3 great PBS shows you should watch in May 2024

Ato Blankson-Wood as Hamlet in Great Performances.

The buzzwords for the three great PBS shows in May are “great performances.” And that’s not just the name of PBS’ showcase for the performing arts. Great Performances is bringing multiple theatrical plays directly to your living room in May, and we came really close to making it a clean sweep for that show with the Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 80th Anniversary Special that’s arriving on May 31. However, we couldn’t pass up the chance to throw the spotlight on PBS’ latest drama from the U.K. as well.

These are just a few of the new shows on PBS in May. There’s a lot to watch, especially if you want to go back and revisit the great PBS shows to watch in April as well. Remember, PBS is free. All you have to do is make time for it.


Suranne Jones and Eve Best in MaryLand.

Maryland is a British drama that premiered last year, and it’s finally getting its American debut on PBS. Suranne Jones and Eve Best star as Becca and Rosaline, respectively. These sisters have been estranged for years, and the only reason they come back together is because their mother, Mary (Judy Clifton), has died suddenly.

Much to their mutual surprise, Becca and Rosaline discover that their mother has been keeping a lot of secrets from them, as she was living a separate life away from her husband. Mary’s friend, Cathy (Stockard Channing), apparently knew her better than her own daughters. Now that Becca and Rosaline are discovering who their mother really was, it allows them to reexamine themselves as well.

Watch Maryland on PBS.

Great Performances – Hamlet

Ato Blankson-Wood as Hamlet in Great Performances.

Living in New York City has its perks, like the Free Shakespeare in the Park performances. Great Performances‘ new take on Hamlet was directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon, who gave the bard’s famous tale a bit of a modern flair.

Ato Blankson-Wood stars as Hamlet, a young man who suspects treachery when his father dies suddenly and his mother quickly moves on to his uncle. And Hamlet is not the kind of guy to let that go, even if his quest for revenge destroys himself and everyone around him.

Watch Great Performances – Hamlet on PBS.

Great Performances – Purlie Victorious

The cast of Purlie Victorious.

Premieres: Friday, May 24

Ossie Davis’ Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch may not be as famous as the bard’s work, but it was recently revived to great acclaim on Broadway with Hamilton‘s Leslie Odom, Jr. in the title role. Great Expectations is broadcasting a full performance of the play, which is a comedy that takes place in the Old South.

Purlie Victorious Judson is a preacher who has returned to his hometown in Georgia with big dreams about reclaiming his inheritance and buying the community church so he can spread the word of God. First, Purlie needs to trick Ol’ Cap’n Cotchipee (Jay O. Sanders) into giving him what he wants. Even with help from his friends, Purlie learns the hard way that his schemes won’t always work out in his favor. But sometimes, faith comes through.

Watch Great Performances – Purlie Victorious on PBS on Friday, May 24.

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