With Stranger Things and Obi-Wan Kenobi releasing on the same day, it’s battle of the streamers this May in TV world. Hannah Collins reports from the frontlines on that, and what else should be on your small screen radar this month.
Agatha Raisin, Season 4
You might remember this cosy, small-town murder mystery from its 2014 pilot Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, the success of which garnered an eight-part series on Sky. After being put to death by the network in 2016, Ashley Jensen’s PR-by-day-sleuth-also-by-day Raisin rose again in the form of an American-produced revival, which returns this week for its fourth season. It’s your classic fish-out-of-water setup with Raisin trading the bright lights of London for the quiet life of Carsely, only to find herself drawn into all sorts of deadly, sometimes baked goods-related trouble. The feature-length Love, Lies and Liquor kicked things off on Monday; repeats will air Thursday and Friday this week.
Agatha Raisin, Season 4 began airing Mon 2 May on Sky One at 8 pm.
The Staircase, Limited Series
15 years ago, The Staircase became one of the most defining true crime documentaries of the genre. Now, the saga of American author Michael Peterson and his ill-fated wife Kathleen is getting the dramatisation treatment, starring Colin Firth and Toni Collette. Updated and added to Netflix in 2018, French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s original series documents Michael’s trial after being accused of killing his wife and making it look like she fell down the stairs. Peterson is a measured and engrossing subject, while his lawyer became infamous for the strange but oddly plausible ‘owl defence,’ both of which should make for an equally solid adaptation if handled well.
The Staircase begins airing Thurs 5 May on Sky Atlantic at 9 pm.
The Terror: Infamy, Season 2
The first season of historical supernatural series The Terror delved into the disastrous voyage of Captain Sir John Franklin to the Arctic in the 19th century, which led to every member of the crew dying via a variety of nasty things: hypothermia, starvation, disease and possibly even cannabilism. Naturally, this ghoulish real-life tale is prime material for fictional spookery as the Dan Simmons novel that the first season was based on proved. Season 2 moves away from its source material entirely to make the series an anthology – refocussing on a WWII-era Japanese internment camp that is being terrorised by a shapeshifting spirit known as a bakemono. Tom Weston-Jones (Warrior) takes over from Jared Harris in the lead role, also joined by Star Trek legend George Takei.
The Terror: Infamy begins airing on Fri 6 May on BBC Two at 9 pm.
How I Met Your Father, Season 1
Unnecessary spinoff or necessary update? However you slice it, Hilary Duff is always a welcome sight for 90s/early 00s kids who were glued to Lizzie MaGuire. How I Met Your Father is the gender-flipped addendum to the long-running sitcom How I Met Your Mother, of course, which ran for nine seasons from 2005 to 2014 to become a Friends-esque phenomenon, complete with a central ‘will they, won’t they’ romance, incestual friendship groups, 20-something life lessons and t-shirt worthy catchphrases. This revised version, finally headed to Disney+ for us Brits this month, uses the same framing device as the original, with Kim Catrall (eschewing the Sex And The City revival) playing an older Duff telling her son the story of… well, you know the title.
How I Met Your Father begins streaming Wens 11 May on Disney+.
The Essex Serpent, Limited Series
Based on the novel by Sarah Perry, Claire Danes stars in the TV miniseries iteration of The Essex Serpent as Cora Seaborne, a woman ahead of her time in the twilight years of Victorian Britain, who escapes an abusive husband to move to the Essex estuary – lured by the promise of a mythological sea creature (the Blackwater Beast) that may or may not be casting a supernatural shadow over her new home. Tom Hiddleston co-stars as dashing forbidden love interest Reverend William Ransome who forms a close emotional bond with Cora while bickering with her about the existence or non-existence of the Beast. FYI: This was originally meant to be helmed by The Arbour‘s Clio Bernard with Kiera Knightley as Cora, before COVID interfered in 2020.
The Essex Serpent begins streaming Fri 13 May on Apple TV+.
Conversations With Friends, Season 1
The follow-up to Normal People, adapted from the Sally Rooney megahit book, Conversations With Friends was the Irish novelist’s debut. Set in Dublin, the story revolves around the complicated platonic, romantic and ex-romantic dynamics between foursome Frances (who also narrates), Bobbi, Nick and Melissa, who meet during a spoken word night and become embroiled in each other’s lives in unexpected ways. Lenny Abrahamson, best known for Frank Sidebottom biopic Frank before the hugely successful Normal People is back to direct, reunited with Anatomy of a Suicide‘s Alice Birch who also wrote the aforementioned script for Normal People. And just so you know, Birch’s play Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again is also being staged in Cardiff’s Porter’s bar this month.
