Summer 2021 is right around the corner, and that can only mean one thing: summer TV is, too! While you may not be spending as much time at seasonal soirées or other public gatherings this summer, now over a year into the pandemic, TV production has adapted and picked back up nearly full steam ahead. Now we’ve got new installments of Pose, Shrill, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, and more to show for it. Time to get to watching!
What it is: Based on Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 vignette-filled feature film of the same name, The Girlfriend Experience is an anthology drama series about the unexpected and complicated lives of sex workers. Season 1 follows a law student named Christine Reade (Riley Keogh) who moonlights in the profession.
Why you should watch it: The Girlfriend Experience is about much more than its elevator pitch implies. Ultimately, it’s a meditation on feminist power, on the relationship between sex and manipulation, and the moral ambiguities of its protagonists’ careers (and those who employ them). Rich with finely realized performances and void of an imposing male gaze, the series’ first two seasons packed an emotional wallop while making you think. Season 3 premiered on May 2 — after a much-too-long hiatus — on Starz.
Commitment: Approx. 14 hours (for the first 2 seasons)
What it is: From creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals, Pose depicts New York City’s ballroom and voguing scene of the 1980s and early ’90s with sickening pageantry, tea-spilling drama, and high fashions for the gods.
Why you should watch it: Pose made waves upon its premiere by being the largest-ever ensemble cast of transgender actors playing trans characters on TV. But aside from its progressive stamp of approval for onscreen representation, it’s also just damn good (and soapy) TV — expertly acted, written, and directed, and unafraid to tackle LGBTQIA+ issues that we’ve never seen explored on television before. The third and final season premiered on May 2 on FX.
Commitment: Approx. 16 hours (for the first two seasons)
What it is: From creators (and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia vets) Charlie Day, Megan Ganz, and Rob McElhenney (who also stars), Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is a traditional workplace comedy in that it features an overbearing, self-involved, and oft-clueless boss overseeing a team of quirky misfits. But by placing it in the unexplored setting of a hit video game production company, it’s a fun look behind the curtain of the ever-growing world of fanboys and fangirls alike.
Why you should watch it: McElhenney is in top comedic (and physical) form as the boss of Mythic Quest, but it’s the ensemble of both sitcom regulars and new faces that keeps you coming back for more. Charlotte Nicdao in particular co-leads as a disgruntled, undervalued employee and manages to humanize her neuroticism to endearing and hilarious effect. Season 2 premieres May 7 on Apple TV+.
Where to watch: Apple TV+
Commitment: Approx. 5.5 hours (for the first season and Everlight special)
What it is: Based on the hit book by Lindy West and co-created by Alexandra Rushfield and Aidy Bryant (who also stars), this series puts a feminist, body-positive spin on the classic workplace drama as our hero Annie Easton (Bryant) finds her voice as a journalist and learns to love herself in unexpected ways.
Why you should watch it: Saturday Night Live stalwart Bryant is finally given a star-making vehicle with Shrill, which earnestly and humorously portrays the daily micro-aggressions plus-size women face in the office and beyond. The third and final season premieres May 7 on Hulu.
Commitment: Approx. 7 hours (for the first two seasons)
What it is: In a turn that’s as meta as it is nostalgic for a certain millennial set, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series follows a group of high school students at the school where the famous Disney trilogy was filmed. When they decide to put on the stage version of that musical as their fall production, drama onstage and off, of course, ensues.
Why you should watch it: More than just a nostalgic push, this series from creator Tim Federle hits all the right notes with a young cast of breakout, triple-threat talent ready to entertain a whole new generation. Plus, we have it on good authority that season 2 will feature musically gifted guests from Broadway and beyond that will leave fans clamoring for more. Season 2 premieres May 14 on Disney+.
Where to watch: Disney+
Commitment: Approx. 5 hours (for the first season)
What it is: Creator Ryan O’Connell puts a televisual spin on his 2015 memoir, I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, with this acclaimed 2019 series. He stars as Ryan Hayes, a gay man with cerebral palsy who slowly learns to branch out from under his mother’s insulating wing to pursue the life that he’s always wanted. Jessica Hecht and Punam Patel co-star.
