Mad Men is over for the year, there’s only a few more episodes of Game of Thrones, the networks have more or less wrapped up their best shows until the fall, and even Silicon Valley ends its first season on Sunday (at least we still have Penny Dreadful for awhile). But summer is not the season it used to be for television. In fact, if you’re looking for a break from quality TV, you’re not likely to get it this year. There are plenty of great returning series and promising new series coming out over the summer to not only keep you busy, but keep you from getting to all those other series you keep meaning to catch up on.
Before we rundown the most promising new shows of the summer, here’s a quicklist of the returning series you should be watching over the next few months: the best new show of last year, Orange Is the New Black on June 6th; the underappreciated guilty-pleasure comedy, Suits on June 11th; the most devastating, soul-warming/destroying show of last year, Rectify on June 19th; the excellent but little buzzed about The Bridge on July 9; Hemlock Grove on July 11, because some of you liked it; the phenomenal Masters of Sex on July 13; and The Killing on Netflix on August 1st, and I’d understand why you’d skip it if you only saw the first two seasons, but the third season was really good and this supposed final season only has six episodes, which is the perfect amount for this series.
Here are the 10 Most Promising New Show of the Summer:
Halt and Catch Fire, AMC (June 1) — Set in the early 1980s, the AMC series dramatizes the PC wars through the eyes of a visionary (Lee Pace), an engineer (Scoot McNairy) and a prodigy (Mackenzie Davis) whose innovations directly confront the corporate behemoths of the time. Their personal and professional partnership will be challenged by greed and ego while charting the changing culture in Texas’ Silicon Prairie. It debuts on Sunday, the first episode is available on tumblr now, and I actually liked it quite a bit, even if it was a lot of bluster. Lee Pace is terrific in it (and I have a crush on Kerry Bishe dating back to Scrubs and Turkey Bowl).
The Musketeers, BBC America (June 22) — The BBC Series, which has already aired to strong reviews over in England, stars among others, Peter Capaldi. Most critics said that it started off iffy, but as the characters developed, it gained a lot of momentum and ended very strongly (a second season has already been commissioned).
Tyrant FX (June 24) — As dramas go, FX still hasn’t let us down yet, and Tyrant comes from David Yates (who directed the final four Harry Potter films) and stars Justin Kirk and an otherwise mostly unknown cast. It’s the story of an unassuming American family drawn into the workings of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation. While FX hasn’t given us much to go on, I think we can trust the network until it demonstrates otherwise.
The Leftovers, HBO (June 29) — Damon Lindelof brings the Tom Perrotta novel to HBO in what I expect to be a show that will be as compelling and ultimately frustrating as Lost. It revolves around mysterious disappearances world-wide of two percent of the population, and specifically follows a group of people who are left behind in the suburban community of Mapleton. They must begin to rebuild their lives after the loss of more than 100 people. Justin Theroux, Liv Tyler, and Janel Maloney, among others, star in the HBO series.
Extant, CBS (July 9) — One of only two network entries on the list, Extant stars Halle Berry as an astronaut who goes on a 13-month solo mission and returns from space mysteriously pregnant. She tries to reconnect with her husband and son in their everyday life, and her experiences in space and home lead to events that ultimately will change the course of human history. It looks intriguing, at least in concept.
Welcome to Sweden, (NBC) July 10 — Based on the experiences of Greg Poehler — Amy’s brother — Welcome to Sweden is a comedy about a man who moved to Sweden to marry and live with a Swedish woman almost a decade ago. Greg Poehler stars, Amy produces, Aubrey Plaza cameos, and it’s already been picked up for a second season in Sweden, where it originally aired in March.
The Strain, FX (July 13) — The Guillermo del Toro vampire series is based on his and Chuck Hogan’s novel of the same name and may very well end up being the monster hit of the summer. Walder Frey, Corey Stoll, and Sean Astin star in a thriller about Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, the head of the Center for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City. He and his team are called upon to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. As the strain spreads, Eph, his team, and an assembly of everyday New Yorkers, wage war for the fate of humanity itself.
Manhattan, WGN (July 27) — It’s a 13-episode series set during the clandestine mission to build the world’s first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and it follows the brilliant but flawed scientists behind the bomb and their families. It comes from Sam Shaw (Masters of Sex) and Thomas Schlamme (West Wing, Sports Night) and features a cast of familiar faces whose names most of you probably don’t know, like John Benjamin Hickey from The C-Word (and everything), Rachel Brosnahan from House of Cards and The Blacklist, Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen in Game of Thrones), Daniel Stern (Home Alone, The Wonder Years) and Olivia Williams (Rushmore, An Education). It’s weir to be looking forward to a WGN series, but it looks really good.
The Knick, Cinemax (August 8) — The Knick is a look at the professional and personal lives of the staff at New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital during the early part of the twentieth century. That’s not its selling point, however. It’s the fact that it comes from Steven Soderbergh and stars Clive Owen that makes it intriguing. Cinemax has had a couple of minor hits with Banshee and Strike Back. Knick could give it a legitimate one.
Outlander, Starz (August 9) — Based on the hugely popular Diana Gabaldon’s book series, Outlander comes from Ron Moore of Battlestar Galactica fame. It follows the story of Claire Randall, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743, where she is immediately thrown into an unknown world where her life is threatened. When she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a chivalrous and romantic young Scottish warrior, a passionate relationship is ignited that tears Claire’s heart between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. The cast is largely unknown but the trailer does look very promising.