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Seen any good movies lately? Chances are you haven’t, at least not in theaters. But as our new stay-at-home normal stretches out into another month, some films once destined for the multiplex have started to show up in other locations. Remember that comedy that reunites Kumail Nanjiani with Michael Showalter, the director of The Big Sick, and co-stars Insecure‘s Issa Rae? That’s coming to a home theater near you in May. Ditto a controversial documentary about sexual harassment in the music industry and the final installment of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s gastro-travelogue Trip franchise. Movies, not-even-close-to-now more than ever!
And of course, there’s a lot of new TV — good old-fashioned serialized and oh-so binge-worthy TV. On deck: not one but two shows that extend the universes of respective, recent-ish movies; not one but two new series from Greg Daniels, the mastermind of the American version of The Office; a new cartoon from the creator of Bob’s Burgers; another music-based series from the director who gave us La La Land; Ryan Murphy’s take on Tinseltown tawdriness; and the return of Kimmy Schmidt. It’s not a return to the life we used to know … but at least it’s something? Here’s what you should earmark to check out this May.
Betty (HBO, May 1st)
In the mid-aughts, writer-director Crystal Moselle’s chance meeting with a pair of skateboarders on a New York subway led to the 2018 movie Skate Kitchen, a semi-autobiographical account of a young woman (Rachelle Vinberg) hanging out with an all-female skateboarding crew, featuring a cast playing fictionalized versions of themselves. Most of the film’s young and restless kids have returned for Moselle’s six-episode series, which extends Kitchen’s subcultural deep-dive in the New York skating scene and channels the loose, intimate vibe that made the original indie a sleeper hit.
Central Park (Apple TV+, May 29th)
Bob’s Burgers has a long history of memorable songs [cue rousing singalong of the Michael McDonald-esque “BM in the PM”] — so it makes sense that creator Loren Bouchard would take that musical impulse one step further with this new series co-created with Bob’s vet Nora Smith and Josh Gad. A family of Central Park caretakers are pitted against a scheming developer (voiced by Stanley Tucci) with designs on the park. He and Gad co-star alongside a who’s-who of tuneful celebrities, including Daveed Diggs, Kristen Bell, Leslie Odom Jr., Kathryn Hahn and Tituss Burgess.
The Eddy (Netflix, May 8th)
Speaking of creators who have made no secret of their love of music: Whiplash and La La Land director Damien Chazelle makes the move to television with this miniseries set against the backdrop of a struggling Paris jazz club known as the Eddy. André Holland plays a New York transplant trying to keep the plaxce afloat while dealing with drama of his own, some of it in the form of enforcers from the Parisian mob. Cold War’s Joanna Kulig co-stars as a singer who might help save the joint, courtesy of some original songs by Once‘s Glen Ballard.
The Great (Hulu, May 15th)
So you’re in the for a somber, historically accurate account of Catherine the Great’s marriage to the 18th-century Emperor Peter III, you say? You might want to look some place this Hulu’s recounting of love and politics smothered in Russian dressing — somberness and accuracy appear to be the least of this farce’s concerns. Created by The Favourite co-writer Tony McNamara, this period piece stars Elle Fanning as the future empress, who finds herself stuck in an unhappy marriage to the doomed Peter (Nicholas Hoult). Naturally, she decides to take matters into her own hands. History and hilarity ensue. Watch with free-trial to Hulu here.
Hollywood (Netflix, May 1st)
Tinseltown players both real and fictional brush shoulders (and, um, other parts) in a new miniseries from Ryan Murphy. A kind of alternate history take on the post-World War II film industry that examines the tarnish on the golden age, Hollywood lets a sprawling cast of characters (played by Darren Criss, Samara Weaving, Jim Parsons, and Patti LuPone, amongst many others) dramatize the era’s sexism, racism, homophobia and all-around Babylonian excesses. Call it American Dream-Factory Story.
