DISTURBING and compelling, “The Act” begins streaming on Hulu today. Based on the story of Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee Blanchard told in the remarkable HBO documentary “Mommy Dead and Dearest,” the series stars Patricia Arquette (“Medium,” “Boyhood”) as the controlling and manipulative mother, Dee Dee, who draws attention, sympathy and donations by keeping her daughter, Gypsy Rose (Joey King), confined to a wheelchair and all but smothered by any number of fabricated medical conditions.
Like the documentary, “Act” slowly peels away Dee Dee’s story, revealing the reasons she had to leave her past in Louisiana and relocate to Missouri after Hurricane Katrina. Gypsy Rose’s sad state as well as their refugee status earn them a Habitat for Humanity home and showers of sympathy, including a “Child of the Year” award for poor Gypsy Rose. It also raises suspicions in Dee Dee’s hard-as-nails neighbor Mel (Chloe Sevigny), who can smell a phony a mile away.
Both Arquette and King are nearly unrecognizable in these gothic roles. Pretty darn close to unbearable in its sense of claustrophobic dread, “The Act,” dares you to look away, knowing that you can’t.
Arquette is astounding as the protective and manipulative mother, and Sevigny is pitch perfect as the cynical Mel. But the story really belongs to King’s Gypsy Rose, a young woman who grows from an addled, simple, Disneyfied doll to a time bomb of rage and resentment.
“The Act” makes no attempts to shield viewers from the story’s homicidal conclusion. While most of the narrative moves forward as Gypsy grows wiser and Mel more alarmed, it opens and closes the first episode with scenes of Dee Dee’s denouement. So, it’s not so much a whodunnit as a “why was it done” mystery, laced with a dash of what-took-you-so-long.
• Smooth-voiced Canadian and all-around nice guy Michael Buble performs with a 36-piece orchestra on the special “Buble!” (10 p.m., NBC, TV-PG). The Grammy winner, best known for romantic ballads and Christmas albums, performs songs from his newest album, “Love,” as well as classic standards.
• Set in Beacon Heights, a bucolic world of elite colleges and super-duper upper-class, hyper-achieving residents, the “Pretty Little Liars” spin-off “The Perfectionists” (8 p.m., Freeform, TV-14) follows the high-stakes lives of high-cheekboned beauties, whose quest for the best of everything leads to mystery and murder.
• 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament action (6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., TruTV) continues. For a recap of the tournament so far, there’s “NCAA March Madness 360” (9 p.m., CBSSN). As it has for some decades, the CBS network will broadcast March Madness action in prime time tomorrow night.
• A two-hour helping of “The Voice” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) glances back at the season so far.
• Damage control on “Empire” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
• A cranky veteran (Clint Eastwood, who also directs) with a “get off my lawn” attitude strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young immigrant neighbor (Bee Vang) in the 2008 drama “Gran Torino” (8 p.m., AMC, TV-14).
• Mateo and Derek fight city hall on “Star” (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
• Spencer copes with a setback on the season finale of “All American” (9 p.m., CW, TV-PG).
• Wedding crashing in the city of love on “Whiskey Cavalier” (10 p.m., ABC, TV-14).
A widow (Ellen Burstyn) shares a new chapter of her life with a rancher (Kris Kristofferson) in the 1974 drama/comedy “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” (10 p.m., TCM, TV-MA). Directed by Martin Scorsese, “Alice” earned an Oscar for Burstyn, generated much chatter about the rise of the “sensitive” leading man and inspired the TV series “Alice,” starring Linda Lavin. Look for a young, pre-“Taxi Driver” Jodie Foster.
Castaways turn on each other on “Survivor” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ... Adam seeks inspiration on “The Goldbergs” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Evelyn irks Betty on “Riverdale” (8 p.m., CW, TV-14) ... A trust betrayed on “Schooled” (8:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
Plans go astray on “Modern Family” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Role playing on “Single Parents” (9:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Embedded in the Congo on “Seal Team” (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
John Mulaney appears on “Conan” (11 p.m., TBS) ... Jimmy Fallon welcomes Armie Hammer, Jemaine Clement and Schoolboy Q on “The Tonight Show” (11:35 p.m., NBC).
Amy Schumer, Natalie Morales and PUP visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (12:35 a.m., NBC) ... Cam Newton and Daddy Yankee are scheduled to appear on “The Late Late Show With James Corden” (12:35 a.m., CBS).