With the advent of Peak TV and the silver era of the Streaming Age, it’s really crazy to consider just how much television has essentially closed and ended the gap between itself and the perceived quality of “cinema.” One format used to be decidedly elevated, and now, thanks to the Streaming Wars—and even the way the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the problems for the theatrical experience—TV and film are basically on par, more or less.
The “oh, it’s just television” stigma is long gone. All the top filmmakers in the world are on TV or have toyed within the TV sandbox in the last decade—Ava DuVernay, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Spike Lee, Jane Campion, Taika Waititi, Michael Mann, etc.— and so have some of the world’s biggest actors (Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Jamie Foxx, Amy Adams, Matthew McConaughey, Meryl Streep, Colin Farrell, Julia Robert, Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle, to name several).
This is old territory we’ve rehashed and relitigated many times. Still, it’s well to remind viewers that as Marvel and blockbusters dominate the cinema, the platform for adult storytelling and dramas are generally on TV; hence a lot of talent continuing to head to TV to tell deeper, richer stories there.
Of course, that’s changing. We’ve already experienced two Marvel series in 2021 (“WandaVision,” “The Falcon & The Winter Soldier”), and four more are coming (you’ll see two this summer). “Lord Of The Rings” is on the way to Amazon Prime, and so, the movie blockbuster invasion of TV truly begins this year. That said, if you look at our summer preview in earnest, if people are worried about invasive blockbusters taking over the movie space, it’s probably going to take a few years before that’s actually true (though Marvel is doing a pretty good job of event-izing TV). That’s a problem we don’t really have to deal with at the moment. Anyhow, without further ado, our Summer TV Preview.
“Pose” (Season 3)
Covering some of the same turf explored in the essential LGBTQ doc “Paris Is Burning,” “Pose” has made TV history for the forward-thinking inclusivity of its casting and its genuinely radical storytelling. So, with a heavy heart, fans of the show must say goodbye, as the show’s third season, which premiered on May 2, will also be its curtain call. Series co-creator Steven Canals has hinted that the decision to call it quits on “Pose” was not easy. Still, he insisted, in a recently-issued creative statement, that he and the showrunners “[told] the story the way that we wanted to tell it.” The final run is in 1994, some years after the ballroom heyday of the first two seasons, and continues to explore issues of family, artistry, and sexual liberation.
Premiere Date: May 2 on FX.
“The Girlfriend Experience” (Season 3)
Steven Soderbergh’s concept with “The Knick”—create a world, give it to different filmmakers—didn’t quite pan out on Cinemax (though maybe it will one day with Barry Jenkins). But it sure did work with “The Girlfriend Experience.” An engaging, serious, thoughtful conversation about desire, control, sex, sex work, and all its ethical/social/financial implications, Seasons 1 and 2 were written, directed, and created by Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan. Given the show’s bold penchant for experimentation, Season 3 is a big rethink from indie director Anja Marquardt (“She’s Lost Control”), now starring Julia Goldani Telles (“The Affair”), and set in the world of big tech and artificial intelligence and applied to the idea of transactional relationships. It’s great, and our review describes it as “a deep path of intellectual, evocative, and erotic exploration.”
Premiere Date: May 2 on Starz.
“Star Wars: The Bad Batch”
Listen, “The Mandalorian” would be a tough act for anyone to follow, but as Playlist editor Charles Barfield shrewdly pointed out, “Star Wars: The Bad Batch” – the latest animated spin-off from the ever-expanding “Star Wars” universe – exists more for hardcore fans of “Star Wars Rebels” and “The Clone Wars” than fair-weather defenders of “The Last Jedi.” Despite showcasing a tone that’s decidedly less grounded than the adventures of Mando and the child (remember, it’s an animated show), “The Bad Batch,” at least based on its first trailer, boasts an epic scale worthy of “Star Wars” at its grandest. The show comes to us courtesy of many of the same minds who helped shepherd “The Mandalorian” to life – surely, a good omen.
Premiere Date: May 4 on Disney+.
“Jupiter’s Legacy,” apart from being the forthcoming adaptation of Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s beloved comic book series of the same name, looks to be a continuation of themes explored in shows like “Watchmen,” “The Umbrella Academy,” and “The Boys”; these are less cookie-cutter superhero narratives than irreverent, genre-mutating deconstructions of what it even means to be a superhero. “Jupiter’s Legacy” will offer a platform to the likes of Josh Duhamel, Leslie Bibb, Ben Daniels, Mike Wade, and others, and Steven S. DeKnight (Netflix’s “Daredevil,” “Pacific Rim: Uprising”) will direct the first and last installments of the eight-episode first season.
