Summer loving had me a blast ohh yeah
Summer loving happened so fast
I met a network crazy for me
Met a TV show cute as can be
(Sandy from Grease circa 2014)
You can sense it can’t you?
After a long cold winter when the nights were long and dark, temperatures dropped so low even penguins bought large gas heaters, and your favourite TV shows either excelled beyond expectation or disappointed profoundly (I am looking at you Revolution!; do NOT look away), summer is finally here!
And with it, swimming pools full of Margaritas (makes laps an increasingly haphazard affair, trust me), T-shirts and shorts, good books and beaches … and yes even original TV programming!
“What?!” I hear you say, “how can that be? Am I not destined for repeats, re-hashed specials, and The Real Beach Bunnies of Boca Raton?”
To which I reply: “Please ignore the fact that I know what you’re saying even though I am nowhere near you (the listening device is small and unobtrusive), and no, you’re not. A whole world of brand new, hitherto-unknown TV shows await you, many of which only flower only briefly and brightly and then flicker to nothing come September!”
It’s the result of a new philosophy at the networks, one that reflects that people aren’t consuming TV the way they used to, with DVD boxsets, streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, and the almighty, often choked with forgotten delights PVR/DVR, fundamentally what is watched, when and by how much.
No one wants to sit staring at repeats when so much original programming is around to be found and indulged in, and so TV networks and their cable brethren have begun releasing original programming with all the enthusiasm of that first euphoric run into the surf (sharks not included).
So you don’t miss anything, well anything I like the look of anyway, here’s a peek at 5 brand spanking new shows and 5 returning series worthy of your non-beach time …
CBS thinks your bright, cheery sunshiney summertime vibe needs a dash of conspiracy and paranoia and judging by the plot for Extant starring Halle Berry, they may just be right.
Centring on astronaut Molly Woods, it explores what happens when a highly anticipated and joyous homecoming from a 13 month mission to space, becomes instead the stuff of nightmares with an unexplained pregnancy, unnerving behaviour by colleagues and the powers that be, and yes a apocalypse-obsessed robot son Ethan (Pierce Gagnon), built by husband John (Goran Visnjic) while she was away, dominating thoroughly mysterious proceedings.
(CBS, 13 episodes, from July 9)
And if the idea of aliens doing the dance of love with oblivious astronauts in space isn’t unnerving enough, how about The Strain, which features a worldwide plague of vampirism that sweeps over the earth in no time flat, leave bloodthirsty undead in its wake, survivors in peril, and authorities scrambling to find a solution to a menace without precedent?
What if we also told you these vampires came equipped with savage, giant tongue-like protuberances – all the better to infect you with my dear! – and are controlled by a Big Bad ancient vampire called The Master with the whole series based on a scary trilogy of novels by the king of imaginative, nuanced horror Guillermo del Toro, and Chuck Hogan?
Twilight this is not my friends but intriguing, freaky and utterly compelling viewing it’s likely to be.
(FX, 13 episodes, from July 13)
If you’re looking for a break from vast conspiracies and apocalyptic outbreaks of vampirism, perhaps you’d like to consider Manhattan, a gripping, straight from the pages of history tale, with a few dramatic flourishes no doubt, about the race to build the world’s first atomic bomb.
From the executive producer of the impressive Masters of Sex, Sam Shaw, its a story ripe with dramatic possibilities as people out in the middle of small desert town in New Mexico must grapple with not only an overweening culture of necessary secrecy but the corrosive effect this has on relationships and friendships, healthy and fragile alike.
(WGN America, 13 episodes, from July 27)
Speaking of the race to build something in deadly, earnest secret, AMC’s already in progress new series Halt and Catch Fire, starring the always wonderful Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) as maverick computer industry visionary Joe MacMillan who together with his small team is aiming to build a PC that will revolutionise life as the world in the early 1980s knows it.
It’s got espionage, all sorts of shading business dealings and skullduggery, not to mention rather large egos, and it examines an oft-neglected period in history, all of which is making for some gripping television.
(AMC, 10 episodes, began June 1)
And last but not least, The Leftovers, a series based on Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name, that dares to ask what would happen to society, in this case one small town, if 2 per cent of the population, random souls all, suddenly disappeared overnight (“raptured” to use Biblical parlance) with no explanation and no trace?
Would you hold close to family and friends? Would you push them far away? Or would you descend into the sort of religious dogmatism that is popular when circumstances overwhelm our ability to explain them?
You can be pretty sure this enthralling, intelligent series will cover all those bases and then some.
