This April, our spring wardrobe is just “pajamas” and our “spring cleaning” habit has gone from a one-time thing to a daily hobby. Luckily, streaming is also a welcome distraction, and this month there’s something for everyone: a satire about vampires; a foreign-language thriller; an eccentric tiger king. Check out everything that’s new on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime below, as well as a few personal selections from the Ringer staff.
What’s New to Streaming in April
A selected list of movies and TV shows coming this month that The Ringer is very excited about.
What We Do in the Shadows Season 2 (Hulu, April 16)
Alison Herman: As a critic, it’s hard to know what to make of a show like What We Do in the Shadows, the FX half-hour that turns the impeccable 2015 mockumentary into an impeccable sitcom. In a post-Office world, Shadows’ testimonials and handheld camerawork aren’t breaking formal ground; the plot simply recycles the movie’s bloodsuckers-as-cranky-housemates setup, swapping out New Zealand for Staten Island and adding new characters like a dread “energy vampire.” There’s not much insight to add beyond “this is funny.” As a viewer, of course, that’s Shadows’ entire draw: a wildly inventive, shrewdly written, deeply hilarious comedy that doesn’t ask us to do much more than laugh. Stepping into the cavernous shoes of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi is no easy task, but a cast led by Matt Berry and Natasia Demetriou—with assists from supporting players like Beanie Feldstein and even a surprise Tilda Swinton cameo—more than rises to the challenge. Shadows is (un)living proof that when the jokes are good enough, they can speak for themselves.
Insecure Season 4 (HBO, April 12)
Herman: Insecure is the quintessential summer show, like a broken-in pair of espadrilles you can always slip back into the moment the weather gets warm enough. The sumptuous, symmetrical overhead shots of South L.A., the impeccably curated soundtrack, the effortless chemistry between cocreator-star Issa Rae and her costar Yvonne Orji—everything is right back where we left it. Like many comedies, Insecure thrives on consistency.
The Good Fight Season 4 (Amazon Prime, April 9)
Herman: The Good Fight sells its scripts’ high-wire acts by boasting the deepest bench of acting talent on TV ... And constant casting flexes support the show’s uniformly excellent leads, with [Margo] Martindale, Alan Alda, F. Murray Abraham, Matthew Perry, Gary Cole, Jane Lynch, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Michael Ian Black, Andrea Martin, and Matt Walsh, among others, making cameos or appearing in recurring roles. Although The Good Wife–watching experience isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying The Good Fight, an awareness of The Good Wife/Fight extended universe enhances the proceedings; after [countless] episodes in this shared environment, almost every face is familiar, and even the most minor characters carry distinct personalities ... Every episode is a mini-reunion.
Parasite (Hulu, April 8)
Adam Nayman: If the best thrillers are the ones that work to pull the rug out from under the viewer, Parasite, with its deceptively well-prepared and astonishingly realized introduction of a completely separate (but insidiously interlinked) narrative lurking underneath the characters’ feet, doubles down on the vertiginous feeling of not knowing where you stand. Its brilliant middle section pivots on the best reveal since Get Out’s invocation of the “sunken place,” and Bong [Joon-ho]’s sociology is no less potent than Jordan Peele’s. In fact, a double bill of Parasite and Peele’s shadow-self psychodrama Us would be instructive, both in terms of their eerily similar approaches to a postmillennial zeitgeist in which class aspiration and rage have merged into one molten entity, and also to show how much more adept Bong is at merging comedy, terror, drama, symbolism, and a keen sense of cinematic history into a fully integrated package.
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.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Netflix)
Jesse Locke: Summarizing Joe Exotic is about as difficult as keeping him in a cage. Yet that’s where the Oklahoma roadside zookeeper is after being sentenced to 22 years in federal prison for animal abuse and the attempted murder-for-hire of Carole Baskin, his bitter rival in the wildlife game. Joe’s collection of creative projects numbered almost as high as his list of criminal convictions.
The gun-toting, mullet-sporting, flamboyantly gay founder of the G.W. Exotic Animal Park is the star of Netflix’s new documentary series Tiger King and the eponymous podcast that preceded it. His relentless quest for fame included a self-produced reality show, failed political campaigns, and a surprisingly impressive music career. Like all multi-level marketers, Joe is a con man, but there’s a sincere passion behind his every artistic choice that somehow makes you want to buy what he’s selling.
Making the Cut (Amazon Prime)
Herman: At the start of the season, [Tim] Gunn informs his charges that Making the Cut “is not a sewing competition.” What the judges are looking for, we’re told over and over, is “the next big global brand,” a phrase Gunn at one point utters with actual tears in his eyes. “The designer behind the brand is just as important as the clothes,” [Heidi] Klum declares before every episode’s judging session. Competitors are regularly critiqued for not being consistent, and therefore legible, enough in their looks; it’s always easier to market what you can put in a box. The emphasis on branding isn’t necessarily wrongheaded in the age of social media—it just feels like as much a reflection of Klum and Gunn’s new patron as the flesh-and-blood fashion world.
Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu)
Herman: Developed by veteran TV writer Liz Tigelaar and directed in part by Lynn Shelton, Little Fires Everywhere doesn’t reach the heights of Big Little Lies’ first iteration but it’s still an addictive watch, in part because it hews to an increasingly recognizable frame. The show can’t always balance every mode it’s juggling: old-school miniseries (issue-oriented, with hints of after-school special) and new (star-anchored, character-driven); realist social commentary and pure, uncut melodrama. But it’s aware enough of its strengths to deliver on what we came for: a clash of the titans between [Reese] Witherspoon and [Kerry] Washington.
