TV Talk: Would-be Emmy contenders flood cable / streaming in the week ahead

If you’re a fan of TV / streaming who follows what’s new, your eyeballs may bug out of your head when you look at the next month of new program releases. There are a lot of them.

This weekend alone sees the return of HBO’s “Barry” (10 pm Sunday), the debut of HBO’s “The Baby” (10:30 pm Sunday), and the premieres of Starz’s “Gaslit” (8 pm Sunday, Starz) and Epix’s “Billy the Kid” (10 pm Sunday).

Then HBO debuts “We Own This City” (9 pm Monday), the latest limited series from “The Wire” mastermind David Simon, followed by season two of “Gentleman Jack” (10 pm Monday).

The weekend of April 29-May 1 is even more packed with at least nine titles vying for awards consideration, including the final episodes of Netflix’s “Grace & Frankie” (April 29).

Why so many potentially great shows now? Because the period for 2022 Emmy eligibility ends on May 31 and many outlets want to get premieres in before then so their programs will be Emmy-eligible.

‘Gaslit’

Based on the Slate podcast “Slow Burn,” “Gaslit” stars Julia Roberts as Martha Mitchell, wife of President Richard Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell (an unrecognizable Sean Penn). She’s a gadfly who loved to be interviewed and was only too happy to squeal about Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate break-in.

It’s a stranger-than-fiction true story that tries to find the halfway point between historical drama and absurdist dark comedy. It’s not always successful but Roberts’ all-in performance and those of her co-stars, especially Allison Tolman (“Downward Dog”) as a sympathetic reporter and Shea Whigham as an accurately unhinged G. Gordon Liddy, are a delight, and the whole endeavor is entertaining enough to recommend.

When the focus isn’t on the Mitchells, “Gaslit” turns to John Dean (an unrecognizable Dan Stevens, “Downton Abbey”) and his wife Mo (always-excellent Betty Gilpin, “GLOW”), a story that tends to have less humor / outrageousness, which makes it a little less fun to watch.

‘We Own This City’

While “The Wire” addressed real-world issues through a fictional story, “Wire” writers George Pelecanos and David Simon re-teamed for this true story, an adaptation of Justin Fenton’s non-fiction book of the same name about the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force.

A time-jumping process piece that follows corrupt task force leader Wayne Jenkins (Jon Bernthal, “The Walking Dead”), the series also tracks the investigation into the GTTF and explores why one rude cop (Josh Charles) stays on the force despite everyone in Baltimore city government seemingly knowing he’s a bad egg.

Serious and sobering, the six-episode limited series “We Own This City” delivers a worthy and worthwhile follow-up to “The Wire.”

‘Billy the Kid’

From writer Michael Hirst (“Vikings,” “The Tudors”) this western about the legendary outlaw is a perfunctory syllable.

The first hour (of eight) hits all the expected beats telling Billy’s traumatic backstory – poor New York immigrant family moves West, loses everything in a swollen river, dad falls into a depressive funk while a Western guide shows Billy how to survive – and episode two begins with more bad news for Billy.

The show eventually gets to Billy (Tom Blyth) in his outlaw years, but it’s such a predictable and lackadaisical journey, only the heartiest of Western fans will bother to go along for the entire ride.

‘The Baby’

This half-hour British import is a darkly comedic horror series about Natasha (Michelle De Swarte), a woman who hates babies and then finds herself caring for one that literally falls into her arms while others around her, while who come in contact with the child die.

“No way I’m staying put with three dead bodies and a creepy baby,” she says. “I don’t know why it’s creepy, it just has a creepy vibe!”

While the first episode takes a bit of time to get going, once it does it’s clear there’s some “Servant” -like dark fun to be watching this “Baby.”

‘Killer Rivalry’

Not everything debuting in the coming weeks has an Emmy trophy in its sights. This low-budget Lifetime Movie Network premiere (8 pm Friday) definitely has no awards pretensions, but it does feature a Steelers player’s brother in a co-starring role.

Logan Rudolph, a former Clemson University defensive end and the brother of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, plays Jeff, the football player ex-boyfriend of Anika (Shantelle Lee Cuevas), whose volleyball partner is murdered. Could Jeff be the killer?

The script is beyond bad and the performances are not much better.

Kept / canceled

Hulu renewed Amy Schumer’s “Life & Beth” for a second season.

Disney + ordered a second season of “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder,” featuring the voices of Pittsburgh natives Zachary Quinto and Billy Porter.

Netflix renewed “Big Mouth” for a seventh season and spin-off “Huma Resources” for a second season.

ABC renewed “The Goldbergs” for a 10th season but no word on if the show will write off patriarch Murray after actor Jeff Garlin exited the series.

Per Variety, no more “Aurora Teagarden Mysteries” or Christmas movies starring Candace Cameron Bure on Hallmark channels after she signed a new deal to develop, produce and star in programming for GAC Family and GAC Living, run by former Hallmark exec Bill Abbott.

Channel surfing

Best wishes to WQED Multimedia spokesman George Hazimanolis who retires April 29 after 27 years with the public broadcaster. I want to thank him, particularly on behalf of WQED viewers who have sent questions to the TV Q&A column. He’s always responded to those queries promptly and thoroughly, which I’ve appreciated and surely WQED viewers have, too. … Sending good thoughts for speedy healing to former KDKA-TV reporter Julie Grant: Now a Court TV anchor, Grant was injured in a car accident Monday and is on the mend but off the air for now. … Netflix may add a lower-cost, ad-supported tier.

You can reach TV writer Rob Owen at [email protected] or 412-380-8559. Follow Rob on Twitter or Facebook. Ask TV questions by email or phone. Please include your first name and location.

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