This month belongs to Netflix: The streaming giant premieres four hotly anticipated new series in May, including its first-ever original European production, Marseille, and comedian Maria Bamford’s autobiographical series Lady Dynamite. But summer’s approaching, which means we’re also treated to the return of two addictive, long-running reality competition shows. And finally, May gets cooking with a docu-series about top chefs and a new drama about the trials of opening a restaurant. Can you take the heat?
May 5: Visit Marseille
Netflix’s first original French-language series is intriguing if only because the streaming site has declined to provide screeners. Marseille stars Gerard Depardieu as the troubled mayor of its title city, a hub of drug trafficking and organized crime and a popular setting for true crime novels — and now, apparently, dark, ambitious hour-long dramas about political corruption; the Sundance series The Last Panthers is also partly set in Marseille, which one character memorably refers to as the “gateway to Africa, asshole of France.”
May 20: Lady Dynamite blows up
Maria Bamford’s first TV series, a Netflix original, has been steadily building buzz for months. And no wonder: A mockumentary-style show based on the comedian’s real-life breakdown, Lady Dynamite is the brainchild of Bamford and Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz (Bamford appeared in Netflix’s AD resurrection a few years back). If it’s anything like her 2012 stand-up hour, The Special Special Special! — which she performed for an audience of her parents, in their living room — it’ll be funny and weird and brilliant, like the lady herself.
May 22: Cult comic Preacher hits the small screen
The latest entry in the growing stable of gritty hour-long dramas based on comic books, Preacher stars Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer, a small-town Texas preacher who’s possessed by an entity that gives him a supernatural power. It promises to be dark, twisty, and funny: Producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were big fans of the comic-book franchise (created by Garth Ennis and Steven Dillon) when it was popular in the ’90s, and they developed the show with Breaking Bad writer Sam Catlin — all good signs.
May 23: The return of The Bachelorette
Oh, it’s back. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll disappoint yourself by watching the first episode and becoming so invested in the “characters” that you’ll just have to watch the whole thing. This season our fair maiden is 25-year-old real-estate developer Jojo Fletcher, who failed to win the hand of Ben Higgins in the last installment of The Bachelor. When Lifetime’s reality-drama series UnREAL returns for a second season in June, it’ll make a fine companion piece.
May 27: Bloodline‘s back to make your family look normal
The tagline for Season 1 of Netflix’s Bloodline pretty much sums up all gloomy prestige dramas: “We’re not bad people. But we did a bad thing.” The series follows the Rayburn family — Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard play the matriarch and patriarch, respectively — who own a hotel in the Florida Keys, and there’s lots of family drama and intrigue and unraveling of secrets and minds. If you’re not caught up on the first season, there’s still time to check it out — it’s worth it for the performances alone.
May 27: Chef’s Table serves up six more delectable courses
This positively delightful Netflix docu-series premiered quietly last year and quickly picked up a small but loyal following. Each episode profiles a different top chef from around the world; this round takes us to Brazil, Slovenia, Mexico, Thailand, and the U.S. If you have doubts about watching a glorified cooking show, Chef’s Table really isn’t like most network cooking shows. Even the trailer is a goddamn delight.
May 30: Revisiting Roots
Timed to Memorial Day, the History Channel’s remake of the 1977 miniseries Roots brings Alex Haley’s famous novel to life for a new generation. Roots tells the story of young Kunta Kinte, who is kidnapped from Gambia in the 18th century and brought to America on a slave ship, and his ancestors. The miniseries was a huge cultural phenomenon when it originally aired: the last episode is to this day the second-most watched finale in U.S. television history, and the third-highest-rated episode of any kind of program. The remake’s stellar cast includes Forest Whitaker, Anna Paquin, Mekhi Phifer, Laurence Fishburn, Anika Noni Rose, Tip “T..I.” Harris, Matthew Goode, and Malachi Kirby as Kunta Kinte.
May 30: So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation
SYTYCD has always been among TV’s best reality-competition shows, showcasing brilliant dancers and choreographers and giving us a weekly dose of Cat Deeley and her never-fail outfits. The show is doing something a little different with its 13th season, featuring wee dancers ages 8-13; the final ten will each be paired with a SYTYCD alum to learn different styles of dance. Nigel Lythgoe, Paula Abdul, and Jason Derulo will return to judge the young’uns — along with 13-year-old Maddie Ziegler, the Dance Moms Miami star famous for appearing in Sia’s “Chandelier” video.
May 31: AMC serves up Feed the Beast [Ed. note: the premiere date has been moved to June 5]
Let the Schwimmerenaissance commence! Hot off the heels of his juicy role in The People v. OJ Simpson, David Schwimmer stars alongside Jim Sturgess in this new AMC drama about two besties from the Bronx living their dream of opening a restaurant. Feed the Beast is based on a Danish series, Bankerot, which bodes well — from the original versions of The Bridge and The Killing to the political drama Borgen, the Danes have a track record of making quality TV.
(Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC)
May 31: Maya & Marty and a mini-SNL
If you were watching the SNL40 anniversary special last year, you were watching the unofficial pilot for Maya & Marty, NBC’s new variety show starring Maya Rudolph and Martin Short. The comedians were paired up for a skit during the 40th anniversary show, apparently to test out their chemistry — an appropriate start, since the new show will also be taped live at 30 Rock, and will also feature a parade of guest stars. SNL’s had a lackluster few years, so here’s hoping Maya & Marty will fill the live-comedy void.