May is the month when even the most diligent TV trackers basically throw up their hands and admit defeat. “Too much” is a subjective term, but it’s safe to say that there’s enough television coming in the next few weeks to sustain multiple years’ worth of casual watching.
That’s mostly by design, given the last-minute rush to sneak shows in under the Emmy eligibility wire. That crunch gets even more overwhelming considering the sheer number of preexisting series rushing toward their own season (or even series) finales.
Yet even though the May TV schedule is stacked with potential awards contenders, the month is far from a monolith. There’s a robust, international slate of offerings that cover everything from the usual book adaptations and star-driven docs to original ideas across animation and live action.
There are spin-offs in the literal sense, with a handful of continuations of runaway streaming hits. But there are also spiritual spin-offs, series that take ideas that have been brewing for decades and rework familiar concepts with a modern viewpoint. The FBI, the Muppets, the Cold War, the Pete Davidson: all just tiny slices in the big, weird May premiere pie.
As we do every month (like in January, February, March, and April), we’ve assembled a cross-section of the upcoming few weeks’ new TV premieres, ones that span across network and cable and streaming and all those vague areas in between. If somehow, none of these shows seem worthy enough to add to your personal queue, there’s also our list of Anticipated 2023 TV, which includes shows that should arrive a little bit later in the year.
“A Small Light” (May 1, NatGeo)
This new NatGeo series centers on Miep Gies (Bel Powley), one of the people most responsible for hiding and protecting the Frank family — including Gies’ boss Otto Frank (Liev Schrieber) and his daughter Anne — during the onset of World War II. The eight-episode series follows the group of people who worked for years to provide a safe hiding place for the Franks and later preserved the diary that would ensure that the family wouldn’t be forgotten. The show comes from Tony Phelan and Joan Rater (Emmy-nominated vets of “Grey’s Anatomy”), with “Booksmart” writer Susanna Fogel serving as the director on the series.
“White House Plumbers” (May 1, HBO)
America’s traditional, roughly biennial dramatization of Watergate is this new series centered on G. Gordon Liddy (Justin Theroux) and Howard Hunt (Woody Harrelson), instrumental figures in the failed break-in. It’s a “Veep” reunion for writers Alex Gregory/Peter Huyck and director David Mandel, who head up the five-episode series. (The show is an adaptation of a book by fellow burglary orchestrator Bud Krogh, played here by Rich Sommer.) The rest of the stuffed ensemble includes Lena Headey, Judy Greer, Domhnall Gleeson, Kiernan Shipka, Ike Barinholtz, David Krumholtz, Yul Vazquez, and Kim Coates.
“Nona and Her Daughters” (May 2, MHz Choice)
French cinema mainstay Valerie Donzelli is the star and co-creator of this series centered on a woman who reconnects with her adult triplet daughters after she mysteriously becomes pregnant again. Miou-Miou stars as the family matriarch, whose work at a women’s health clinic becomes complicated as all three daughters move into her apartment. The half-hour comedy series also comes from Clémence Madeleine-Perdrillat (a writer on recent Apple TV+ series “Drops of God” as well) and co-stars Clotilde Hesme and Virginie Ledoyen.
“Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All” (May 3, Disney+)
The world’s most-streamed artist gets a streaming look at the life behind all those streams, coinciding with the release of his new album streaming this same week. (It’s called “Subtract,” continuing Ed Sheeran’s surprisingly successful pattern of naming globally famous albums after math concepts.) The four-part series includes private footage of Sheeran’s home life, interviews with his wife Cherry and family/friends, and glimpses of concerts at international venues.
“Bupkis” (May 4, Peacock)
Perhaps you’ve heard of this fellow Pete Davidson. This new comedy series is roughly inspired by the comedian’s life, taking slices of reality and blending them with some outrageous details. Davidson stars as himself, with Edie Falco as his mother, Joe Pesci as his grandfather, and a rotating cast of famous friends and co-stars, including John Mulaney, Kenan Thompson, Paul Walter Hauser, Bobby Cannavale, Brad Garrett, Jon Stewart, and Steve Buscemi. Judah Miller is the showrunner on the series and co-wrote multiple episodes with Davidson.
“Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” (May 4, Netflix)
The Netflix phenomenon gets a prequel series, centering on the ascension to the throne of the monarch whose court looms large over the rest of “Bridgerton.” India Amarteifio stars as the young Charlotte, right on the brink of her marriage to King George III. “Bridgerton” cast members Golda Rosheuvel and Adjoa Andoh reprise their roles, while Shonda Rhimes hops into the showrunner’s chair and is the writer on a majority of the six-episode season.
“Silo” (May 5, Apple TV+)
Hugh Howley’s “Wool” series forms the basis for this series about a society forced to live in underground facilities after an ecological disaster makes Earth uninhabitable. Among those living in this silo community are an engineer (Rebecca Ferguson) with questions about what’s happening on the surface and an IT specialist (Tim Robbins) with all the knowledge about how things run below. Former “Justified” boss Graham Yost is the showrunner here with Morten Tyldum directing three of the season’s 10 episodes.
“Class of ’09” (May 10, FX on Hulu)
This latest series from “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” writer Tom Rob Smith takes place in three separate timelines. The past sees an incoming group of would-be FBI agents (Brian Tyree Henry, Kate Mara, Sepideh Moafi, Brian J. Smith, among others) enter training in 2009. Through the present and the future, some will ascend through the Bureau’s ranks, others will go undercover, and the world will get a glimpse at life in the 2030s. The rest of the main ensemble for the season features Jon Jon Briones, Jake McDorman, Brooke Smith, and Rosalind Eleazar — the first two of the eight episodes will be available on Hulu the day after premiere night.
“The Muppets Mayhem” (May 10, Disney+)
The advent of Disney+ has meant a new wave of Muppet shows, and now the attention turns to The Electric Mayhem. Dr. Teeth and the whole gang get a making-the-album story, with the help of an enterprising music exec helping to make sure they can finish their recording debut. In true Muppet fashion, the season features drop-ins from famous folks throughout the worlds of comedy and music: Lil Nas X, Nicole Byer, Paula Abdul, Rachel Bloom, Danny Trejo, Ben Schwartz, Billy Corgan, and Chris Stapleton are just a handful of the non-marionette folks swinging by.
“City on Fire” (May 12, Apple TV+)
Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the poet laureates of music-heavy tales of early-aughts teen angst, are back with an eight-episode season based on Garth Risk Hallberg’s novel. It tracks the aftermath of a fatal shooting at NYU in the summer of 2003 — the more the victim’s friends and family dig into what happened that night, the more they find that the time she spent not on her studies or her band might be key to solving a citywide mystery. Chase Sui Wonders, Wyatt Oleff, Jemima Kirke, Nico Tortorella, and Ashley Zukerman head up the cast.
“Mulligan” (May 12, Netflix)
To the growing list of Apocalypse TV, add this animated series about trying to rebuild society from scratch. Co-created by “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” vets Robert Carlock and Sam Means, the show takes place in the wake of a thwarted alien invasion. Matty Mulligan (Nat Faxon), the average Joe who helped prevent total disaster, is now in charge of figuring out what humanity does next. Chrissy Teigen, Tina Fey, Sam Richardson, Dana Carvey and voice acting legend Phil LaMarr play the various living beings trying to either counsel Matty or foil his efforts (sometimes all at once).
“High Desert” (May 17, Apple TV+)
Patricia Arquette continues her Apple TV+ era, this time leading a half-hour comedy about a woman who tries her hand at being a private investigator after her mom dies and her attempts to kick a substance abuse habit only work in fits and starts. The team of Nancy Fichman, Katie Ford, and Jennifer Hoppe are creators and writers on the series, with Jay Roach directing a cast that also includes Matt Dillon, Christine Taylor, Weruche Opia, Brad Garrett, Bernadette Peters, Rupert Friend and Keir O’Donnell.
“XO, Kitty” (May 18, Netflix)
The second spinoff this month from a beloved piece of Netflix programming, this continuation of the “To All the Boys”-iverse follows the ongoing adventures of Lara Jean’s little sister Kitty Covey (Anna Cathcart) as she goes on her own journeys of romance and self-discovery. In this 10-episode season, Kitty transfers to a Seoul-area school, where her junior year of high school goes hand in hand with trying to renew things with her long-distance boyfriend (Minyeong Choi).
