Julia Roberts in Starz’ ‘Gaslit,’ David Simon’s new HBO series ‘We Own This City’ and Apple TV Plus’ Magic Johnson doc - What’s Upstream for April 21-27

HBO Max series 'We Own This City'
David Simon, creator of 'The Wire,' returns to HBO with 'We Own This City.' (Image credit: Warner Bros. Discovery)

As Netflix proved in the first quarter, programming hits don't necessarily translate to subscriber growth. Starz, however, is hoping to add a few customers to its niche premium cable and niche AVOD brand when the series Gaslit, starring Sean Penn and Julia Roberts as Richard Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell and Martha Mitchell, respectively is released on April 24. Apple TV Plus is also hoping for a subscriber uptick when They Call Me Magic -- a four part docuseries about Magic Johnson -- is released on Friday. Meanwhile, over at HBO Max, viewers have a variety of new shows coming out this week including a new season of Bill Hader’s Barry, Barry Levinson’s The Survivor, a horror-comedy titled The Baby and the highly anticipated We Own This City from The Wire creator David Simon.

They Call Me Magic (Apple TV Plus, April 22)

Directed by Rick Famuyiwa (The Mandalorian), this four-part docuseries  delves into the life of Ervin "Magic" Johnson, exploring his personal life, his HIV diagnosis, his activism surrounding the AIDS epidemic and the 1992 Olympic men’s basketball Dream Team. The doc features interviews with Johnson, his family, friends and fellow athletes including Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. Sport bio docs are all the rage these days and Apple, who spent a pretty penny on They Call Me Magic, is hoping that this series will be just as popular as Netflix’s The Last Dance, which focused on Jordan and his time playing for the Chicago Bulls. It doesn’t hurt that Adam McKay’s HBO drama series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty -- which is also focused on Magic and the Lakers -- premiered last month on HBO. “Johnson, throughout both his athletic and business careers, is as close to an entertainer as an athlete gets. And They Call Me Magic, though often glowingly promotional, does an elegant job of depicting the mentality of a figure who needs his public just as much as they need him,” wrote Variety's Daniel D'Addario.

A Very British Scandal (Amazon Prime, April 22)

After covering the rise and fall of British politician Jeremy Thorpe in A Very English Scandal, Amazon Prime Video is offering up yet another real life gossipy tale that made headlines. This time around, the focus is the Duke and Duchess of Argyll’s very public divorce in 1963. Claire Foy, a two-time Emmy winner for Netflix’s The Crown, stars as the Duchess, while Paul Bettany (WandaVision) plays the Duke. The three-part series previously aired on the BBC and scored an aggregated 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. “The drama — and what it says about the double standards to which women in the public eye are held — feels eerily timely in the wake of our recent re-examination of how figures like (Britney) Spears and (Pamela) Anderson have been treated in the media,” wrote Variety’s Amber Dowling.

Gaslit (Starz.com, April 24)

Julia Roberts and Sean Penn star in this limited series about the Watergate scandal told from the perspective of Martha Mitchell (Roberts), the wife of Richard Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell (Penn). Martha Mitchell was the first to publicly speak out about Nixon’s involvement in Watergate. Like so many series these days, Gaslit is an adaptation of a podcast. In this case, it was the first season of Slate's Slow Burn, which explores several untold stories during the Watergate scandal. Critics are raving about the eight-part series, which definitely has the potential to bring a bevy of new subscribers to Starz. “Gaslit, created by Robbie Pickering, is the rare show that has loads of fun bringing history into sharper focus. It takes the names you know, and may have read about, and shows why you should care,” wrote The San Francisco Chronicle’s Chris Vognar. New episodes of the series will be released each Sunday through June.