Premiere Date: May 7 on Netflix.
“Mythic Quest” (Season 2)
Quick show of hands: who was forced to work from home during the pandemic and found themselves actually missing their workspace? The folks who answered “yes” may want to start watching “Mythic Quest,” the endearing sitcom from “It’s Always Sunny” masterminds Rob McElhenny, Charlie Day, and Megan Ganz. “Mythic Quest” is your standard, silly workplace romp, the twist being that the action unfolds at a video game development studio. Critic Brian Tallerico, who wrote about the show for the Playlist, was a fan of what he saw of season two, writing that “‘Mythic Quest’ is a joyful reminder of how strong this comedy can be when it’s really clicking.”
Premiere Date: May 7 on Apple TV+.
“Shrill” (Season 3)
Leave it to ‘SNL‘ standout Aidy Bryant to take a shopworn premise – the fictionalized slice-of-life narrative centered around an established comic dealing with romantic hang-ups – and making it feel not only fresh but downright invigorating, with her consistently charming Hulu sitcom “Shrill,” whose third season will also be it’s last. While we would never want “Shrill” to outstay its welcome, odds are there won’t be another show quite like it for some time. Bryant has gone on the record via Deadline, calling “Shrill” “one of the most creatively satisfying experiences of [her] life.” While we’re as excited as anyone to see what the newly single Annie gets up to in this final chapter, we’re also dying to see where Bryant decides to go next.
Premiere Date: May 7 on Hulu.
Ziwe Fumudoh has slowly, steadily been showing us what she’s made of over recent years, and for her next act of creative reinvention, she will be hosting her own late-night variety program, “Ziwe,” replete with “interviews, musical numbers, sketches, fake commercials, [and] field pieces,” and guest stars that include the likes of Jane Krakowski and Cristin Milioti. Fumudoh has called her preferred form of comedy “offensive, bombastic and satirical,” and given that “Ziwe” comes courtesy of the trailblazers at A24, there’s no reason not to expect big things from this show. It’s splashy; it’s glamorous, it’s brazen, it’s fearless – it’s Ziwe, baby! See what all the fuss is about and hop aboard the Ziwe train when “Ziwe” debuts.
Premiere Date: May 9 on Showtime.
Brace yourselves for Jean Smart as Deborah Vance, the fictional “queen of Sin City,” in the sharp-looking, no doubt hilarious “Hacks,” which is slated to premiere on HBO Max come May 13. “Hacks” is a kind of dark, witty mismatched buddy comedy about a self-involved, over-the-hill Las Vegas comedienne (Smart) and an understandably maladjusted, cash-strapped millennial (Hannah Einbinder) who becomes the older woman’s joke writer/protégé. “Hacks” comes from the same camp that helped bring “Broad City” to life, namely creators Jen Statsk, Luca Aniello, and Paul W. Downs, and being that “Veep” and “Silicon Valley” are no longer on the network, HBOMax could probably use another starry, foul-mouthed comedy for adults to bolster the quality of their original programming.
Premiere Date: May 14 on HBOMax.
“Love Death + Robots” (Season 2)
Born out of David Fincher and Tim Miller’s pitch to re-imagine the original “Heavy Metal” animated movie before becoming its own strange, alien, beautifully otherworldly aesthetic experience, “Love Death + Robots” is a visually arresting animated anthology odyssey. In Season 2, the showrunners have tapped an impressive roster of directorial talent, including “Tron: Uprising” director Robert Valley, “Kung Fu Panda” genius Jennifer Yuh Nelson, and Miller himself (maybe Fincher himself one day?). It’s a dark series, adult and twisted, but it stands out in an overcrowded landscape of animated escapades, if nothing else.
Premiere Date: May 14 on Netflix.
The creators and writers of Amazon‘s “Hunters” with Al Pacino, David Weil already has another Amazon project in the can, “Solos,” a seven-part anthology series about “human connection,” that really looks like it was one of the many films and TV shows that were born out of the pandemic to give audiences a sense of hope. There’s a lot of potential problems in that; a lot of hastily-made post-pandemic projects are not great, to be honest, but this one has a stellar cast — Uzo Aduba, Nicole Beharie, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Anthony Mackie, Helen Mirren, Dan Stevens, and Constance Wu — so don’t count it out.
Premieres: May 21 on Amazon Prime.