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Top TV Series of May

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Photo: Top TV Series of May, Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko
Photo: Top TV Series of May, Source: Collage The Gaze \ by Leonid Lukashenko

Despite the ongoing increase in dramatic events worldwide, May's TV series premieres are fiercely vying for viewers' attention, offering a welcome distraction from the relentless news scroll. And they are succeeding – this month's releases have proven to be captivating and intriguing.

From alternate realities and quantum paradoxes to historical detective stories, autobiographical thrillers, war dramas, classic adaptations, and mysteries featuring imaginary monsters under the bed – our list includes series to suit every taste.

Shardlake, Hulu


This adaptation of the seven historical detective novels by Christopher John Sansom about the hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake, set during the reign of British King Henry VIII, will appeal to anyone who enjoys costume dramas and atmospheric mysteries in the vein of "The Name of the Rose" or "Captain Alatriste." The first season adapts the first book in the series, "Dissolution." The action takes place during the dissolution of the monasteries in the Tudor era. The king’s chief minister, the schemer and adventurer Thomas Cromwell (played by Sean Bean), sends lawyer Shardlake (Arthur Hughes) to investigate the mysterious death of a royal commissioner at a remote monastery in the town of Scarnsea. The murdered official was gathering evidence to close the monastery, so Shardlake not only has to find the killer but also complete the victim's work. During the investigation, the protagonists encounter the dark secrets of the holy place, intrigues, and hostility from the monks.

Dark Matter, Apple TV+


The second sci-fi series of the year from Apple TV+, dedicated to quantum physics, the multiverse, and alternate realities. The first, "Constellation" starring Noomi Rapace, left viewers thoroughly confused, with many questions and few answers by the season’s end. "Dark Matter" fares slightly better, especially since the showrunner, Blake Crouch (also known as the author of the sci-fi trilogy "Wayward Pines"), wrote the book on which the series is based. Physicist Jason Dessen (Joel Edgerton) from Chicago, after an encounter with a mysterious masked stranger, finds himself in an alternate version of his life. To return to his family, he must traverse a series of parallel realities, confronting different versions of himself and his loved ones. Joel Edgerton stars in the lead role, with Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly and Alice Braga playing his wives in various realities.

Eric, Netflix


What happens when a dramatic detective story is mixed with fantasy monsters from "Monsters, Inc." and "The Muppet Show"? The protagonist of this series, set in 1980s New York, Vincent (Benedict Cumberbatch), is an ordinary puppeteer on a popular children's TV show. His life changes catastrophically when his nine-year-old son disappears on the way to school. The search for the child yields no results, and the grieving father begins to spiral into increasingly destructive behaviour – alcohol, nervous breakdowns aimed at the investigating detectives, and quarrels with his wife. He also creates a new puppet based on his missing son’s drawings – a blue monster named Eric, who lives under the bed. Vincent believes this puppet is somehow connected to his son and will help bring him back. Then, one day, the puppet monster comes to life – either in the tormented imagination of the desperate hero or for real...

Double Stakes, Netflix


If you think that due to the full-scale invasion of Russian occupiers in Ukraine, Ukrainian filmmakers are only making war films and series now, you are mistaken. For instance, this intense crime drama, where the war is left out of the main plot, features well-known Ukrainian actor and volunteer Vlad Nikityuk in the lead role. His character, a young man who returns from the front lines, challenges the criminal and corrupt circles of the capital. On his first day back home, the protagonist, Ihor Shvedov, witnesses the murder of his elder brother – his only remaining family member. Suddenly, Ihor discovers that his brother was an influential criminal figure and starts suspecting that those in his brother's circle are not who they seem to be. To find the killer, Ihor joins the police force and begins his battle against organized crime and corrupt officers.

