It’s May and we’re still stuck inside, but as we say hello to a new month, we’ll also welcome a new streaming service—hey, HBO Max! Let’s rejoice that our Friends are back on May 27 and that, luckily, our options for distraction are only growing. This month, there’s something for everyone: a psychological thriller; a sports-crazed gambler; an ... extreme mini golf challenge? Check out everything that’s new on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and HBO Max below, as well as a few personal selections from the Ringer staff.
What’s New to Streaming in May
A selected list of movies and TV shows coming this month that The Ringer is very excited about.
The Goldfinch (Amazon Prime, May 8)
Alison Herman: The adjective most commonly associated with Donna Tartt’s 2013 novel The Goldfinch, first bestowed by New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani and widely echoed ever since, is “Dickensian.” The comparison is easy, and also accurate. The story of orphan Theo Decker spans tens of years, hundreds of pages, and many dramatic reversals of fortune; thanks to a subplot about high-end antique dealing, much of the action is directly rooted in the bygone era the structure recalls. Many of The Goldfinch’s other touchstones reach even further back into the province of fairy tale: tragic orphans; evil stepmothers; and in the book’s title object, an almost magical totem—a 17th-century Dutch painting the shell-shocked Theo takes from the site of the explosion that kills his mother.
Holy Moley, Season 2 (Hulu, May 22)
Miles Surrey: No really, that’s it: Holey Moley. It is not the name of a limited-edition burrito lathered in mole sauce at Moe’s, but rather a new “extreme” mini golf TV series on ABC hosted by Rob Riggle and Joe Tessitore, and executive produced by Stephen Curry, who makes sporadic appearances and occasionally swings a club. LeBron James might be finalizing his Space Jam 2 roster and producing an absurd amount of shows, but Curry is a Hollywood mogul, too—for golf-related stuff, at least.
Rocketman (Hulu and Amazon Prime, May 22)
Manuela Lazic: Rocketman, produced by Sir Elton himself (like Bohemian Rhapsody, which was overseen by the remaining members of Queen), manages to preserve both the greatest showman’s personalized version of events, and the spectacular appeal of the 21st century rock biopic. Director Dexter Fletcher and screenwriter Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) dodge the trappings of the genre not with finesse but tact.
Homecoming, Season 2 (Amazon Prime, May 22)
Surrey: Homecoming’s thrills feel contemporary, yet distinct enough to stand apart in the morass of television that’s readily available to binge. And if Amazon needs a show to gain some momentary cultural clout, Homecoming is an excellent bet. It might not boast CGI dragons or jump scares, but it’s an accessible, bingeable puzzle box—exactly the type of show worth devouring over a weekend. I’m about to do it for a second time.
Uncut Gems (Netflix, May 25)
Rob Harvilla: Uncut Gems is the grinding, electrifying sound of Adam Sandler hitting yet another gear, sure, but it’s also the first time since his gleefully knuckleheaded ’90s glory days that an Adam Sandler movie has successfully hit his gear and stayed in it. Blockbuster comedians have generally chased Oscar glory by Getting Serious, by tamping down their wanton charisma in the service of something more dignified. (Think Jim Carrey’s own late-’90s attempt at respectability via Man on the Moon and The Truman Show.) But the Safdie brothers may have finally unlocked the Sandman’s true potential by amping up the righteous fury and man-child hedonism until it’s just too terrifying to be funny anymore but still manages to be funny anyway. The movie looks him in the eyes without winking, without even blinking. Sandler might very well deserve an Oscar for dragging us through it. Then again, we might all deserve some sort of award for surviving it.
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.
Normal People (Hulu)
Herman: Many love stories run into a similar problem: Their conflict feels manufactured, the heroes kept apart by an artificial barrier. If only the protagonists would talk to each other, the viewer finds themselves yelling at their TV, a single adult conversation could solve their made-up problem. But Normal People isn’t about adults. The miscommunication between Marianne and Connell feels entirely believable, and therefore authentically tragic. These are two people who obviously like and understand each other, but don’t have the capacity yet to grasp why and how they’re kept apart. What could be more normal than that?