“Primo” (May 19, Freevee)
Bestselling culture writer Shea Serrano’s younger years form the basis for this new half-hour comedy about Rafa (Ignacio Diaz-Silverio), a high school junior with a hectic home life. Raised by his mother Drea (Christina Vidal) and five uncles (Carlos Santos, Henri Esteve, Johnny Rey Diaz, Jonathan Medina, and Efraín Villa), each of the main adults in Rafa’s life have different ideas about his future. That goes for the looming possibility of college or the crush he has on new next-door neighbor Mya (Stakiah Lynn Washington). Veteran comedy boss Mike Schur is an executive producer on the season, all eight episodes of which will be available to stream right away.
“Spy/Master” (May 19, HBO Max)
This latest addition to the international spy TV genre turns its attention to Ceaușescu-controlled Romania during the most intense days of the Cold War. Alec Secăreanu stars as the KGB agent whose place in the dictator’s inner circle is in danger, while Parker Sawyers plays the junior CIA operative trying to make sure he can get his Russian counterpart out of the country in one piece. It’s a rare HBO Max co-production weekly release, but less surprising considering that the Adina Sădeanu and Kirsten Peters-created series made its premiere earlier this year as part of the Berlin Film Festival.
“Ghosts of Beirut” (May 21, Showtime)
Speaking of international espionage efforts with echoes of the 1980s, “Fauda” creators Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz bring this four-episode story set against the search for Imad Mughniyeh. The Joëlle Touma-written series blends documentary and dramatizations — starring Dina Shihabi, Garret Dillahunt, Dermot Mulroney, Hisham Suleiman, Amir Khoury, and Rafi Gavron — while describing the efforts behind the multi-decade search for the former Hezbollah lieutenant. As is becoming the standard with Showtime’s recent release strategy, episodes will be available to stream on Fridays before airing on Sunday nights on the network itself.
“American Born Chinese” (May 24, Disney+)
Jin Wang (Ben Wang) is just trying to get through high school, but soon gets caught in the middle of a battle between titanic figures from Chinese mythology. His story is taken from Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel of the same name, adapted by showrunner Kelvin Yu, with multiple episodes directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. The show boasts an impressive, newly awarded guest cast list, including Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong, Poppy Liu, Ronnie Chieng, and Jimmy O. Yang.
“The Clearing” (May 24, Hulu)
The cult-adjacent disappearance drama arrives in Victoria for this Australian drama co-starring Teresa Palmer, Miranda Otto and Guy Pearce. An eight-episode adaptation of J.P. Pomare, this show follows a young woman who’s forced to confront her past in the midst of detangling herself from a dangerous, controlling situation. The first two episodes will be up on this Wednesday, with the remaining six arriving weekly thereafter.
“Platonic” (May 24, Apple TV+)
If you’ve ever lost touch with a best friend and reconnected with them after some time apart, this new comedy might touch a nerve. Even if it doesn’t, this is still a promising “Neighbors” reunion, bringing together Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, and director Nick Stoller (who is also a co-creator/co-writer on the series with Francesca Delbanco after previously teaming up for the Netflix show “Friends from College”). Byrne and Rogen play the central pair of friends who grow closer after reconnecting and gradually crowd out the rest of their adult lives. The first three half-hour episodes will available on premiere day, with new ones popping up on Wednesdays for the next month and a half.
“FUBAR” (May 25, Netflix)
“Arnold Schwarzenegger in a TV show” is a pretty solid pitch by itself. Toss in a family CIA plot reminiscent of “True Lies” — this time, it’s Arnold playing someone who hides his double life from his daughter (Monica Barbaro) before finding out she’s an agent, too — and this might be a fun addition to Netflix’s star-driven comedy approach. Former “Scorpion” showrunner Nick Santora fills the same role on this new series with an eight-episode season that also features Gabriel Luna, Fortune Feimster, and Jay Baruchel.
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