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 July 15-21.
“The Loudest Voice” is not a particularly gentle take on how Roger Ailes created Fox News, and why. In fact, the seven-part miniseries tells an ugly story of a brilliant TV man who intentionally merged news journalism with political PR, and who allegedly used and abused the women who worked for him, ultimately leading to his 2016 resignation. As Ailes, Russell Crowe is riveting, a moody, smug man with trust issues and an instinct for exploitation and viral negativity.
The first episode of the Showtime miniseries did quite poorly in the ratings right off the bat. Only 299,000 viewers tuned in for the initial airing of the premiere on June 30. That quickly led to proclamations that audiences are rejecting “The Loudest Voice” for political reasons.
But that proclamation is fake news. It’s a simplistic take on success, based on old-school network analyses that rely on live ratings and advertisers, rather than on subscriptions. Showtime is ad-free, and it is not dependent on first-run numbers. The pay channel has the luxury of judging a show’s success based on long-term numbers that include streaming, on-demand, and delayed viewing. It’s more like the non-blockbuster movie-release model, where the numbers accumulate across the weeks.
By the cross-platform standard, “The Loudest Voice” has become a bit of a hit, as the premiere has now been watched by more than 2 million viewers. Should you watch it? If you’re curious about the origins of our current political situation, yup, you should.
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. Tuesday morning at 11:30, D’Arcy Carden and Ken Jeong will announce this year’s Emmy nominations. The drama nominations may look a little different, since many of the regulars — “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Stranger Things,” “The Americans,” “The Crown,” “Westworld,” and “Homeland” — are not eligible. You can stream the announcement on www.Emmys.com. I’m rooting for a few unlikely candidates, including “Gentleman Jack,” “Sex Education,” and “Billions.”
2. Network evening news broadcasts do matter, if not as much as they used to. Among them, CBS, NBC, and ABC still pull in about 20 million nightly viewers — a far greater number than the cable news outlets draw en masse each night. Since the “CBS Evening News” has fallen behind both ABC and NBC, and since CBS has been in internal chaos since the #MeToo reckonings of Charlie Rose, Jeff Fager, and Les Moonves, the network is shaking things up and bringing in Norah O’Donnell as the anchor starting Monday at 6:30 p.m. Her debut will include an interview with Jeff Bezos and Caroline Kennedy — at the Kennedy Library — to mark the 50th anniversary of our first steps on the moon.
3. The second season of “Big Little Lies” didn’t need to be made. The first season, initially intended as a miniseries, was so perfectly shaped into a self-standing story. But HBO went ahead with it anyway, because we always want more candy, and the result has been a disappointment. At first, with The Streep in the house, it promised a weaker but still engaging season. But the storyline has been hit or miss, and underdeveloped, and it has built awkwardly toward a silly courtroom climax. Nicole Kidman, so powerful as the abused wife in season one, has been written into some silly situations by David E. Kelley. The finale is Sunday at 9 p.m.
4. It’s “Stranger Things” season, and Netflix is giving us an extra added dose of David Harbour, the guy who plays Hopper. On Tuesday, the streaming service is premiering “Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein,” a half-hour mockumentary starring Harbour as a fictionalized version of himself. The quirky story has him looking into lost footage from his father’s televised play. Alfred Molina and Kate Berlant co-star.
5. Fans of “Suits,” this is your week. The USA series begins its ninth and final season on Wednesday at 9 p.m. Then it’s followed at 10 p.m. by the premiere of a “Suits” spinoff called “Pearson,” which centers on recently disbarred NYC lawyer Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) as she adjusts to Chicago politics.
A thriller starring Brenda Song and Dennis Haysbert. Netflix, Thursday
The fourth season of the makeover series (which also ran on Bravo for five seasons in the early 2000s). Netflix, Friday
“JFK Jr.: The Final Year”
Looking back on the 20th anniversary of his death. A&E, Tuesday, 9 p.m.
Host William Shatner looks into cursed ancient cities and extraterrestrial sightings on this new series. History, Friday, 10 p.m.
TO THE MOON
Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. TV is there for you with a few specials.
“Apollo: The Forgotten Films”
Never-before-seen footage and archival material show how the engineers, scientists, and astronauts got a man on the moon. 8 p.m., Discovery
“Moon Landing Live”
This documentary includes NASA footage and news broadcasts from around the world to recreate the excitement. 9 p.m., BBC America
“The Day We Walked on the Moon”
Americans and the families of the astronauts reminisce about the moon landing. 9 p.m., Smithsonian
A documentary recounting the mission using newly discovered 70 mm footage. 9 p.m., CNN
“Confessions from Space: Apollo”
Six Apollo astronauts — including Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Charlie Duke — share their stories. 10 p.m., DiscoveryMatthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.