ZeroZeroZero (Amazon Prime)
Surrey: ZeroZeroZero, in other words, isn’t going to break the crime drama wheel—what the show aims to be is the ideal, blood-soaked, cocaine-dusted spoke. A coproduction between Amazon Studios, Sky Atlantic, Canal+, and Cattleya, and adapted from the novel of the same name by Roberto Saviano, ZeroZeroZero gets into the nitty-gritty of the international drug trade, dividing its time between the buyers (an Italian mafia), the sellers (a Mexican cartel), and the brokers (a wealthy shipping family from Louisiana) of a giant cocaine shipment worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Mrs. America (Hulu)
Herman: [Cate] Blanchett transforms herself into a hawkish Midwestern housewife with signature aplomb, but to Mrs. America’s credit, this isn’t a singular showcase in the vein of most Movie Star TV, or even a curated Mount Rushmore á la Big Little Lies. The show is a sprawling, proper ensemble, with a deep bench of players on both sides of the ideological divide. On Team Feminist, there are a host of familiar faces that elevate their performances above mere impression: Rose Byrne as [Gloria] Steinem; Tracey Ullman as [Betty] Friedan; Uzo Aduba as [Shirley] Chisholm; Margo Martindale as former representative Bella Abzug. But [Blanchett’s Phyllis] Schlafly, too, has her compatriots, both real and fictitious. Jeanne Tripplehorn plays Schlafly’s sister-in-law Eleanor, while Melanie Lynskey portrays Rosemary Thomson, a leading capo in Schlafly’s Eagle Forum organization. Sarah Paulson and Kayli Carter round out the crew as composite characters, housewives drawn into an unlikely second life as political activists.
Insecure, Season 4 (HBO Max)
Tyler Tynes: Followers of HBO’s Insecure, created, written, produced by [Issa] Rae, have been waiting for this moment. Issa and Molly (Yvonne Orji) have been teetering—sometimes amicably, sometimes uncomfortably—between friends and foes for much of the show’s three seasons. Their relationship is one of the main thrusts of Insecure, a beautifully shot, deliciously sound-designed show centered on the friendship of Issa and Molly, two black women in their 30s living in L.A. Insecure is, by and large, for black women and by black women; its return is a refreshing addition to my weekly viewing.
Run (HBO Max)
Herman: Run may not be as direct an extension of [Phoebe] Waller-Bridge’s persona as Fleabag, but it’s still easy to see what drew her to the material: dry wit, female misbehavior, and attractions so incendiary they make whole lives go up in flames—all the motifs woven through her short-but-sweet CV. Even a brief synopsis of Run checks every box. Two college exes, Ruby (Merritt Wever) and Billy (Domhnall Gleeson), share a pact: At any given time, if one texts “RUN” and the other replies within 24 hours, both have to drop everything, meet at Grand Central Station, take a cross-country train to Los Angeles, and decide at the end if they want to spend the rest of their lives together; the two otherwise have no communication. It’s the kind of stupid plan two 19-year-olds would dream up after watching Before Sunrise. The surprise is that, in their mid-30s, both are desperate enough to actually go through with it.
Surrey: If the story’s setup and execution for the long take is intentionally gimmicky, [Sam] Hargrave has earned the right to be a tiny bit selfish. Extraction will be a minor blip on Joe Russo and [Chris] Hemsworth’s résumés—the guy who codirected the highest-grossing movie ever can phone in a lazy script and get away with it; the actor is still an elite Hollywood Chris—but the film is Hargrave’s way of trying to make his pivot from stunt work to filmmaking a full-time thing. I hope it works out for him. Extraction is proficient enough in all the right places—namely, when Tyler Rake has to use his hands instead of an assault weapon and throws goons around like they’re couch cushions—to show that Hargrave deserves more work behind the camera.
