Lucky number 13 is the name of the game this May. The month features several long-running summer favorites returning to the screen alongside several standouts hoping to avoid the sophomore slump. Catch up on the supernatural with iZombie and Lucifer, the character-driven with Deadwood and Fleabag, and the crime-ridden with Line of Duty and Elementary before new episodes drop in the coming weeks.
What it is: A wonderfully original spin on the TV zombie craze started by The Walking Dead, iZombie stars Rose McIver as Olivia Moore, a med student-turned-zombie who helps the Seattle police solve homicides by eating victims’ brains and reliving their memories.
Why you should watch it: There’s no limit to the creative turns TV writers can take the simple premise of “zombies exist” — hat tip to the dearly departed Santa Clarita Diet — but as iZombie heads into its fifth and final season, it remains one of the genre’s best, most off-kilter examples. Season 5 premieres May 2 on The CW.
Commitment: Approx. 42 hours (for the first four seasons)
What it is: Most people escape their locale to vacation where it’s warm, but where do you vacation when your home is in Hell? Los Angeles, apparently. That’s where our titular antihero Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) sets his sights, at least, after resigning his post as ruler of the underworld and wanting to spice up his life. Once in LA, he opens up a nightclub and stumbles into becoming a civilian consultant for the LAPD.
Why you should watch it: Based on the DC Comics character created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg, Lucifer Morningstar is a protagonist like we haven’t seen before. Ruler of Hell, sure, but also charismatic as hell (and charming, witty, and handsome), proving himself to be the perfect right-hand man for homicide detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German). (Over the course of three seasons, their beguiling relationship is one of the reasons to stick around, too.) Lucifer was cancelled by Fox last year, but revived by Netflix, which will premiere its fourth season on May 8.
Commitment: Approx. 42 hours (for the first three seasons)
What it is: With Netflix’s romantic comedy series, it’s all in the name. That’s because there’s nothing, well, easy about modern love. Easy’s first two seasons follow an intertwining group of friends and couples living and loving in Chicago.
Why you should watch it: The best of television is often character-driven, and Easy gives you plenty of characters to work with. While this Windy City–set series focuses on people and relationships that occasionally overlap, each episode largely stands on its own as a singular meditation on a given couple’s romantic dynamic and exploration of intimacy. And with Drinking Buddies writer-director Joe Swanberg at the helm, the whole thing goes down smoothly (you thought there was going to be another “easy” joke, didn’t you?). Plus, it’s just a hoot to see some of our favorite talents (from Judy Greer to Aubrey Plaza to Dave Franco to Orlando Bloom) pop in for a quick half-hour installment.
Where to watch it: Netflix
Commitment: Approx. 8 hours (for the first two seasons)
What it is: S.H.I.E.L.D. is the kind of agency you want at your back. Led by fan-favorite Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg, who caused uproar upon his character’s death in 2012’s The Avengers), Marvel Comics’ fictional Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division fights the behind-the-scenes battles that the average human wouldn’t dare face (see: Project Centipede and more). It’s wild, it’s crazy, and it’s a heck of a fun time for Marvel superfans.
Why you should watch it: Sure, this puzzle piece within the Marvel Cinematic Universe maintains the franchise call-backs and tonally checks all the boxes of what we look for in a Marvel romp, but you don’t have to be a die-hard lover of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and co. to fall for S.H.I.E.L.D.’s extraterrestrial adventures and the now-beloved ensemble of characters it has built throughout its 100-plus episodes. Season 6 premieres on ABC May 10.
Commitment: Approx. 82 hours (for the first five seasons)
What it is: Longtime character actor and standout supporter Giovanni Ribisi gets top billing as conman Marius who, once out of prison, takes on the identity of his cellmate, Pete. On the run from a cold-blooded mobster, Marius holes up with Pete’s unsuspecting small-town family.
Why you should watch it: This Amazon original series from creators David Shore and Bryan Cranston (who also co-stars as the aforementioned mobster, Vince) will sneak up and floor you — and we don’t say that simply as a play on words. Each ensemble member (but especially Ribisi and series breakout Marin Ireland) delivers lived-in and moving dramatic turns with fast-paced scripts that don’t skimp on nuance or character. In other words, Sneaky Pete doesn’t have to con its way onto your must-watch list. Season 3 premieres May 10 on Amazon Prime.
Commitment: Approx. 18 hours (for the first two seasons)
What it is: Netflix’s Bodyguard may have taken the world by storm last year (along with a Golden Globe win for star Richard Madden), but it’s another cop thriller from creator Jed Mercurio that has us itching for more: Line of Duty. Five seasons in, the series remains one of the U.K.’s highest-rated dramas. Line of Duty follows D.S. Steve Arnott after he’s transferred to an anti-corruption unit and is partnered with a brilliant undercover investigator, D.C. Kate Fleming.
Why you should watch it: While dry in summary, the performances and procedural dramas here are absolutely astounding — some of the best nail-biters TV has to offer. Season 5 is already acclaimed overseas, but premieres for U.S. audiences May 13 on Acorn TV.
Commitment: Approx. 23 hours (for the first four seasons)
What it is: Well it’s about time! Fleabag’s six-episode first season premiered to critical acclaim back in 2016 — which means we’ve been waiting for quite a while to reacquaint ourselves with creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her titular and adrift heroine, who is learning to cope with the death of her best friend in varying self-destructive ways while building a life in London.
