Yes, we’re all going to be busy saying goodbye to Game of Thrones this month. But May will also bring us an older HBO classic that’s back for a long-delayed proper wrap-up. (How we’ve missed you, Al Swearengen.) Meanwhile, the greatest athlete of the 20th century gets an essential two-part doc — and the Wu-Tang get a four-parter! — while Archer has one last parody-scenario up its sleeve and Jordan Klepper gets another shot at Comedy Central. Here’s what you need to set your DVR for over the next 30 days. (You can find our streaming picks for May here.)
Archer: 1999 (FX, May 29th)
The world’s dumbest superspy Sterling Archer and his trusty team have cycled through one reboot after another — from a Miami Vice homage to a season-long dream sequence of jungle adventure. For the series swan song, the group is going to the final frontier: a retro-futuristic vision of outer space loosely based on the Martin Landau-led sci-fi show of the 1970s. Archer trades his tuxedo for high-tech armor; former HR director Pam has morphed into a golem-like alien; science whiz Krieger lives as a cyborg; and Archer’s mother Mallory naturally does battle with a hostile robotic ostrich. It’s a helluva way to go it.
Chernobyl (HBO, May 6th)
In 1986, a nuclear reactor in the Soviet-controlled Ukraine burst into flames and threatened to bore a hole through the planet. This five-part dramatization covers the lead-up, the crisis and the fallout, along with a deep-benched ensemble — Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Emily Watson, Dunkirk‘s Barry Keoghan — minus any moose-and-squirrel Russian accents. It’s an autopsy of a man-made catastrophe from multiple points of entry. Don’t forget your geiger counter.
Deadwood: The Movie (HBO, May 31st)
Can it be true? After 13 years of sleeping with a flask of rotgut moonshine under our pillows, the dedicated fandom of David Milch’s canonized Western series will get a proper conclusion to the saga of one brutal 19th-century mining settlement. Sheriff Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), wily widow Alma Garret (Molly Parker), foulmouthed saloon proprietor Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) and a host of your other favorites return for a one-shot special checking in on the frontier town a decade after last saw them. Calling all hoopleheads. This finally happening.
Klepper (Comedy Central, May 9th)
Leaving behind the Alex Jones schtick of his former series The Opposition, the comic-pundit Jordan Klepper pivots to hot-button gonzo journalism for his new show. One week, he’s joining a wrestling league made up of soldiers using the sport to process their PTSD; the next, he’s embedded with pipeline protesters in the Louisiana bayou. (A good sign: He’s already been arrested once.) More surprisingly, the Daily Show alumni is also taking a more straight-faced approach this time around — think Vice‘s guerrilla-style news buoyed by jokes.
My Dad Wrote a Porno (HBO, May 11th)
After the success of their 2 Dope Queens specials, HBO has a good incentive to stay in the podcast game. Hence, this live onstage recording of another online sensation, revolving around British humorist Jamie Morton making the shocking discovery that his father had penned a series of erotic novels under the nom de plume Rocky Flintstone. He then did what any good son would do, i.e. had his mates (fellow comedians James Cooper and Alice Levine) over for a riotous dramatic reading. Parents, may be best to watch this one after you’ve put the kids to bed.
The Name of the Rose (SundanceTV, May 23rd)
Let this eight-part adaptation of Umberto Eco’s seminal debut novel whisk you away to a 14th-century monastery in northern Italia. A grisly murder has profaned this sacred house of worship, and it falls to friar William of Baskerville (a somber John Turturro), along with his young ward Adso of Melk (Damian Hardung), to unmask the culprit. Eco’s prose was admirably dense from the start, filled with Biblical, historical, and semiotic minutiae. Think of this godsend to highbrow couch potatoes as the thinking person’s Da Vinci Code.
The Spanish Princess (Starz, May 5th)
Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope) has been very patient during her tenure as Princess of Spain, awaiting for the day she can seize the English throne that’s rightfully hers. This series joins her just as she’s preparing to meet this destiny, except that her husband and ticket to the royal life has dropped dead at the worst possible moment. She’s got to wrangle a new spouse on the double. The days of the Tudors provide prime soap-opera fodder once again, complete with salacious sex and violence served up Starz-style.
State of the Union (SundanceTV, May 6th)
The unfaithful Louise (Rosamund Pike) and ineffectual Tom (Chris O’Dowd) like to stop for a pint at the pub across the street from their therapist’s office. Welcome to the 10-minute preludes to conflict, piecing together the couple’s complete relationship through snatches of tense conversation, with director Stephen Frears and writer Nick Hornby (a.k.a. Team High Fidelity) teasing out the details of a love that’s spanned years and now threatens to fall apart. Trust us, this is the surprise must-watch of the season. And it’s brief!
What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali (HBO, May 14th)
If Muhammad Ali had merely been the the Shakespeare of boxing, his place in history would have been assured. But in 1961, having renounced his “slave name” of Cassius Clay, reintroduced himself as an icon of individuality and political rebellion. This two-part bio-doc, directed by Antoine Fuqua and executive-produced by LeBron James, examines the larger-than-life figure as both peerless athlete and bold ideologue. Ali spoke out against the Vietnam War, studied under Malcolm X, planted the seeds of hip-hop with his spoken-word trash talk and did a stint with the Nation of Islam before defecting — and that was just the Sixties. He is, to put not too fine a point on it, the Greatest.
Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men (Showtime, May 10th)
Twenty-five years and still nuthin’ to fuck it! Staten Island’s proudest sons claim the spotlight in this four-part documentary dissecting the history, the mythos and the impact of the greatest rap group straight outta Shaolin. GZA, RZA, Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Raekwon, and the rest of the crew’s surviving members (you’re gone but not forgotten, O.D.B.) sit for revelatory interviews about escaping home while remaining true to it, the challenges of turning friends into business partners, and, of course, the finer points of kung-fu cinema. Consider the ruckus to be, beyond all shadow of a doubt, thoroughly and completely brought.