The Best Shows To Watch On Netflix In May 2020

Steve Carell and Greg Daniels team up for the new show "Space Force."
John Malkovich and Steve Carell in "Space Force"
Aaron Epstein/Netflix
John Malkovich and Steve Carell in "Space Force"

The new show on Netflix:

“Space Force” (Netflix Original)

Premise: In this comedy, co-created by Steve Carell and Greg Daniels (“The Office,” “Parks and Recreation”), a four-star general tries to establish another branch of the United States Armed Forces called the U.S. Space Force. The general becomes chief of operations and moves his family to Colorado to establish a team at a working test site.

The team is generally incompetent and disorganized, creating a workplace comedy vibe akin to Carell’s previous show, “The Office.”

Over the last few days, critics have posted a flood of negative reviews about the show. A particularly popular piece of criticism in Vulture had the title ”‘Space Force’ Is a Massive Misfire.” The show has only a 40% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 48 on Metacritic.

Will this make any end-of-year best-of-2020 lists? Probably not. Is the experience of watching a comedic great like Carell deliver mostly lackluster, second-rate “Veep”-esque lines a bummer? Sure. But is it still one of the best shows that Netflix released in May, especially this week, as Netflix didn’t add a single other scripted show? Yes.

Setting: Colorado

Netflix descriptors: “Deadpan”

The opening scene of "Space Force"
The opening scene of "Space Force"

How it starts: A hand pins a star on a general’s shoulder.

“Four-star general,” a voice says. “There is no rank higher in the United States military.” The camera pans out and circles the general’s back to show a room of people applauding the promotion.

Notable cast: Steve Carell, John Malkovich, Tawny Newsome, Ben Schwartz and Diana Silvers

Runtime: 10 episodes of roughly 35 minutes each

Bonus: Netflix made a strange video talking to Daniels and Carell’s castmates about what it’s like to work with Carell. As you can expect, they told Netflix they loved it.

Netflix highlights from earlier in the month:

“The Big Flower Fight” (Netflix Original)

Premise: In this competition show, amateurs attempt to make giant floral sculptures. The show draws its format from the popular “Great British Baking Show.”

This flower show similarly has lovely, British hosts encouraging the competitors along to the pretty results.

Setting: Kent, England

Netflix descriptors: “Feel-good”

The opening shot from "The Big Flower Fight"
The opening shot from "The Big Flower Fight"

How it starts: A ridiculous sound effect of a wolf howling at the moon plays as the camera pans over a giant flower sculpture of a wolf looking to the sky. Smoke or fog rises from the floor to enhance the scene.

A montage of other flower sculptures follows, including a T. rex head, a Norse god and Rapunzel.

Runtime: Eight episodes of roughly 40 minutes each

Bonus: The trailer for “The Big Flower Fight” certainly has the same vibe as “The Great British Baking Show” trailer.

“White Lines” (Netflix Original)

Premise: In this mystery thriller created by Álex Pina (creator of “Money Heist”), a woman investigates the death of her brother, a semi-successful DJ in Ibiza, Spain.

The protagonist’s brother disappeared in the 1990s. The recent discovery of his mummified, desert-buried body inspires her to figure out what happened.

Through her search, she stumbles into the sex-, drugs- and money-fueled world of the Ibiza club scene.

Setting: Ibiza, Spain, in both contemporary times and the 1990s

Netflix descriptors: “Offbeat,” “forceful” and “suspenseful”

Laura Haddock plays Zoe in the opening scene of "White Lines."
Laura Haddock plays Zoe in the opening scene of "White Lines."

How it starts: The protagonist, Zoe, looks right into the camera, distraught. She appears to be in a hospital, with white tiled walls and overhead fluorescent lighting.

“I reckon I must have lived more in the last 24 hours than in the last 24 years,” she says to the camera.

Notable cast: Juan Diego Botto, Laura Haddock, Nuno Lopes and Marta Milans

Runtime: 10 episodes of roughly 55 minutes each

Bonus: The most recent season of “Money Heist” also recently debuted in the United States on April 3. Here’s the trailer for the latest season of that popular show:

“Trial by Media” (Netflix Documentary)

Premise: This docuseries, which has George Clooney and Jeffrey Toobin on board as executive producers, examines high-profile crimes about which the media had an outsized role in swaying public opinion.

In episodes that focus on different cases, “Trial by Media” shows how the court of public opinion can influence a jury, and relatedly, how much the court of public opinion is influenced by ratings and storytelling.

The series includes episodes on former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment and the 1999 killing of Amadou Diallo.

Netflix descriptors: “Provocative”

The opening scene of "Trial by Media" features a talk show host humiliating a guest.
The opening scene of "Trial by Media" features a talk show host humiliating a guest.

How it starts: The first episode begins with a full screen of colorful static reminiscent of ’90s-era televisions.

The camera shows a TV that’s playing an old video. The television screen features a talk show host humiliating a guest by revealing he only has one testicle. The crowd goes wild.

Runtime: Six episodes of roughly 60 minutes

Bonus: Here’s a CBS News segment from 2009 fittingly titled “Blago Throws Himself At Media” about Blagojevich’s impeachment.

“The Eddy” (Netflix Original)

Premise: In this musical drama partially directed by Damien Chazelle, an acclaimed jazz pianist runs a struggling jazz club in Paris and manages a house band that his sometimes girlfriend fronts as the lead vocalist. Stress escalates as the manager finds out his business partner has been dealing with shady characters that threaten both of them with violence. The manager’s daughter comes to live with him, and he must figure out how to keep the club open and his familial circle safe.

