Spring is just around the corner, promising those of us on the East Coast a reason to finally go outside other than, like, going to the grocery store. (And only because the Seamless orders were beginning to add up.) Thanks for the early prediction, Punxsutawney Phil!
However, with all the big streamers dropping exciting new offerings in March—Amazon Prime’s got the Oscar-nominated Cold War; Netflix has a second season of The OA on the way—there’s still a compelling case to stay indoors, and use Seamless just one more time. Here is The Ringer’s streaming guide for all the best new additions coming to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime this month, along with some recommendations from Ringer staffers that have recently piqued their interest.
What’s New to Streaming in March
A selected list of movies and TV shows coming this month that The Ringer is very excited about.
Cold War (coming to Amazon Prime, March 22)
Lindsay Zoladz: As he did with his unassuming masterpiece Ida, which won the Foreign Language Oscar in 2015, [director Pawel] Pawlikowski has developed a visual style that’s as much about scenes as the spaces between them, less about what’s said than what’s left unspoken. He’s an expertly economical filmmaker. (Consider how succinctly Cold War’s vibrant heroine Zula explains the violent incident that prompted her to leave her town: One night her father “mistook her for her mother,” so she reminded him of the difference.) Anchored by two striking performances, Cold War is a formal triumph, put together so elegantly that you barely realize what it’s up to until about two-thirds of the way through.
The OA, Season 2 (Netflix, March 22)
Alison Herman: Other shows pull their twists off with a delicate balancing act: The Leftovers coaxes us into the paranormal by having characters as incredulous as we are; Mr. Robot calls attention to its unreliable narrator from its very first frame. The OA reaches for something similar, but nowhere near as effectively. It gets the suspense right, but at the expense of almost everything else. It doesn’t have the depth required for a prolonged study of perspective and myth, or the emotion that that process can inspire in the people it profoundly affects.
Queer Eye, Season 3 (Netflix, March 15)
Herman: To the Fab Five’s already imposing workload, however, the [rebooted] Queer Eye adds a new mission, one that escalates the series’ aims above and beyond even the total-package Cinderella story the show was to begin with. This Fab Five wants to take on its projects’ inner lives as well as their outer presentation; in fact, Queer Eye now sees improvements to the latter as a means to improve the former, rather than as a goal in and of itself. And while a real-life personality overhaul takes years of therapy and halting progress, these transformations fit squarely in the one-and-done hour allotted to them. Like all makeovers, the results are mixed—but occasionally transcendent.
Shoplifters (Hulu, March 14)
Mani Lazic: A Palme d’Or winner at Cannes, [Shoplifters has] been marketed as a seemingly tender and uplifting family drama (at least from the look of its U.S. poster), which, combined with a potential Oscar nomination, could compel even your parents to get off the couch for an afternoon of light entertainment. But underneath its crowd-pleasing appearances, this slowly engrossing film hides an uncompromising defense of chosen bonds over inherited ones, open-hearted generosity, and life outside the stifling rules of capitalism. That’s some surprise stuffing for you.
Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 6 (Netflix, March 12)
Nicole Bae: At times, watching Terrace House can feel like you’re observing real life through a blurry lenses, and it’s not just due to the soft filter used by editors. Things seem so … calm. Terrace House doesn’t satisfy that bloodthirsty, “unscripted”-but-probably-scripted drama that you get from The Bachelorette, Real World, and the like. The common tropes of reality TV as we know it are noticeably absent. While cast members do have sex and sometimes drink heavily, the producers purposefully don’t show debauchery. Instead, Terrace House focuses on what happens next, like looking at how a relationship changes — or doesn’t change — after becoming official or how a hungover cast member tries so endearingly hard to make it through a date at an amusement park.
Office Space (Hulu, March 1)
Jake Kring-Schreifels: The comedy, at first a box office flop, took on cult classic status by holding up a mirror to the depressing, cynical, and occasionally farcical nature of the modern office. The premise, about a software company employee who stops caring about his soul-sucking job, provided catharsis for many who also felt trapped by micromanaging bosses and offered an antidote to their 9-to-5 monotony.
Catastrophe, Season 4 (Amazon Prime, March 15)
Rob Harvilla: Catastrophe premiered in 2015 as a black-licorice M&M, an anti-rom-com lovingly committed to its misanthropic sentimentality. It is You’re the Worst fused to Married With Children. [Rob] Delaney and [Sharon] Horgan, as the costars, cowriters, and cocreators, play Rob and Sharon, an American ad exec and Irish schoolteacher, respectively, who meet in a London bar and have a weeklong one-night stand while he’s still in town. Their meet-cute, which occurs six seconds into the pilot, is required viewing, or rewatching. The fourth thing Rob says to Sharon is that he quit drinking “after I shit my pants at my sister’s wedding”; the sixth thing he says to her, after she initially declines his offer to buy her a drink, is, “Don’t make me fight a stranger.” Within a minute or so, they’re flopping ungracefully onto his hotel bed, Sharon’s back landing directly onto a slice of cold pizza. To defuse the awkwardness, Rob smashes the plate against the wall; “That was exciting,” she observes.
