April is no joke when it comes to movie celebrations.
The month sees the delayed Screen Actors Guild Awards (April 4), the delayed Independent Spirit Awards (April 22) and the delayed Academy Awards (April 25) finally being celebrated as the entire industry continues to adjust to the new normal. We will be watching from the comfort of our own homes and so will a lot of the nominees—albeit with better hair, flawless make-up and fancier clothes.
But aside from the end of the longest awards season in memory, each month we scour the new releases to find the five movies you can’t miss that are coming to both traditional TV and the streaming platforms you already pay for.
Here are the five new TV movies you can’t miss this month:
Director: Andrea Nevins
Stars: Kelly Bachman, Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Rachel Feinstein, Marina Franklin, Nikki Glaser, Judy Gold, Kathy Griffin, Jessica Kirson, Lisa Lampanelli, Wendy Liebman, Carmen Lynch, Bonnie McFarlane, Sherri Shepherd, Iliza Shlesinger.
Premiere Date: April 2 at 9 PM on FX
We all know women can’t be funny right? Of course that’s not true, but that sentiment has long pervaded popular culture. Countless articles have been written trying to unpack why so many men think they are the only gender who can make people laugh. The documentary, which debuted at SXSW’s 2021 Film Festival last month, features interviews with some of the biggest names in the business including Margaret Cho, Sherri Shepherd and Fortune Feimster. The movie—which also pays homage to the female comedians who came before them, like Joan Rivers—brings the viewer inside their processes and their obstacles. “The best experience on stage is when the whole room is with you and you feel like you’re truly sharing a story that they can connect with,” says interviewee Marina Franklin.
2. Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia
Director: Kenny Leon
Stars: Danielle Brooks, Joaquina Kalukango, Jason Dirden, Olivia Washington, Rob Demery
Premiere Date: April 3 at 8 PM on Lifetime
Broadway theater director Kenny Leon (he won a Tony in 2014 for A Raisin in the Sun) has long been bringing his theatrical expertise to the small screen. He directed the NBC musicals The Wiz and Hairspray as well as Netflix’s devastating An American Son. Now he turns his eye to the story of renowned gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Danielle Brooks, always one of the best parts of Orange is the New Black, brings Jackson to life from her early days being scolded by church members for her enthusiastic singing style to her international fame at the height of her career. Jackson was also an instrumental part of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and performed at the March on Washington in 1963. Mahalia also reunites Leon and Brooks who previously worked together on the stage production of Much Ado About Nothing. This is the first of four new movies Lifetime is planning under the Robin Roberts Presents banner.
3. As Luck Would Have It
Director: Clare Niederpruem
Stars: JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Allen Leech
Premiere Date: April 10 at 9 PM on Hallmark Channel
Filmed entirely on location in Ireland as part of Hallmark Channel’s slate of “Spring Fling” movies, JoAnna Garcia Swisher stars as Lindsey, an American who travels to Ireland to purchase land for a resort. While there she enters a local matchmaking contest. It’s for work. Really! She meets Brennan (Allen Leech who we have missed since Downton Abbey ended), a handsome local (is there any other kind?) and they have a nice lunch together…but it doesn’t work out. I kid! I kid! This is Hallmark! Of course, romance is on the table. But a romance full of beautiful landscapes, lilting brogues and a simple, sweet story may be just what we need this month.
4. Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America
Director: Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan
Premiere Date: April 13 at 9 PM on HBO
Upon returning from a five-year reporting stint in China in 2011, journalists James and Deborah Fallows asked their readers at The Atlantic to send in stories about their towns. “We were looking for towns that had some kind of story to tell. Something had happened to them often involving some economic shock,” said James Fallows. From 2012-2017, they traveled the United States to visit unique places throughout the country. The result was the book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America. In 2018, filmmakers Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan went back with the couple to eight of the towns they had studied. First up is San Bernardino, California, which lost its Air Force base in 1994 and declared bankruptcy in 2012. The other towns included in the documentary are Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Columbus, Mississippi; Eastport, Maine; Charleston, West Virginia and Bend, Oregon. Although filmed before the pandemic, James Fallows thinks the movie is more relevant than ever: “What we saw about how towns rise and fall and fight to recover has a lot to say to the world right now.”
5. American Oz
Director: Randall MacLowry and Tracy Heather Strain
Premiere Date: April 19 at 9 PM on PBS
L. Frank Baum was 44 years old when The Wizard of Oz was published in 1900. Before that he had been a chicken breeder, actor, marketer of petroleum products, shopkeeper, newspaperman and traveling salesman. The timeless story of Dorothy, the Wicked Witch, the Scarecrow and all the story’s other vibrant characters has lived on for generations and been retold in many different iterations. But who is the man who wrote this classic tale? The PBS documentary, under the American Experience umbrella, features interviews with biographer Evan Schwartz, film historian Jeanine Basinger, Wicked author Gregory Maguire and historian Philip Deloria to reveal the man behind the curtain.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).