(HBO, 10 episodes, from June 29)
Also worth checking are Married (FX, 10 episodes, from July 17), a comedy about the highs and lows of marriage, The Knick, a medical drama set at the start of the 20th century with involvement from Steven Soderbergh (Cinemax, 10 episodes, from August 8) and Undateable (NBC, 10 episodes, from May 29), a comedy that which explores what happens when you reach that point in your life where you know it’s time to settle down.
But hark while there is newness aplenty and that can be thrilling, what about our old TV friends, those shows we came to love last summer and which are making a welcome return?
Masters of Sex (Showtime, season 2, 12 episodes, from July 13) is one show that debuted last year to great acclaim, it’s talented cast brilliantly portraying the 1950s pioneering work into human sexuality, a then taboo subject even for academia, of William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan).
Marked by standout performances from Sheen, Caplan, the incomparable Allison Janney and slew of other actors, and a fearless, beautifully-written exploration of sexual and gender politics, not to mention 1950s chic, Masters of Sex is almost uniformly excellent and utterly engrossing.
Meanwhile back at Falling Skies (TNT, season 4, 12 episodes, from June 22), the aliens may have come, they may seen but they most certainly have not conquered with Tom Mason (Noah Wylie) and the 2nd Mass., which is ripped asunder into multiple splinter groups at the start of the new season, doing their level best to wrest back the earth from the genocidal interlopers while dealing with new complications such as Tom and Anne’s (Moon Bloodgood) now grownup and altogether mystical daughter.
With new showrunner David Eick (Battlestar Galactica) onboard, look for, in his words “new beasties, and critters and threats”, and a narrative inspired by Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back which saw the tightly group of Star Wars: A New Hope tossed in a thousand different directions before reuniting in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
Season 4 will be all about getting the 2nd Mass., back together and hopefully making some headway against the alien invaders.
Defiance (syfy, 12 episodes, season 2, from June 19) is another show featuring a whole lot of aliens, the 7 races of the Votan collective fleeing a dying home star system to be exact, who arrived in earth quite a few years earlier ready to seize the planet for themselves by terraforming it to their specifications.
Things didn’t quite to plan though and the terraforming ran amuck rendering the planet neither fully fit for human or Votan, and forcing everyone to live together in a worldwide society riven by political scheming, cultural clashes on an epic scale, and a fight over scarce resources among many other things.
While it didn’t quite hit its stride in the first season, it showed enough promise to come back for a second season in which the dictatorial Earth Republic, now in control of the freewheelin’ frontier town of Defiance (based on old St. Louis, Missouri), will be squaring off against the ragtag band of humans and aliens, led unofficially by Nolan (Grant Bowler) determined to preserve their way of life by any means possible.
True Blood (HBO, 10 episodes, season 7, from June 22) may be back but it is for a swansong season, one which promises to be the bloodiest one yet, a bold claim given the show has never flinched from deaths most gruesome and visceral, as the good citizens of Bon Temps, humans, vampires and werewolves all must unite (or do they?) against the common threat of the H-Vamps, Hep V infected vampires with more than a touch of the zombie about them.
And it all begins apparently with the death of a major character that is, in the words of Moviepilot, “… so jaw-dropping that you’ll spend the rest of the episode wondering if what you just watched was a dream.”
It’s a high stakes game with everyone having a lot to lose and having to fight hard to keep that which matters the most to them.
Crime thrillers (along with hospital and legal dramas) are so ubiquitous on television, that it’s easy to dismiss everything that comes along as more of the same old same old.
Not so The Bridge ( FX, 13 episodes, season 2, from July 14), which like the recent series of True Detective, gave us a profoundly original, gripping look last year in its first season at the gritty reality of crime as a serial killer despatched people on both sides of the US/Mexican border while playing insane mind games with the law officials from each country who are forced to overcome a host of obstacles, not least the personal problems plaguing them, to work together.
With new showrunner Elwood Reid onboard, we can look forward to the examination of the cross-cultural issues that made the first season so intriguing and a revenge arc that is sure to make solving the brand new case all that more problematic.
Also worth going back for another look are Hemlock Grove (Netflix, 10 episodes, season 2, from July 11), a show about the monstrously scary goings-on in a small Pennsylvanian town, Rectify, a taut, beautifully-written drama about Daniel Holden’s homecoming after 19 years on death row (Sundance, 10 episodes, season 2, from June 19) and Ray Donovan (Showtime, 12 episodes, from July 13), the Liev Schreiber-led series about a “fixer” in Hollywood who will take of any and all of the messy consequences of stars’ indiscretions for a significant fee.
And if you haven’t done so already there’s a whole lot of Orange is the New Black episodes (season 2 just launched June 6) ready for downloading from Netflix, followed no doubt by a weekend of heady binge-watching, whenever you’re ready.
What shows are you looking forward to seeing for the first time or seeing once again?