Jane Hu: In many ways, Tigertail tells the fairly generic immigrant story of Pin-Jui (played by Tzi Ma, everyone’s favorite Asian dad), who departs 1970s Taiwan as a young man to forge a better life in America. Leaving behind both family and a love interest, Pin-Jui makes the financially prudent decision to marry his boss’s daughter, Zhenzhen, partially because it will allow him to move to the Bronx and start a family. Many elements of the stereotypical Asian American intergenerational tale are present: Pin-Jui as the repressive father, Zhenzhen (Fiona Fu) as the sacrificial mother, and their more rebellious and emotional daughter Angela (Christine Ko). Yet, Yang’s film also updates these more traditional tropes in ways appropriate to the contemporary experiences of second-generation Asian Americans. Joining recent films such as Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians and Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, Yang’s story feels timely in its representation of Asian diasporas as split not only across national, but generational, lines.
A random collection of movies and TV shows that are a little more off the beaten path.
What to watch if you like The O.C., Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, National Treasure, Into the Blue, Blue Crush, John Hughes movies …: Surely there isn’t one show that encompasses all of those, I bet you’re thinking to yourself right now. But you are WRONG. Netflix’s Outer Banks covers them all, telling a tale of a group of teenage friends who live on the poorer side of North Carolina’s barrier islands who also go on a treasure hunt started by the mysterious missing father of the group’s leader, a way-cool rugged heartthrob named John B (always “John B,” never “John”). The show has all the teenage melodrama of those mid-aughts bangers, all of the absurdity (it is hilariously clear that Outer Banks was not filmed on the Outer Banks) and the sort of addictiveness that Netflix is so good at. But it also has an amazing amount of charm, and a host of way-too-good-for-this-show acting performances. I’m a little embarrassed to say I watched the entire first season in one sitting—but then again, I don’t regret any second. —Andrew Gruttadaro
What to watch if you want more Kenya Barris:
Netflix’s new #blackAF is riddled with stereotypes that its central family is either trying hard to debunk or emulate as a source of pride (for example, every episode title has the phrase “because of slavery” in it), and sometimes those lines get blurry. #blackAF, Barris’s first production for Netflix, is a faux-documentary following a dysfunctional, obscenely rich family of eight, with Joya (Rashida Jones) and Kenya at its helm. It’s a TV show set on pondering the modern adage of Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems. Barris—the creator, producer, and star of the show—has essentially copy-and-pasted this idea numerous times across networks; Black-ish, Grown-ish, and Mixed-ish all touch on similar talking points. And even though #blackAF’s launch has ruffled quite a few feathers, the show has laugh-out-loud moments and gets its point across. Barris continues to give a platform for black actors and, at the very least, the show makes for good Instagram clickbait. It’s Netflix’s attempt at Curb Your Enthusiasm and it’s worth watching to see what all the hoopla is about.—Jordan Ligons
What to watch when you need more drama in your life: In the pilot of 9-1-1 Lone Star, firefighter and 9/11 first responder Owen Strand (played by Rob Lowe) accepts a job rebuilding a fire station in Austin, Texas, that was abandoned after a tragic fertilizer-plant explosion killed nearly its entire crew. The rest of the season similarly unfolds like a Mad Lib. Strand and his hand-picked crew respond to absurd emergencies (a toy car stuck up a kid’s nose, an explosion at a bull semen factory) all over Los Angeles—er, Austin—and draw ire from some of the locals, who are baffled and threatened by Strand’s multidimensional, enlightened character (he puts out fires and has a skin-care regimen?!). The show, available for streaming on Hulu, is stilted and didactic, but it’s ridiculous enough to be fun, and it’s strangely difficult to stop watching. Everything really is bigger in Texas, including the drama. Yeehaw.—Isaac Levy-Rubinett
What to watch when you’re aspiring to make it in Tinseltown: To be transparent, I have yet to actually watch Hollywood—which premieres on Netflix on May 1—but it’s the second series Ryan Murphy produced for the streamer, and like many of Murphy’s preceding works, it features an intriguing ensemble that includes Laura Harrier, Darren Criss, Dylan McDermott, and Holland Taylor. According to the show’s official synopsis, Hollywood is set against the backdrop of the town’s Golden Age, and will “[spotlight] the unfair systems and biases across race, gender, and sexuality that continue to this day.” Sweet. Count me in.—Amelia Wedemeyer