The Best Spring TV of 2021

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Adapted from Colson Whitehead’s historical heart-wrencher, The Underground Railroad tells the story of Cora, who escapes the plantation on which she’s been enslaved to make her way north on an actual subterranean train. (Count me firmly in the “book is always better than the movie” camp, but watching that jarring yet effective magical-realist conceit play out on the small screen underlined the virtues of the medium.) This Amazon production is directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) and the limited series displays his characteristic care and artistry, with eerily beautiful landscapes and maniacally manicured towns relaying a sinister undercurrent that only becomes more pernicious. Sometimes the roots of evil are apparent, and sometimes it takes deeper excavation to make them known. —CFS

How to Watch: Stream on Amazon

In Treatment (HBO, May 31)

The new “season” of In Treatment, as it’s being billed—though it arrives ten years after the last season concluded and stars an entirely new cast of characters—picks up the format of the original: A therapist, isolated in her office, speaks with her clients. This iteration, which has Uzo Aduba taking up the reins so ably handled by Gabriel Byre in seasons one through three, makes gestures toward the present—with asides about “vaccination documentation” and invitations to use the hand sanitizer. And this time Aduba occupies a sunny, mid-century architectural masterpiece, perched in the hills of Los Angeles, rather than Byrne’s Baltimore office. But the nature and structure of the show remain the same—and similarly powerful. Each episode, focused on a single session with a patient, is seemingly self-contained, allowing the actors playing the patients (including a fantastic Anthony Ramos) to deliver potent, concentrated performances. But the show has an accumulated impact as well: This is not so much a show about personal story-telling, but what happens to self-conception when those stories begin to unravel. —CFS

How to Watch: Stream on HBO Max

Girls5Eva (Peacock, tbd May) 

Busy Philipps,  Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sara Bareilles, and Paula Pell in Girls5eva.Photo: Meaghan Darwish

Tina Fey’s latest boasts an immediately appealing premise: an aging girl group attempts to reclaim their ’90s glory. Starring Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, and Paula Pell, the upcoming Peacock comedy follows the titular “girls” as they attempt to stage a comeback while also managing spouses, kids, debt, and lower back pain. Girls5eva explores the familiar challenges of finding yourself in middle age with the added bonus of an absurd bubblegum pop soundtrack: “Gonna be famous 5eva, ’cause 4ever’s too short / Gonna be famous 3gether, ’cause that’s one more than 2gether / So what are you waiting 5?” —K.B.

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