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Stay Tuned column: Strong performances in Nat Geo’s sprawling drama ‘Barkskins’

Melissa Crawley
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Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden stars in "Barkskins."

A controversial figure tells her story, an annual concert returns, two new series debut on a subscription service and another best-selling novel gets the TV treatment.

Dispatches: Weekly TV news

Author Rick Riordan announced on Twitter that Disney+ is in the early stages of developing a series based on his Percy Jackson novels.

AMC Networks have acquired rights to Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles” and “Lives of the Mayfair Witches” novels. Projects based on the books, which total 18 between the two series, will be developed under the AMC Studios banner. Rice and her son, Christopher, will be executive producers of all TV and film projects that come from the deal.

Contenders: Shows to keep on your radar

In “AKA Jane Roe,” the woman behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion rights tells her story (May 22, FX, 9 p.m. ET). Norma McCorvey, who turned out to be as polarizing as the court’s landmark decision, talks about her journey from pro-choice to pro-life and beyond, during what would be the final year of her life.

Season two of “Homecoming” debuts on Amazon (May 22). Julia Roberts is no longer in front of the camera in this story about the company behind a program meant to help veterans, but a new character played by Janelle Monae adds to the mystery when she wakes up in a boat with no memory.

Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise host the annual “National Memorial Day Concert” (May 24, PBS, 8 p.m. ET and 9:30 p.m. ET). This year’s special features new performances and tributes filmed in different locations around the country, as well as stories from past concerts.

Based on Annie Proulx’s best-selling novel of the same name, “Barkskins” (May 25, Nat Geo, 9 p.m. ET) follows two immigrants and their descendants as they settle in New France. In this forested, brutal frontier of the New World, they are outcasts and dreamers who fight to leave their pasts behind, survive harsh conditions and pursue alliances with indigenous people who are loath to accept them.

HBO Max has two premieres on May 27. “On the Record” features music executive Drew Dixon, who in the wake of the #MeToo movement, became one of the first women of color to publicly accuse hip-hop powerhouse Russell Simmons of sexual assault. The story, which was first reported by the New York Times and debuted as a documentary at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to positive reviews, explores Dixon’s account and those of several other accusers.

“Love Life,” is a romantic comedy anthology series starring Anna Kendrick in her first full-length scripted show. It follows a different character’s search for love per season, from first love to last love, with each half-hour episode telling the story of one of their relationships.

Report Card: Ratings winners and losers

Winners: The first live sports event on network TV in over two months scored big. Fox’s telecast of a NASCAR race in Darlington, South Carolina, was watched by more than 6 million viewers, a 38% increase over the previous race on March 8.

Losers: USA canceled “The Purge” and “Treadstone.”

Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at staytuned@outlook.com or follow her on Twitter at @mcstaytuned.