The day that modern-day oracle (and FX president) John Landgraf warned us about is here: The Streamapocalypse, a date we’ve dubbed such because it’s absolutely packed with complete seasons of new and returning shows across multiple genres. Want to settle in for some big laughs? Netflix has a couple of options for you. Would you like to see Sean Penn launched into space? Hulu’s got you covered. The scope of today’s offerings is enough to immobilize even the most decisive viewer, and upset even the most ambitious binge-watching plans. But fear not—we at The A.V. Club have been preparing for this event since the first utterance of “peak TV,” and are here to guide you through the programming-infested waters. We’ve carved away at the list of premieres, gathering only the most notable arrivals, then sorting those by what must be consumed now and what you can save for later.
BoJack Horseman is one of those shows that you either love beyond all measure, or you’ve never seen it, or you tried a few episodes and just didn’t get into it. There is no middle ground. If you fall into the latter camps, steel yourself for a season-five binge and see if that doesn’t turn you into a convert. Throughout the series, former ’90s TV star BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett) has been trying to redeem his worst actions, and also get back on top in the entertainment game. This season, it looks like both of those things might just happen, as he gets cast as brooding alcoholic anti-hero detective Philbert—a type that hits way too close to home. BoJack not only tackles addiction, mental health, and the #MeToo movement, but it does so in a way that’s often very, very funny, and more inventive than most series. Season five features an episode that shows the same Halloween party over four different years, expertly distinguished by color schemes and hairstyles. A mid-season episode that’s basically just a monologue by the woefully underappreciated Arnett is a heart-stopper. As BoJack strives to change himself from a bad person into a good one, his best friend/conscience Diane (an also stellar Alison Brie) points out that all of us are warring with those two sides. It’s not her job to validate BoJack’s efforts; it’s his job to get his shit together. Whether he does so remains the ultimate crux of the series, and season after season, BoJack’s struggle is riveting to witness. [Gwen Ihnat]
Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda’s deadpan true-crime parody prompts a specific type of laughter. It’s guttural and rooted in disbelief—a sharp, shallow exhalation that’s shorthand for “I can’t believe someone is getting away with this.” And yet somebody did, and they’ve managed to do it twice now, with American Vandal returning for a second season that manages not only to create a plausible justification for its existence, but also to build upon the emotional and thematic resonance that kept the first season’s mountain of dick jokes aloft. But that’s not the real reason you’re going to want to wade right into the second season, letting every new cliffhanger pull you deeper and deeper. You want an answer to the question “Who is the Turd Burglar?” American Vandal is going to give it to you, as Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) head up the coast to investigate an escalating series of gastrointestinal pranks at a tony Washington prep school, adding some techniques from the Errol Morris toolbox—reenactments and head-on, Interrotron-style interviews—to their repertoire. At St. Bernadine, American Vandal does another surgical dissection of timeless high school social strata and contemporary social media, with new supporting player Travis Tope stealing the show with his embodiment of an extremely specific type of smartest-guy-in-the-room dork. Word to the wise: Keep meal times and American Vandal times separate, especially during the first five minutes when, as the saying goes, shit gets real. [Erik Adams]
There’s very little we can say about Alan Yang (Master Of None) and Matt Hubbard’s (30 Rock) Forever without completely spoiling it. What we can comment on is its penchant for montage, slow pacing, and awkward (but charming) hyper-realism—much like that in Master Of None—which, through a series of genuinely surprising twists, quickly evolves into something else entirely. Fred Armisen and a particularly excellent Maya Rudolph star as Oscar and June, respectively, a married couple who begin to reevaluate their pleasant but mundane relationship in the face of sudden unforeseen circumstances. While the former Saturday Night Live stars bring a dry humor to their performances, the comedy is secondary at best to the show’s high-concept dramatic plot, which asks a lot of big questions but (ironically) doesn’t have enough time to fully dive into all of them. Among its points of interest are the unfathomable concept of forever, existential boredom and societal entrapment, and the types of things you can put in bowls. If you plan on watching Forever, you should do it quickly before it’s spoiled for you—and it comes in eight perfectly snackable 30-minute episodes, so it certainly won’t take you forever to watch. [Maggie Donahue]
Space is gorgeous. All eight episodes of The First, Hulu’s near-future space-and-family drama from House Of Cards creator Beau Willimon, underline that fact, even in outings more concerned with events on Earth. But hey, Earth, death, recovery, and grief all look beautiful, too. Part of that is surely due to the series’ reported $54.6 million budget, which shows itself in everything from the inevitable giant space machines to the tasteful, modernist homes that its characters inhabit. But it’s hard not to imagine that most of it went to its cast, which includes Natascha McElhone, LisaGay Hamilton, Keiko Agena, James Ransone, and Sean Penn, the last of whom dips deep into the well of tortured-swole he’s got. You may have noticed that there’s not much mention of plot in the description above, because while there’s definitely a story—a tragedy surrounding the first manned voyage to Mars spurs a years-long effort to try again—the top priorities are the characters and the visual world, which makes The First an engaging, if not always a gripping, watch. Unusually, Hulu’s releasing all eight episodes at once, but this is still probably best in small doses. [Allison Shoemaker]