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Spring 2023 documentaries and specials that will be streaming and on TV

Spring 2023 documentaries and specials that will be streaming and on TV
Television icon Carol Burnett, who will be celebrated on NBC for her 90th birthday (Photo by Chris Haston/NBC)

Besides all the reality TV premiering this spring, many feature documentaries and unscripted specials will make their way to television, too, from a celebration of Carol Burnett’s career to profiles of Bono & The Edge, Pornhub, and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The guide below includes those documentaries that are premiering on broadcast, cable, premium, and streaming TV services, including PBS, HBO, HBO Max, History, Netflix, Hulu, Discovery+, and Disney+. Some premieres are theatrical films making their television debuts, while others are original to television.

For documentaries that premiered before March 1, 2022, and may still be streaming, refer to the winter 2023 documentary premiere guide.

While I occasionally include multi-part documentaries here, this list generally does not include documentary series, which I define—arbitrarily and imperfectly—as documentaries that have multiple episodes airing over multiple weeks, mirroring episodic television. Those kinds of documentary series will be listed on my reality TV schedule and guide.

In this guide, all times listed are in ET/PT, and are accurate at the time of publication. I update this list frequently, but since networks and streaming services often change their schedules, sometimes at the last minute, please check your guide or other TV listings.

Program descriptions in quotation marks indicate text that has come directly from network press releases, the show’s website, or other official materials.

I always welcome updates, additions, and corrections to this list, so I can make it as comprehensive, accurate, and useful as possible. Just e-mail me. Thank you!

Spring 2023 documentary premieres on TV

March | April | May | June

March 2023

Beauty and the Bleach (Fuse, Wednesday, March 1, at 9). Tan France “shares his personal mission to take down the global beauty trend of skin lightening”

The Wine Down with Mary J. Blige (BET, Wednesday, March 1 and 8, at 10). “will bring together the hottest, most outspoken, highly sought-after people in entertainment, sports, social media, and politics to uncork a bottle to take a sip and have raw, provocative, insightful, and honest conversations”

Monique Olivier: Accessory to Evil (Netflix, March 2). “From 1987 to 2003, Michel Fourniret cemented his legacy as France’s most infamous murderer. But his wife was an enigma: Was she a pawn or a participant?”

The Making of Frozen Planet II (BBC America, Saturday, March 4, at 9:23). “goes behind the scenes with the production team, revealing the astounding challenges they encountered in sometime dangerous conditions while on location”

Week of March 5, 2023

The Curse of Lizzie Borden (Travel Channel, Sunday, March 5, at 9). “paranormal investigator Dave Schrader assembles a team of paranormal experts to investigate whether a dark family curse led to the most infamous axe murders of all time”

Jared From Subway: Catching a Monster (ID, Monday, March 6, at 9). “reveals the shocking, previously untold story of the investigation that exposed the monster insidiously lurking behind [Jared] Fogle’s charming persona and how his true nature as a child sex predator was finally revealed”

Who Killed Robert Wone? (Peacock, March 7). “details the peculiar 2006 murder of Robert Wone, a young attorney who was found mysteriously stabbed to death at a friend’s home in Washington, D.C.”

MH370: The Plane that Disappeared (Netflix, March 8). “In 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 vanished, along with all 239 passengers on board. Nine years later, a global community of family members, scientists, investigators, and journalists is still searching for answers. Official information is lacking and wild theories abound, but there’s one fact everyone agrees on: They won’t give up because the truth doesn’t just vanish.”

Homicide Hunter: The Man with No Face (ID, Wednesday, March 8, at 9). Lt. Joe Kenda confronts one of the most unlikely killers of his career … the labyrinthine case of a young mother found raped and murdered, only for her killer to finally be convicted thanks to DNA evidence three decades later”

The Torso Killer Confessions (A&E, Thursday and Friday, March 9 and 10, at 9). “Through a decades long relationship with the killer, Detective Robert Anzilotti has obtained a new confession from [serial killer Richard] Cottingham for the murder of Mary Ann Della Sala, whose death in January 1967 was never solved. Not shared until now, the death of Della Sala is one of the oldest cold cases ever closed and the earliest confirmed killing by Cottingham. In addition to the new confession, the series features in-depth interviews with Anzilotti, never-before-heard audio tapes of the men’s conversations, intimate exclusive footage, and multiple confessions from Cottingham regarding his recent headline-making killings never heard on tape. The special goes behind the scenes, exploring the relationship between the two men, and offers a rare look into an unrelenting journey for the truth against the odds.”

