Sundays are about to get a lot more complicated.
For fans of really good television, that is. For the portion of the population that finds itself satisfied with yet another incarnation of “Real Housewives,” Sundays may not be their biggest concern.
HBO is to blame, mostly. Time was — let’s say the mid- to late-1980s, when people planned their evenings around the TV schedule — when Sundays were a night for “60 Minutes,” the odd mystery/medical/crime show, and a made-for-TV or, if you were lucky, a theatrical movie, generously edited for time and content for television viewers.
The intrusion of Fox brought upstart original programming like “Married ... With Children,” “The Simpsons” and “21 Jump Street”; the WB followed suit shortly thereafter. Slowly, the networks relinquished the movies and brought solid programming to a night that seemed to have been considered a lost cause.
ABC had “Alias,” “The Practice” and “Desperate Housewives”; NBC added “American Dreams,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Crossing Jordan.” CBS held on to its movie until 2006, but the Sunday night landscape had already been altered forever.
In January 1999, HBO premiered “The Sopranos” on a Sunday night. What followed was an implicit assertion: HBO owns Sunday night. Later that year, “Sex and the City” moved from Saturday to Sunday. In 2000, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” premiered on a Sunday in October; in 2001, “Six Feet Under” started on a Sunday in June.
Show after acclaimed show came into being on various Sunday nights. And suddenly, the wait between seasons of “The Sopranos” felt a little more tolerable, what with all these other fine shows to watch.
Other cable networks followed suit, and pretty soon Sunday was a mess for TV junkies and DVR jockeys. “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” “Homeland” and “The Walking Dead” vied with “Game of Thrones,” “The Leftovers,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “True Blood.”
Not to be left out, CBS moved its best show, “The Good Wife,” to Sundays. And PBS has kept Masterpiece Classic and Masterpiece Mystery on Sundays, just to make things more difficult.
To be sure, an embarrassment of riches is nothing to complain about. And the beauty of the cable offerings is that they are often re-aired several times throughout the week, so scheduling isn’t always a concern.
But still. Does it all have to come at once?
To wit: HBO premieres “Vinyl,” a rock-and-roll trip back to the 1970s starring Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano and Olivia Wilde. Created by Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese, among others, “Vinyl” follows the reckless blur that is Richie Finestra (Cannavale) as he struggles to keep his record company from being sold.
Desperate to find the next big sound, he puts his personal life aside in his quest for rock redemption. Romano plays Zak, Richie’s business partner; Wilde is Devon, Richie’s wife and mother to his two kids.
The show wears its industry cred well: Scorsese, who directed the first episode, has a few rock documentaries under his belt, including “Shine a Light,” about the Rolling Stones. And not only is Jagger an executive producer, but his son, James, plays Kip Stewart, the hot new talent who could be the savoir of Richie’s label.
“Vinyl” premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday on HBO
But that’s not all. Sunday also marks the return of the second half of the current season of “The Walking Dead.” When we last saw the survivors, they were in dire straits indeed: They were covered with zombie guts and trying to slip unnoticed through their once-sheltered neighborhood now overrun with the undead.
Do they make it? “The Walking Dead” returns at 8 p.m. Sunday on AMC.
And the first of the final nine episodes of “The Good Wife” — the end of which was announced during a Super Bowl ad, an oddly timed but effective method of communication — begins, you guessed it, at 8 p.m. Sunday on CBS (Ch 3).
What else is new? Friday night marks the premiere of the latest edition of “The Amazing Race,” with teams of social-media personalities, 7 p.m. on CBS.
Also Friday, Charlie Brown crosses his fingers for a valentine, first on “Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown,” at 7 p.m., then on “A Charlie Brown Valentine,” at 7:30 p.m., both on ABC.
“An SNL Valentine” offers some love at 7 p.m. Sunday, followed at 8 p.m. by Jimmy Fallon in prime time with “The Tonight Show Valentine’s Day Special,” a celebration of the show’s second anniversary with Fallon at the helm. Both air on NBC.
LL Cool J hosts “The 58th Annual Grammy Awards,” featuring performances by Adele, Justin Bieber, Alice Cooper and many more, at 7 p.m. Monday on CBS.
Saul Goodman returns on “Better Call Saul,” the second season of which premieres at 9 p.m. Monday on AMC.
And yet another season of “Survivor” is set to begin, with the contestants divided along the lines of brains, brawn and beauty; it premieres at 7 p.m. Wednesday on CBS.