Chazelle directs the first two episodes and is an executive producer on the whole series. “The Eddy” is Chazelle’s first directing project since the 2018 movie “First Man.” Chazelle became the youngest person to win the Academy Award for Best Director in 2017 for “La La Land” at the age of 32.

Setting: Paris

Netflix descriptors: “Intimate” and “emotional”

The opening scene of "The Eddy."
The opening scene of "The Eddy."

How it starts: A man whisper-raps to himself in French. I don’t speak French, but the subtitles translate the verses to: “Hey, bro, you know what? / Don’t listen to just anyone / Be careful what you do / Words are all that separate us.”

(Most of “The Eddy” takes place in English, but there’s also moments in French and Arabic.)

After repeating himself a few times, the man turns to an ice machine and shovels ice into a bucket. He opens a door, and a vibrant jazz club is on the other side.

Notable cast: André Holland, Joanna Kulig, Amandla Stenberg and Tahar Rahim

Runtime: Eight episodes of roughly 55 minutes

Bonus: Netflix put together a short feature focused on the jazz of the show:

“Dead to Me” (Season 2, Netflix Original)

Premise: In this black comedy, two women, Jen and Judy, meet through a grief support group. Jen lost her husband in a hit-and-run. Judy says she lost her fiancé due to a heart attack.

A friendship blossoms, but Judy is hiding a secret. The secret leads to another death that both of them have to reckon with at the start of the second season.

Setting: Los Angeles, California

Netflix descriptors: “Offbeat,” “witty” and “intimate”

Christina Applegate in "Dead to Me"
Christina Applegate in "Dead to Me"

How it starts: “The fuck am I doing?” Jen says, while a black screen shows the words “Netflix Original.” There’s a sound effect of water ripples and a creaking metal hinge.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Jen says. “Oh, my god.”

The show cuts away from black to Jen making toast in the kitchen. Jen burnt the toast to black.

Notable cast: Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini

Runtime: The second season runs 10 episodes of roughly 32 minutes

Bonus: Here’s Applegate and Cardellini speaking together about the show:

“Hollywood” (Netflix Original)

Premise: In this period drama co-created by Ryan Murphy, young actors and filmmakers work together to try and make it during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. Each striver has a different entrenched power to overcome, such as biases related to race and sexuality.

Like Ryan Murphy’s past projects (“The Politician,” the “American Horror Story” series), the show relies heavily on fantastic set pieces. The grandeur of the period suits Murphy’s more-is-better style.

Setting: 1940s Hollywood, California

Netflix Descriptors: “Emotional”

The opening of "Hollywood"
The opening of "Hollywood"

How it starts: A projector shines the words “News of the Day” onto red curtains that pull away to reveal a movie screen.

The camera reveals a theater with attendees in the seats. The news clip starts on the screen with a voiceover that says in a singsong voice: “Hollywood, California! Tinseltown is boomtown!”

Notable cast: David Corenswet, Darren Criss, Laura Harrier, Patti LuPone, Dylan McDermott and Jim Parsons

Runtime: Seven episodes of roughly 50 minutes

Bonus: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, actors promoting projects have to do interviews over video-conferencing instead of the usual hype cycle. Here’s Darren Criss talking about “Hollywood” from what may or may not be his home:

For more options, check out the best Netflix shows of April.

All the shows that have joined Netflix this month so far:

May 1

  • “Almost Happy” (Netflix Original)
  • “Hollywood” (Netflix Original)
  • “Into the Night” (Netflix Original)
  • “Medici: The Magnificent” (Part 2, Netflix Original)
  • “Reckoning” (Season 1, Exclusively on Netflix)
  • “Masha and the Bear” (Season 4)
  • “Monthly Girls’ Nozaki Kun” (Season 1)

May 6

  • “Workin’ Moms” (Season 4, Netflix Original)

May 7

  • “Scissor Seven” (Season 2, Netflix Anime)

May 8

  • “Chico Bon Bon: Monkey With a Tool Belt” (Netflix Family)
  • “Dead to Me” (Season 2, Netflix Original)
  • “The Eddy” (Netflix Original)
  • “The Hollow” (Season 2, Netflix Family)
  • “Restaurants on the Edge” (Season 2, Netflix Original)
  • “Rust Valley Restorers” (Season 2, Netflix Original)
  • “Valeria” (Netflix Original)

May 9

  • “Charmed” (Season 2)
  • “Grey’s Anatomy” (Season 16)

May 11

  • “Bordertown” (Season 3, Netflix Original)
  • “Trial by Media” (Netflix Documentary)

May 12

  • “True: Terrific Tales” (Netflix Family)

May 14

  • “Riverdale” (Season 4)

May 15

  • “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (Seasons 1-3)
  • “Chichipatos” (Netflix Original)
  • “Inhuman Resources” (Netflix Original)
  • “Magic for Humans” (Season 3, Netflix Original)
  • “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power” (Season 5, Netflix Family)
  • “White Lines” (Netflix Original)

May 16

  • “La reina de Indias y el conquistador” (Netflix Original)

May 18

  • “The Big Flower Fight” (Netflix Original)

May 19

  • “Sweet Magnolias” (Netflix Original)

May 20

  • “The Flash” (Season 6)

May 22

  • “Control Z” (Netflix Original)
  • “History 101” (Netflix Original)
  • “Selling Sunset” (Season 2, Netflix Original)
  • “Trailer Park Boys: The Animated Series” (Season 2, Netflix Original)

May 23

  • “Dynasty” (Season 3)

May 29

  • “Somebody Feed Phil” (Season 3, Netflix Documentary)
  • “Space Force” (Netflix Original)