The New York Times Presents: “Sin Eater” (FX and Hulu, Friday, March 10, at 10). “Hollywood’s dirtiest private investigator didn’t operate within the law to hide the sins of the rich and powerful. Pellicano’s victims accused him of harassing and intimidating them — in some cases ruining their lives forever. Ultimately, Pellicano went to prison for wiretapping and racketeering but now he’s out, and he’s talking. The Times obtained nearly the entire FBI case file, including audio recordings of Hollywood stars and powerbrokers that have never aired publicly. Using these tapes and confidential documents, ‘Sin Eater’ investigates how the rich and powerful in Hollywood got an edge over the legal system and faced few consequences when Pellicano was exposed.”

Week of March 12, 2023

The Idaho College Murders (ID, Sunday, March 12, at 9). “a critical, new perspective into the night of terror in Moscow, Idaho, that claimed the lives of four college students: Ethan Chapin, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Madison Mogen”

Alien Abduction: Travis Walton (Travel Channel, Sunday, March 12, at 9). “On November 5, 1975, a seven-person logging crew drives home after a long workday in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest when they suddenly encounter a UFO. One of the men, 22-year-old Travis Walton, gets out of the truck to investigate. His crewmates are horrified when they witness a bolt of blue light flash from the alien ship that knocks Travis to the forest floor. Fearing Travis dead, the crewmates flee back to town and call the sheriff. When a search of the area turns up no sign of Travis, puzzling questions arise. Was Travis truly abducted by aliens? Did his coworkers murder Travis or have something to do with his disappearance and concoct the UFO story to cover their tracks?”

Sin Eater: The Crimes of Anthony Pellicano (FX, Friday, March 12, at 10, and Hulu, March 13). “If you were famous and had a problem in the 1990s, Anthony Pellicano was the man you hired to make it go away. But showbiz’s favorite private investigator didn’t operate within the law. Victims accused him of harassing and intimidating them — in some cases ruining their lives forever. After serving 15 years in prison for wiretapping and racketeering, Pellicano is presented with never-before-heard evidence – recordings, confidential documents from the F.B.I.’s case file and victims’ accounts of his illegal behavior.”

Frontline: Age of Easy Money (PBS, Tuesday, March 14, at 10). “The threat of a recession is looming and economic uncertainty is rising as markets, businesses and individuals must adjust to a new reality: the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates and pulling back on its epic monetary experiment that started with the Great Financial Crisis. In Age of Easy Money, FRONTLINE correspondent James Jacoby investigates how the Fed’s experiment has changed the American economy and what it means that the era may be over.”

Money Shot: The Pornhub Story (Netflix, March 15). “Featuring interviews with performers, activists and past employees, this documentary offers a deep dive into the successes and scandals of Pornhub”

Butchers of the Bayou (A&E, Thursday and Friday, March 16 and 17, at 9). “Over the course of a decade, two prolific series killers terrorized the women of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, raping and murdering, dismembering and cannibalizing. Neither of them ever met, but each of them knew what the other was doing and, perversely, it appears, they were trying to outdo each other in terms of their depravity and sexual deviance. The converging stories of Sean Vincent Gillis and Derrick Todd Lee are told”

Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, with Dave Letterman (Disney+, March 17). “filmmaker Morgan Neville captures Dave Letterman on his first visit to Dublin to hang out with Bono and The Edge in their hometown, experience Dublin, and join the two U2 musicians for a concert performance unlike any they’ve done before”

