We’re getting there, people. I repeat: We. Are. Getting. There. After longer than one year, TV is grinding toward full speed again with plenty of quality shows that have led the way into May, and thank goodness, because the small screen is almost fully where it’s at until at least fall 2021. Given the way that movie studios are adapting to post-pandemic life, too, it feels like we’re going to see a continued shifting toward home-theater viewing, which sure is helping Disney+ with their largely mapped-out schedule of Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars franchise shows. The latter franchise leads the way into this month with several other series that are worth sliding into your queues.
A Clone Wars spin-off will get a little unorthodox on Disney+, a Marvel supervillain will lose his sh*t on Hulu, and a Las Vegas legend will demand your attention on HBO Max. On a slightly quieter (but no less important) note, Aziz Ansari’s brainchild will return to Netflix, and that’s only the beginning of this list of new and returning shows from streaming services also including HBO Max, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, and Peacock. Don’t count out Showtime, either, for the premium cable channel is representing with a bold new entry. Here are the biggest shows worth noticing in May:
Star Wars: The Bad Batch: Season 1 (Disney+ series streaming on 5/4)
You might prefer to think of this show as the Star Wars franchise’s version of D.C.’s Suicide Squad, but fear no Leto-Joker intrusion. Instead, this The Clone Wars spinoff follows the conclusion of its flagship series that recently wound down on Disney+. Dave Filoni (also of The Mandalorian and Rebels) is executive producing here, and the show focuses on a mercenary squad of sorts that’s made up of (as the title indicates) “the Bad Batch” or Clone Force 99. These elite soldiers stand apart from standard clones due to their unique physical capabilities like super strength, super eyesight, and so on. They’ll try to find their place in a post-Clone War era, and the show will bridge the gap for other Star Wars franchise shows coming soon, including Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi series and the Cassian Andor-focused Rogue One prequel starring Diego Luna. Disney+ can’t seem to go wrong while firmly pushing toward small screen supremacy, and the unintentionally-genocidal Baby Yoda didn’t hurt that cause last year.
The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness (Netflix limited series streaming on 5/5)
Netflix continues to delve deeper into the true crime realm with new selections every month, from the ongoing Unsolved Mysteries revival to bingeworthy limited series like Murder Among The Mormons and Joe Berlinger’s haunting Crime Scene anthology show. Now, the streamer is taking on the case of serial killer David Berkowitz, a.k.a. “Son of Sam,” who was arrested and convicted after a stream of murders in the late 1970s. Upon Berkowitz’s capture, New Yorkers felt a sense of relief after Berkowitz could no longer stalk the streets, but journalist Maury Terry (author of Ultimate Evil) didn’t rest easy. He felt convinced that Berkowitz had a partner, at the very least, and this limited documentary series will dive down the rabbit hole with him. This might be a cautionary tale or the path to the elusive truth or both.
That Damn Michael Che (HBO Max series streaming on 5/6)
This show’s title kindly tells us which SNL star will be front and center. However, several other SNL stars from today and yesteryear shall be right beside him, and that includes Colin Quinn, who previously admitted that he wasn’t the best fit for Weekend Update, but he seems to be a good fit for a priest who’s gearing himself up to hear all of Michael Che’s sins. Are those limited to comedic sins (recently, he did tell a controversial joke about Israel’s vaccine rollout), or sins in general? We’ll have to wait to find out the answer to that question, and this six-episode season won’t shy away from tackling the all-too-timely issue of policing. Yes, the series promises appearances from Cecily Strong, Heidi Gardner, Ellen Cleghorne, and Colin Jost. Also expect to see Billy Porter, Method Man, Omari Hardwick, and Geoffrey Owens as part of the lineup.
Girls5Eva (Peacock series debuting on 5/6)
Tina Fey and Robert Carlock haven’t swung and missed yet while executive producing together, and here’s their latest joint project about a one-and-done, Spice Girls-esque 1990s girl group who get one more shot at stardom. How, exactly, did this happen? Their previous hit got sampled by a rapper, so they’re giving this pop-star thing an honest go again. Unfortunately, they’re all balancing real-life stressors like family, day jobs, and aches and pains that one doesn’t exactly deal with during early-20s life when abusing one’s body simply comes with the territory. Busy Phillips stars alongside Sarah Bareilles, Paula Pell, and Renée Elise Goldsberry. If you’re already a Peacock subscriber for The Office and/or WWE, you’ve gotta at least give this one a shot.
Mythic Quest: Season 2 (Apple TV+ series streaming on 5/7)
Two pandemic specials sustained viewers between seasons of Rob McElhenney’s workplace comedy, which shall see plenty of awkward maneuvering while the crew comes back to the office after you-know-what forced the work-at-home situation. They’re hoping to build upon the Raven’s Banquet success with a new expansion, but nothing’s going smoothly for creative direction, and office romances are (naturally) complicating everything. In short, sometimes the bigger battle than the work itself is learning (and in this case, relearning) how to achieve harmony with one’s coworkers, but here’s great news: Snoop Dogg stops by this season to spread his feel-good… vibes.
Jupiter’s Legacy (Netflix series streaming on 5/7)
Kick-Ass and Kingsman creator Mark Millar is to thank for this epic superhero series, starring a heavily bearded Josh Duhamel as The Utopian. He’s the head of a superhero family that’s hoping to pass the torch to a new generation, but (no real surprise) things aren’t going smoothly on that end. Yes, this description does evoke shades of Robert Kirkman’s Invincible (currently running on Amazon), but the vibe is less R-rated and also entertaining on its own merits. No spoilers here, but there are twists involved with this family’s ethics as heroes, and the show answers a lot of questions left open by Marvel Studios’ The Avengers with all of its collateral damage.
