You’ll find fewer TV shows this spring, but some quality finds are still ready for binge-watching.
Spring 2021 is slower than usual on TV, as production shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic are finally catching up to cable and streamers, which typically produce shows months in advance.
The dropoff is especially apparent in March, April and May, usually prime months for Emmy contenders, and many returning favorites have been delayed. But that just leaves more time for the few newcomers that are worth watching.
We’ve picked five that might pique your interest this spring. They include looks at the lives of Aretha Franklin and Ernest Hemingway, an earnest teen drama, a bloody superhero cartoon and an epic fantasy adaptation where monsters hide in the dark.
In addition to these great shows, some high-profile series like Disney+’s next big Marvel adventure, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” and Amazon’s adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Underground Railroad” are set to stream later this spring, although they weren’t available for preview.
2021 TV premiere dates:Your favorite shows, new addictions
PBS (April 5-7, 8 EDT/PDT; check local listings)
Directors Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (“The Vietnam War”) are collaborating again on this new PBS documentary about Ernest Hemingway, but this isn’t a puff piece. Burns and Novick train a critical eye on the esteemed writer and his foibles in the six-hour series, which stars Jeff Daniels, who gives voice to Hemingway’s writings. Full of pithy commentary and insight, the doc gets under Hemingway’s skin – and his words – in surprising ways.
HBO Max (March 11; then Fridays)
HBO Max’s edgy teen drama, produced by Lena Dunham (“Girls”), at first glance looks like a cheap attempt to capitalize on the success of HBO’s “Euphoria.” But “Genera+ion,” created by married couple Daniel and Ben Barnz with help from their teen daughter Zelda, feels at once less exploitative and calmer than “Euphoria,” with its own distinct identity. A group of teens navigates high school, sexuality, grief, mental health and more, “Genera+ion” is grounded in its sharp young cast of performers and unfolds with ease.
More:The 50 best TV shows to watch on HBO Max right now
National Geographic, (March 21-24, 9 EDT/PDT)
British actress Cynthia Erivo, who portrayed Harriet Tubman in a 2019 film, takes on another American icon. The Oscar nominee and Tony winner belts her heart out as Aretha Franklin in this third installment of Nat Geo’s anthology series (which earlier chronicled the lives of Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso). Franklin’s life is dramatic, with enough jaw-dropping moments to fill the eight-hour series, which also stars Courtney B. Vance as the Queen of Soul’s father. With classic, heart-thumping music and a stellar performance from Erivo, “Aretha” sings.
Amazon (March 26)
This ultra-violent, dark and thoughtful animated superhero drama will fit right in on the streamer that brought you “The Boys” and “Hunters.” Based on comics by “The Walking Dead” author Robert Kirkman, “Invincible” takes place in a world teeming with superheroes, where awkward teen Mark (Stephen Yeun) belatedly inherits powers from his father, Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons). What starts as a simple comic book coming-of-age story takes a drastic, violent turn, becoming at once a more interesting, complex and surprising series. Just don’t ever turn it off right after the credits roll.
‘Shadow and Bone’
Netflix (April 23)
Based on the books by Leigh Bardugo, this fantasy series is set in a multicultural world with magical witches known as “Grisha,” where a mystical sea of darkness full of monsters plagues a nation resembling Russia. The series splits its time between Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), a young soldier who may possess a power that can save her war-torn nation; and Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), leader of a gang of charming criminals across the ocean who is tasked with a magical heist. Fast-paced and fun, the series is brought to life with an epic, meticulous production design not unlike “Game of Thrones” or “The Witcher,” and has an instantly appealing bright-eyed young cast.