Monster Factory (Apple TV+, March 17). “the story of misfit dreamers at a wrestling school on the outskirts of a gritty New Jersey factory town who, with the help of their tough yet loving coach, fight for their big break as professional wrestlers”

Week of March 19, 2023

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (HBO, Sunday, March 19, at 9). “an epic, emotional, and interconnected story about internationally renowned artist and activist Nan Goldin told through her slideshows, intimate interviews, groundbreaking photography, archival family snapshots and rare footage of her personal fight to hold the Sackler family accountable for the opioid overdose crisis”

Impractical Jokers: Sideline Smack Down (truTV, Sunday, March 19, at 10). “A special episode hosted by Casey Jost and former NFL player Eddie Jackson as they spend time reviewing nail-biting clips of never-before-seen moments from Season 10”

Independent Lens: Storming Cesar’s Palace (PBS, Monday, March 20, at 10). “After losing her job as a hotel worker in Las Vegas, Ruby Duncan joined a welfare rights group of mothers who defied notions of the ‘welfare queen.’ In a fight for guaranteed income, Ruby and other equality activists took on the Nevada mob in organizing a massive protest that shut down Caesars Palace.”

American Masters: Dr. Tony Fauci (PBS, Tuesday, March 21, at 8). “reveals a rarely seen side of the physician, husband and father as he confronts political backlash, a new administration and questions of the future”

Waco: American Apocalypse (Netflix, March 22). “the definitive account of what happened in Waco, Texas in 1993 when cult leader David Koresh faced off against the federal government in a bloody 51-day siege”

Week of March 26, 2023

Independent Lens: Hidden Letters (PBS, Monday, March 27, at 10). “explores the once-secret language of Nushu, connecting generations of Chinese women under patriarchal oppression. Through the experiences of Hu Xin and Simu, the present-day women protecting its legacy, Hidden Letters dives deep into how the clandestine tradition has provided women a safe space to share their stories, express hope and solidarity, and affirm their dignity in the face of patriarchal struggles.”

American Experience: The Movement and the “Madman” (PBS, Tuesday, March 28, at 9). “shows how two antiwar protests in the fall of 1969 — the largest the country had ever seen — pressured President Nixon to cancel what he called his ‘madman’ plans for a massive escalation of the U.S. war in Vietnam, including a threat to use nuclear weapons”

Big Mäck: Gangsters and Gold (Netflix, March 30). “A man is convicted of a robbery he didn’t commit and spends nine years in jail. Decades later, he becomes a suspect again — but is he still innocent?”

April 2023

Week of April 2, 2023

Living with Chucky (Screambox, April 4). “in depth look at the groundbreaking Child’s Play franchise from the perspective of a filmmaker who grew up within it. Featuring interviews with cast and crew such as Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Alex Vincent, creator Don Mancini, and much more, this personal film recounts the dedication, creativity and sacrifice that went into making the franchise and its long-lasting impact on the horror community.”

The Sun Queen (PBS, Tuesday, April 4, at 9). “For nearly 50 years, biophysicist and inventor Mária Telkes applied her prodigious intellect to harnessing the sun’s power. She designed and built the first successfully solar-powered house in 1949 but was perplexed by the knotty scientific challenge of developing a reliable and economical way to store captured solar energy. She was also beset by rampant sexism and fought pitched battles with her boss and colleagues — all men — at MIT’s Solar Energy Fund. Despite these obstacles, Telkes persevered, helping to build another experimental solar-powered house in 1971. Upon her death in 1995, she held more than 20 patents.” 

Frontline: America and the Taliban (PBS, Tuesday, April 4, 11, and 25, at 10). “Drawing on decades of Smith’s on-the-ground reporting from years of the war, along with stunning inside interviews with Taliban and U.S. officials, America and the Taliban tracks the missteps — and consequences — in the region.”

