Your TV GPS, Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert’s look at the week ahead in television, appears every Monday morning on BostonGlobe.com. Today’s column covers March 1-7.
BACK TO THE LOFT
Children, there was a time before “reality TV’ took over TV. The genre really got rolling — decades after PBS’s “An American Family” — when MTV’s “The Real World” began, in May 1992, as something of an experiment. Seven young people were stuffed into a loft in Soho, filmed all the time, and then edited down into a nonfiction soap opera of sorts.
It was a bit interesting, at first, to see how the strangers behaved, thrown together under a microscope. Issues of diversity and sexuality emerged in what seemed like natural ways. But the show quickly became a self-conscious mixture of attention-grabbing, partying, auditioning for other TV gigs, and acting out pre-planned character arcs. As with the more obviously fake likes of “The Bachelor” and the “Real Housewives” shows, which came in the wake of “The Real World,” the producers began to aggressively craft narratives, stage situations, and edit out truths. The title “the real world” — never exactly an accurate title, since the young ‘uns were housed in lavish places — became fully ironic.
The series peaked creatively at season three (San Francisco) in 1994. But it has continued on for a total of 33 seasons, in a world transformed and disfigured to some extent by the genre it helped to pioneer.
On Thursday, Paramount+ (the new, expanded, rebranded version of CBS All Access) is returning to the show’s origins with “The Real World Homecoming: New York.” It will bring back the same seven people from the first season of the show — Kevin Powell, Julie Gentry, Andre Comeau, Heather B. Gardner, Norman Korpi, Becky Blasband, and Eric Nies. Once again, they will stay in in the New York loft (at 565 Broadway) where they first lived together (Nies will appear by video only). They are no longer strangers and they are much older now, presumably with fewer illusions. They’ve looked at fame from both sides now.
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. Oh my heavens, they’re not supposed to go Hollywood and go on TV to share everything! That job belongs to “sources close to the Sussexes” and the like. But “Oprah With Meghan and Harry,” which airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS, may just find Prince Harry and Meghan Markle telling the world about their strained relationships with the royal family and openly discussing those rumors of racist aggression against Meghan.
2. Another day, another new streaming service. Actually, Paramount+ isn’t entirely new; it’s an expanded version of CBS All Access, at a cost of $4.99 a month with ads or $9.99 without. Upcoming content will include series adaptations of the movies “Flashdance,” “Grease,” and “Love Story,” as well as a revival of “Frasier.” In the meantime, the service is premiering three episodes of “60 Minutes+” — oh how I wish I owned the copyright to the plus sign — on Thursday, and more weekly. The segments will be longer than those on CBS, and the correspondents will be Enrique Acevedo, Seth Doane, Laurie Segall, and former Globie Wesley Lowery.
3. Due Monday on Netflix, the documentary “Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell” looks back at the life and career of Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G., before the late hip-hop icon (who was murdered at 24) found fame. It focuses on his years in the underground rap scene and the crack-dealing trade of the early ’90s, featuring a lot of behind-the-scenes camcorder footage (shot by friend Damion “D-Roc” Butler) and interviews of his closest friends and family including Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace. It’s directed by Emmett Malloy.
4. Wreckage from a destroyed alien spaceship scatters across the Earth, and the pieces throw off the laws of physics and the people who find them. That’s the premise of “Debris,” a new NBC drama premiering Monday at 10 p.m. The show is from J.H. Wyman, whose previous sci-fi series include “Fringe” and “Almost Human,” and it features agents from different continents working together to recover the debris. In the cast: Norbert Leo Butz, Riann Steele, Scroobius Pip, and former local guy Jonathan Tucker.
5. On Thursday, HBO Max will make available “Persona: The Dark Truth Behind Personality Tests,” a documentary from Tim Travers Hawkins. It’s about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which classifies participants into one of 16 different personality types, all symbolized by four letters. Hawkins looks at how the test grew from a way to self-identify into a potentially harmful tool in everything from the job market to online dating. As one of the interview subjects puts it, the test is “being used to make decisions about who’s worthy and who’s unworthy.”
6. ABC’s new six-episode newsmagazine, called “Soul of a Nation,” will put Black life in America front and center. Each episode will take on a theme, including spirituality, activism in sports, and the racial reckoning that erupted after George Floyd’s death. It premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m.
“Murder Among the Mormons” A three-part true-crime series about the October 1985 bombings in Salt Lake City. Netflix, Wednesday
“Farmhouse Fixer” Jonathan Knight of New Kids on the Block restores old New England farmhouses. HGTV, Wednesday, 9 p.m.
“My Mane Problem” A six-episode series about hair concerns featuring celebrity stylist Dr. Boogie. ALLBLK, Thursday
“Beartown” A wrenching but rewarding five-parter from Sweden. HBO and HBO Max
“Behind Her Eyes” A suspenseful six-parter about a love triangle that ends with a cop-out twist. Netflix
“It’s a Sin” The five-part miniseries revisits the first years of the AIDS crisis through a group a friends in London. HBO Max
“Firefly Lane” Sarah Chalke and Katherine Heigl star in the story of a long, intense friendship. Netflix
“Clarice” A crime procedural that’s a sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs,” minus Hannibal Lecter. CBS
“Dickinson” The comic series looks back at Emily Dickinson through a contemporary lens. Apple TV+
“The Sister” A four-part British thriller from “Luther” creator Neil Cross. Hulu
“The Long Song” A “Masterpiece” three-parter that looks straight at the violence, sadism, and moral depravity of British plantation owners in 1830s Jamaica. PBS, GBH 2