A Man in Full, Netflix


An adaptation of the eponymous novel by the renowned American journalist and writer Tom Wolfe ("The Bonfire of the Vanities"), "the dandy in the white suit" and the father of the literary genre "new journalism." The mini-series tells the story of Charlie Croker, a real estate tycoon from Atlanta, who finds himself on the brink of bankruptcy due to political and business conflicts. Despite his age, Croker accepts the challenge and, while balancing on the edge of bankruptcy, tries to restore his business reputation and protect his empire from those seeking to profit from his downfall. The series, which features a star-studded cast of outstanding American actors such as Jeff Daniels, Diane Lane, Lucy Liu, and Tom Pelphrey, is dedicated to the dramatic battles with ruthless competitors attempting to destroy his corporation.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Peacock


A television adaptation of Heather Morris' historical drama novel of the same name, based on true events. It is the story of Jewish entrepreneur Lale Sokolov, who survived the Holocaust and was prisoner number 32407 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Upon arriving at Auschwitz, the protagonist, like everyone else, builds barracks and digs trenches but soon falls seriously ill due to hunger and overwork. He is saved from death by a French tattooist named Pepan, who takes Lale as his assistant. Now, Lale’s duties include tattooing identification numbers on the arms of arriving prisoners. Using his tenuous privileges, Lale tries to help other inmates by obtaining medicines and food. Eventually, women and girls start arriving at Auschwitz, and while tattooing one of them, Lale meets Gita, prisoner number 34902. Despite the surrounding hell and constant threat of death, the young people fall in love. The roles of the young and old Lale Sokolov are played by Jonah Hauer-King and Harvey Keitel, respectively.

The Big Cigar, Apple TV+


Another series based on real events, specifically on the eponymous article by American journalist Joshua Bearman, published in Playboy magazine in 2012. Both the article and the adaptation focus on Huey Percy Newton, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party, an American communist, propagandist, and civil rights activist who, despite his short life (he was shot dead at the age of 47 by members of the radical leftist group Black Guerrilla Family), became a pop icon for leftist cultural figures. The story focuses on Newton’s time in Cuba. Wanted by the FBI for murder, Newton tries to escape the country and finds an unexpected ally in Hollywood producer Bert Schneider ("Easy Rider") and other radical cultural figures who help him relocate to communist Cuba. They devise a crazy plan – to film a fake movie called "The Big Cigar."

Baby Reindeer, Netflix


One of Netflix’s undisputed hits of the first quarter of 2024, which even impressed Stephen King, and it’s no surprise as critics have frequently compared this series to King’s thriller "Misery" - a story about a writer and his fanatical admirer. Unlike King's book, "Baby Reindeer" is based on a true story and is an adaptation of the autobiographical one-man show by Richard Gadd, who is also the creator and lead actor in the series. The series tells the real-life experience of Gadd, when he was subjected to stalking and sexual assault: Donny Dunn, a failed stand-up comedian, works in a cafe where an eccentric woman named Martha comes in. Initially, Donny likes her, offering her drinks, listening to her stories, and making her laugh with his jokes. But soon Martha begins to see him as her boyfriend and expects romantic actions from him. Donny does not reciprocate, and Martha starts stalking him, unceremoniously penetrating deeper and deeper into his personal life. Incidentally, after the release of the series, the real Martha eventually filed a lawsuit against Netflix – perhaps she chose herself a new victim.

Bodkin, Netflix


A light dark comedy thriller set against the picturesque nature and architecture of the Irish countryside. The Guardian journalist Dove sets out on assignment from her editor to the remote Irish town of Bodkin, where several decades ago, during the Samhain festival, three people mysteriously disappeared. The journalist joins popular American true crime podcaster Gilbert Power (who is also gathering information about his Irish ancestors) and his assistant Emma Seazer. They plan to collect material about this shrouded-in-darkness mystery for their next episode, delving deeper into the grim secrets of the seemingly charming town. The lead role in the series is played by American comedian Will Forte, best known to viewers from various sketches on "Saturday Night Live."

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