. The musical guest is Camila Cabello.
7. Thinking caps on, everyone. On Monday at 9 p.m., PBS is premiering an eight-episode series called “Retro Report” that sounds good. The idea is to look at how the past informs the social, political, economic, and environmental issues of the present tense — why half a million children still have high lead levels even though it was banned from gas and home products decades ago, for example, or how mandatory arbitration agreements from Wall Street two decades ago negatively impact today’s #MeToo movement. Hosted by Celeste Headlee and Masud Olufani, with commentary by humorist Andy Borowitz (see above), the show will air Mondays and Tuesdays all month.
8. “Rhythm + Flow,” a new music competition show, features judges Tip “T.I.” Harris, Cardi B, and Chance the Rapper. They’re looking to find the next rap superstar. It streams Wednesday on Netflix.
9. “Fractured” is yet another Netflix movie, a thriller directed by Brad Anderson, the director of “Next Stop Wonderland. ” Sam Worthington stars as a man whose wife and daughter appear to have disappeared inside a hospital. It will be available on the streaming service Friday.
“2019 Hip-Hop Awards”
Cardi B leads with 10 nominations in the competition, which was filmed Saturday. BET, Tuesday, 8 p.m.
“Finding Your Roots”
Isabella Rossellini, Anjelica Huston, and Mia Farrow. Sixth-season premiere. WGBH-2, Tuesday, 8 p.m.
A zombie comedy with Lupita Nyong’o and Josh Gad. Hulu, Friday
The classic young sleuth gets an angsty-sexy teen drama. The CW, Wednesday, 9 p.m.
Season two premieres. The CW, Friday, 8 p.m.
Mmm hmm. I still watch “Modern Family.” Once a beloved critical darling and an Emmy magnet, it has gone downhill over the years, just like so many sitcoms whose lives are stretched out unnaturally simply for ratings and for syndication money.
OK, so the characters have repeated their particular shticks to the point of, at times, self-parody, and they never seem to grow or develop. OK, so the story has given us two sitcom death knells (babies), even falling into the most overplayed baby trope ever (everyone is so, so, SO tired). OK, so for publicity last season they pretended a major character was going to die, when it was just the barely-recurring mom played by Shelley Long. OK, so once the show was groundbreaking, and it renewed interest in the family-sitcom format, but now it’s just a bunch of cliches. OK, so it always plays it safe, never daring to shake up all the contentment.
That doesn’t stop me. I’m simply invested in the family and just feel like finishing up this particular tale. The last season of the show is currently airing, and I’m there for them. Please forgive me.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.