Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Time to figure out whether or not you already have HBO Max

Top left: Love Life; bottom left: On The Record, The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo. Right: Legendary.
Top left: Love Life; bottom left: On The Record, The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo. Right: Legendary.
Photo: Sarah Shatz, Zach Dilgard (HBO Max)

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Wednesday, May 27. All times are Eastern. 


Top picks

It’s HBO Max Day! There’s a decent chance that you, dear reader, still aren’t sure whether or not you already have access to WarnerMedia’s streaming behemoth, and with good cause. It’s murky. But here’s a gentle overview: HBO Max combines HBO proper with a robust catalog of existing films and television shows and, at present, a scant handful of originals. It costs basically exactly what you’d pay for HBO or HBO Now, and all subscribers to the latter and many to the former will be upgraded automatically. If you get HBO through cable and your cable provider is on this list, you’re also all set. If yours isn’t on that list (and no, Comcast isn’t) [UPDATE: Wow, that was fast], you’ll need to decide if and when you want to make the switch.

If you’ve got it already (or will after you figure out what the hell you do and don’t have), congratulations! You can now watch, to use an industry term, a metric fuckton of stuff, including the films of Studio Ghibli (the studio’s first streaming deal), Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, Robot Chicken, The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, The Big Bang Theory, some of the Criterion Collection, and, yes, Friends. The list goes on. You’ll also have the chance to watch new Looney Tunes cartoons, kids’ crafting competition Craftopia, and the following originals.

Legendary (HBO Max, 3:01 a.m., series premiere): “‘Leave it all on the floor!’ is the directive of Legendary. The command speaks to the jaunty energy of HBO Max’s first reality competition show. Pose on FX helped introduce the underground ballroom community, voguing, and houses to mainstream viewers, and Legendary makes the concept into a reality show by bringing together eight houses to compete for a cash prize of $100,000. Competitors are enjoyably shady with each other; there seems to be a significant budget for outfits and accessories; and the judging panel is varyingly supportive, dismissive, thirsty, and impressed. Although there is some bumpiness in the show’s early stages (only the first two episodes were available for review), it’s also clear that Legendary has assembled all the components needed to be a RuPaul’s Drag Race-style hit.” Read the rest of Roxana Hadadi’s pre-air review.

On The Record (HBO Max, 3:01 a.m., premiere): “The documentary On The Record has been described as a film about the secret life of hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, and about the multiple women—and in particular one woman, Drew Dixon—who have accused him of sexual harassment and rape. But that description puts too blunt a point on the story Dixon tells here, and on the repercussions that the doc’s co-directors, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, intend to explore. This isn’t a movie about a mogul who may have gotten away with heinous crimes. On The Record is more about a show business system ill-designed to process the friction these kinds of accusations create. It’s also about how some remarkably gifted people end up getting squashed, to keep the gears of profit properly greased.” Click here to read the rest of Noel Murray’s review.

Love Life (HBO Max, 3:01 a.m., series premiere): “As the first, non-Elmo-centered scripted series for the service, Sam Boyd’s Love Life probably seemed a safe bet… a smart, sexy comedy would not only be welcome right now, it would fit right in with HBO’s history of trenchant series.

Love Life fails to live up to either of those expectations, offering rote observations about interpersonal relationships and shallow characterization. At the start of the series, a chipper British narrator relates statistics on relationships and marriage that will either make people feel bad about their prospects for a second marriage (despite the fact that the same ‘anecdata’ indicates second marriages are often more successful than first marriages), or emphasize the rarity of ‘true love.’ Love Life then purports to show us the people behind the numbers, but Boyd and his fellow executive producers Bridget Bedard and Paul Feig struggle to make any of the characters consistently three-dimensional.” Click here to read the rest of Danette Chavez’s pre-air review.

The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo (HBO Max, 3:01 a.m., series premiere): “With mobile devices and other screens playing an increasing role in daily life, here’s a show that fights against tech’s negative impact on sleep by helping kids get ready for bed. The Jonas Brothers extol the importance of nighttime oral hygiene in one episode; John Mulaney helps expel excess energy with a tricycle race in another. The musical-guest slot—so often the capper on the types of shows Not-Too-Late bases its game of dress-up on—gives Kacey Musgraves and Lil Nas X a chance to spin Sesame standards into new lullabies and pre-lights-out sing-alongs. Millions of adults make the Tonight, Late, or Daily Show part of their bedtime routine. Why should the kids miss out on the fun?” Click here to read the rest of Erik Adams’ pre-air review.

Regular coverage

Mrs. America (FX On Hulu, 3:01 a.m.): miniseries finale
What We Do In The Shadows (FX, 10:00 p.m.)
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC, 10 p.m.): seventh-season premiere


On stage At home

All In The Timing (Stars In The House via YouTube, 2 p.m.): Today’s sort-of-can’t-believe-this-is-happening offering from Stars In The House is a remote performance of three plays from David Ives’ popular short play collection All In The Timing, as performed by two members of its original cast, Nancy Opel and Robert Stanton. While the performance won’t include the sublime “Philip Glass Buys A Loaf Bread,” all three of the plays performed—“Sure Thing,” “The Universal Language,” and “Variations On The Death Of Trotsky”—share a playful, sharp streak and love of language. There are far worse ways to spend your Wednesday afternoon. As always, performances benefit The Actors Fund.


Wild card

Space Launch Live: America Returns To Space (Discovery Channel and Science Channel, 2 p.m.) and Launch America: Mission to Space Live (National Geographic Channel, 3 p.m.): HBO Max isn’t the only thing launching today. SpaceX and NASA are sending astronauts from the U.S. to the International Space Station for the first time since 2011.

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!