There will probably never be a day when TV will feel exactly like it did pre-2020. But this month’s slate of new shows is probably the closest things have come since.
Helped along by the heart-of-Emmys-season push of networks and services looking to make a big splash at a key time of year, April is bringing a steady stream of fresh programming. While a peculiar number of these shows are taking IP-adjacent entry points into familiar storytelling territory, there’s a healthy variety in where all those paths ended up.
This monthly roundup, as usual, takes a cross-section of brand new shows on network, cable, and streaming, with a combination of high-profile debuts and potential under-the-radar favorites. April sees the return of familiar names behind the camera as well as in front of it, as well as some reevaluations of historical and fictional figures that have long saturated pop culture.
(If you happened to miss any of our past overviews, you can peruse the premieres of January, February, March, or that bygone era of 2021.)
“The Outlaws” (April 1, Prime Video)
Stephen Merchant’s first new TV show in almost a decade centers on a ragtag group of people each assigned community service. The seven misfits suddenly find themselves at the center of some unwanted attention from a local crime contingent. In addition to writing a majority of the series, directing half the episodes and co-creating the series with Elgin James, Merchant also co-stars along with Christopher Walken, Rhianne Barreto, Eleanor Tomlinson, Gamba Cole, Darren Boyd, Clare Perkins, and Jessica Gunning.
“Slow Horses” (April 1, Apple TV+)
The first season in a planned run of adaptations of Mick Herron’s spy novel series, these six episodes track the employees of Slough House, an unofficial collecting place for agents and employees rejected by MI-5. When the details behind a kidnapping start to unravel a messy web, it’s up to Slough House boss Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman) and former hotshot-spy-in-the-making River Cartwright (Jack Lowden) to track down answers, all while trusting only themselves. “Black Mirror” vet James Hawes directs the season, with on-screen contributions from Kristin Scott Thomas, Olivia Cooke, Freddie Fox, Samuel West, and Jonathan Pryce.
“Benjamin Franklin” (April 4, PBS)
Ken Burns’ tour through totemic figures in American history makes a pit stop in the 18th century, looking at the enigmatic man behind the currency portrait. The two-part biography will trace Franklin’s life from his accomplishments in the burgeoning United States to the private beliefs he espoused that long ran contrary to the ideals in its founding documents. Mandy Patinkin provides the voice for Franklin and will be joined in the series by Carolyn McCormick, Josh Lucas, Paul Giamatti, Liam Neeson, and veteran Burns doc narrator Peter Coyote.
“The Invisible Pilot” (April 4, HBO)
Phil Lott and Ari Mark direct this three-part docuseries about a half-century old mystery that left an Arkansas community searching for answers for decades. The family and friends of former pilot Gary Betzner (and the various law enforcement officials assigned to both sides of his strangely evolving case) explain a bizarre series of events that preceded his 1977 death, including tales of international smuggling and high-level covert operations.
“Tokyo Vice” (April 7, HBO Max)
Adapted from Jake Adelstein’s 2009 memoir of the same name and with a pilot directed by (who else) Michael Mann, this J.T. Rogers-created series follows one reporter’s unlikely path through the intertwined worlds of media, law enforcement, and crime. Ansel Elgort stars as Adelstein, carving out an unlikely role as an American working for one of Japan’s biggest newspapers, and Ken Watanabe as a veteran detective who takes the young cub under his wing. The first three episodes, which also star Rachel Keller, Ella Rumpf, and Rinko Kikuchi, will drop on the premiere day, with additional episodes available throughout the remainder of the month.
“61st Street” (April 10, AMC)
Courtney B. Vance stars as a public defender in the twilight of his career who takes on the case of a high school athlete (Tosin Cole) caught at the center of potential Chicago law enforcement corruption. Longtime TV vet Peter Moffat writes the bookending chapters of the eight-episode season, one that also stars Aunjanue Ellis, Holt McCallany, Mark O’Brien, Andrene Ward-Hammond, and Bentley Green.
“Killing It” (April 14, Peacock)
When a series of drastic changes upend the life of a down-on-his-luck security guard (Craig Robinson, playing a guy also named Craig), he turns to a very different way of earning money. A chance meeting with an eccentric Uber driver (Claudia O’Doherty) leads him into the bizarre, dangerous world of snake bounty hunting. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” vets Dan Goor and Luke Del Tredici serve as writers and co-showrunners on the series.
“Outer Range” (April 15, Prime Video)
A touch of the strange comes for Wyoming in this genre-straddling series starring Josh Brolin as a rancher fighting forces beyond encroaching neighbors or the general bureaucracy of land management. Already reeling from the disappearance of a family member, Royal Abbott (Brolin) faces an even bigger challenge when a mysterious death flips the whole town on its head. With DNA strands of “Yellowstone” and the otherworldly, this eight-episode series will premiere two new installments every week.
“Roar” (April 15, Apple TV+)
We may not have gotten “GLOW” Season 4, but at least series creators Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive are back with this new season of stories, adapted from a Cecelia Ahern short story collection. The eight episodes in the series are an anthology-style grouping, but they’re connected thematically in showing women facing extreme sets of circumstances. Among those headlining these episodes are Nicole Kidman, Cynthia Erivo, Issa Rae, Merritt Wever, Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Meera Syal, Fivel Stewart, and Kara Hayward.
“Swimming with Sharks” (April 15, The Roku Channel)
Almost 30 years after the film of the same name traced one newcomer’s path into a fictionalized version of the Hollywood churn, this spiritual descendant looks to do the same across six episodes. Kiernan Shipka and Diane Kruger star as an ambitious film studio intern and an infamous CEO who quickly find themselves in a psychological tug-of-war. The series, part of this year’s SXSW episodic slate, comes from creator and showrunner Kathleen Robertson. She’s also part of the ensemble, which includes Donald Sutherland, Thomas Dekker, Finn Jones, Erika Alexander, Ross Butler and Gerardo Celasco.
