Your TV GPS, Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert’s look at the week ahead in television, appears every Monday morning on BostonGlobe.com. Today’s column covers April 26-May 2.
THE LATE SHOWS
CNN launched a documentary wing in earnest in 2013, as a way to help fill the air, especially when the news cycle was slow. That’s right, there was a time when there were actually slow news weeks. Those were the days.
This coming Sunday at 9 p.m., CNN is finally premiering a six-part documentary series called “The Story of Late Night,” which was postponed when the pandemic hit on top of the charged 2020 presidential election.
It’s a rich topic. The late-night shows have served a social purpose over the years, even though they’re built primarily as promotional vehicles on which celebs can hawk their latest. The hosts, most of them men, have tried to help their audiences process tragedies such as 9/11 and the pandemic, and they have defined different eras of comedic styles.
The series will reach back to Jack Paar, Steve Allen, and Johnny Carson, and it will move forward to the current batch, featuring interviews with many of them. The long list of interviewees includes Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah, Conan O’Brien, Chelsea Handler, Seth Meyers, James Corden, Amber Ruffin, Desus & Mero, Whoopi Goldberg, and W. Kamau Bell. No David Letterman, alas, and no Jay Leno, two of the most important figures in the genre.
There will also be a lot of archival footage, as well as chats with some of the behind-the-scenes folks, including Lorne Michaels and Jeff Zucker.
One of the series’ producers is Bill Carter, who covered the television business for the New York Times for many years and wrote a few books on the industry, including “The Late Shift” in 1994. Carter is hosting a companion podcast called “Behind the Desk: The Story of Late Night,” two episodes of which are already available at CNN.com.
WHAT I’M WATCHING THIS WEEK
1. On Wednesday at 9 p.m., President Biden will deliver his first presidential address to a Joint Session of Congress. It will be a COVID-safe event, with fewer people in the House of Representatives chamber and mandatory masks. Look for it on all the major networks and cable news channels. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott will give the Republican response.
2. “The Mosquito Coast,” a series starring Justin Theroux based on the 1981 novel by his uncle Paul Theroux, arrives on Apple TV+ on Friday. The story has been altered some from the book and the 1986 movie adaptation starring Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, and River Phoenix, but the general idea is the same: A brilliant, obsessed, egomaniacal idealist who despises American consumerism moves his family to Latin America. In this version, the parents are on the run from the law for mysterious reasons. Melissa George plays his wife, with Logan Polish and Gabriel Bateman as their kids.
3. One of TV’s best is returning for a seven-episode third and final season. On Sunday at 10 p.m., FX’s “Pose” continues with its dramatic story of how the AIDS epidemic decimated the ballroom community. Most of the cast will be back, including Billy Porter and the remarkable Mj Rodriguez. Set in 1994, the season finds Rodriguez’s Blanca working as a nurse’s aide with her new boyfriend.
4. On Monday at 8 p.m., ABC is celebrating the half-century anniversary of a TV institution. “Sesame Street: 50 Years of Sunny Days” looks at the impact of the series — which has taken on many social issues since it started — and the nonprofit organization behind it, Sesame Workshop. Guests include W. Kamau Bell, Jill Biden, John Legend, Gloria Estefan, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Whoopi Goldberg, Christopher Jackson, John Legend, Lucy Liu, Olivia Munn, Questlove, Chrissy Teigen, and Usher. The two-hour special also chronicles the creation and introduction of a Black family of Muppets, a father-and-son duo who are part of Sesame Workshop’s new racial justice initiative, Coming Together.
5. Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” returns for season four on Wednesday, as Elisabeth Moss’s June continues to defy the odds to survive in Gilead. The writers strain to keep Ann Dowd and Bradley Whitford in the story line, as June, now somewhat known for having saved a plane filled with children, sneaks her way around the country.
6. On Thursday, Netflix is premiering “Yasuke,” an alternate-reality animation series loosely based on the samurai warrior of African descent who served in 16th-century Japan. Created by LeSean Thomas and animated by Japanese animation studio MAPPA, the show features LaKeith Stanfield voicing the titular character.
“Big Shot With Bethenny” Competing for a chance to be on Bethenny Frankel’s executive team. HBO Max, Thursday
“Pet Stars” A talent management company works with animal influencers on social media. Netflix, Friday
“The Girlfriend Experience” The Steven Soderbergh-produced anthology drama returns for a third season starring Julia Goldani Telles. Starz, Sunday, 8 p.m.
“Rutherford Falls” Ed Helms stars in this warm comedy about the erased Native America history of a small Northeast town. Peacock
“Made for Love” Cristin Milioti stars in this comedy as a woman whose billionaire husband had a chip implanted in her head. HBO Max
“Mare of Easttown” Kate Winslet stars as a weary survivor in a compelling seven-part murder mystery. HBO
“The Nevers” The supernatural drama relies on special effects and whiz-bam audio stylings for narrative sustenance. HBO
“Call My Agent!” A French series about the star-making machinery, with real-life stars playing comic versions of themselves. Netflix
“Q: Into the Storm” A six-part docu-series that takes a deep dive into conspiracy culture. HBO