The worlds of TV and film continue to roar back into action, quite literally with movies like Godzilla vs. Kong leading into the month of April. That signals a return to blockbuster mode, even if that’s mostly happening on the small screen until at least fall 2021. On the small screen, too, action was the name of the game leading back into a more plentiful supply of fresh content. Over the next month, you’ll see that streaming services and production teams have been working hard to bring us events for our own living rooms.
Disney+ led February and March with WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and before too long, Loki will bring his tricks to the streamer. Before that happens, there’s a whole heaping helping of varied programming coming your way on streaming services including HBO Max, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, Peacock, Netflix, and more from Disney+. Don’t count out the networks and traditional cable, though, because NBC is firing off an anticipated spinoff from a long-running franchise, and AMC’s bringing us gang warfare that makes Peaky Blinders look like a local warm-up act before a headlining band. With that said, here are the must-see (or, at least, must-try) shows for April 2021.
Made For Love (HBO Max series streaming on 4/1)
HBO Max recently struck dark-comedy gold with The Flight Attendant, and the WarnerMedia streamer is poised to do so again with Cristin Milioti maneuvering around a premise that’s even more dizzying than that of Palm Springs. Cristin stars as Hazel, and Ray Romano plays her father, who’s attempting to help her flee from a god-awful marriage with a guy (Billy Magnussen) who’s implanted a chip in her brain so that he can track her every move and emotion. It’s such a cynical spin on relationships, and it’s terrifying, all of it, to consider, but heck, this show will suck you into its compelling vortex. Did we mention that dad is a widower with a “synthetic partner”? Oh boy.
Law & Order: Organized Crime (NBC series debuting on 4/1)
Chris Meloni’s departure (and the way that Elliot Stabler was written out of Law & Order: SVU) always left an unsatisfying taste in the mouths of this long-running franchise’s fans. The good news, though, is that it’s all water under the Brooklyn bridge because Stabler is coming back to his old stomping grounds. The crossover episode with Mariska Hargitay and Ice-T will launch the show, and from there, it is full-on Stabler Time. Meloni’s movie and TV career outside this universe was worth the franchise break, yet his charisma was sorely missed, and there’s no place like home for his ill-tempered detective, who will surely have to adjust his behavior in a TV-cop landscape that’s quite unlike the atmosphere of yesteryear.
Gangs of London (AMC series debuting on 4/4)
AMC+ viewers already enjoyed the first season of this series and may even be tempted to revisit the turbulent power struggle all over again as it hits the traditional TV schedule. Fans of the beloved Peaky Blinders, as well, should pay attention because this new series makes Peaky seem like a pleasant walk in London’s Hyde Park. Warring gangs and a power vacuum and a city on its knees are only part of the attraction here. The rest is down to character-based writing and a wonderful cast that embodies a decidedly unglamorous take on warring criminal elements, all of which will prove to be addictive for anyone who loves The Sopranos or any of Marty Scorsese’s mob pictures.
Exterminate All the Brutes (HBO limited series debuting on 4/7)
This four-part documentary series tells a story of survival with a powerful message. Prepare to witness a search for truth and an examination of how history is written, and how those writings can irrevocably transform a society for the worse. Underneath it all, expect to watch this show while reexamining much of what you thought you knew about European colonialism, American slavery, and Native American genocide. It’s a visually arresting and sometimes bleak, frequently dark, and ultimately telling story about how mankind must reaffirm its own humanity in order to progress.
Them (Amazon Prime limited series streaming on 4/9)
This story’s sure to remind horror fans of Jordan Peele’s Us in more ways than a few, and for good reason. This show promises to explore American-bred terror with an anthologized approach, so the first season is all about the 1950s. Allison Pill’s reliably frightening, and here, she’s terrorizing a Black family, who moves into an all-white LA neighborhood and the welcome committee isn’t there for them, that’s for sure. Soon enough, the horror show begins; and both from a reality-based and a supernatural standpoint, this is pure nightmare fuel.
Fear the Walking Dead: Season 6B (AMC series returning on 4/11)
Against all expectations (and the audience’s experience), this zombie-series spinoff transformed itself and surprised the hell out of even die-hard fans of The Walking Dead universe. The storytelling has shifted to a character-based approach (and an isolated one at that, often focusing on finishing journeys before credits roll), and almost as importantly, there’s now a formidable villain in the mix, courtesy of Colby Minifie as Virginia. Can the show continue to sustain its current momentum? The franchise’s fans sure hope so, as other spinoffs warm up in the background.
The Nevers (HBO series debuting on 4/11)
Showrunner Joss Whedon exited this show last fall while explaining his departure as being due to pandemic difficulties, but nonetheless, production continued. What results, at least from the four episodes screened for critics, is an intriguing setup about a group of “orphans” (almost exclusively women) who find themselves “gifted” with supernaturally-powered abilities. There’s also a fair amount of ass-kicking going on in the debut episode, so these ladies are doing well to survive, even as part of an endangered underclass. The atmosphere is killer, and although the episode runtimes are somewhat extravagant, this show should gather a devoted audience.