Lewis Capaldi: How I’m Feeling Now (Netflix, April 5). “This intimate, all-access documentary chronicles Lewis Capaldi’s journey from a scrappy teen with a viral performance to a Grammy-nominated pop star”

Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker (Apple TV+, April 7). “explores every aspect of the man who became a tennis sensation after winning The Wimbledon Championships at the age of just 17, going on to win 49 career titles, including six Grand Slams and an Olympic gold medal, as well as his high-profile, sometimes tumultuous personal life”

Jason Isbell: Running with Our Eyes Closed (HBO, Friday, April 7, at 8). “In his own words, renowned singer and songwriter Jason Isbell takes us on an unexpected journey through his musical evolution and creative process as he goes into the studio to record his new album ‘Reunions’ with his band The 400 Unit. With striking candor and honesty, Isbell lays bare his difficult childhood, his struggles with addiction and relationships, and funneling all his pain and private battles into his music. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrives and forces him and his family into lockdown, Isbell must confront the self-doubt and fears that isolation brings to a recovering addict and artist, even as the album releases to rave reviews.”

Catching Lightening (Showtime streaming April 7, and Sunday, April 9, at 8). “tells the surreal tale of Great Britain’s Securitas Depot robbery in 2006, in which nearly £53 million in cash (more than $92 million USD at the time) was stolen, with new interviews, striking revelations and never-before-heard aspects of the heist”

The New York Times Presents: “The Legacy of J Dilla” (FX and Hulu, Friday, April 7, at 10). “Dilla’s influence has been celebrated far more since his death than it was while he was alive, but mainstream recognition remains elusive. With exclusive access to Dilla’s family, the film is an intimate portrait of a creative powerhouse, and it explores the complications that have arisen as so many people try to control his legacy. ‘I’m a Detroiter and I’m a fighter,’ his mother, Maureen Yancey says. ‘I will stay in there and I will fight. I won’t let anybody put my son down, what I do for him down, because I’m here to lift up his music, his legacy.’”

Week of April 9, 2023

An Interview with Brian Cox (BritBox, April 11). “Award-winning actor Brian Cox (Succession, King Lear) sits down for an exclusive, in-depth interview on his life and career. From his early years in Scotland and Shakespearean beginnings to his contemporary roles across film and television, no stone is unturned in this heartfelt interview with the iconic actor.”

American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing (Netflix, April 12). “The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing paralyzed a great American city on what was supposed to be its happiest day. Ten years later, this three-part series delves into the massive manhunt that followed the tragedy, as remembered by the law enforcement officials who brought the bombers to justice and the survivors caught in the crossfire.” 

Nature: The Hummingbird Effect (PBS, Wednesday, April 12, at 8). “Explore Costa Rica, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. From rainforests to volcanos, tiny architects and caretakers at the heart of this vast wildlife diversity keep this ecological giant running: the hummingbirds. Narrated by Harry Shum, Jr.”

NOVA: Weathering the Future (PBS, Wednesday, April 12, at 9). “Climate change will impact everyone, but the effects will be felt most acutely by those in underrepresented communities. But there is hope, and some of the most ingenious solutions are coming from some of the most overlooked pockets of the nation. Weathering the Future examines how our changing climate will impact different regions and communities across the nation and highlights the innovative solutions that serve these varying populations.”

Personality Crisis: One Night Only (Showtime, Friday, April 14, at 8). “tells the definitive story of the culture-defying David Johansen, notorious ’70s glam punk lead singer of the New York Dolls. Framed around an intimate cabaret performance filmed in January 2020 at New York City’s storied Café Carlyle, Personality Crisis: One Night Only reveals Johansen’s enormous influence, transcending the walls of music as a window into the art and cultural evolution of New York City.”

Week of April 16, 2023

How to Get Rich (Netflix, April 18). “Money holds power over us — but it doesn’t have to. Finance expert Ramit Sethi works with people across the US to help them achieve their richest lives.”

Longest Third Date (Netflix, April 18). “When Matt and Khani match on Hinge, sparks fly. So much so that they spontaneously fly to Costa Rica for their third date — and get stuck as the world shuts down in March 2020. An extended stay in paradise becomes the ultimate test of compatibility.”