Ziwe (Showtime series streaming on 5/9)
Ziwe Fumudoh’s former status as a Desus & Mero writer will be no shocker for anyone who catches her new variety series. As the above trailer indicates, she intends to use comedy as a weapon to examine the hardest-hitting issues out there, and those will include cultural issues including race, but also, as she’d like to know (of Fran Lebowitz), “What bothers you more, slow walkers or racism?” Expect to see similarly uncomfortable interview appearances (from Jane Krakowski, Bowen Yang, Phoebe Bridgers, and Julio Torres) as Ziwe continues to spread her brand of unfiltered chaos, which viewers of her YouTube-turned-Instagram Live comedy show, Baited, will recognize.
Hacks (HBO Max series streaming on 5/13)
Jean Smart’s not-so-quiet domination of recent prestige TV shows (Fargo, Watchmen, Mare of Easttown, Legion) and other popular shows of late (Big Mouth, Dirty John) has finally culminated with this leading-lady turn in a role she was arguably meant to play. Hacks hails from executive producer Michael Schur and has three Broad City alums (Paul W. Downs, Lucia Aniello, and Jen Statsky) in the writers’ room, so get ready for a (Las Vegas) buffet of complex female characters. Smart portrays a legendary Vegas-rooted comedian who forges a “dark mentorship” to a 20-something newcomer in town. Among other highlights of this trailer, we see Smart shouting, “Eat your heart out Celine!” Don’t even think about missing this one.
Trying: Season 2 (Apple TV+ series streaming on 5/21)
Esther Smith and Rafe Spall return as a married couple who are painstakingly wading through the adoption process after learning that they’re unable to conceive a biological child. That particular angle on parenthood isn’t frequently tackled on TV, but as the couple moves past conquering the almighty adoption panel, they’ve got even harder work ahead of them. This show’s already landed a Season 3 renewal, so there’s an ultimate plan out there for this couple as they continue to seek what they believe will eventually fulfill them. It’s a frank, funny, and occasionally heartbreaking series that tackles a subject not frequently seen as fodder for entertainment, but oh, it scores.
Love, Death & Robots: Volume 2 (Netflix series streaming on 5/14)
Two years ago, Netflix previewed adult-animated anthology series Love, Death & Robots, from co-executive producers David Fincher and Tim Miller, with the “messed up audiences only” label. Comfortingly, it sure looks like not a whole lot has changed for the show’s vibe. As with the Emmy-winning first season of this show, this trailer tells us to expect more existential “robots-gone-wild” but fewer of them (along with “naked giants” and “Christmas demons”), as the series included eighteen short films in the initial round but will crank out eight more for this second batch. All will keep the seemingly infinite number of animation styles going, including a very simple-looking installment that, uh, involves a poop-scooping robot. Otherwise, expect several genres (including sci-fi, horror, fantasy and comedy) to gain more of the spotlight with mind-bending stories, some frivolous and some thought provoking but all entertaining.
The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime limited series streaming on 5/14)
Awe-inspiring cinematography aside in this trailer, one of the biggest attractions to this project, of course, is Oscar winner Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk, Moonlight) in the director’s seat while helming a 10-part adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. Also, Brad Pitt’s executive producing here through his Plan B production company. The story chronicles the desperate bid for freedom by slave Cora Randall (newcomer Thuso Mbedu), and she’s pursued by a bounty hunter, Ridgeway (Joel Edgerton), who not only wishes to complete his straight-up mission by returning Cora to a Georgia plantation but to settle a personal score. The ensemble cast includes William Jackson Harper (as Royal, who was born free and helps guide Cora along part of her journey), Lily Rabe, and Damon “Dewey Crowe” Herriman.
Pride (FX limited series debuting on 5/14)
You’ve probably heard of the Red Scare led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, who led a fear-mongering set of 1950s probes into alleged Communism within the federal government and the U.S. Armed Forces. This series will bring the McCarthy-instigated Lavender Scare front and center to behold even more tentacles of government-sanctioned persecution, specifically of gay men and lesbians who worked for the feds, at a time when McCarthy hysterically branded them a threat to national security. In the end, the resulting fight launched a new civil rights branch, but the journey was a harrowing one. This limited series will sprint through the decades, including the “Culture Wars” of the 1990s and the continued battles for trans rights that persist today.
Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. (Hulu series streaming on 5/21)
Patton Oswalt’s indisputable knack for voice work recently managed to shock The Boys audience (that’s what happens when you “cameo” as a set of gills for the lead pervert character), and now he’s the leading man in a very adult-oriented animated series. Here, Oswalt’s portraying an egomaniacal supervillain (with a massive, unwieldy noggin) who’s struggling to balance his day job as a bad dude with family life (it happens, even to the most evil among us!). In the process, he’s gotta deal with a certain busybody named Tony Stark/Iron Man, who’s voiced by freaking Jon Hamm. Expect to hear Bill Hader, Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Schwartz, and Nathan Fillion all join the chorus as everyone on this show seems to want to push a bad man down.
Master of None: Season 3 (Netflix series streaming on 5/23)
It’s been (four) years since we’ve seen Aziz Ansari’s brainchild do its thing, and that’s not even (officially, at least) down to the pandemic. Ansari’s been largely out of the public eye following sexual misconduct allegations, although he did emerge a few years ago for an insightful comedy special that goes a long way to show that gazing inward, but he’s still got a lot of comedic material to mine. This season, the co-creator’s taking a step behind the camera to direct in a season that he cowrote with the Emmy-winning Lena Waithe, whose character (Denise) moves from the sidelines to the forefront. The season will largely focus on Denise’s relationship with Alicia (Naomi Ackie) to bring viewers a new modern love story. There’s no word yet on whether Aziz will make an on-camera appearance, but clearly, he remains intent upon breaking new storytelling ground.