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This week’s TV: Aaron Hernandez still fascinates, Oscar nods, and a new ‘Curb’

A scene from the three-part Netflix series "Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez."
A scene from the three-part Netflix series "Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez."Netflix

Your TV GPS, Globe critic Matthew Gilbert’s guide to what’s on television, appears at the beginning of each week at BostonGlobe.com. This column covers Jan. 13-19.


The story of Aaron Hernandez continues to fascinate, as it raises all kinds of issues — early domestic abuse, gang life, sexual orientation, football head injuries, suicide, the list goes on. Sure, viewers and readers often enjoy taking in success stories, with their optimism and their recipes on how to win. But they are also quite drawn to the less straightforward, more tragic tales of successful people who fall from grace, those people who “could have had it all.”


After all, decades after it occurred, the O.J. Simpson case remains the subject of documentaries and, with FX’s excellent “American Crime Story,” scripted re-imaginings. Audiences continue to be absorbed by one of the all-time fall-from-grace cases, its violence, its incongruities, and its mysteries.

This week, two documentaries — Netflix’s “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez” and Reelz’s “Aaron Hernandez’s Killing Fields” — take on the one-time NFL star and former New England Patriot who killed himself in prison while serving a life sentence for murder in 2017 at age 27. And then next week, the cable channel Investigation Discovery will feature “Aaron Hernandez: An ID Murder Mystery.”

All three Hernandez stories — which, I suspect, will offer different levels of depth and tabloid-ishness — join the Globe’s six-part Spotlight series “Gladiator” (which was optioned by FX) in exploring the sadness and the remaining questions about Hernandez’s rise and fall.

First up: On Wednesday, the Netflix three-parter will include courtroom footage as well as Hernandez’s phone calls from prison, and interviews with those who knew him. In the preview, we hear Hernandez on the phone with his mother, saying, "I was the happiest little kid in the world, and you [expletive] me up.” She says, “I ain’t living with that,” and he continues, “You did. I had nobody. What’d you think I was going to do? Become a perfect angel?”


Then: Saturday at 8 p.m., Reelz premieres “Aaron Hernandez’s Killing Fields,” based on the book by Dylan Howard (a reporter Jeffrey Toobin once called “a tabloid prodigy” in the New Yorker).

Finally: On Monday Jan. 20 at 9 p.m. Investigation Discovery will explore, as the channel put it, the “secrets and struggles that simmered beneath the All-American façade.”


1. The Oscar nominations are due Monday morning, in a streaming ceremony led by Issa Rae and John Cho. They start at approximately 8:15 a.m., and you can watch them at www.Oscar.go.com or on YouTube. Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Sam Mendes’s “1917,” and Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” are expected to dominate.

Hugh Laurie stars in the new HBO comedy "Avenue 5."
Hugh Laurie stars in the new HBO comedy "Avenue 5."Alex Bailey/HBO

2. How do you follow up the political satire “Veep”? With another HBO show, but this time set in the future, in space. “Avenue 5” Armando Iannucci’s new series is about an interplanetary cruise ship that, because of an accident, is taking years to return to Earth. Hugh Laurie, who played Tom James on “Veep,” stars as the captain, with Suzy Nakamura, Jessica St. Clair, and Zach Woods (one of my favorites) also on board, Sunday at 10 p.m. It’s the lead-in for the 10th-season premiere of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” at 10:30.


3. Monday, HBO is premiering the “The New Pope” at 9 p.m. It’s a continuation of the 2016 series “The Young Pope,” and it’s also written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino. This time around, Jude Law’s Pope Pius XIII is in a coma, and John Malkovich is the titular "New Pope.”

4. “Catastrophe” was one of the best comedies of the 2010s, thanks to the writing and charming performances by Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan. Delaney, born and raised in the Boston area, is back on TV this week with a stand-up special filmed in his adopted home of London. Named after his late pet lizard, “Jackie” is available on Friday on Amazon. Also this week: The post-“Saturday Night Live” Leslie Jones premieres a Netflix stand-up special called “Leslie Jones: Time Machine” on Tuesday.

5. Will Ken Jennings get his third win on Tuesday at 8 p.m., and be the GOAT, or will the “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time!” contest continue into midweek? I’m betting ABC is hoping the special will never end; the first three episodes were ratings hits, with some 15 million watching live each night.

6. Apple TV+ is releasing a promising anthology series called “Little America” on Friday. Each of the eight half-hour episodes tells a fictionalized but true story of immigrants in the United States and their emotional journeys. The show was created by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon of “The Big Sick” and Lee Eisenberg of “The Office.”


7. “The Last Days of Richard Pryor” is a documentary about the trailblazing comic, who died in 2005. Among the topics: His impact on the comics who came after him, his racial lens, his seven marriages (to five women), his drug problems, and being raised in a brothel as a child. The special also includes never-before-seen excerpts from Barbara Walters’s interviews with him, as well as commentary from his widow, his bodyguard, and other comics. It’s on Thursday at 9 p.m. on ABC.

Jane Fonda (left) and Lily Tomlin return for the sixth season of Netflix's "Grace and Frankie."
Jane Fonda (left) and Lily Tomlin return for the sixth season of Netflix's "Grace and Frankie."Ali Goldstein/Netflix/Courtesy of Netflix


“Grace and Frankie” The sixth season is here. Netflix, Wednesday

“Sex Education” The wonderfully warm series about teen sexuality returns for season 2. Netflix, Friday

“Oprah’s Book Club” This episode takes on Elizabeth Strout’s “Olive, Again.” Apple TV+, Friday

“Screen Actors Guild Awards” More gold. TBS and TNT, Sunday, 8 p.m.

“9-1-1: Lone Star” New series spin-off. Fox, Sunday, 10 p.m.

“The Healing Powers of Dude” An 11-year-old boy with social anxiety disorder finds strength in a dog named Dude in this new series. Netflix, Monday

“Troop Zero” A film set in 1970s Georgia, where a girl and her misfit pals infiltrate the Birdie Scouts, starring Viola Davis, Mckenna Grace, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Epps, and Allison Janney. Amazon, Friday

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.