1) “Grace and Frankie” Season 1 (available May 8)
Why Should I Watch It? Every actor making up the series’ four lead roles worked on an Aaron Sorkin series. Even more importantly, those actors are Jane Fonda (“The Newsroom” and, you know, a two-time Oscar winner), Lily Tomlin (“The West Wing,” plus a six-time Emmy winner and Oscar nominee), Martin Sheen (Jed Mother F’n Bartlet!), and Sam Waterston (“The Newsroom” and some old show about cops and lawyers). It’s hard to go wrong with that cast, and Indiewire TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller says the show mostly delivers with room to improve (and indicators that it will).
Best Episode: Episode 6 shakes things up — literally. Though “Grace and Frankie” gets off to an uneven start in terms of its laughs to tears ratio, things get plenty jovial after an earthquake leads to some frisky business for Grace. Sheen and Waterston also appear, meaning it’s automatically one of the best episodes — Fonda and Tomlin’s plot line just pushes it over the top.
2) “The Adventures of Puss in Boots” Season 1.5 (available May 8)
Why Should I Watch It? Puss in Boots is a fantastic character. He has been since Antonio Banderas strapped on the black leather boots and red-rimmed hat in “Shrek 2” (I assume he did this in the recording booth), and he never disappointed us, even when appearing in the very disappointing “Shrek” sequels. His spinoff was an under-appreciated feat in cat-imation, and now he’s got his own series. In the Netflix original animated series, Eric Bauza has done a terrific job energetically replicating the vocal allure Banderas created, while the animation team has gone the extra mile to pay homage to the Western genre (that intro is terrific). “The Adventures of Puss in Boots” is a kids’ show with enough attitude to satisfy an amiable older audience.
Best Episode: If I had my way, I’d vote for the introduction in the pilot as the “best episode” — the purring during the “Netflix Original Series” banner and old school animation are a delight — but some of you loyal and lovely readers have been complaining about a lack of specificity in this category. So I’ll choose Episode 2, “Sphinx,” as the best of the bunch so far. The creators wasted no time in paying homage to feline history, crafting an episode around Puss traveling to find a cure for magical sugar protected by an all-powerful sphinx. A savvy, sword-slinging cat taking on a winged-cat with riddles-a-plenty? Cat lovers rejoice.
“The Adventures of Puss in Boots” adds five new episodes May 8. For a preview of the hilarity to come — and Puss giving a shout-out to his inspirational idols — check out Puss in Boots on “Jeopardy!” above.
3) “Between” Season 1 (available May 21)
Why Should I Watch It? Did you like “The Leftovers”? Of course you did. It was the best new series of 2014 (since “True Detective” and “Fargo” are limited series) because of its gripping storylines and unique characters. I mean, I don’t need to know what happened to the 2 percent of the population that disappeared, but watching how the remaining people — the leftovers…ha! — react to not knowing themselves is utterly fascinating. “Between” shares a similarly eerie premise: a small town is under siege by a deadly disease that only affects those residents who are 22 years old and older. That means a town is being taken over by kids, most of whom can’t even drink yet. So forget “The Leftovers”; “Between” sounds more like a horror show.
Best Episode: So here’s the thing about “Between”: it’s not your typical Netflix show. I don’t mean the premise is extra original (whatever that would mean) or it’s actually a Netflix original (though it’s not). I mean the full season isn’t going to be available right away. “Between” is a Canadian television show airing first on City TV in the Great White North before premiering a half-hour later internationally on Netflix. That means than rather than all six episodes of Season 1 being available on May 21, a new episode will be released weekly, every Thursday at 11:30pm ET (8:30pm PT) on Netflix. So if you’re adamant about binge-watching television, you’ll have to wait til the end of June to plow through all of “Between.”
4) “Granite Flats” Seasons 1-3 (available May 15)
Why Should I Watch It? “Granite Flats” is the first original program produced by BYUtv. Are you wondering what BYUtv is? Don’t overthink it. That’s it. You remember Steve Young donning the white and blue before leading the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl. You probably recall 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney mentioning his alma mater from time to time. This is that very same BYU, which means even university-run television stations are creating original programs. Not only that, but original series starring Doc Brown himself, Christopher Lloyd, and Parker Posey! If this wasn’t a church-supported school, I’d say hell hath frozen over.
Best Episode: Lloyd didn’t show up until Season 2, so that leaves the first year of “Granite Flats” out of luck. Posey didn’t join the cast until Season 3, sadly a year after Cary Elwes exited. But Posey tops Elwes, so the latest season — focusing on a mysterious Colorado town during the height of the Cold War — must have the best episode… right? Wrong. We find out the secrets of Lloyd’s character in the Season 2 finale “Project Madman,” instantly elevating it as the best of the bunch. Plus, Season 3 introduced a KGB plotline which did not result in a crossover with “The Americans” (even if the FX series is a bit too risqué for BYUtv), so it’s automatically disappointing.
READ MORE: Review: ‘The Americans’ Season 3 Finale, Episode 13, ‘March 8, 1983’ Divides the Family
5) “Longmire” Season 3 (available May 1)
Why Should I Watch It? Because its fans are relentless. Of all the shows I’ve yet to watch — and there are maybe, I dunno, two? — fans of Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny’s A&E original series are the most dogged I’ve ever encountered in their attempts to convince me to watch. That must mean the series about a widower sheriff who finds his passion again must be doing something right. Their determination isn’t just evident in my limited personal anecdotes: Netflix is bringing back the axed show for its fourth season in 2015 — possibly August or September, according to star Katie Sackhoff.
Best Episode: For as demanding as these fans are, the demands of my job are even more so. But never fear! After combing the internet for various rankings, opinions and trends, I’ve come up with the below options as the best of Season 3. Now you tell me what to watch, I’ll try it, and then report back the next time this series comes up (as it always does). Vote below, and thanks for being so patient.
6) “Transporter: The Series” Season 1 (available May 22)
Why Should I Watch It? Wait, “Transporter: The Series” premiered already? TWO seasons have premiered already? Oh, but it doesn’t have Jason Statham? And Luc Besson is just an executive producer? He didn’t even direct the pilot? Who’s the transporter? Chris Vance? From “Rizzoli & Isles”? Okay, okay, I’ve heard enough. I’ll watch it because it’s on Netflix.
Best Episode: I’m dead serious when I say I had no idea this was released. Indiewire never received a screener, and I certainly don’t remember seeing any trailers or premiere announcements float through my e-mail. Looking at the series’ Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic pages, it appears we’re not alone. Even people who watched it are hesitant to commit to a review (“Transporter” isn’t even listed on the Turner press site). In conclusion, I’m not sure anyone could tell you what the “best” episode of the series is, in part because — depending on what country you’re in — the episodes that make up Season 1 were screened in different orders. For Canadian and Dutch viewers, you saw it in sequential order (Episode 1, then 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.). But American viewers saw Season 1 as Episode 1, 6, 9, 7, 2, 3, 11, 4, 10, 8, 5, and 12. How that’s possible I may never know — or, at least, not until “Transporter: The Series” debuts on Netflix. So far, the service is the show’s best promoter.
READ MORE: Jackie Chan on Why Hollywood Isn’t Producing Good Martial Arts Films Anymore
The Rest of Incoming TV
“Shameless” Series 10 (available May 1 – the original British 2004 series — not Showtime’s remake)
“Witnesses” Season 1 (available May 1)
“Royal Pains” Season 6 (available May 3)
“Graceland” Seasons 1-2 (available May 26)
“Richie Rich” Season 2 (available May 22)
“True Justice” Season 1 (May 1)