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HBO's 'Hacks' Is Back, So Are 'Kids in the Hall,' Stephen King's 'Firestarter' and 'The Lincoln Lawyer' - What’s Upstream for May 12-18 

Hacks
(Image credit: HBO Max)

Maybe it's risk aversion. Maybe the creative well is just bone dry? But for whatever reason, subscription streaming keeps churning out new shows ... based on old ideas. This week, HBO's inspired comedy series Hacks is back for Season 2. Rebel Wilson fulfills many a thirtysomething fantasy, playing a former cheerleader who gets a high school do-over in Netflix's Senior Year. And Claire Danes takes on a mysterious Victorian creature in Apple TV Plus' The Essex Serpent. But otherwise, we've mostly been there, seen that. Eleven years after Matthew McConaughey played mobile defense attorney Mickey Haller in Lionsgate's feature film adaptation of Michael Connolly's The Lincoln Lawyer, Netflix is doing a series version. Peacock is remaking Firestarter, 38 years after 8-year-old Drew Barrymore starred in the incendiary lead role of the Stephen King adaptation. And HBO Max is taking a series-adaptation crack at Audrey Niffenegger 2003 best-seller The Time Traveler's Wife, 13 years after Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams starred in a feature film version that critics didn't have much time for. Meanwhile, three decades after their smart-alecky sketch show broke through, The Kids in the Hall are rebooting their act for Amazon. And even Disney Plus' Sneakerella feels like an old, familiar shoe, plying the classic theme of Cinderella to a modern American city time set around African-American characters. Here's what's upstream for this coming week:

Hacks - Season 2 (HBO Max, May 12)

The second season of this Emmy-winning HBO series sees comedian Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) and her Gen Z writing assistant, Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder) taking a much needed break from Las Vegas, the home of Vance’s now terminated casino residency. The new, highly anticipated eight-episode campaign will follow the odd couple as they travel across the country to workshop Deborah's new stand-up act. “It’s a joy (and relief) to report that Season 2 doesn’t miss a beat. Whether in Vegas or on the road, Hacks knows exactly where to find its punchlines and when to trust its cast to deliver them with the singular deadpan — or, in the case of scene-stealer Meg Stalter as a hapless assistant, the singular unpredictability — that made it such a treat in the first place,” wrote Variety’s Caroline Framke.

Senior Year (Netflix, May 13)

While trying to perform a high school cheerleading stunt, Stephanie (Rebel Wilson) suffers a head injury and goes into a coma. Twenty years later, she wakes up and discovers that despite being in her mid-thirties, she is ready to regain her status as a popular cheerleader and claim the prom queen crown that eluded her. Wilson has compared the film to high school comedy hits Bring It On and Never Been Kissed. With no reviews to speak of, we're flying a bit blind here. Fingers crossed Wilson is right.

The Lincoln Lawyer (Netflix, May 13)

Based on Michael Connelly’s eponymous book series, the show follows Los Angeles defense attorney Mickey Haller, who works out of his Lincoln Town Car.  The first season is based on The Brass Verdict, the second book in Connelly’s series. Episodes revolve around Haller, who inherits murdered lawyer Jerry Vincent's biggest case. But as Haller prepares for the case -- the defense of a prominent studio executive accused of murdering his wife and her lover --  he realizes that Vincent’s killer might be after him. The 10-episode series stars veteran charter actor Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Haller and Neve Campbell as his ex-wife. The series was created for television by David E. Kelley. Connelly’s series is the gift that keeps on giving. His original The Lincoln Lawyer novel was published in 2006 and adapted for the big screen in 2011 with Matthew McConaughey playing Haller. "It's the kind of TV you recognize but a little elevated - crime stories that are perfect for those of us who love the genre but need a little more challenging narrative than your typical NCIS or Chicago P.D. episode can match," said NPR's Eric Deggans. 

