En español | We know, you’re eyeing your gardening and grilling as the weather turns warmer, but don’t forget all the great things arriving on your small inside screen this week. Our critics have culled the best documentaries and dramas that will make your spring nights all the sweeter.
Agree with us that Willie Nelson is legend? Have we got a documentary for you!
Willie Nelson: Highs and Lows (Reelz, April 10, 8 p.m. ET)
Ain’t it funny how time slips away — and Willie Nelson, 87, doesn’t? Perfect grist for a documentary about the hit songwriter who almost gave it up to sell vacuum cleaners, and considered suicide after his house and life savings went up in smoke. But he decided to reinvent country music instead, bouncing between the jailhouse and the White House roof with a reefer in hand. Crazy! (After the Willie doc, stick around for Johnny Cash: Road to Redemption on Reelz at 9 p.m. ET.)
Watch it: Willie Nelson: Highs and Lows, on Reelz
DON’T MISS THIS: Willie Nelson and Frank Sinatra, By the Numbers
A fascinating glimpse into the mind of America’s favorite neurologist, Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks: His Own Life (PBS, April 9, 9 p.m. ET, check local listings)
Ric Burns’s documentary proves that nobody America’s favorite neurologist wrote about in Awakenings or The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat was more fascinating than Oliver Sacks himself. Haunted by his homophobe mother and schizophrenic brother, he became an amphetamine addict, death-courting motorcyclist, bodybuilder who broke a bench-press record (660 pounds), and utterly undistinguished doctor. But at 50, he recovered, out-wrestled his demons, and became a best-selling, beloved author, and his own best literary subject. Just shows that turning 50 can turn your whole life around — if you do it right.
Watch it: Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, on PBS
What’s the secret to lasting love? This cool film has some answers
My Love: Six Stories of True Love (Netflix, April 13)
How on earth can you make love last? Find out, as six filmmakers follow one couple each in Rio, Korea, Tokyo, India, Spain and the U.S. The pairs have been together for anywhere from 43 to 60 years, and they share the secret of romantic success. Fans of The Bachelor, take notes!
Watch it: My Love, on Netflix
Believe it or not, there are new shows coming to TV this spring!
Somehow, they did it: TV shows managed to deal with the incredible demands of the pandemic and social distancing, and the spring gift for us all is this batch of sharp and enjoyable TV shows (and one special) that are premiering/returning in April and May. Mark your calendars for these small-screen pleasures on arrival — both to networks and your favorite streaming platforms. Get the inside scoop, here: Spring TV Preview: 11 New and Returning Series to Get Excited About
Your Netflix-and-Chill of the week is here!
Concrete Cowboy, R
Far more than People’s 2018 sexiest man alive, Idris Elba, 48, mounts a horse as Harp in director Ricky Staub’s uplifting father-son drama. It’s set in the real-life but little-known community of Black cowboys at the Fletcher Street Stables on the fringe of a gentrifying Philadelphia neighborhood. Based on Gregory Neri’s best-selling YA novel Ghetto Cowboy, the strongly acted, leisurely paced family drama costars Stranger Things’ Caleb McLaughlin as Harp’s estranged son Cole, who gradually learns the cowboy way. The film captures a fascinating urban subculture threatened with extinction — and Elba’s fans will follow the Golden Globe-winning Luther star anywhere, including horseback.
Watch it: Concrete Cowboy, on Netflix
DON’T MISS THIS: The 14 Best Things Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix in April
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
Viola Davis and, in his last role, the late Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) star in Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson’s illustrious tale of Ma Rainey, the 1920s Mother of the Blues. It’s hard to say which actor scores the more towering performance. It’s like a duet between geniuses — or, since they’re fighting bitterly over how Ma should record her music, old-dirty-blues-tent-show style or hepcat modern jazz style — an acting duel. Both win, as do all of us.
RELATED: Viola Davis tells AARP about Ma Rainey, August Wilson, aging, her big break, and what happens when you get everything you always wanted. Read it here: Viola Davis Finds a Powerful Voice
The United States vs. Billie Holiday (Hulu)
Singer Andra Day channels Holiday’s haunting voice and haunted soul in Lee Daniels’ film about the jazz genius and Federal Bureau of Narcotics chief Harry Anslinger’s relentless quest to destroy her. Why the obsession? Not merely because Holiday had a drug addiction — the anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit” threatened to become the mournful anthem of a movement. “She kicked off the civil rights movement by defying the government to sing a song about Black people being lynched,” says director Daniels, the first Black Oscar nominee for both best picture and director (for Precious). —Lisa Kennedy
Watch it: The United States vs. Billie Holiday, on Hulu
Love Law & Order? Have we got a list for you!