“The First Lady” (April 17, Showtime)
The first installment of a planned anthology series tracking various FLOTUS stories, this first season turns its attention to Michelle Obama (Viola Davis), Betty Ford (Michelle Pfeiffer), and Eleanor Roosevelt (Gillian Anderson). These three stories will intersect, tracking the various ways these women’s lives mirrored each other’s during their time spent during their White House tenure. Susanne Bier directs the 10-episode season, which also co-stars Aaron Eckhart, Kiefer Sutherland, O-T Fagbenle, and Dakota Fanning.
“They Call Me Magic” (April 22, Apple TV+)
As a dramatization of his first year in the NBA plays out weekly on HBO, the man himself is center stage in this series from director Rick Famuyiwa and cinematographer Rachel Morrison. Playing out over four episodes, the series charts his life and career from his early playing days all the way through the public reveal of his HIV diagnosis and his eventual return to the court. In addition to interviews with Johnson, “They Call Me Magic” also features conversations with family members, teammates, journalists, and other members of his inner circle.
“A Very British Scandal” (April 22, Prime Video)
Much as its predecessor “A Very English Scandal” looked at how media attention could be weaponized against those in the public and political eye, this follow-up season looks at the true story of Duke and Duchess of Argyll, whose divorce became an early-60s tabloid sensation. Claire Foy stars as Margaret Campbell, a woman thrust into the national spotlight when her split from Duke husband Ian (Paul Bettany) became a lightning rod for era-defining questions of privacy. Sarah Phelps writes and Anne Sewitsky directs the series’ three one-hour installments.
“The Baby” (April 24, HBO)
Michelle De Swarte stars in this dark comedy about a woman who, after years of insisting that she doesn’t want children, finds herself becoming a mother. With a new baby in her life, Natasha finds that being a parent is demanding far more from her than any of her friends and family could have anticipated. The further things progress, the closer Natasha gets to the truth behind some sinister aims. “Watchmen” vet Nicole Kassell is a director on this series, from creators Siân Robins-Grace and Lucy Gaymer.
“Billy the Kid” (April 24, Epix)
After spending years in the land of “The Tudors” and “Vikings,” creator Michael Hirst shifts his gaze to the old West. Tom Blyth stars as William H. Bonney, the renegade cowboy who would eventually be mythologized as Billy the Kid. The eight-episode season charts Bonney’s journey from an unassuming Irish kid to the days well past when he tipped over into life as a well-known outlaw.
“The Man Who Fell to Earth” (April 24, Showtime)
A spiritual descendant of the David Bowie-starring 1976 Nicolas Roeg film, this update features Chiwetel Ejiofor as an enigmatic new off-world arrival to Earth, where local expert scientist Justin Falls (Naomie Harris) is tasked with both saving the fate of this new visitor’s bygone home and her own. Alex Kurtzman directs the pilot, which he wrote with fellow series creator Jenny Lumet, guiding an ensemble that also includes Clarke Peters, Bill Nighy, Rob Delaney, Sonya Cassidy, Kate Mulgrew, and Jimmi Simpson.
“We Own This City” (April 25, HBO)
David Simon and George Pelecanos continue their longtime fruitful TV partnership by heading back to Baltimore. This time, they and director Reinaldo Marcus Green will tell the story of the Gun Trace Task Force, a Baltimore Police Department initiative that spiraled into a mess of corruption and misinformation. Jon Bernthal stars as Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, one of the key figures detailed in Justin Fenton’s book that gives the show its title, leading an ensemble that also includes Wunmi Mosaku, Josh Charles, Dagmara Domińczyk, Darrell Britt-Gibson, and David Corenswet.
“Sketchbook” (April 27, Disney+)
The latest in Disney’s batch of self-referential doc projects is this look from the team behind “Chef’s Table” at some of the animation studio’s legendary character designers. Artists who had a hand in animating characters like Genie, Simba, Captain Hook, and Emperor Kuzco — either at their inception or in the decades since — give a drawing-board view of what it takes to transform a blank sheet into some immediately recognizable faces.
“The Offer” (April 28, Paramount+)
Fresh off the 50th anniversary of the film’s release, this limited series dramatizes the events that led to the making of “The Godfather.” The behind-the-scenes story — tracking the contributions of producer Albert S. Ruddy (Miles Teller), Robert Evans (Matthew Goode), Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler), Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo) and more — comes from creator Michael Tolkin and showrunner Nikki Toscano. Dexter Fletcher, no stranger to biopics that prominently feature the early ‘70s, directs the opening episodes of the ten-part series.
“Under the Banner of Heaven” (April 28, FX/Hulu)
David Mackenzie directs Dustin Lance Black’s adaptation of the true-crime book from Jon Krakauer, detailing the events that led to and stemmed from shocking 1984 deaths in a Salt Lake suburb. Andrew Garfield stars as a detective reevaluating his own faith in light of his discoveries while investigating the murders and the community surrounding them. The ensemble cast includes Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sam Worthington, Wyatt Russell, Gil Birmingham, and Rory Culkin.
“Shining Girls” (April 29, Apple TV+)
The latest series to capitalize on the strengths of star Elisabeth Moss, this drama follows a Chicago-area reporter who finds that a new homicide investigation has details strangely similar to a traumatic event from her own past. Wagner Moura co-stars as a fellow journalist helping her look into these mirroring crimes, with the opening two episodes directed by prolific TV vet Michelle MacLaren.
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