If you were to just glance at the TV listings this week, you might not be all that impressed with what’s out there because of a lack of big-name releases, aside from the comfort food of network television — welcome back, The Goldbergs (Wednesday, 8/7c, ABC) — that returns this week. But dig a little deeper and expand your typical preferences, and you’ll find some good shows and movies you otherwise might not have noticed. Actually, we did the digging for you, as seen below, so all you really need to do is turn the TV on at the right time. See how easy that was?
Our full list of editors’ picks for the week are below, but if this isn’t enough and you’re looking for even more hand-picked recommendations, sign up for our free spam-free Watch This Now newsletter that delivers the best TV show picks straight to your inbox, or check out the best shows and movies in October on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
Series finale Sunday at 10/9c on HBO
HBO’s terrifying look at the NXIVM cult wraps things up in Sunday’s series finale, following up on the penultimate episode that looked at cult leader Keith Raniere’s rampant misogyny with a satisfying end chapter that shows his comeuppance. It’s a timely episode as Raniere’s due to be sentenced soon, but it isn’t all about Raniere’s downfall. His victims and stars of the documentary, Mark and Bonnie, begin their healing in an emotional return to where it all started.
Volume 2 premieres Monday on Netflix
The popular Netflix continuation of the true crime series returns with more of those grisly details of murder and mystery that you just can’t get enough of. This time around, episodes cover the unsolved mystery of former white house aide Jack Wheeler, who was found dead in a landfill; the yet-to-be-solved case of an unidentified woman who died of a gunshot in a luxury hotel; the unanswered question of a killer who ditched authorities while on furlough; and the not-quite-figured-out conundrum of ghostly spirits from Japan’s 2011 tsunami.
Feels Good Man
Monday at 10/9c on PBS
The unofficial internet mascot for right-wing and white supremacist groups, Pepe the Frog, wasn’t supposed to be anything but a dumb amphibian from a fun web comic. This documentary tracks the transformation of web comic artist Matt Furie’s creation from silly character to internet meme to symbol for hate groups, as well as tracing Furie’s attempts to reclaim the character after it was stolen from him by goons. Can Pepe be redeemed?
The Queen’s Gambit
Friday on Netflix
If you haven’t had a chance to see what all the fuss is about Anya Taylor-Joy — cinema’s upcoming Furiosa in the Mad Max: Fury Road prequel and no doubt a future Oscar winner — this miniseries is as good a showcase for the young actress as you’ll find. Taylor-Joy plays an orphaned chess genius working her way up to chess grandmaster in an adaptation of the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis. Beyond the chess (and chess metaphors, natch!), The Queen’s Gambit — created by Godless‘ Scott Frank — also dives deep into mental illness, the instability of genius, feminist issues, and substance abuse with deftness. It’s great and has a real shot at popping up during awards season.
How to With John Wilson
Series premiere Friday at 11/10c on HBO and HBO Max
News that Nathan Fielder, of Comedy Central’s genius Nathan For You, was executive producing this alt-comedy docuseries instantly catapulted it up my watchlist, but even with such high expectations I was unprepared for the flurry of emotions I would feel from watching the premiere episode. Videographer John Wilson walks through New York City with a camera and an infinite amount of patience as he examines the human condition through simple and profound voiceover in much of the same ways Nathan For You did in its most vulnerable moments. Like Fielder, Wilson is also a wizard of loneliness exposing the commonalities of all human beings, and the resulting emotions aren’t specific to anyone, but shared among our whole species. This is enjoyably weird and incredibly insightful.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Friday on Amazon Prime Video
It’s a wonder that Sacha Baron Cohen could ever bring back his Borat character into the public for a few minutes let alone long enough to make a new film, but apparently not all of America go the memo about this guerilla journalist who exposes the horrors of Americana through prank and parody. This time, the Kazhakstan doofus has even more to work with, given the divide in American politics, the upcoming election, and COVID-19. It should be a hilarious look at a depressing situation.
Stop searching, start watching! TV Guide’s Watch This Now! page has even more TV recommendations.