Why you should watch it: This micro-dramedy packs more heart into its 15-minute runtime than most well-regarded series could hope to today — and it’s got four Emmy nominations for its first season to prove it! Season 2 premieres May 20 on Netflix.
Where to watch: Netflix
Commitment: Approx. 2 hours (for the first season)
What it is: Created by Master of None Emmy winner Lena Waithe, this Showtime series portrays the city’s South Side neighborhood as a tapestry of want and need, violence and love, and altogether human when our central heroes are brought together in unexpected ways after one life- and community-altering event.
Why you should watch it: The Chi is an unflinching and authentic coming-of-age drama boasting some of the best actors and writers — well-known and otherwise — working today. In a time when racial violence still devastates minority communities and permeates our headlines, it offers a timely look at some of the social issues being debated today while still being nuanced, character-driven entertainment. Season 4 premieres May 23 on Showtime.
Commitment: Approx. 30 hours (for the first three seasons)
What it is: Based on the acclaimed Israeli series of the same name, In Treatment follows a psychotherapist who meets with a new patient each day of the week; on Fridays, he seeks treatment for himself with a previously estranged therapist played by Dianne Wiest.
Why you should watch it: The original three seasons (which ran from 2008–2010) are HBO-minted in its peak era and form. Snagging Golden Globe, Emmy, and Writers Guild awards, Gabriel Byrne’s leading performance as Dr. Paul Weston and an ensemble of patients and colleagues (including a stunning Wiest) make it must-watch TV of yesteryear. To see Uzo Aduba coming up in the driver’s seat on this new season will be a special treat that you should certainly catch up for. Season 4 premieres May 23 on HBO.
Commitment: Approx. 53 hours (for the first three seasons)
What it is: Based on his own 2005 feature film, The Magician, Scott Ryan created and stars on Mr Inbetween as the anti-heroic Ray Shoesmith, a father, ex-husband, boyfriend, best friend — and hitman — of many shades.
Why you should watch it: If you’re looking for a pitch-black comedy with outback Australian flare rooted in a bulletproof leading performance — well, what you’re looking for is Mr Inbetween. The third and final season premieres May 25 on FX.
Commitment: Approx. 8.5 hours (for the first two seasons)
What it is: With industry-specific dramas pulled directly from Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief (and series executive producer) Joanna Coles’ decades-spanning career, The Bold Type follows the day-to-day adventures of three millennial New Yorkers and best friends who work together at the fictional fashion magazine Scarlet.
Why you should watch it: From Ugly Betty to The Devil Wears Prada, the New York fashion magazine and media industry has proven a fine playing field for high-stakes drama and fantastic wardrobes. The Bold Type dives right in and still finds ways to make this well-documented world newly exciting. That’s largely thanks to a stellar cast led by Katie Stevens as Jane Sloan, one-third of the BFF and co-worker trio that also includes Aisha Dee as Kat Edison and Meghann Fahy as Sutton Brady. The fifth and final season premieres May 26 on Freeform.
Commitment: Approx. 33 hours (for the first four seasons)
What it is: Chuck Lorre knows TV, but we’ve never seen The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men mastermind tackle something quite like The Kominsky Method, a half-hour, single-cam comedy that follows an aging acting coach and his agent in contemporary Hollywood. Both a stinging comedy on the industry’s lasting truths and a revealing, humorous look at men of a certain age, the series racked up two Golden Globes for its first season, including Best Musical or Comedy Television Series.
Why you should watch it: Few things have been more satisfying over the last few years than watching Hollywood heavy-hitters deliver career-best work on the small and streaming screen. Among them are Oscar winners Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin as the central Sandy Kominsky and his longtime agent and friend Norman Newlander, respectively. The pair’s rat-a-tat everyman rapport goes down easy, even when they’re not on their best behavior. The third and final season (which will air without Arkin) premieres May 28 on Netflix.
Where to watch: Netflix
Commitment: Approx. 8 hours (for the first two seasons)