When Netflix announced on April 19 that the streaming service lost approximately 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter and is expecting to lose another two million subscribers in the second quarter the immediate question was why? After all it’s been 10 years since Netflix lost subscribers during a quarter. Global broadband issues, ending service in Russia and account sharing were given as possible reasons for the drop. But arguably, the most influential factor is Netflix’s competition. Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, Peacock, HBO Max, Discovery Plus and Paramount Plus all launched in the last three years. And after some growing pains they are finally giving Netflix a run for their money. Evidence for this argument can be found in this week’s to stream video offerings. HBO Max has The Staircase, based on the successful eponymously titled documentary series. Apple TV Plus has season two of Tehran featuring Glenn Close. Peacock has the highly anticipated season two of Girls5eva from executive producer Tina Fey. Hulu has Candy starring Jessica Biel while Paramount Plus will stream Star Trek: Strange New Worlds -- called the best new "Star Trek" series since Next Generation by one critic. Paramount Plus is also debuting the docuseries Never Seen Again, featuring Tyler Perry. Even ad-supported players like Amazon Freevee and The Roku Channel have enticing originals coming out this week: Bosch: Legacy (Amazon Freevee) and from the Quibi catalog title Mamas (Roku Channel). Here's what's upstream:
The Staircase (HBO Max, May 5)
This eight-episode series is based on filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade's 2004 docuseries about novelist Michael Peterson, played in the scripted series by Colin Firth, who was accused of murdering his wife, Kathleen (Toni Collette). The doc was one of the first true-crime nonfiction series that immediately captivated viewers. (An additional five episodes were added to The Staircase doc, which Netflix released as a 13-episode series in 2018.) While it appeared that Kathleen died in 2001 after falling down the stairs at the couple’s home, severe scalp lacerations made police question her husband, Michael who maintains his innocence to this day. Despite a trial, a retrial, and a bizarre theory suggesting the death was triggered by an owl attack, how Kathleen died has remained a mystery for over 20 years. So far, the series has scored an aggregated 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. “The Staircase is exceptionally smart television, an examination of truth, guilt, and self-delusion that crackles with ideas and great performances. It continually shows that the how is more important than the what in storytelling. In this series a seemingly simple glance, or an innocuous exchange, can pack a hidden world of meaning,” wrote The San Francisco Chronicles’ Chris Vognar. Three episodes will appear on HBO Max on May 4. New episodes will be released weekly.
The Pentaverate (Netflix, May 5)
Mike Myers' six-episode comedy series asks the question, What if a secret society of five men — aka "The Pentaverate" — has been working to influence world events for the greater good since the Black Plague of 1347? Myers plays Ken Scarborough, a Canadian journalist who is determined to expose the Pentaverate. In all, the SNL alumnus plays eight characters in the limited series, including a New England conspiracy theorist, a far-right radio host, The Pentaverate’s oldest and highest-ranking member, a former media mogul and ex-Russian oligarch, a former rock-n-roll manager, and a tech genius. If anyone can take on numerous alter egos, it’s Austin Powers. Ken Jeong, Keegan-Michael Key, Debi Mazar, Richard McCabe and Lydia West also star. Rob Lowe and Maria Menounos will make special appearances, and Jeremy Irons narrates the series.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount Plus, May 5)
This latest incarnation of the iconic science fiction series follows Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), Number One (Rebecca Romijn) and Science Officer Spock (Ethan Peck) in the decade before Captain James T. Kirk boarded the USS Enterprise. Technically it’s a spin-off of Star Trek: Discovery and a prequel to the original show, which first aired in 1966. Recently, Paramount Plus renewed the 10-episode series for a second season, which suggests they're confident that audiences will take to Season 1. Thus far television critics have. The show has scored an aggregated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. “Smart, addictive and flat out fun, Strange New Worlds is the best Star Trek series since The Next Generation and acts as a faithful love letter to the original” wrote Paste Magazine’s Terry Terrones.
Girls5eva – Season 2 (Peacock, May 5)
When the first season of this musical comedy series premiered a year ago, it became one of Peacock’s first breakout hits. About a one-hit-wonder girl group from the 1990’s who reunite 20 years later to give their singing careers a second shot, Girls5eva stars Sara Bareilles, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Paula Pell, and Busy Philipps. Tina Fey serves as an executive producer on the show, which was created by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt writer Meredith Scardino. The second season will see the group, who got noticed after a performance at the Jingle Ball concert, making their first album on their own terms. Veteran comedy actors Amy Sedaris and Neil Flynn will guest star. Season 1 scored an aggregated 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. “Girls5eva is a sophisticated joke-delivery machine that will hold special appeal to culture obsessives, and more evidence that NBCUniversal’s small-but-mighty streamer Peacock punches above its weight,” wrote Variety’s Daniel D’Addario.
