It’s a battleground month, people, as streaming platforms bust out the big guns to keep viewers glued to their sofas while temperatures climb back into clemency. Three of Netflix’s more notable original programs trot out new seasons; Amazon brings one of 2016’s finest films to couch potatoes, as well as what may be the most radical show of 2017; and Hulu unveils a pair of documentaries shedding some well-deserved light on obscure corners of pop culture. And hey, Acorn’s getting in the mix as well, importing a BBC gem for stateside viewing pleasure. Here’s your 10 best options for streaming in May.
Batman and Bill (Hulu, May 6th)
You know the Caped Crusader. You might even know of creator Bob Kane. But what about the man behind the Batman? This documentary gives long-overdue recognition to the Dark Knight’s original and unaccredited creator, an illustrator named Bill Finger., who – despite Kane taking sole credit – allegedly did the lion’s share of the work. Marc Tyler Nobelman’s adaptation of his exhaustively-researched book sets the record straight while investigating how posterity could’ve forgotten this man. Part comics-history revisionism, part edifying biography, it’s an essential new chapter of the superhero’s origin story.
Becoming Bond (Hulu, May 20th)
He doesn’t have the name recognition of a Sean Connery, Roger Moore or Daniel Craig. But for one glorious installment, George Lazenby was James Bond – and this documentary tracks the one-and-done 007’s rapid ascent from life as a poor Australian auto mechanic to silver screen stardom to elective anonymity. Lazenby, who sat for extensive interviews for this project, makes for a curious character – after starring in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he passed on the studio’s seven-film contract and the million-dollar signing bonus that went with it. This mix of archival footage, interviews and dramatic recreations searches for an answer as to why, while simultaneously saluting its subject’s truncated (not stirred) legacy.
Decline and Fall (Acorn, May 15th)
After getting himself kicked out of theology school and defaulting on the conditions of his inheritance, Paul Pennyfeather (Jack Whitehall) takes a job teaching at a rural school, where he catches the eye of the sultry Mrs. Margo Beste-Chetwynde (Eva Longoria). He’s got secrets, she’s got secrets and everybody’s got ulterior motives. Arched eyebrows and arch one-liners lie ahead; this light-handed BBC chamber piece. may be the reason you start subscribing to Acorn, a sort of go-to streaming stop for hardcore Anglophiles. At the very least, it’s the best show this season to feature a hero named Pennyfeather.
Handsome (Netflix, May 5th)
Watch your back, Columbo, there’s a new bumbling detective on the scene. Jeff Garlin writes, directs and stars in this gumshoe comedy about Gene Handsome, a Los Angeles homicide investigator who can seemingly figure out any mystery except why his own personal life is a mess. As he criss-crosses L.A. in hot pursuit of a killer, he scrambles to hold onto some semblance of stability with his family. A strong roster of TV stalwarts including Natasha Lyonne, Amy Sedaris, and Kaley Cuoco have his back as he strives to get a clue, both in the P.I. and larger existential senses.
I Love Dick (Amazon, May 12th)
After successfully de-bugabooing gender for the mainstream, Transparent creator Jill Soloway returns to Amazon to fill the vacuum of good comedies about obsessive female infatuation. Kathryn Hahn is mesmerizing as a fictionalized version of source material author Chris Kraus, recounting her relocation to Marfa, Texas, with her husband and the intense love triangle that followed. The object of her all-consuming lust? A hunkier-than-usual Kevin Bacon, playing an author that’s a cross between Cormac McCarthy, Richard Ford and every third he-man novelist of the last few decades. You may insert the “Dick” pun of your choosing here.
Manchester by the Sea (Amazon, May 5th)
One of last year’s crowning cinematic achievements finally arrives on streaming – you may now dissolve into individual puddles of tears in the comfort of your own home. This drama of grieving and guilt on the North Shore of Massachusetts earned Casey Affleck and writer-director Kenneth Lonergan one Academy Award apiece, but that’s hardly a testament to its bruising effectiveness. It’s the minor touches of writing and performance that make this story feel chillingly real. And that sequence between Affleck and Michelle Williams, in which a legacy of tragedy is laid out in a single stop-start conversation on a street corner, is beyond devastating. American drama-wise, this is the real deal.
Master of None, Season 2 (Netflix, May 12th)
When we last saw Dev (co-creator/star Aziz Ansari), he was on a plane to Italy for culinary training. Season Two follows our hapless hero on an eating tour through the Boot, with costar Eric Wareheim along for the ride. Eventually, Dev returns to his native New York for more misadventures in the world of dating and fine dining. The trailer teases guest appearances from John Legend and Bobby Cannavale, but so long as Ansari’s singular take on the surreal post-Louie comic sadcom keeps bringing its A game, who cares who drops by? The show is the star. It’s tough to think of a sophomore season we’re looking forward to diving into more.
Sense8, Season 2 (Netflix, May 5th)
The Wachowski siblings’ insanely audacious sci-fi drama, complete with an everything-is-connected
plot structure that plays like Magnolia but with orgies instead of Aimee
Mann sing-alongs, will return this month to keep Netflix weird. An eclectic ensemble that includes an Icelandic DJ, a Korean kickboxer, a trans hacktivist and a hunky telenovela star reconvene in response to another looming metaphysical threat. More than a cracking work of superpowered suspense, however, the filmmakers have assembled one of the most diverse casts on television, and then gave them a worthy narrative about commonality and connection. You’ll never have to be lonely again.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 3 (Netflix, May 19th)
She still alive, dammit! The show’s junior year finds Kimmy (played by corporeal ray of sunshine Ellie Kemper) start her freshman year at college, where she’ll work towards the undergraduate degree that captivity in an underground bunker prevented her from getting. Meanwhile, fan-favorite Tituss (Tituss Burgess) records a Lemonade parody in the wake of a bad breakup, and Kimmy’s part-time landlord, full-time friend Lillian (Carol Kane) calls it splitsville with longtime boyfriend Robert Durst (Fred Armisen in an uncanny impression). Unbreakable, indeed.
War Machine (Netflix, May 26th)
Looking like a GWOT Ken doll, strong-jawed Brad Pitt stars as General Dan McMahon, the unlucky bastard shipped off to the Middle East and tasked with whipping what’s left of the U.S. military presence into shape. It turns out resolving the conflict in Afghanistan is a stickier wicket than the gung-ho leader imagined, and in short order, he finds himself in way over his perfectly-coiffed head. Not too far removed from the factual account of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s ill-fated stint in the region (see: the Rolling Stone article by the late journalist Michael Hastings), it’s a damning – and damn funny – indictment of America’s recent geopolitical screw-ups.