The nine best shows to watch on Netflix in May
‘13 Reasons Why’ returns; ‘Arrested Development’ gets a remix, and one Amazon show to catch
Streaming in May: season 2 of 13 Reasons Why. Photograph: Beth Dubber/Netflix
A Little Help with Carol Burnett
Her much-anticipated Amy Poehler-produced sitcom, Household Name, may have been nixed by meddling ABC executives, but the veteran comedian Carol Burnett still has a home on Netflix. A Little Help is a family-entertainment show that sees Burnett joined by a panel of precocious kids who aim to aid ordinary folks with their daily dilemmas in front of a studio audience. Cutesy but with a dollop of cheek, and with the unfiltered, unpredictable child commentators bringing unintentional shade and saltiness, it’s Kids Say the Funniest Things meets Dr Phil. Celebrity guests will also air their personal problems and brave the judgment of the quick-witted, no-nonsense kid consultants.
Dear White People, season 2
Justin Simien’s sharp, searing satire hit some viewers like a slap in the face when it debuted on the streaming service last year. Refreshing and caustic in its depiction of modern racial tensions and exploration of identity politics, it is a cutting comedy that spares no one. Set in an imaginary Ivy League school, it follows a group of black students who are enrolled at the predominantly white college. Whereas season one was mostly a retread of Simien’s 2014 film of the same name, which centred around the radical radio presenter Sam (Logan Browning), season two has new stories to tell and a chance to explore characters more deeply. Expanding its cast to include a turn by the brilliant Lena Waithe as the outrageous rapper P Ninny, Dear White People still serves its biting social commentary with a side of effervescent irreverence.
The Rain, season 1
We Irish are painfully aware that our little isle, with its endless EastEnders-style grey skies and soggy atmosphere, can be a dystopian hellscape at the best of times, but what if our weather-related anxiety were warranted? In this brooding Scandi drama (is there any other kind?) rain is the true enemy. When a deluge carrying a mysterious virus wipes out most of the adult population of Scandinavia, two siblings free themselves from a bunker after six years to find that their home has become a ghost town. They join forces with other lost young people but then come up against a host of new problems as they attempt to establish order amid the mounting chaos. It’s a postapocalyptic-teen-soap romp that’s part Lord of the Flies part Flowers in the Attic as the young folk face a meteorological catastrophe that not even Evelyn Cusack could save them from.
Arrested Development, season 4 remix
This bizarre concept befits a show as maddeningly brilliant as Arrested Development. Mitch Hurwitz, the show’s creator, has been re-editing the troublesome fourth season, which disappointed fans by focusing on a single character per episode. All the footage from the season’s 15 episodes has been recut into 22 new episodes, to restore the show’s famed interaction between the entire Bluth family. Could this re-edit transform the lumpen, legacy-spoiling fourth series into something great? Will it inspire other showrunners to tinker with their old programmes? Could the second series of True Detective come close to coherence? Will RuPaul re-edit season seven of Drag Race to just feature all the Katya, all the time? Messing around with Star Wars or Indiana Jones didn’t always work – step away, George Lucas! – but it will be fascinating to see if Hurwitz can snatch victory from the tired jaws of mediocrity for his beloved show.
Netflix, May 10th
Starring the Dexter and Six Feet Under star Michael C Hall (and his interesting take on an English accent), Safe is the latest dark crime drama from the bestselling novelist Harlan Coben and the English screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst. Hall plays a widower whose life is thrown into turmoil when his eldest daughter goes missing from their gated community, where things are obviously not as idyllic as they seem. Secrets are exposed, friendships tested and moral complexities unearthed in this riveting eight-parter.
Netflix, May 11th
The Duplass brothers are on a roll. With their Wild Wild Country a runaway success, enthralling Netflix audiences with its jaw-dropping stranger-than-fiction true story, they’ve another surreal-life tale lined up. The four-part Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist reports the story of a pizza delivery man, Brian Wells, who in 2003 entered a bank in Pennsylvania with an explosive collar around his neck and a note demanding $250,000. What followed was a bizarre scavenger hunt that stunned a nation. Like Wild Wild Country, the documentary consists of archival tapes, news footage, surveillance videos and interviews that piece together the extraordinary tale.
13 Reasons Why, season 2
Netflix, May 18th
Netflix’s most controversial series is back. The first series of the teen drama, with its graphic depictions of self-harm, suicide and sexual assault, caused alarm when it aired last year. Critics and mental-health organisations disliked the way it used such serious topics to hang its somewhat generic high-school series on. This series, following on from Hannah’s death, will delve further into her past and the aftermath of her suicide – and Netflix seems to have learned from the backlash. It is rolling out accompanying videos and “discussion guides” to help explore the show’s themes, offering information and advice to younger viewers in need of support. But well it might: with storylines such as Jessica recovery after being raped, the impact the attack has had on her life, and the effects of toxic masculinity within the school, the show’s second season looks set to cause more controversy.
You Are Wanted, season 2
Amazon Prime, May 19th
The gripping German cyberthriller returns – and a year after its first season, with its scarily prescient premise about data mining, identity theft and our vulnerability against faceless corporate entities, it feels more like a Channel 4 news special than a flashy drama. Lukas Frankes’s nightmare continues as the hotel manager tries to protest his innocence after a hacker falsely implicates him in a terrorist attack. This season he is also on the run from the head of the US cybercommand, with whom he plays a tension-filled cat-and-mouse game across Berlin.
The Break with Michelle Wolf
Netflix, May 27th
In a beautiful moment of cultural serendipity, Michelle Wolf, the comedy writer whose name is on everyone’s lips (and perfect shade is on everyone’s eye socket) after her blistering performance at the White House correspondents’ dinner, has a new weekly Netflix show. It sees the Daily Show writer and Seth Meyers regular make fun of everyone and everything – although with Wolf herself having become Twitter fodder, fighting off criticism from Roseanne Barr and fuelling think pieces by irate Republicans, it will be interesting to see how she adapts to being in the spotlight as well as dissecting those under the blinding lights.
Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life
Netflix, May 25th
Netflix is doing its darnedest to revive the comedy special, handing out huge cheques to the likes of Sarah Silverman and Chris Rock for their stand-up shows and coaxing more reclusive stars like Dave Chappelle and Jerry Seinfeld into lucrative one-off shows. It has now managed to lure Martin Short and Steve Martin into creating an old-fashioned variety show in which they chat about their careers and perform musical numbers and sketches. It’s a hammy but heart-warming tribute to two treasures of comedy.