The Essex Serpent (Apple TV Plus, May 13)

This six-episode series is an adaptation of Sarah Petty’s novel set in Victorian England. Claire Danes stars as Cora, a widow looking for a fresh start after suffering through an abusive marriage. After moving to a small village, Cora learns that a mythical serpent -- a fearsome creature that once roamed the marshes -- has returned. When a young man is mysteriously killed, the village’s dread turns to terror. Will, a local pastor played by Tom Hiddleston forms a complicated relationship with Cora as he attempts to contain rumors and anxiety about the serpent. The first two episodes of The Essex Serpent will stream on Friday, followed by one new episode weekly through June 10.

Firestarter (Peacock, May 13)

This film is based on Stephen King’s 1980 novel about Charlie, a young girl with pyrokinetic powers that a government agency wants to control and use as a weapon of mass destruction. This is the second time the book has been adapted into a movie. The first time around, in 1984, an 8-year-old Drew Barrymore played Charlie. In this latest telling, Ryan Kiera Armstrong gets the lead role. Zac Efron also stars as Charlie’s father, who besides teaching his daughter how to defuse her power, also tries to protect her. 

Sneakerella (Disney Plus, May 13)

Inspired by Charles Perrault’s classic story Cinderella, this musical comedy replaces glass slippers with high-end sneakers. Set in New York City, the film focuses on teenager El (Chosen Jacobs) who wants to be a sneaker designer but is stuck working for his stepfather Trey (Bryan Terrell Clark) as a shoe store stock boy. But things change when he meets and falls for Kira King (Lexi Underwood) who happens to be basketball superstar Darius King’s (John Salley) daughter. “Most of this narrative is ingeniously refashioned by screenwriters David Light, Joseph Raso, Tamara Chestna, Mindy Stern and George Gore II (story credit goes to Stern, Gore, Light and Raso), who meld all-too-familiar plot points with clever contemporary twists and homages," wrote Variety's Courtney Howard.

The Kids in the Hall (Amazon Prime Video, May 13)

This revival of the eponymous Canadian sketch comedy show that aired between 1989 and 1995 features the series’ original five actors --- Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson. The original sketch series ran for five seasons and aired on CBC and HBO. Known for its dark, quirky humor and oddball characters, including the Chicken Lady, Idiot Boy and the Axe Murderer, the show was nominated for three primetime Emmy Awards. Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, who produced the original series, returns as an executive producer for the revival.

Couples Therapy – Season 3 (Showtime, May 13)

This docuseries follows psychologist and psychoanalyst Dr. Orna Guralnik as she listens to and attempts to help real-life couples in real-life therapy sessions. It’s hard to believe that these sessions are real and that any couple in their right mind would allow cameras to capture them in their most vulnerable moments. But if you can let go of any doubt, it’s hard to take your eyes off this series. Season three will include nine episodes and will focus on four new couples working through their various conflicts. “While a show like this smacks of voyeurism, its view into the therapy processes of couples in counseling with Dr. Orna Guralnik over six months is instructive as opposed to exploitative,” wrote Salon.com’s Melanie McFarland about Season 1, which scored an aggregated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Time Traveler’s Wife (HBO Max, May 15)

This romantic drama series is based on Audrey Niffenegger 2003 best-seller. The series chronicles the unusual love affair between Clare Abshire (Rose Leslie) and Henry DeTamble (Theo James).  Due to a genetic disorder, Henry leaps through time unpredictably, which results in experiencing his relationship with Clare out of order. This is the second time Niffenegger’s novel has been adapted. In 2009, Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana starred as Clare and Henry in the feature film version of the book, which scored a dismal 38% on Rotten Tomatoes. Hopefully this six episode HBO series will better capture the essence of Niffenegger's novel.

Conversations with Friends (Hulu, May 15)

This 12-episode limited series is based on Sally Rooney’s eponymous debut novel about Frances (Alison Oliver), a 21-year-old college student, who along with her ex-girlfriend becomes entwined with a married couple. After the successful adaption of Rooney’s second novel, Normal People, it’s no surprise that Hulu is making her first novel into a series. Sasha Lane, Joe Alwyn and Jemima Kirke co-star. “Conversations with Friends paints a sophisticated psychological portrait of youthful ambitions and adult realities coming to a head,” wrote IndieWire’s Ben Travers.