Chimp Empire (Netflix, April 19). “explores the fascinating world of the largest chimpanzee society ever discovered as they navigate complex social politics, family dynamics and dangerous territory disputes. Narrated by Academy Award® winner Mahershala Ali”

Food Truck Prize Fight (Food Network, Wednesday, April 19, at 9). “Jet Tila heads to Denver where he challenges three of the best food trucks to run a gauntlet of challenges that test their culinary chops and their salesmanship. The last truck running wins a sweet $10,000 cash prize and an exclusive, once in a lifetime opportunity to sell their food at a local sports and entertainment venue.”

Nature: Niagara Falls (PBS, Wednesday, April 19, at 8). “Embark to Niagara Falls and witness its stunning beauty and a wide variety of wildlife—mammals, birds, and reptiles— that call it home. Through the eyes of passionate scientists, uncover a complex world forged by stone and powered by water.”

Changing Planet (PBS, Wednesday, April 19, at 9). “revisits six of our planet’s most vulnerable ecosystems and catches up with the truly inspiring people introduced in the first season: scientists and local experts fighting to safeguard their communities and wildlife, and charting the progress of their game-changing environmental projects. Join conservation scientist Dr. M. Sanjayan to meet new faces who’ll deepen our understanding of these habitats and introduce new potential solutions to combat the effects of the climate crisis.”

Secrets of the Elephants (National Geographic, Friday and Saturday, April 21 and 22, at 9). “travels the world — from the Savannahs of Africa to the urban landscapes of Asia — to discover the strategic thinking, complex emotions and sophisticated language of elephants, shaping a unique and dynamic culture. Featuring renowned National Geographic Explorer and elephant expert Dr. Paula Kahumbu, the four-part series not only reveals the extraordinary lives of different families of elephants but also highlights how similar they are to us”

Week of April 23, 2023

Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love (NBC, Wednesday, April 26, at 8). “Paying tribute to a beloved national icon for her birthday, … The star-studded event will feature an A-list lineup of musical performances and special guests who will come together to share their love for one of the most cherished comediennes in television history.”

Nature: Treasure of the Caribbean (Wednesday, April 26, at 8). “A story of hope in troubling times. Get a first look at the 2013 discovery of a coral reef in Belize and Guatemala. Twice the size of Manhattan, this reef’s discovery marks a new chapter in understanding corals and fish that depend on each other and in saving coral reefs worldwide.”

Nova: Chasing Carbon Zero (PBS, Wednesday, April 26, at 9). “The U.S. recently set an ambitious climate change goal: to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and slash emissions in half by 2030. But is that even feasible? What exactly would it take? Chasing Carbon Zero takes a hard look at the problem and identifies the most likely real-world technologies that could be up to the task. From expanding the availability of renewable energy options, to designing more energy-efficient buildings, and revolutionizing the transportation sector, the film casts a hopeful but skeptical eye. A wave of innovation is beginning to take hold, but can these solutions be scaled and made available and affordable across the country? The problem is vast and time is running out, but there is still hope that we can achieve carbon zero in time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

May 2023

The Secrets of Hillsong (FX, May 19 and 26 at 10; Hulu, May 20). “explores one of the 21st century’s most successful megachurches and features the first interviews with former pastors Carl and Laura Lentz”

Prehistoric Planet (Apple TV+, May 22). “narrated by Sir David Attenborough … combines award-winning wildlife filmmaking, the latest paleontology learnings and state-of-the-art technology to unveil the spectacular habitats and inhabitants of ancient Earth for a one-of-a-kind immersive experience”

June 2023

Casa Susanna (PBS, Tuesday, June 27, at 9). “In the 1950s and 60s, an underground network of transgender women and cross-dressing men found refuge at a modest house in the Catskills region of New York. Known as Casa Susanna, the house provided a safe place to express their true selves and live for a few days as they had always dreamed — dressed as women without fear of being incarcerated or institutionalized for their self-expression. Told through the memories of those whose visits to the house would change their lives, the film provides a moving look back at a secret world where the persecuted and frightened found freedom, acceptance and, often, the courage to live their lives out of the shadows.”

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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