Online streaming is bigger than ever, and with so many streaming services adding new shows and movies every week, it can be nearly impossible to sort through the good and the bad. If you need something to watch and don’t want to wade through the digital muck that washes up on the internet’s shores, follow our picks below for the best new shows and movies to stream on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon, and other services.
On the list this week: Transparent returns, as does Vice Principals.
‘Transparent’ season 4
Amazon’s poignant family drama returns for a fourth season, and is still set on exploring the complicated natures of gender, identity, and upper-middle-class ennui. Transparent focuses on the Pfeffermans, an upscale Jewish family plagued by insecurities. Family patriarch Mort (Jeffrey Tambor) has come out as a transgender woman named Maura, and the show follows not only Maura’s emotional journey, but those of her adult children, each of whom has their own neuroses. Season 4 finds the Pfefferman family digging into their roots, making a pilgrimage to Israel as they seek fulfillment. As always, Transparent has a remarkable empathy for its characters, even at their worst.
‘Vice Principals’ season 2 premiere
In its first season, Vice Principals proved to be one of the most exciting (and acerbic) comedies in recent years, telling the story of an absurd workplace duel between gloriously unqualified candidates for the position of North Jackson High School principal. The candidates in question are hard-nosed disciplinarian Neal Gamby (Danny McBride) and the dapper but dastardly Lee Russell (Walton Goggins). The two men try to destroy each other’s careers, while working together to undermine the new principal, the savvy Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hebert Gregory). Season 2 — which will reportedly be the show’s last — picks up after Neil’s shooting at the hands of a masked attacker, as he and Lee try to find the assailant and exact vengeance. Vice Principals’ greatest strength is its lead actors, and McBride and Goggins deliver over-the-top performances that animate every scene.
‘American Vandal’ season 1
The true crime genre has been transcendent in recent years, and Netflix is one of the most notable producers, with series like Making a Murderer and The Keepers drawing acclaim. Just because Netflix has found success with these shows doesn’t mean it can’t poke fun at them, which new mockumentary series American Vandal does by crafting a tonally perfect, fabricated story about a man wrongly accused. The story begins when high school student Dylan Maxwell (Jimmy Tatro) is expelled. His offense: Drawing penises on the cars in the parking lot. Given Dylan’s habit of lewd behavior (including plenty of penis drawing), it seems like an open-and-shut case. Fellow student and documentarian Peter Maldonado thinks Dylan may be innocent, however, and sets out to find the truth. American Vandal is an exemplary parody, perfectly capturing the look and tone of popular true crime shows.
The life of a stepfather can be difficult. Trying to connect with a child you haven’t raised takes time, and it certainly doesn’t help when he is a literal hellspawn. That is the predicament Gary Bloom (Adam Scott) faces in Little Evil, a horror-comedy with a delightful cast. The film opens with Gary marrying Samantha (Evangeline Lilly), whose son Lucas (Owen Atlas) is a handful to say the least. He speaks via a goat puppet and pressures his teachers to kill themselves. Gary at first tries to connect with the boy, but quickly figures out that something might not be quite right about him. Little Evil is a spot-on parody of “evil child” films like The Omen, and Scott does a great job in the role of the beleaguered everyman.
An adaptation of The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, Carol is the story of a romance between a middle-aged woman, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), and a young photographer named Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara). The year is 1952, and the lovers struggle to make it in a society where their attraction is considered immoral, a matter made worse by Carol’s ongoing divorce from her husband. Carol is a tightly crafted, moving love story, one that portrays a lesbian romance without the tired clichés of the genre.