If you’ve been part of Law & Order nation since Jerry Orbach was shaking his head at corpses on the mean streets of New York in the 1990s, we know you’ve followed the spin-offs and have watched some of them become blockbusters. But which ones are the best of the best? Our critics have ranked all seven Law & Order iterations, plus offered up the very best episode from each series to watch right now. It’s a dream come true. Check it out here: What’s the Best Law & Order Series of All Time?
George Clooney is out of this world!
What do AARP and George Clooney have in common? Our biggest cinematic honor, it turns out. The 59-year-old actor and director received AARP Movies for Grownups’ annual Career Achievement Award, at the Movies for Grownups Awards, broadcast for the fourth consecutive year by Great Performances on PBS. Read all about it here: George Clooney: Movies for Grownups Career Achievement Honoree
Who’s a Wheel watcher?
If you’re anything like us, you cut your Q&A teeth on America’s great quiz and game shows, all the way from To Tell the Truth and What’s My Line? to The $10,000 Pyramid and the newly rebooted Supermarket Sweep. Our critics risk Double Jeopardy by not only naming the best game shows in TV history but ranking them all the way to No. 1. Do our answers match yours? Survey says!: The Best Game Shows in TV History, Ranked
Calling All Friends Fans ...
Could we be any happier that HBO Max is running all 10 seasons of Friends? And can you believe that the entire cast is now age 50-plus? In honor of one of TV’s best ensemble casts ever joining the AARP cohort, we’ve gone down the trivia rabbit hole and emerged with a brand-new TV for Grownups quiz: How Well Do You Know These “Friends”? We’ve got trivia about the real cast members as well as their characters. Have fun testing your recall, and challenge your fellow fans.
Take the quiz here: How Well Do You Really Know These “Friends”?
AARP Talks With …
Get behind the scenes of the biggest shows on TV right now with our brand-new interview with ABC reporter Bob Woodruff, 58, who joins up with his son for a new travel show on Disney+; plus Killing Eve’s Sandra Oh, Mrs. America’s Margo Martindale, Making the Cut’s Tim Gunn, and Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi.
Also Catch Up With ...
Gangs of London
(AMC, Sundays, 10 p.m.)
Don’t miss this cinematically violent, pulse-pounding series about a crime wave sparked by the assassination of London’s top crime family. With Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders), Colm Meaney (Star Trek) and Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones). If only movies could be this good!
Watch it: Gangs of London, on AMC
Dolly Parton: A MusiCares Tribute
Dolly, 75, accepts the Person of the Year honor in a concert featuring Pink, Willie Nelson, Brandi Carlile, Katy Perry, Norah Jones, Chris Stapleton, Mavis Staples, the Eagles’ Don Henley and Vince Gill, Yolanda Adams, Little Big Town, her goddaughter Miley Cyrus, and her dear friends Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.
Watch it: Dolly Parton: A MusiCares Tribute, on Netflix
DON’T MISS THIS: Love the pioneering women of country music? Who doesn’t? Catch up with country legend Loretta Lynn, who just dropped a new studio album — her 50th! — at age 88. Read all about it, here: Loretta Lynn Is Far More Than Woman Enough
A documentary about Tina Turner’s traumas and triumphs, with never-before-seen footage and interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett and MTV’s Kurt Loder.
Watch it: Tina, on HBO
Mayans M.C., Season 3
(FX, Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET)
Sixteen months after the cliffhanger Season 2 finale, Edward James Olmos returns as the troubled patriarch whose once-promising sons got mixed up in a motorcycle gang on the California/Mexico border, in a spinoff of Sons of Anarchy.
DON’T MISS THIS: Edward James Olmos tells AARP his plan to live to 120
Coming 2 America
Happily married Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy, 59, who also plays multiple supporting characters) ascends the Zamundan throne after the death of King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones, 90). The rules of succession demand a male heir. So Akeem and wingman Semmi (Arsenio Hall, 65) go back to Queens — and the illegitimate son (Jermaine Fowler) he unwittingly left behind. The cast is so delicious — charismatic Wesley Snipes (58) as the evil general from Nextdoria, brassy baby mama Leslie Jones (53) and funky Tracy Morgan (52) as the lad’s uncle, to name a few, plus musical guests John Legend, Gladys Knight (76) and Salt-N-Pepa. —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.)