Big Shot (Disney+ series streaming on 4/16)
David E. Kelley co-created and executive produces this series starring John Stamos as a down-on-his luck, ousted NCAA coach who’s attempting to get back on his (angry) feet with a ritzy private high-school gig. While reluctantly seeking redemption, Coach learns that his new team benefits from him showing some actual emotion beyond rage and stoicism, so he must — gasp — learn how to be vulnerable and empathetic. He might actually become a better person, too. The show co-stars Yvette Nicole Brown, who I hope gives Coach a really hard time (dude seems like he deserves it).
Mare of Easttown (HBO limited series debuting on 4/18)
Kate Winslet’s doing the small-screen thing again like all the cool kids, and she’s back with HBO after Mildred Pierce. This time around, she’s got Jean Smart (following up on HBO’s Watchmen), and this is a real assembling of the recent HBO casts, given that The Outsider‘s Julianne Nicholson is also on board. Kate portrays a small-town detective who’s naturally ignoring the crumbling of her own inner self while burying herself in the town’s murder cases. Past tragedies and a possibly sinister edge to the town’s close community will factor into the winding narrative, and who doesn’t love watching a messy detective lose their sh*t? I smell some Emmy nominations coming for the cast.
Sasquatch (Hulu “documentary” series streaming on 4/20)
So officially, this is a documentary series, although the Duplass Brothers are behind the project, so you gotta know that the show’s approach will be anything but straightforward. The series promises to dig into a gruesome triple homicide that was allegedly carried out by Bigfoot back in the 1990s. We’ve got investigative journalist David Holthouse, who’s promising to tell the craziest story that he’s ever heard, even after his undercover dives into Nazi groups and violent gangs. He heads back to the Redwoods (and the infamous Emerald Triangle) in search of the truth about those homicides, and somehow, there’s a bunch of cannabis involved, and that could directly be tied to the murders? This title arrives on April 20, so that (and the tone of the trailer, with distorted voices and a purposefully over-dramatic approach) probably tells us a lot here.
Rutherford Falls (Peacock series debuting on 4/22)
The newest Michael Schur sitcom is doing the streaming thing, and this show is flat-out putting its location in the title, in lockstep with the co-creator’s fixation with location. Can Rutherford Falls match up with Scranton and Pawnee, in the long run? That remains to be seen, but Ed Helms stars as Nathan Rutherford, who is (obviously, due to the last name) inextricably tied to the town’s history, and Nathan’s not taking too kindly to a movement to eject a historical statue. There’s more to that topic than one would assume, and the wrangling of Nathan seems down to his lifelong best pal, portrayed by Jana Schmieding. This looks about as refreshingly and delightfully offbeat as one would expect from The Good Place creator because everything he touches is magic.
Shadow and Bone (Netflix series streaming on 4/23)
Need a little fantasy to shut down reality for a while? You’re in luck. Based upon Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling Grishaverse novels, this show follows dark forces that move against an orphan mapmaker (Alina Starkov), whose power might be the key to transforming a war-torn world. Alina must conquer the Shadow Fold threat and train as an elite magical soldier (a Grisha) while learning that nothing is it seems, and she must also maneuver around a crew of charismatic criminals to determine who is an ally, who is an enemy, and who is both. The good news is that you really don’t need to know the books to enjoy the first season of this show, so surrender to the fold, so to speak.
The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 4 (Hulu series returning on 4/28)
Elisabeth Moss has so much going on these days, but she’s going back again to fight for freedom against the totalitarian government of Gilead. This season, she’ll lead the rebellion while fighting for justice and revenge, but perhaps the biggest threat she’ll face is staying true to herself and the relationships that she values most. Moss and the show keep on racking up Emmys, and she’s back with more with Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Alexis Bledel, O-T Fagbenle, Bradley Whitford, and Max Minghella. Expect the show to get nomadic this season, leaving the Boston area and officially abandoning home base, which must have presented quite the challenge while filming during a pandemic (as if the show wasn’t socially relevant enough already).
The Mosquito Coast (Apple TV+ series debuting on 4/30)
Justin Theroux’s headlining this series adaptation of Paul Theroux (yes, Paul is Justin’s actual uncle) novel previously brought to life in the mid-1980s with Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, and River Phoenix. Fast forward thirty freaking years, and there’s a sweeping version coming your way with all of the Apple TV+-style visuals that they tend to drop into their most “epic” productions. More than that, though, expect a gripping adventure with edge-of-your-seat drama while Theroux’s radically idealistic inventor character abruptly transplants his American family to one of Mexico’s famed coasts. There’s no telling whether this shall be a multi-season run or an officially limited series, but Justin previously told IndieWire that this is a sort-of prequel to the films, so we’re definitely not getting a straight-up remake, which is nothing but good news.
Yasuke (Netflix series streaming on 4/29)
Netflix will up its anime game with this series from Japanese animation studio MAPPA (Attack on Titan: The Final Season), and the project arrives with quite a pedigree, given that LaKeith Stanfield executive produces on lead voice work. Stanfield voices a character who’s based upon the real-life first African samurai, who struggles to shed his past life of violence while striving to keep a peaceful existence. However, he must reluctantly pick up his sword again when a war-torn, feudal Japanese village becomes ground central for warring daimyo. The score will arrive courtesy of Flying Lotus, who also produces, and creator/director/producer LeSean Thomas will build upon his proven track record (The Boondocks, Cannon Buster, and Black Dynamite) of interweaving anime and Black culture.