Homecoming, Season 2 (Amazon Prime Video, May 22nd)
The podcast-inspired conspiracy thriller returns for Round Two, with a new story and some considerable cast turnover. Gone are director Sam Esmail and stars Julia Roberts and Bobby Cannavale. In their place: filmmaker Kyle Patrick Alvarez (The Stanford Prison Experiment) and Janelle Monáe. The plot remains under wraps, but thanks to this cryptic trailer, we know that amnesia, hammers and the shadowy Geist Group all play a part. And thankfully, both Hong Chau and Stephan James return to reprise their roles from the first season. Watch with free trial to Amazon Prime here.
The Lovebirds (Netflix, May 22nd)
If you went to a movie theater in the final weeks before COVID-19 shuttered them for the foreseeable future, there’s a good chance you saw a preview for Paramount’s promising comedy starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani as a couple who becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. Originally slated for an April release, it’s instead became another film heading straight-to-streaming, thus allowing viewers to watch the protagonists’ wild night on the town from the comfort of their own homes. Hey, at least there’s a new action-filled romantic comedy directed by the guy who made The Big Sick to look forward to on the horizon. We’ll take what we can get.
On the Record (HBO Max, May 25th)
A subject of controversy even before its debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s documentary features firsthand accounts of several women’s experiences of sexual abuse at the hands of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. Originally destined for Apple TV+ with Oprah Winfrey serving as executive producer, the film changed venues after Winfrey removed her name for still nebulous reasons, becoming one of the highest-profile pieces of original programming to premiere on the soon-to-launch HBO Max.
Snowpiercer (TNT, May 17th)
This long in-the-works adaptation of Bong Joon Ho modern sci-fi classic — an adaptation of the French graphic novel about a never-ending postapocalyptic train ride — just happens to be making its belated debut at a moment when we’re all getting sick of confined spaces. It’s also hitting the airwaves at a particularly apt moment for a show set in a fictional world in which the politics of class and privilege get mixed up with the business of survival. An impressive cast that includes Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs should keep the claustrophobic, rich-vs-poor conflicts moving along with all the velocity of a runaway you-know-what.
Space Force (Netflix, May 29th)
There are no sure things in television, but The Office‘s Greg Daniels and Steve Carell reuniting for a workplace comedy? That might be pretty close. Make that a workplace comedy about Space Force — the recently announced, vaguely defined, and instantly mocked sixth branch of the US military — with a recurring cast with Ben Schwartz, Lisa Kudrow, John Malkovich, Fred Willard and other funny people. We have hopes for this one. The only troubling question: Will the fictional sitcom be able to top the absurdity of the reality that inspired it?
The Trip to Greece (VOD, May 22nd)
A kind of accidental movie franchise spun off from a British TV series, The Trip films began by following Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (or rather, “Steve Coogan” and “Rob Brydon”) on a gourmet jaunt through northern England. Then the tour kept going, following Coogan and Brydon through Italy, Spain, and now Greece. This installment will reportedly bring the series to a close (though the team have already revived the bit for a coronavirus fundraising special, so who knows?) and really, what better place to end this series of Michelin-star meals and first-rate impressions than the country that gave us democracy, Aristophanes and soulvaki?
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend (Netflix, May 12th)
Yes, Netflix’s popular sitcom about a stunted, eternally sunny kidnapping victim adjusting to life outside the bunker streamed its final episode last January — but is any episode ever really final anymore? This one-off revival employs the same Choose Your Own Adventure-style interactivity featured in Black Mirror’s “Bandersnatch” episode and Bear Grylls’ You vs. Wild. But will the option to steer the actions of Ellie Kemper’s Kimmy enhance the comedy? Press “play” to find out if Schmidt still happens.
Upload (Amazon Prime Video, May 1st)
Like we said up top, it’s a good month to be Greg Daniels. In addition to Space Force, the producer/writer’s high-concept comedy set in a virtual afterlife is set to premiere. In the future, people will be able to upload loved ones into a V.R. simulation of, say, a posh resort if they can afford the price of admission. And recently departed man (Robbie Amell) soon discovers heaven, or its digital equivalent, has some pretty serious limitations when your payment plan has a few strict stipulations. Lucky for him, his “guardian angel,” a.k.a. the engineer assigned to his case (Andy Allo) is able to give him a few (after)life hacks. And listen, if the two happen to develop a deeper attachment, well…. Watch with free trial to Amazon Prime here.