Fear The Walking Dead, Season 4 (Hulu, March 19)
Ben Lindbergh: Saddled with dwindling ratings and an indistinct identity at the end of its third season, The Walking Dead’s less celebrated descendant embarked on an ambitious reboot that tried to do for Fear what critically acclaimed course corrections had done for HBO’s The Leftovers and AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire in their second seasons. ... Attempting to start fresh in Season 4 was an even taller order for Fear, but the spinoff, which was recently renewed for a fifth season, has made the makeover work, morphing into a weirder, wilder, and more adventurous show that stands apart from — and in some ways surpasses — the franchise flagship.
Arrested Development, Season 5B (Netflix, March 15)
Herman: Arrested Development has always been heavily self-referential, but the addition of a substantial time gap makes those references feel more like the knowing winks in every other resurrected touchstone. Season 4 was truer to Arrested Development’s groundbreaking reputation, but Season 5 is the instantly gratifying comfort food I didn’t know I wanted. It doesn’t add anything new to the show’s mythos, but it successfully conjures the old. The show’s young, binge-watching target demographic may consider itself above the cheap ploy of carbon-copying a childhood favorite, but it turns out we’re just as capable of being pandered to as everyone else.
Some New-ish Things You Might’ve Missed
Because it’s hard to keep up with everything, here are a few things that have premiered somewhat recently that may be worth catching up on.
Russian Doll (on Netflix)
Herman: Underneath its sci-fi trappings and somber philosophizing, Russian Doll is a half-hour show firmly in the Louie mode, a transparent vehicle for the persona of its creator-lead. [Natasha] Lyonne takes advantage of the opportunity to showcase her range, but also flex her undiluted star power; like Lyonne herself, Nadia is a lifelong denizen of lower Manhattan fond of first-thing-in-the-morning cigarettes, eyeliner, all-black ensembles, and drugs.
The Umbrella Academy (on Netflix)
Micah Peters: Umbrella Academy arrives just on the heels of Netflix’s and Marvel’s conscious uncoupling. As The Defenders and The Punisher and Foggy Nelson move on to Disney Plus, we’re left to get acquainted with another host of lesser antiheroes, and how many different ways can there be to tell that kind of story, really? More generally, there’s an obscene number of shows on an equally obscene number of platforms jostling for your attention, and your queue is, if you’re being honest, pretty full without Netflix’s first comic book adaptation not based on a Marvel property. I’m not saying you have to give The Umbrella Academy a chance, but if you do … it’ll take your eyes a little while to adjust to it, OK? The lighting and saturation is kind of like if David Fincher shot the whole thing on a faulty last-gen iPhone set to eternal Low Power Mode.
Lorena (on Amazon Prime)
Herman: Twenty-five years of punch lines mean [Lorena] Bobbitt is now synonymous with a single act of desperation: cutting off the penis of her abusive husband, John Wayne. Despite Bobbitt’s trial and her devastating testimony being televised in full, her long-term legacy has amounted to little more than a single appendage. Lorena shows why, and how, this happens almost in real time—the SNL sketches, the David Letterman Top Five, the Andrew Dice Clay routine. It’s a lot easier to make a macabre version of a dick joke than it is to grapple with the years of rapes and beatings that built up to a headline-friendly climax.
Abducted in Plain Sight (on Netflix)
Claire McNear: It behooves both of us, probably, to avoid the question of what you look for when you watch true crime programming. So let’s make this simple: If it is to mutter “holy shit” under your breath at five-minute intervals for an hour and a half, Abducted in Plain Sight might just be the documentary for you.
High Flying Bird (on Netflix)
Peters: There are moments during High Flying Bird when it feels as if you’re listening at half-speed. It could also be that everyone is just talking really fast. In either case, closed captioning comes in handy. The players in Steven Soderbergh’s sporting melodrama—which is NOT about the NBA, although it is about “the league”—are prone to dense, expositional dispatches about stuff like race and agency, or the lost innocence of a playground game hopelessly complicated by corporate interests. That’s not a knock. I love dense, expositional dispatches and melodrama. I also love nimble, Sorkin-y dialogue. Almost as much as I love the Lord and all his black people. High Flying Bird is sort of preachy, but in an earnest and charming and artful and occasionally funny way.