Conversations With Friends begins airing Sun 15 May on BBC Three, also streaming on BBC iPlayer.
Night Sky, Season 1
For those still missing trippy, political space drama The Expanse, Amazon Prime might be hoping to fill that black hole with its next ambitious sci-fi original, Night Sky. Not the most wildly imaginative or descriptive title, but leads J.K Simmons (replacing Ed O’Neill) and Sissy Spacek have enough legendary kudos between them to maybe dispel the sceptics. Info on the show is scant at present, save for the premise: Spacek and Simmons, who play salt of the earth, ordinary couple Irene and Franklin York, have a not-so-ordinary “chamber” leading to another world. So far so Farscape; it’ll be interesting to see how this one unfolds.
Night Sky begins streaming Fri 20 May on Amazon Prime Video.
Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Season 1
Few hip hop artists have achieved the quasi-mythic success, infamy and devoted following that rap supergroup Wu-Tang Clan have, hence why this dramatisation of their foundation in the early 90s both exists and sounds irresistible to music nerds. Wu-Tang: An American Saga is created by founding member RZA with consultation from bandmates Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, GZA and the estate of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, as well as Watchmen (2009) screenwriter Alex Tse. Already two seasons deep in the US, with a third and final one on the way, it’s gone over well with critics and will be educational viewing for those unaware of the socio-political context of the group’s existence.
Wu-Tang: An American Saga begins streaming from Thurs 26 May on Disney+.
The Flight Attendant, Season 2
Kaley Cuoco returns for more messy, aerial exploits in the second season of The Flight Attendant. The first season of this dark and pulpy American dramedy found Cuoco’s Cassie Bowden – a spiralling alcoholic – waking up from a one night stand in Bangkok to find her partner slain. Confused and haunted by garbled flashbacks, she’s left to wonder who the killer is while being questioned by the FBI about her involvement. Season 2 finds Cassie trying to start afresh while working part-time for the CIA (because of course!), but more flashbacks and other surprise complications threaten to unravel her newfound stability once more. Twists and turns a-plenty with satisfying crunchiness and a career-making performance from Cuoco.
The Flight Attendant begins airing Thurs 26 May on Sky Max.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Season 1
Hello, there! Maligned in their time, the Star Wars prequel revival continues with the most anticipated TV spinoff yet – largely thanks to Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christiansen reprising their roles as odd couple Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and his deceased Padawan, Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader. After the enjoyable mess that was Boba Fett, let’s hope for something more cohesive, not to mention more memeable Kenobisms. And if Mark Hamill can cameo in The Mandalorian, why can’t Liam Neeson Force ghost his way in here on the Disney dime? Plus, if that wasn’t enough excitement, it’s sharing a streaming slot with Netflix blockbuster Stranger Things, reigniting the streaming wars once more. (If anyone really cares about that sort of thing…)
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi begins streaming Fri 27 May on Disney+.
Stranger Things, Season 4a
Battling Obi-Wan Kenobi for ratings dominance, we’re going back to Hawkins, Indiana circa 1986-ish on the same day for another dose of unravelling sci-fi mayhem, ice-cream, Winona Ryder doing the most, and probably loads more bike riding. Season 3 of Stranger Things saw the gang splintering and a couple of heroic sacrifices being made… though a certain misanthropic sheriff’s doesn’t seem to have taken. The first batch of Season 4 episodes, hailed as the ‘beginning of the end,’ introduces ultimate Upside Down Big Bad Vecna, and at this point, the Duffer Brothers should probably write Wizards Of The Coast a big fat cheque…
Stranger Things begins streaming Fri 27 May on Netflix.
Pistol, Limited Series
Directed by Danny Boyle, Pistol is a six-part dramatised deep dive into the life of punk icon, Steve Jones of Sex Pistols infamy – based on his own memoir. As you’d expect, Jones has lived a helluva life of both highs and lows, from growing up in an abusive home with over a dozen criminal convictions to his name to his time in the ‘life-saving’ Pistols, as well as follow-up group the Professionals with fellow ex-Pistol drummer Paul Cook, before going into rehab in the early 90s for alcohol and sex addictions. He’s eventually found renewed success in the States in TV and radio in more recent years. Relative newcomer Toby Wallace (Babyteeth) plays Jones, while a host of other ghosts from punk’s past, like Vivienne Westwood, Michael McLaren, Jamie Reid, Siouxsie Sioux and more fill out the rest of the cast.
Pistol begins streaming Tues 31 May on Disney+.
words HANNAH COLLINS
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