Barry - Season 3 (HBO Max, April 24)

SNL alum Bill Hader and Alec Berg (Silicon Valley) co-created this dark comedy series about Barry (Hader), a former Marine who works as a hit man and turns to acting to find purpose in his life. It’s been three long years since Season 2 of the Emmy-winning series debuted, but critics are still into it. So far, the third season has scored an aggregated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. “There is a silliness to Barry, but also a soul—and a lot of darkness. Even when the show reaches unbelievable narrative heights, there is an intimacy that continues to ground it. It’s up close, personal. It relishes in making us uncomfortable, and then backs off just enough for us to take a deep breath before the next thrillingly unpredictable round,” wrote Paste Magazine’s Allison Keene.

The Man Who Fell to Earth (Showtime, April 24)

Based on Walter Tevis’ 1963 eponymous novel, this is a series remake of Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 film starring David Bowie as Dr. Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien from another planet who lands in New Mexico. In the modern series interpretation, Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave) plays an alien who arrives on Earth and seeks out scientist Justin Falls (Naomie Harris) to help save his species. Bill Nighy plays Thomas Newton, the main character of the novel previously played by Bowie in the film adaptation. The first two episodes of the 10-part sci-fi drama series debuted in March at the South By Southwest Film Festival. “It’s hard to judge just the quality of a show based on just two episodes, but I liked what I saw. While the show is dealing with themes like capitalism, climate change, racism, and lack of affordable healthcare, there were still a lot of lighter moments, too,” wrote the Austin Chronicle’s Sarah Jane.

The Baby (HBO Max, April 24)

This eight-episode British horror-comedy stars Michelle de Swarte (The Duchess) as a 38-year-old Natasha, who unexpectedly becomes a mother to a baby that she doesn’t want. The series focuses on the lengths the new mother will go to get her life, pre-baby, back. 

We Own This City (HBO Max, April 25)

David Simon, creator of TV "Golden Age" poster child The Wire, is back in Baltimore with this HBO miniseries based on true events. Adapted from Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton’s eponymous book, the six-episode drama, co-created by Simon and George Pelecanos (The Deuce), chronicles the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force, a unit charged with racketeering, robbery, extortion and overtime fraud in 2017. The cast includes Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead), Josh Charles (The Good Wife) and Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country). 

David Spade: Nothing Personal (Netflix, April 26)

While this is the SNL alum’s first Netflix comedy special, Spade has starred in Netflix original movies including The Wrong Missy and The Do-Over opposite Adam Sandler and Paula Patton. It's been eight years since Spade's last comedy special, My Fake Problems, appeared on Comedy Central. Per Netflix, in Nothing Personal Spade spends an hour joking about everything from “his disdain for crabs to his unique approach to turning down drugs.” Hopefully he will also talk about his run as guest host on Bachelor In Paradise and poke fun at celebrities, which he did so well in SNL’s Hollywood Minute segment. 

The Survivor (HBO Max, April 27)

Academy Award-winner Barry Levinson (Diner, The Wizard of Lies) directs this film inspired by the true story of Harry Haft, who as a 16-year-old was sent to Auschwitz, where he was forced to fight and kill other Jews in bare-knuckle bouts to entertain of SS officers. Based on the book, Harry Haft: Survivor of Auschwitz, Challenger of Rocky Marciano, by Alan Haft, the film, which stars Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) Peter Sarsgaard (Jackie) John Leguizamo (Latin History for Morons), premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2021. So far it has scored an aggregated 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. “This is probably the best film (Levinson) has made for cinemas in the nearly quarter-century since Wag the Dog,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter’s John Defore.  

The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes (Netflix, April 27)

While it’s been 60 years since Marilyn Monroe died, people are still obsessed with the movie star and her death. Hence this documentary from Emma Cooper and Tiger King producer Chris Smith, which uses unheard interviews from a 1982 investigation into Monroe’s suicide to uncover new details about her alleged overdose on drugs at the age of 36. Monroe’s legacy is the gift that keeps on giving. Andrew Dominik’s long-anticipated Marilyn Monroe NC-17 drama Blonde, which stars Ana de Armas, is currently in production. This Netflix documentary about Monroe will appeal to anyone who likes celebrity, true crime, conspiracy theories and Kennedy rumors.