Hey Big Boy Comedy Special (Netflix)
Rob Harvilla: What else can you do right now but laugh, and the more inappropriate the laughter, the better? [Bert] Kreischer is an incredibly cheerful and wantonly NC-17-rated human: One of the more tasteful bits in this new special involving his wife, LeeAnn, is an anecdote about the time she caught him watching a porn video with the title “No Mercy for My Throat.” Like Anthony Jeselnik or his close friend Joe Rogan, Kreischer is both ungovernable and seemingly uncancelable: Hey Big Boy revs up with a long vignette in which he orders the same drink (black coffee) from the same black Starbucks cashier every day, and tries to entertain that cashier with a succession of extremely off-color jokes, to the eventual horror of two white women standing nearby. Soon, he’s moved on to his tales of being the world’s least responsible gun owner. Use your imagination for all this, but his imagination is more, uh, vivid.
Devs Season 1 (Hulu)
Surrey: The premise for Devs is fairly straightforward: A software engineer tries to uncover the truth behind her boyfriend’s mysterious death, and how the giant tech company (called Amaya) they both work for could be behind what happened to him. But it takes only two episodes—and really, about 30 minutes of the premiere—for the series to spark probing questions about the nature of free will, the horrors of technological advancement, and how mankind might be the architects of our own demise. You know, typical Alex Garland stuff.
Dave Season 1 (Hulu)
Danny Heifetz: [Dave] Burd has turned the story of his rap career into a TV show for FXX, which ... features him as the star in his first acting role. Burd cowrote the show with Jeff Schaffer, a Seinfeld vet who cowrites Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David and created the FX show The League. Dave chronicles Burd’s attempt to go from “the YouTube rapper with the small dick” to a professional, respected rapper. The show mocks privilege (he takes out bar mitzvah money from the bank to buy a feature verse from the rapper YG) and coded language (he calls a beat “urban,” prompting a black producer to ask why he speaks like a mayor). But Burd put his lifelong insecurities about his penis at the show’s, uh, heart.
Ozark Season 3 (Netflix)
Herman: There’s something captivating in how brazenly — gleefully, almost — Ozark checks the boxes of the post-antihero crime drama. The words “gritty bingo” figure prominently in my notes on Netflix’s latest hour, and Ozark, the Jason Bateman–fronted series in which high finance meets a low-rent vacation town, plays the hypothetical game with aplomb. Menacing, self-serious monologues: check. Sex workers used as set decoration: check. A complicit wife who claims, regarding her latest semilegal action, “I did it for our family”: check. That’s game!
A random collection of movies and TV shows that are a little more off the beaten path.
What to watch if you’re feeling bored in quarantine: Love Island is essentially one big quarantine, but with very little social distancing. A dozen or so Brits spend eight weeks looking for love within the confines of a shared villa that has neon signs like “vibey” and “trust in your sauce” mounted on the walls. They couple up with one another, complete absolutely bonkers challenges, and compete for the love of their fellow islanders and the affection of the viewing public, all while producers introduce new characters and draw from a deep well of savage and arbitrary tricks to foment drama. It’s reality TV turned up to 11; a dating show microwaved on the highest power. Love Island’s sequestered approach is also unique in that it forces contestants to actually communicate and spend extended time with one another; for all the drama, many islanders do form genuine connections and meaningful friendships (if that’s what you’re looking for in your reality TV selections). With six mammoth seasons all available on Hulu, now is the perfect time to begin your Love Island journey. —Isaac Levy-Rubinett
What to watch when you have the sudden urge to say, “Yup, that’s me!”: I’m thankful for the powerful nostalgia that Disney+ houses. When That’s So Raven first premiered, I specifically remember being over my grandma’s house for some celebratory occasion. My parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents were all watching TV in the living room and I made an announcement that I had to watch this specific show, at this specific time, and I wanted to watch it on the “big TV.” They agreed, and by the pilot’s third over-the-top comedic gag, my entire family was cracking up. That’s So Raven was that kind of show. Now, as I rewatch it almost 17 years later, I am still laughing out loud as Raven Baxter attempts to navigate high school as a secret psychic. The costumes, the pranks, the love interests, the fashion, the drama—it never gets old. It’s so important to have representation on TV, a lesson younger me learned watching Disney Channel. All these years later, it’s cool to laugh at the antics of this awkward black girl and say, “Yup, that’s still me.” —Jordan Ligons
What to watch when you’re having USWNT withdrawals: There was a point in the early aughts when I—and the rest of my middle school soccer team—truly believed Jonathan Rhys Meyers was the archetype of a leading man. This is a weird thing to consider now, given I haven’t the slightest idea of his last project. But I can trace the trend directly to the 2002 release of Bend It Like Beckham. The British rom-com was an ideal family feature for young girls who had recently adopted Mia, Bri, and Brandi as role models after the 1999 USWNT penalty shootout victory. I spent many a Friday evening, post-Blockbuster, in a teammate’s basement, discussing what we would do with the footwork skills of Jess, the guts of Jules, and, of course, the attention of the brooding Coach Joe, played by Meyers.
Bend It Like Beckham is funny and sweet and inspiring and features that great Basement Jaxx song! I’m not sure how the portrayal of the movie’s themes—racial politics in London, women’s sports, a player-coach relationship, gender and societal expectations—holds up in 2020. The only way to find out is to watch it again; this time a bit older, a bit wiser, and perhaps a bit slower on a soccer field. —Jacqueline Kantor