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7 New Netflix Shows to Binge in May, and the Best Reasons to Watch

Netflix is dropping a ton of TV as schedules open up for summer vacation — and Emmy voters start ranking their ballots.

"When They See Us" Netflix

“When They See Us”

Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

1. “When They See Us” (available May 31)

Why Should I Watch? Ava DuVernay is bringing her keen directorial eye to yet another medium. The director of features like “Selma,” TV series like “Queen Sugar,” and documentaries like “13th” is trying her hand at the limited series format with “When They See Us,” a four-hour scripted drama tracking the so-called Central Park Five’s rigged trial, 25 years in prison, and telling recent developments. (No, we won’t even spoil history here at IndieWire.) DuVernay directs all four episodes and co-wrote each episode with Attica Locke, Robin Swicord, and Michael Starrbury. The sprawling cast is filled with talented newcomers and veterans alike — from Michael K. Williams (“The Wire”) and Vera Farmiga (“Bates Motel”) to Jovan Adepo (“The Leftovers”) and Kylie Bunbury (“Pitch”) — while the producers include media legends like Oprah Winfrey and Robert De Niro. There’s a hook here for every entertainment fan, very much including DuVernay, who’s keeping the focus on the kids.

Bonus Reason: May 31 may seem like a fitting, early summer release date for such a towering, star-studded limited series, but it’s also the last day to qualify for this year’s Emmy race — which is the primary reason Netflix is dropping all four parts on this day. Arriving as close to voting as possible, the streaming giant hopes DuVernay’s work will be first in voters mind as they fill out their ballots. But Netflix wouldn’t make that choice if it didn’t believe the series worthy of such attention; it’s a sign of confidence in the series, and one more reason to consider watching.

2. “Tuca & Bertie” (available now)

Netflix

Why Should I Watch? There’s already a lot being said about this vibrant, inventive, and hysterical series from artist and author Lisa Hanawalt, and each admiration of its insights and depth is well-earned. But the famous voices behind the eponymous bird women (and one of their bird boyfriends) should not be ignored. Tiffany Haddish brings ebullient energy to Tuca, a cocky, carefree toucan who can dance the night away and still have enough zest to pick up her best friend, Bertie, before work. Meanwhile, Ali Wong channels curiosity and rationality, courage and anxiety, to shape Bertie’s beautiful spirit. And Steven Yeun, aptly hot off of “Burning,” plays Bertie’s quirky, supportive bird-friend with effortless charm and surprising flourishes. This voice cast is great, and there are few surprise guests to keep an ear open for, as well.

Bonus Reason: Did you ever wonder what it would be like to have a jaguar as a pet? Have you thought about how turtles would make the ideal pets for a woman with a sprouting plant for a head? Do you want buildings to have boobs and birds to have butts? Then “Tuca & Bertie” is the show for you. Not only does it engage with all these curious thought experiments, but it’s bursting with imagination on every level. Not one scene, transition, or word gets finalized without reaching its full creative potential. Enjoy the ride!

3. “She’s Gotta Have It” Season 2 (available May 24)

She's Gotta Have It Season 2 DeWanda Wise

“She’s Gotta Have It”

David Lee/Netflix

Why Should I Watch? DeWanda Wise. Yes, the breakout from “She’s Gotta Have It” Season 1 has only cemented her status as a shooting star, waiting to set fire to whatever project is lucky enough to snag her. She lit up an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” stole the show in Netflix’s buddy comedy “Someone Great,” and will sizzle yet again when Spike Lee’s half-hour comedy returns this month. As the free-spirited, sex positive, bisexual artist Nola Darling, Wise was put through the wringer in the first season: dancing, dating, and debating with such charm and addictive energy, audiences were enraptured by the savvy new talent. Bring on some more.

Bonus Reason: Spike Lee. Fresh off his first Oscar win (for “BlackKklansman”), the director behind the 1986 film also helmed each episode of the 2017 TV series. Well, guess what: An Academy Award won’t keep Lee from returning to direct every single episode of Season 2, as well. He must’ve realized only a vibrant visionary like Lee could match Wise’s propulsive energy — or he just wanted to work with her again.

4. “Easy” Season 3 (available May 10)

EASY Gugu Mbatha-Raw Jake Johnson

“Easy” Season 3

Netflix

Why Should I Watch? “Easy” is reaching its end. Joe Swanberg’s episodic anthology series set across Chicago’s windswept landscape is bringing back many fan-favorite characters — like Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Jake Johnson, seen above — as well as a few very welcome new faces (like Melanie Lynskey!!). Telling a variety of relationship stories, romantic and otherwise, the charming comedy thrives on nuanced, experimental storytelling crafted by Swanberg, the crew, and a more-involved-than-usual cast; each actor playing a predominant character is asked to bring their voice, their opinions, and their attitude to the production, making for an intimate examination of relationships in the 2010s. One episode might be about an open marriage, the next S&M, and the next commitment-phobia. Love, in its many forms, differs from person to person, and “Easy” aims to accept and inspect as many of these forms as possible.

Bonus Reason: Chicago has rarely been captured as beautifully or thoroughly. The second city known for its rowdy St. Patrick’s Days and hearty meat-filled meals has grown immensely since those touristy identifiers found prominence, and Swanberg treats the mecca like the melting pot it is; filled with hidden pockets in neighborhoods, backyard breweries, and exciting outdoor venues that future visitors should seek out instead of merely walking Miracle Mile.

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