Peak TV is a perplexing time — filled so often with wildly exciting premises and wildly unfulfilled promises. Allow us to guide you, then — on a weekly basis — through this thicket of ideas towards some of the best. This week, there’s quite a qualitative range, from the debut of the second season of Ava DuVernay’s excellent Queen Sugar to the season finale of another trenchant season of Veep, to… Boy Band, in which reality TV judges compile a boy band.
Tuesday & Wednesday: Queen Sugar (OWN, 10 p.m.)
Ava DuVernay’s OWN series about three siblings who’ve lived vastly disparate lives, Queen Sugar, returns this week with a two night premiere. Queen Sugar revolves around their visions for a sugar mill passed down by their just-deceased father, and this season will see Nova, Ralph Angel, and Charley Bordelon continuing to navigate varied and contradictory familial perspectives and desires about the land/business, as well as the struggles of being black in a largely white-run industry with a hideous legacy. Kofi Siriboe (who plays Ralph Angel Bordelon), described an overarching theme of the sophomore season in a recent talk, as reported by Deadline: “An important issue in the black community is that we have to stay united, it’s so easy for us to segregate within our own community. The question is, with these siblings and the other people who are surrounding the family, how do they all stay together to build this business but also feel like they are emerging truthfully to themselves. We really see the dynamic of them all working it out.”
Thursday: Boy Band/The Gong Show (both on ABC; 8 p.m. & 10 p.m., respectively)
These may be two different series, but they’ll likely satisfy the same mindless urges. And while one might be something of a TV talent competition parody and the other might be an actual TV competition, the fundamental difference between them will probably be pretty slim: the latter category is already self-parodic and self-referential, with each new series seeming like an empty, campy riff on the last.
With One Direction rejecting their namesake and going in… separate directions, the world is clearly in desperate need of tweens singing mass-manufactured schlock, and so the search is on for the members of the next big boy band in…Boy Band. So tune in to watch Rita Ora, Timbaland, Emma Bunton (aka Baby Spice), and Nick Carter as the “architects” of a boy band, sculpting five teenagers to meet the confusing ideals and boring artistry of premature celebrity.
Meanwhile, The Gong Show is returning as a semi-spoof of the already very knowingly ridiculous talent show. Mike Meyers will be hosting as the made-up, and also heavily made-up (he’s as unrecognizable here as he was in a fat suit and a grotesquely overdone Scottish accent, waxing poetic about eating baby) Tommy Maitland. In the first episode, Will Arnett, Ken Jeong and Zach Galifianakis are set to be the bangers of the titular instrument.
Thursday: The Mist (Spike, 10 p.m.)
Reviews of the first season of the Stephen King adaptation The Mist (the one that isn’t the movie adaptation that was already made in 2007) have been very, very mixed. But if you’re a Stephen King fan — or you’re a bored TV viewer who’s sick of watching teenagers sign up for a lifetime of artistic regret on Boy Band — there’s this. But my recommendation, if you’re truly looking for good art about the horrors of human nature among people cooped up together while mysterious dangers lurk outside, is to just go to a movie theater and see It Comes at Night.
Friday: GLOW (Netflix)
GLOW, a work of meta-television that’s a fictionalized account of the making of the 1980s women’s wrestling series, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, will be binge-able on Netflix this week. Set in Los Angeles (instead of Vegas, where the ’80s syndicated show was actually filmed), GLOW follows the paths of the group of women whose lives, unexpectedly, were leading to…this very singular (and period-specific) cultural product. The first season, as the trailer above reveals, will examine the casting and shaping of the personas of the wrestlers, mining questions of feminine/ethic identity as they were manifested on, and were reified within, ’80s TV screens.
Sunday: Veep Season 6 Finale (HBO, 10:30 p.m.)
The last episode of Veep was a pretty spectacular roller coaster of failure and very unexpected resurgence for Selina Meyer. After first becoming the butt of a major exposé following the press’ obtaining of her press secretary’s diary, the episode ended with a surprise twist. Yes, Selina Meyer, the ex-president who just moments before was attempting to sexually barter her staffer, Amy, in exchange for an end to her latest scandal (the mumbled “You can have Amy” is one of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ best and most cringe-ably delivered lines this season), suddenly became a national hero.
How? It was revealed through the same diary that it was Meyer, and not the current president elect, who made negotiations to free Tibet. Suddenly, every egregious thing she’s done is forgotten — and so continues Veep‘s more and more trenchant indictment of the vacuity of neoliberal politics. It’ll be interesting to see whether this season — which has been one of the show’s best — is also leading to something bigger than the ultimate construction of Meyers’ library. Will her sudden rise back into America’s favor have a larger meaning? The show’s been ordered for another season, and perhaps the finale will provide hints as to whether the series will veer closer to, or further from, the centers of American/world power next year. (Selina has been everything from a marginal Vice President figure to the President to, now, an ex-President who gets monthly checks from her daughter.)