The week in watching: Reality TV gets old, Gary Gulman’s ‘Great Depresh,’ breaking news about a PBS gem

”Survivor,” one of the many reality shows that have made it to double digits, is now in its 39th season.
”Survivor,” one of the many reality shows that have made it to double digits, is now in its 39th season.

Your TV GPS, Globe critic Matthew Gilbert’s guide to what’s on television, appears at the beginning of each week at Today’s column covers Sept. 30-Oct. 6.


I remember wondering about the durability of reality TV after it broke through in the U.S. in the early oughts.

I thought, how long can these shows last when, after the first season, the players know how it all works? I thought, viewers will get tired of the games when they start looking less like social experiments and more like attention-grabbing opportunities for extroverted wannabe actors. I thought, no one will want to watch once they realize just how unreal and edited these shows truly are.

Mmm hmm. Turns out reality TV has been one of the defining genres of the new millennium. Despite losing some ratings ground like the rest of TV, as viewers have become fractured across all kinds of TV outlets, reality TV has held on like a crusty, abrasive barnacle.


In the process, it has helped a culture of B-,C-, and D-level celebrities find work, provided desperate networks and cable channels with cheap programming alternatives, and, oh yeah, primed America for a president who, like the biggest attention-getters in the genre, uses misbehavior and incendiary comments to capture eyeballs.

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Why am I thinking about this? I’ve noticed recently that some of the reality-show franchises are well into double digits in terms of the number of seasons that have already aired. Here’s the reality:

“Survivor” is on season 39.

“The Bachelor” has season 24 coming in January.

“The Bachelorette” hit season 15 over the summer.


“Big Brother” just finished season 21, and you can add in two seasons of “Celebrity Big Brother” to make season 23.

“American Idol” will be back on ABC for season 18; the first 15 aired on Fox.

“Dancing With the Stars” is currently in the middle of season 28.

“So You Think You Can Dance” made it to season 16 over the summer.

“Project Runway” wrapped season 17 early in the summer.


“The Voice” just got started on season 17.

“America’s Got Talent” hit season 14 over the summer.

“The Real World,” which moved from MTV to Facebook Watch this year, finished season 33 over the summer.

Peabody’s Gary Gulman explores his own battle with depression in HBO’s “Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh.”

Craig Blankenhorn

Peabody’s Gary Gulman explores his own battle with depression in HBO’s “Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh.”


1. Whenever a performer tries to destigmatize depression, I’m a supporter. There are still too many people out there who think depression is a kind of failure of will — some of whom suffer from depression themselves. And whenever a locally bred person (from Peabody, to be specific) makes it to HBO, I’m a supporter, too. On Saturday night at 10, HBO will premiere “Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh,” in which ace stand-up Gulman goes on a comic exploration of his mental health issues. The special is produced by Judd Apatow and directed by Michael Bonfiglio.

2. One of the best parts of watching tons of TV for my fall preview is stumbling across little gems like the PBS “Masterpiece” six-parter called “Press.” It follows the investigative teams at two competing British newspapers, one a liberal left voice and the other a right-leaning tab, and it’s about the editors’ and reporters’ lives and their ethics. Ben Chaplin, Charlotte Riley, and David Suchet star, Sunday at 10 p.m. on WGBH-2.

3. Before she won Emmys for “Fleabag” last Sunday, Phoebe Waller-Bridge was on the docket to host “Saturday Night Live” this week. The actress and writer, who also wrote season 1 of “Killing Eve” and the upcoming James Bond movie, will be joined by musical guest Taylor Swift, who recently released her seventh studio album, “Lover.”

4. Of all the fall dramas, this one may be the strangest and, to some, the most offensive. A woman (Brittany Snow) thinks she’s an only child until her fertility doc dad (Timothy Hutton) admits to using his own sperm to father over 100 children. “Almost Family” turns the set-up — which many consider medical rape — into a kind of bonkers soap opera, with potential incest among its plot twists. It premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Fox.

5. Oh no! Batman has disappeared from Gotham! What are the good citizens going to do? Paging his cousin Kate Kane. She dons the cowl for more broody CW-superhero stuff, with flat action and super mega villains. But “Batwoman,” premiering Sunday at 8 p.m., will probably launch a thousand essays: She is a lesbian, played by Ruby Rose, and her one-time girlfriend is now married to a man. Let the shipping begin.

6. On Tuesday, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton are coming out with “The Book of Gutsy Women,” about courageous women in history. They’re touring to promote it, including appearances on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on Monday and on “The View” on Wednesday.

7. Selena Gomez produced the six-episode docu-series “Living Undocumented,” which follows eight undocumented immigrant families who have volunteered to tell their stories as they face potential deportation. Sounds painful, as we journey into the bowels of the U.S. immigration system. It will be available on Netflix on Wednesday.

8. Viola Davis and husband Julius Tennon produced this one, called “In a Man’s World.” It’s about four women who transform themselves into men to experience life on the other side. With the help of a makeup team and voice and movement coaches, each woman spends two days living in a man’s world. Gee, I wonder in they will be treated differently because of their gender? The four-episode Bravo series premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m.

Rami Malek (left) and Christian Slater return for the fourth and final season of “Mr. Robot.”
Elizabeth Fisher/USA Network
Rami Malek (left) and Christian Slater return for the fourth and final season of “Mr. Robot” on USA.


“Mr. Robot”

The fourth and final season of the show that gave Oscar winner Rami Malek his breakthrough. USA, Sunday, 10 p.m.

“Nikki Glaser: Bangin’ ”

A stand-up special whose subjects include sex. Netflix, Tuesday


The drama starring Shemar Moore has its third-season premiere. CBS, Wednesday, 10 p.m.


The season premiere looks at the evidence implicating Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. WGBH-2, Tuesday, 10 p.m.


The third season of the Billy Bob Thornton drama. Amazon, Friday

“Peaky Blinders”

The Brits already have seen it; here’s the fifth season for American viewers. Netflix, Friday

“The Walking Dead”

The 10th-season premiere. AMC, Sunday, 9 p.m.

“Madam Secretary”

The sixth and final season premieres. CBS, Sunday, 10 p.m.

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