We’re living in a veritable golden age of bizarre reality TV competitions, dear readers. In 2017, children will frantically prepare BBQ cuisine; hoofers will boogie for J-Lo’s amusement; and contestants will attempt to impress Jamie Foxx by outsmarting an app. Meanwhile, Shonda Rhimes takes on the aftermath of Romeo and Juliet, Bernie Madoff gets what-for courtesy of Robert De Niro and an 1980s artifact springs back to life in all of its permed glory. Oh, and there’s a talking dog in the mix as well. Oh and did we mention that Twin Fucking Peaks is back after a 25 year hiatus?!? Here’s what you’ll be tuning in to this May.
Beat Shazam (Fox, May 25th)
An Academy Award win, collaborating with Kanye West, a gonzo starring roles in a Quentin Tarantino Western – so what’s Jamie Foxx’s latest adventure, you ask? How about: Hosting a game show in which contestants try to correctly identify a song before the app Shazam automatically beats them to it. An epic battle to tell “Ice Ice Baby” apart from “Under Pressure” will break out between man and machine, pitting wits against algorithms in a glorified-but-still-wholly-amusing commercial. And hey, you can smack-talk the guy who can’t identify the guitar riff from “Satisfaction” from the comfort of your couch all you want, but let’s see you do better when the pressure’s on.
Chris Gethard: Career Suicide (HBO, May 6th)
In the hands of comic Chris Gethard, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation are all comic gold. You’ll believe a man can probe some pretty dark crevices in search of laughs courtesy of this Judd Apatow-fronted stand-up special, with Gethard digging through his tormented childhood, experiments with mood-stabilizing medication and long stints in psychotherapy. Equal parts soul-wrenching confessional and finely-honed open mic routine, it’s a high-wire comedy act most talents wouldn’t dare to attempt.
Dark Angel (PBS, May 21st)
Some serial killers stab, some shoot, others strangle – 19th-century psychopath Mary Ann Cotton preferred poisoning, dosing 21 unsuspecting victims (including three husbands and 11 of her own children) before she was caught. Her horrifying, perplexing life story forms the basis of this handsomely mounted Masterpiece treatment featuring Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt as the storied murderess. Joined by a killer lineup [ahem] of esteemed British thespians, Froggatt brings Cotton’s dark drives to life in something close to Dexter for the BBC set.
Dirty Dancing (ABC, May 24th)
The time has come for a new generation of viewers to learn which part of the room nobody puts Baby in. [Spoiler: It rhmyes with schmorner.] This remake of the 1987 romance shrinks the story of forbidden passion, tragic secrets and radical legwarmers down to small-screen size. It’s the summer of 1963 and Abigail Breslin is heading to the same Catskill resort town that Jennifer Grey visited a few decades ago; instead of Patrick Swayze, stage-trained newcomer Colt Prattes catches her eye. Warning: do not attempt full running lifts at home, or really any room with low ceilings.
Downward Dog (ABC, May 17th)
The annals of talking-animal entertainment welcome yet another entry with this big-hearted sitcom, told from the point of view of a lovable, philosophizing canine. Martin, a mutt with the warm baritone of Samm Hodges, has the run of the house while his person Nan (Allison Tolman of Fargo) spends the day at the corporate offices of an Urban Outfitters-esque fashion company. But a new boyfriend and some tsuris at work threaten to shatter their sleepy domestic idyll, and only joint therapy — or dog-training classes, same diff — can get their life together back in order.
The Last 100 Days of Diana (ABC, May 7th)
This August will mark two decades since the shocking death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and network television doesn’t intend on letting the occasion go by unrecognized. This one-night special delves into the final summer of the British royal’s life, a pivotal period in which she readjusted to life as a single woman and an even more intense spotlight heat. With a panel of talking-head commentators to underscore the influence she had on fashion and socialite culture, this special should give her memory a proper salute.
Mommy Dead and Dearest (HBO, May 15th)
Need a fix of true crime scandal, the kind that doesn’t no skimp on the lurid details? This 2014 case involves a Mississippi woman, her daughter, a murder, an online flirtation and fake medical diagnoses galore. Documentarian Erin Lee Carr lays out the whole bizarre, disturbing, too-insane-to-be-fake story, ultimately turning a critical eye towards the various institutional failings that created the killer rather than the killer herself. Nothing quite like hunkering down on the couch for some good ol’ fashioned brutal inhumanity!
Still Star-Crossed (ABC, May 29th)
Having already staked her claim to the political thriller, the detective drama and procedurals both medical and legal, Shonda Rhimes will now annex the period piece as Shondaland’s newest territory. This series picks up where Romeo and Juliet left off, as the Montague and Capulet families tentatively approach a ceasefire to their long-standing blood feud. The marriage between Juliet’s cousin Rosaline (breakout Lashana Lynch) and Benvolio (Wade Briggs) should put a stop to the fighting, but there’s a snag in the plan – they don’t want to tie the knot. We declare a pox on both their … oh yeah, right. Sorry.
Twin Peaks (Showtime, May 21st)
If you haven’t seen the original Twin Peaks yet – stop reading this article, quit your job, go home and spend the next couple days wrapped up in David Lynch’s puzzling mystery-melodrama. Now that you’ve got a belly full of cherry pie and some damn fine coffee in your system, you’re ready for the once-thought-impossible revival of the groundbreaking Nineties serial. Lynch returns to the seemingly quiet Pacific Northwest lumber town for another swirl of mystical depravity, surrealist humor and percolator fish; though plot details have been kept under lock and key, it’s still the TV event of the year and a dream come true. (Just hopefully not a dream that leads to the Black Lodge.)
The Wizard of Lies (HBO, May 20th)
Bernie Madoff is probably not the biggest piece of human garbage to have ever lived. But he defrauded the American people out of a cool $64.8 billion and drained savings accounts in a flagrant display of unchecked greed – so the guy’s gotta crack the top 20, right? He scarcely deserves the honor of being portrayed by Robert De Niro in a made-for-TV movie from Barry Levinson, but at least the director’s got plenty of experience dramatizing the lives of controversial men after 2010’s Jack Kevorkian HBO biopic You Don’t Know Jack. (The fact that this not called Raging Bullshitter is a missed opportunity.) We get the pleasure of watching him get raked over the coals one last time.