5 Biggest New TV Shows Of May 2024

This May is a whole month of suspicion and investigation.

may the big cigar

May Day is traditionally a day of workers’ celebration – so instead of that, May’s new raft of shows are taking on every angle of that narrative favourite the criminal investigation, be it the investigators themselves, the perp fleeing, the unfortunate victim, the victim’s unhappy family, or even the inevitable rubberneckers making a podcast about the events, May has it all. Solidarity, brothers!

If you’re trying to celebrate May Day in the time-honoured fashion of not going to work, here are the biggest new TV shows of May 2024.

1. Shardlake | May 1st, 2024

A simple matter like the Tudor-era dissolution of the monasteries takes on a hard-edged tone when it turns into the investigation of a gruesome murder. One comment on the trailer likens it to a Protestant version of Umberto Eco’s The Name Of The Rose, which is an incredibly strong starting point.

Arthur Hughes and Anthony Boyle are the men sent to solve the case, and contra The Name Of The Rose’s Holmes-and-Watson paring, Hughes and Boyle have more of a frenemies vibe, or at least some incredibly competitive buddies, each racing to find out whodunit before the other can. Typically, detectives don’t try to turn investigations into races, so you can look forward to the fun of that making things go badly wrong.

Sean Bean plays Thomas Cromwell, very much the Charlie to Hughes and Boyle’s Angels, though with a marquee name like that obviously the hope is Cromwell will find any and all excuses to pop his head in every week. Even acting as a cliched police chief, telling the lads they’ve got twenty-four hours and after that he wants their flintlock and letter of marque, would be enough to satisfy the Bean quota.

2. Dark Matter | May 4th, 2024

Joel Edgerton plays a physicist who’s kidnapped, and rather than being held on a windswept industrial estate or cabin in the woods, finds himself imprisoned in a parallel universe. Over there, it is his life, but also it’s not, his wife is a completely different woman for instance, and he starts getting the worrying feeling that his parallel self is the one behind it all.

Helpfully, Edgerton explains all this to Jimmi Simpson in pitch-perfect ‘in a world…’-style trailer narration. And given the prominent shot of buildings collapsing that Apple used in the teaser trailer, they’re clearly presenting this in the mould of the traditional summer blockbuster, just as a TV show rather than a film.

This is adapted from Blake Crouch’s 2016 book, by Crouch himself. If there’s one way the adaptation process seems likely to throw up problems, it’s in quickly distinguishing which side of this multiverse the current scene’s happening in – on the page there could be a chapter heading or some kind of verbal shorthand, on the screen they’ll actually have to think of something clever.

3. Bodkin | May 4th, 2024

Will Forte plays a podcaster who takes his team over to a small Irish town to be generally baffled there’s running water outside the states, and to generally patronise the locals – oh yes, and to investigate some unsolved disappearances. It carries the vibe of a horror movie where the main characters, such as they are, are sufficiently unsympathetic you may actually cheer when Jason turns up to put a machete through them.

Bodkin is billed as a ‘darkly comedic thriller’, which is the kind of description I’ve grown suspicious of given our transatlantic friends’ low standards of ‘dark’. This could mean anything from some entry-level trash talk, to scenes of actual physical torture. Although, one of the production companies behind the show is Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground, who you’d think would understand the dark humour of, say, killing an American citizen with a drone strike.

4. The Big Cigar | May 17th, 2024

Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton (André Holland) flees to Cuba for a crime he absolutely did commit – the heinous offence of pissing off the American government. And, less salubriously, shooting a very young prostitute and pistol-whipping a tailor, though given the tone of the trailer that’s likely not a facet they’re going to dwell on.

But this isn’t a matter of escaping via underground railroad. This is the 1970s, the era of funk and some truly awful outfits, and the Panthers’ supporters in Hollywood send Huey off in style, whipping up an entire fake film shoot to provide a flight out of California and away from the long arm of the law. (The Big Cigar is the fake film’s title, rather than a chummy nickname for Fidel Castro.)

From The 39 Steps through to OJ Simpson, stories of people fleeing justice – guilty or not – have always carried a lively tang that law-abiding citizens going off to work then coming home and going to sleep can’t quite match. Still, if they’re taking a purely sympathetic view of Huey’s life and times, this is likely to involve a bit of whitewashing, a term Huey would presumably have balked at.

5. Eric | May 4th, 2024

Is there any more nightmarish scenario than your child going missing? Possibly, if it’s the notoriously corrupt NYPD of the early 1980s on the case. But if the kid happens to be stuck inside a large brown envelope they’ll be back before tea-time.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the child’s understandably upset father. Casting him as a bedraggled everyman probably sounds jarring to those who know him as Sherlock and a string of roles in which he’s basically doing Sherlock again – but those familiar with John Finnemore’s Cabin Pressure will know that ‘bedraggled everyman’ is where the ‘batch does his absolute best work.

Cumberbatch’s character, a puppeteer on a children’s show, really doesn’t take this well – and becomes convinced that a monster drawn by his missing son holds the answer. Given the beloved dramatic conceit of Chekov’s gun, against all odds it’ll probably turn out that it does.

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