1. “Grace and Frankie” Season 2 (available May 6)
Why Should I Watch It? There are four very good, objective reasons to watch “Grace and Frankie,” and they’ve all won Emmys. Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston are absolutely delightful in Netflix’s original comedy series that’s far more than that. Some fans were surprised by the depth found in Season 1, as Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin) reeled from their husbands’ disclosure that they were not only gay, but in love with each other. The finale took things to an even more ambitious emotional place, making the Season 2 premiere a hotly-anticipated event.
Best Episode: We haven’t watched the screeners for Season 2 yet, but we can pick a winner for Season 1. Since I always think it’s a bit of a cheat to go with flashback episodes — they’re such an easy way to show character development and dump exposition, no matter how fun — I’ll go with “The Earthquake,” which found Sol rushing to Frankie’s side after a mild tremor shook the California coast. That lead to a bit of a tussle between Sol and Robert about relationship priorities, which didn’t shy away from how one balances the various forms of love. It was sweet, funny and brave — adjectives applicable to all of Season 1.
2. “Bloodline” Season 2 (available May 27)
Why Should I Watch It? Coach! Okay, so Kyle Chandler isn’t very Coach Taylor-esque in this murder mystery set in the Florida Keys, but the allure of the ensemble is just as strong as “Friday Night Lights” (okay, almost as strong). Season 1 proved to be a bit lengthy and unevenly paced, but its highs were impressive enough to keep us hooked throughout, especially as the twist-heavy latter half spiraled into insanity. As seen in the above trailer,
Best Episode: Again, we haven’t been able to dig into the new season, but it’s pretty obvious what the best episode of Season 1 was: “Part 12” [Spoilers for Season 1 are ahead.] Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) and Coach Rayburn’s tensions finally reached a boiling point. Even though some of the drama was undercut by the first episode’s disclosure of Danny’s death, making the audience believe John would go as far as to kill his own brother was a sight to be seen — as were these two towering thespians, truly digging into a defining moment in the series and in their careers. None who’ve seen it will soon forget, and the promise of something similar is what drives us toward Season 2.
3. “Lady Dynamite” Season 1 (available May 20)
Why Should I Watch It? In accordance with the majority of her last name, Maria Bamford is a BAMF. The popular stand-up comedian, podcast maven and unforgettable actress is now the creator of her own Netflix original series based, at least somewhat, on her own life. Produced by “Arrested Development” creator Mitch Hurwitz, “Lady Dynamite” tracks the struggles of a would-be comedian as she tries and spectacularly fails to obtain her goals…before she picks right back up and starts over again. Think of it like a wacky, R-rated version of “Kimmy Schmidt.”
Best Episode: Indiewire representatives have only seen the “Lady Dynamite” pilot, but we liked it! Special Projects Manager Steve Greene, who caught the premiere at a special “Keep Netflix Weird” event in L.A., said he’d give the first episode a B grade, overall, citing concerns about whether it would expand on the ideas presented in the first half-hour, or keep transitioning into concepts too zany for their own good. “[But] the first five minutes are A+. The opening sequence is just amazing,” Greene said. TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller had complaints about the quality of the screener she was watching, but still topped Greene’s grade by giving it a B+. Why? Who knows? Miller isn’t one for lengthy explanations, and yours truly stopped listening when “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” came up. Meanwhile, your humble TV Critic has not yet seen it, so let’s just wait for May 20.
4. “Marseille” Season 1 (available May 5)
Why Should I Watch It? You like “House of Cards,” don’t you? You don’t discriminate against France, do you? You’ve forgotten about Gerard Depardieu defending Vladimir Putin and having his films banned from movie theaters and TV stations in the Ukraine, right? Then this is the show for you! “Marseille” has oft been described as the French “House of Cards” by Americans too lazy to dive into the intricacies of overseas small town politics, and stars Depardieu as an outgoing mayor who’s driven back into service by a competitor. Frankly, it all sounds very exciting, as long as you’re not a Ukranian.
Best Episode: Let’s just get this out of the way, since we have two more Netflix originals left on this list: We haven’t seen any of these episodes. We’re doing our best to make it up to you by naming the best episodes of previous seasons, but that’s obviously impossible for this one. I can say with some certainty that if Depardieu ever wraps his knuckles on a desk, looks up and says in a perfect Southern drawl, “That’s how you devour a whale: one bite at a time,” — that will be the best episode of “Marseille.”
5. “Chef’s Table” Season 2, Part 1 (available May 27)
Why Should I Watch It? Listen, we’re not prone to support anything even remotely connected to reality TV, but this docu-series from a slew of acclaimed independent filmmakers chronicling the lives and motivations of some of the world’s top chefs is damn fine television. Season 1 surprised us a bit with its artful presentation, in-depth analysis and fascinating characters, and the follow-up effort looks to continue the hot streak. Plus, two of the chefs are women, which is a notable step up from what we saw before.
Best Episode: I don’t want to say Season 1 peaked with its premiere, because that would imply a drop-off in the following episodes. There wasn’t, but “Massimo Bottura,” on the obsessive Italian chef Massimo Bottura, is truly a favorite. And though I often complain about food shows being pointless because you can’t sample the food — and, who are we kidding, no one’s cooking that stuff themselves — this episode got to me. There’s just something about that cheese, man. It moved me.
6. “Chelsea” (available May 11)
Why Should I Watch It? If someone uses the phrase, “the future of TV,” does that do anything for ya? Do your ears perk up out of curiosity, hoping to hear what’s next for the art world’s most populist and exciting medium? Do you think to yourself, “Oh, this is probably about cutting the cord or virtual reality,” or, better yet, “Hey! I bet Chelsea Handler’s involved!”? Then you’re in luck. “Chelsea” is the mysterious new undertaking of the ex-E! host, somehow both current and streaming on Netflix. We don’t know a whole lot more than that, other than it airs three times a week, but what more do you need to tune in?
Best Episode: We literally can offer you nothing here. We are so sorry. We can tell you Chelsea Handler’s worst movie, though: “This Means War.” In a landslide.
7. “Hell on Wheels” Season 5 (available May 28)
Why Should I Watch It? Technically, this is only the first half of Season 5. The second half will air on AMC in 2016 (starting Saturday, June 11), so why you need to watch these eight episodes is so you can fully appreciate the upcoming series finale. If you haven’t been invested in Cullen Bohannon’s quest to avenge the murder of his wife up to this point, you may want to just wait until all of it is inevitably on Netflix… although, there’s something to be said for watching the series finale live. There’s just an instant satisfaction in it like nothing else. Anyway, sort it out amongst yourselves.
Best Episode: One of the reasons to watch is the midseason finale for Season 5, “False Prophets.” Cullen is dealing with President Grant and the future of the railroad, but the real meat of the story lies with The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl) and his plan against the Mormons. It gets so good, you don’t want to watch unless you’re fully caught up.
The Rest of Incoming TV
“Easy Living” Seasons 1-3 (available May 1)
“Baby Daddy” Season 5 (available May 6)
“American Dad” Season 10 (available May 17)
“Slasher” Season 1 (available May 17)
“Benders” Season 1 (available May 19)
“Graceland” Season 3 (available May 26)
“Hell on Wheels” Season 5 (available May 28)