Pen15 (on Hulu)
Kate Knibbs: Like Big Mouth, [Pen15] uses a clever device to make a narrative about the sexual lives of its young protagonists more palatable. [Maya] Erskine and [Anna] Konkle, who created the comedy, are both in their early 30s, but they play characters based on their younger selves among a supporting cast made up of actual middle schoolers. But while Big Mouth’s cartoon status has freed the show up to be almost limitlessly daring, the gimmick Pen15 uses to deal with the perilous terrain of adolescent lust isn’t much more than that: a gimmick.
Velvet Buzzsaw (on Netflix)
Miles Surrey: Netflix’s art house arthouse horror movie, from writer-director Dan Gilroy, is every bit the Final Destination–meets–The Neon Demon hybrid the trailer suggested—half kitschy art-related horror, half a bespectacled Jake Gyllenhaal decrying the realm of criticism as “so limiting and emotionally draining.” In the world of Velvet Buzzsaw, art comes at a great personal cost, and those who try to profit from it should be prepared to suffer the consequences—meaning, death via haunted paintings in increasingly ludicrous fashion. The whole enterprise is more meme than movie, and the campy delights of Velvet Buzzsaw hinge on its memorable cast of quirky characters.
Dating Around (on Netflix)
Herman: The premise of Dating Around takes all of two slides to explain—three, if you count “A Netflix Original Series.” “Five first dates” reads the first. “One second date,” the second continues. That’s it. Starting with its extremely literal name, the streaming service’s foray into dating shows is a program firmly in line with the keep it simple, stupid principle. Dating is messy and complicated enough on its own. Why weigh it down with gimmicks or twists?
A random collection of movies and TV shows that are a little more off the beaten path, for when you’re in a certain kind of mood.
What to Watch If You Think an Aussie Version of High Maintenance Sounds Appealing: Please Like Me was my single most joyful television discovery of the past year. An Australian comedy originally on ABC2 and now available in its full, four-season run on Hulu, it joins the proud tradition of TV shows about very funny people doing nothing. In this case, those funny people are creator-writer-star Josh Thomas (who is currently working on a new show for Freeform; get hype, as the kids say), fellow writer Thomas Ward, a pre-Nanette Hannah Gadsby, and a motley crew of significant others, parents, and friends. It’s about a lot of things that definitely aren’t nothing—sexuality and friendship and mental illness and family bonds—but it is, above all, focused on being a 20-something with nothing much to do beyond sit in a hot tub and bicker with your roommate. The result is a weird, frenetic, and High Maintenance-esque kind of poignancy; you will, in spite of everything I just said, laugh frequently. That the episodes are a breezy half-hour is the cherry on top. Please like Please Like Me, for me. (And also for you.) —McNear
What to Watch If You Like Heists, Oceans, and Overt Vacation Porn: I decided to check out Into the Blue, a critically derided 2005 film starring the late Paul Walker and Jessica Alba streaming on Netflix, because it serves a very basic purpose: It looks nice. I rarely say no to a film with a setting that doubles as vacation porn (I will always love you, Fool’s Gold!) and with its Bahamian backdrop, Into the Blue was appealing for its Instagrammable locales alone. Shockingly, it’s more than pleasant to gawk at: This movie is … actually quite good? Sam (Alba) and Jared (Walker) are beach bums holding onto the faint hope of finding sunken treasure, and after finding what could be the remains of a legendary shipwreck, they run into another obstacle: The treasure is not 200 feet away from a downed plane filled with millions of dollars worth of cocaine. Which treasure they should seek—and whether they should claim it above board—is the crux of the film, which also features tiger sharks, impressively staged underwater sequences, and Josh Brolin in board shorts. If you can stomach one too many Scott Caan monologues and a sprinkle of cheesy dialogue, Into the Blue is definitely worth diving into. —Surrey
What to Watch If You’ve Hit a Low Point in Your Natural Hair Journey and Need a Revival: I’ve never felt more liberated about my natural hair than after watching Netflix’s Nappily Ever After and seeing actress Sanaa Lathan shave her head on camera. Based on the book series by Trisha R. Thomas, the very important (and necessary) story follows Violet (Lathan) as she comes to terms with the fact that her “perfect” hair has been dictating her entire life, especially whether it’s good enough for this ideal man she’s expecting to propose. It’s only after shaving it off that she has allowed herself the freedom to be completely and utterly her perfectly imperfect self. As black women, too often our hair defines us, and this film explores the possibility of countering that perpetuated cliché. —Jordan Ligons