Tehran – Season 2 (Apple TV Plus, May 6)
The first season of this Hebrew- and Persian-language geopolitical spy-thriller focused on Tamar Rabinyan (Niv Sultan), a Mossad agent who goes undercover on a top-secret mission in Iran’s capital city Tehran to sabotage the country’s nuclear facilities. The Israeli-produced show, co-created by Fauda writer Moshe Zonder, was a hit with critics, with Season 1 scoring an aggregated 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Apple liked the series so much that it bought the international rights and made the show the streaming services’ first non-English language series. The second season of the eight-episode series features Glenn Close as Marjan Montazeri, a British woman residing in Tehran. Close joins Sultan and returning cast members Shaun Toub and Shervin Alenabi. The first two episodes will stream on May 6, followed by new weekly installments.
Bosch: Legacy (Amazon Freevee, May 6)
To the great disappointment of many, the Amazon Prime Video series Bosch was cancelled after seven seasons in 2021. But that announcement was quickly followed by news that Amazon's free-to-consumer, ad-supported Freevee (formerly IMBd TV) was planning a spinoff about the LAPD detective Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver). But don’t expect Bosch: Legacy to be exactly Bosch: Season 8. Freevee’s Bosch is still abrasive, committed to justice and cool to authority, but he’s turned in his badge to be a private investigator. The series focuses on Bosch contending with his new life. It’s uncharted territory for the former homicide detective, who also has to come to terms with his daughter, Maddie (Madison Lintz) following in her father’s footsteps and becoming a rookie patrol officer. Mimi Rogers returns as attorney Honey Chandler, but instead of being an adversary she becomes Bosch’s client and ally. Indeed, Bosh's very underpinnings are coming undone, as evidenced by the earthquake damage done to his swanky Hollywood Hills overlook.The last season of Bosch, which streamed in June 2021, scored at aggregated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Freevee has already renewed Bosch: Legacy for a second season.
Mamas (Roku Channel, May 6)
Narrated by Connie Britton and Zoë Saldaña, this documentary nature series is Roku's latest offering culled from the Quibi catalog. The 14 short-form episodes ranging from 6-8 minutes follow matriarchs of the animal kingdom. Each episode highlights how mothers of species including grizzly bears, hummingbirds, yellow baboons, cheetahs, lions, praying mantis and hyenas all go to great lengths to protect their young. The series proves that every species, including humans, share the same motherly instinct to love and provide for their young.
Candy (Hulu, May 9)
This five-part limited series is based on the true story of Candy Montgomery, a seemingly normal, church-going housewife who murdered her best friend with an axe in 1980. Minus the murder weapon, this series starring Jessica Biel as Candy, sounds eerily similar to Hulu’s The Thing About Pam, which debuted in March. Hollywood has taken a liking to small-town, friendly wives and mothers with a penchant for murder. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons are starring in David E. Kelley’s own version Candy Montgomery story, Love and Death, which is set for release on HBO Max later this year.
Never Seen Again (Paramount Plus, May 10)
Each episode of this documentary series opens with a 30-second anecdote from a person who is the last to see someone who went missing. Tyler Perry is part of the first episode about a Black man and a Mexican immigrant, who after being put into the back of a police car were never seen again. Each episode tells the story of the missing person and then attempts to piece together why and how they disappeared. Viewers are encouraged to join the search and “help the families find closure by contacting police departments and Crime Stoppers.” It all sounds very similar to Robert Stack’s iconic Unsolved Mysteries, which was on the air for 14 years and never disappointed.
Operation Mincemeat (Netflix, May 11)
This World War II drama is based on Ben McIntyre’s eponymous novel about British forces successfully disguising the body of a deceased homeless man as a Major in the Royal Marines in order to outwit the Nazis. Fun fact: James Bond creator Ian Fleming, a Lieutenant Commander at the time, took part in planning the deception. Directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) the film stars Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen (Succession).The movie scored an aggregated 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. “Though occasionally undone by its Sunday-teatime tendencies, this is a spirited and gently entertaining slice of wartime espionage, with sharp, wry performances from the ensemble cast,” wrote Empire Magazine’s John Nugent.
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