Why you should watch it: Few other creators are as exciting as Fleabag’s Waller-Bridge. The beloved and all-too-short first season of Amazon’s fuss-free comedy is based on the writer and actress’ hit one-woman play of the same name, which just wrapped a sold-out Off-Broadway run after its 2013 debut overseas. Crass, fearless, and heartbreaking in equal measure, the series trumpeted the arrival of a thrilling new creative voice. And now that Waller-Bridge has other hits with Killing Eve and an arc in Star Wars under her belt, she’s going into season 2 of Fleabag as a bonafide international superstar. Do yourself a favor and learn what the buzz is about. Season 2 premieres May 17 on Amazon Prime Video.
Where to watch it: Amazon
Commitment: Approx. 3 hours (for the first season)
What it is: A contemporary (and gender-bending) update on the classic Sherlock Holmes, Elementary is a New York crime procedural starring Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson and Jonny Lee Miller as the iconic Holmes. Watson begins as Holmes’ sober companion (the ex-Scotland Yard consultant is also a recovering drug addict), but as the series progresses, she becomes his apprentice and partner in solving NYPD’s most chin-scratching mysteries.
Why you should watch it: Liu is endlessly watchable in just about anything, so her involvement in this Robert Doherty series is reason enough to tune in. But Elementary is more than just a spellbinding leading lady: it’s a solid, reliable procedural that puts a clever twist on an old classic. Season 7 premieres May 23 on CBS.
Commitment: Approx. 103 hours (for the first six seasons)
What it is: Set in the rarely depicted neighborhood of East Los Angeles, Vida follows estranged Mexican-American sisters Lyn and Emma Hernandez, who are forced to revisit their childhood home and memories after the sudden death of their mother. Familial secrets and personal growth abounds.
Why you should watch it: Shows don’t get much more refreshingly original than Vida, Starz’s half-hour dramedy from showrunner Tanya Saracho. Centering queer, Latinx voices both in front of and behind the camera is a feat in and of itself, but the fact that the series is compellingly alive (and bingeable) is what will keep you sticking around. It’s wonderfully grounded by Melissa Barrera and Mishel Prada as the central reunited sisters. Season 2 premieres May 23 on Starz.
Commitment: Approx. 3 hours (for the first season)
What it is: Spike Lee updated his original 1986 film in series form. She’s Gotta Have It is the story of Brooklyn-based artist Nola Darling and her three lovers — a love life she juggles while navigating her personal life in an ever-gentrifying Brooklyn and ever-shifting social and political climate.
Why you should watch it: Talk about a star-making performance: you simply can’t take your eyes off the magnetic DeWanda Wise. While season 1 admittedly goes a bit off the rails with some of its sillier subplots, She’s Gotta Have It is a series that packs a timely, sociopolitical punch while laying the drama (and sexiness) on thick. With Lee at the helm and Wise front and center, She’s Gotta Have It is a televisual update that’s an absolutely engrossing joy to watch. Season 2 premieres May 24 on Netflix.
Where to watch: Netflix
Commitment: About 5 hours (for the first season)
What it is: Based on the 2010 Australian feature film of the same name from writer-director David Michôd, Animal Kingdom reconfigures itself in Southern California and showcases the city’s grittier side through a crime family led by iron-fisted matriarch Janine “Smurf” Cody (Ellen Barkin). Our point of entry is Joshua “J” Cody (Finn Cole), a 17-year-old who’s swept up into the family business after his mother dies of a heroin overdose.
Why you should watch it: Ellen Barkin, Ellen Barkin, Ellen Barkin. The series’ thrilling writing and direction, led by creator Jonathan Lisco, is well worth the binge, but Barkin, a Tony and Emmy winner and two-time Golden Globe nominee, brings a conniving richness to Smurf that must be seen to be believed. Season 4 premieres May 28 on TNT.
Commitment: Approx. 27 hours (for the first three seasons)
What it is: Even the sleekest of action-packed espionage thrillers have an air of cartoonish hyperbole to them, but FXX’s Archer does away with that suspension of disbelief by making the whole thing a cartoon to begin with. The half-hour comedy from creator Adam Reed can land a joke as deftly as its titular man-child spy can land a punch, so expect to be thrilled while laughing yourself silly.
Why you should watch it: Over nine hit seasons, Archer has never shied away from genre experimentation. Season 8’s Dreamland and last season’s Danger Island were particularly high-concept highlights. Season 10 continues the genre-jumping trend of Archer’s coma-dream with 1999, which sees Archer not as the ass-kicking spy of ISIS we know from earlier incarnations, but a futuristic explorer of space on the M/V Seamus alongside our longstanding favorite characters and the voice actors behind them. While it’s a bottle season and therefore easily accessible to newcomers, we still recommend you catch up on all things Archer that have come before it. That’s where the payoff is! Archer: 1999 premieres May 29 on FXX.
Commitment: Approx. 38 hours (for the first nine seasons)
What it is: In what is quickly proving to be one of the television events of the year, Deadwood’s long-awaited feature film finale is finally coming to HBO on May 31. The fan-favorite Western from creator David Milch reunites stars Timothy Olyphant as Seth Bullock and Ian McShane as Al Swearengen (along with the majority of the original ensemble) for a bookend installment set 10 years after the events of season 3’s unexpected ending.
Why you should watch it: A fascinating, lurid, and original take on the classic Western genre, Deadwood built its devout fan base thanks to its ability to explore the human condition in tandem with the principles of early American society. With a smattering of scene-stealing performances from its expansive cast, it also has the writing, direction, and design to be one of the most gritty and authentic takes on America’s roots to ever hit the small screen. Deadwood: The Movie premieres May 31 on HBO.
Commitment: Approx. 36 hours (for all three seasons)