Watch it: Coming 2 America, on Amazon Prime Video
DON’T MISS THIS: Eddie Murphy’s 10 Best Movies, Ranked
If you liked Frances McDormand in Fargo, you’ll love her as Fern, a prickly sixtyish widow who loses her job in Empire, Nevada, and hits the road in an RV, picking up work wherever she can: drugstores, restaurants, grim Amazon warehouses. Some of the folks she meets on the road are real people telling their own stories. A fiction film, it’s inspired by a nonfiction book. But it also plays like an epic myth, set in spectacular landscapes John Ford movies made famous. Fern is living proof that not all who wander are lost.
Watch it: Nomadland, in theaters and on Hulu
I Care a Lot
Evil legal guardian Marla (Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike) is delighted to meet Jennifer (Woody Allen’s Oscar-magnet actress Dianne Wiest), because the elderly lady has no close relatives and oodles of cash — the perfect person to defraud and rob. But surprise! Jennifer also has a Russian gangster friend (Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage) who’s a match for Marla.
Watch it: I Care a Lot, on Netflix
RELATED: Protect yourself and loved ones with AARP’s Fraud Watch Network: Scam, Fraud Alerts
Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy
(CNN, Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)
Who needs a real trip to Italy? It’s more fun to tag along with The Hunger Games star and eloquent gourmand Stanley Tucci as he returns to the land of his forebears, noshing and sipping his way through six cities and their signature dishes — from Naples tomatoes to Milanese pizzoccheri.
Watch it: Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, on CNN
GET BEHIND THE SCENES: Tucci talks with AARP about his touching new film Supernova, which follows a couple (played by Tucci and his longtime real-life pal Colin Firth) on a last sentimental journey to England’s picturesque Lake District, the land of Romantic poetry, as Tucci’s character copes with early-stage Alzheimer’s. Read it here: Stanley Tucci Explores the Landscape of Love and Early Dementia
All Creatures Great and Small
(PBS, Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)
Want to escape America in 2021? Flee to comforting 1930s Yorkshire, as a newcomer veterinarian (Nicholas Ralph) copes with small-village folkways, lovable dogs, difficult cow pregnancies, an irritable boss (Mr. Selfridge’s Samuel West) and eccentric animal owners like Mrs. Pumphrey (the late Diana Rigg in her last role), who just might pamper her Pekingese puppy Tricki Woo to death. It’s an all-new version of the classic book, just republished in a 50th-anniversary edition.
Watch it: All Creatures Great and Small, on PBS
Call Your Mother
(ABC, Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET)
In her new sitcom showing off her comedy chops, The Closer star Kyra Sedgwick plays an empty-nester mom who moves thousands of miles to get back into her kids’ lives.
Watch it: Call Your Mother, on ABC
RELATED: Kyra Sedgwick tells AARP how she dealt with her own empty nest, shares the quarantine baking project she’s obsessed with and explains how Call Your Mother can help us all get through pandemic times: Read more here.
Bryan Cranston, who played a good-hearted teacher forced to go criminal to save his family on Breaking Bad, plays a New Orleans judge scheming to help his son escape a hit-and-run accident charge in a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game with the law.
Watch it: Your Honor, on Showtime
RELATED: Cranston talks with AARP about his two good bad-guy roles and his real-life near-recovery from COVID-19: Bryan Cranston Is Back to Challenge Our Loyalties in Your Honor
The Life Ahead, PG-13
At 86, Sophia Loren is back! In her terrific new tearjerker, directed by her son Edoardo Ponti, she heartwarmingly plays a former prostitute, Holocaust survivor and caretaker for streetwalkers’ children. She looks after an orphaned African street kid (Ibrahima Gueye), grudgingly at first, and develops a deep bond with him.
Watch it: The Life Ahead, on Netflix
RELATED: Sophia Loren tells AARP about her comeback and her six life lessons
The Trial of the Chicago 7, R
An utterly wonderful, vivid dramatization of the trial of Chicago’s 1968 demonstrators, with bravura performances by Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale.
Watch it: The Trial of the Chicago 7, on Netflix
RELATED: Frank Langella tells AARP about The Trial of the Chicago 7, his string of history-based hits and the best time of his life — his 80s — here: All Rise for Frank Langella
Netflix’s Black Lives Matter Collection
Netflix unveils a useful, intelligently curated menu of 48 or so top titles including When They See Us, Moonlight, Malcolm X and the current must-see, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (which could win star Delroy Lindo the Oscar he’s deserved for some time, and maybe the Emmy, too).
Watch it: On Netflix
Tim Appelo is AARP’s film and TV critic. Previously, he was Amazon’s entertainment editor, Entertainment Weekly’s video critic, and a writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, LA Weekly and The Village Voice.