Did you know that in the 70 days since April 6th, the world’s population has increased by about 15,690,000 people, which is roughly equivalent to the current combined populations of Pennsylvania and Iowa? Of course not! That’s just one of the fascinating things that has been happening on our planet while we were all too busy anticipating, watching, critiquing and dissecting Season 4 of “Game of Thrones” to notice (find all our ‘Thrones’ coverage here). But with what is probably the show’s most controversial season coming to its end last night (finale recap), paradoxically—or maybe not, following the “no such thing as bad publicity” paradigm—on a probable viewership high, our Sunday evenings for the next few months are suddenly free: a gaping maw of endless exciting possibilities. Why not schedule an extra SoulCycle class, polish up that rusty Spanish or study world population expansion?
In fact, your self-improvement kick need not just be limited to Sundays, because toppling like dominoes in June are several other shows too. Following the finales of comedies “Silicon Valley” and “Veep” earlier this month, and the gluttonous mainlining of all 13 episodes of “Orange is the New Black” in one go, “Louie” ends tonight,“Fargo” tomorrow night and new kid on the block “Penny Dreadful” wraps its first season on June 29th. There has never been a better time to take an evening class or work on your interpersonal relationships.
However, on the off chance that human conversation fills you with terror without the burbling of the TV in the background (and really, what’s to talk about if not Sam Tarly), and you already have your certificate in genealogy, never fear: June and July see a whole slew of new and returning shows grace the air. Now we can’t guarantee that any of these will mimic the televisual crack effect of ‘Thrones,’ but over the next couple of months, these are the ones that have caught our eye that you might want to try on for size. All times Eastern.
“Halt and Catch Fire” Season 1
Start Date/Slot: Already airing, three episodes in/Sundays 10 p.m. on AMC
What it’s about: It’s a period piece drama set in the 1980s depicting a fictionalized insider’s view of the personal computer revolution that involved Apple, IBM, Microsoft, RadioShack, Commodore, and other software titans of that era. The show’s title is a reference to a fictitious computer code which ceases the machine to function.
Why it might be your new favorite show: The cast is terrific and the show works as a triangle between the three leads. There’s Lee Pace as the driven but utterly volatile and reckless Joe MacMillan, an ex-IBM exec with a chip on his shoulder who forces the employers of his company into the PC arms race by underhanded means. There’s a terrific Scoot McNairy as Gordon Clark, a brilliant computer engineer who’s put his dreams on the backburner in favor of his family’s stability, but MacMillan, understanding his genius, looks to untap it. And then there’s Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis, the stand-out actress from Sundance film “Breathe In”), a punk rock-y volatile computer prodigy that MacMillan hopes to exploit for his means, but she proves to be much harder to control. Kerry Bishé co-stars as McNairy’s concerned wife and that’s all there is for name actors, but the show is certainly strong enough as it is with its core trio. Its pilot episode was also incredibly engaging with great character stakes for each corner of the triangle.
Why it might not: Apart from the obvious similarities with Lee Pace’s character and Don Draper in “Mad Men” (which admittedly, only seem to be surface ones so far), the writing can be uneven. But we’re only three episodes in so far and we’re mostly hooked. The pilot was easily the best we’ve seen in some time. The second episode has some rather clunky, unbelievable monologues, but again, we’re only three eps deeps so far and we like what we’ve seen so far.
“Rectify” Season 2
Start Date/Slot: June 19th/Thursdays 9 p.m. on SundanceTV
What it’s about: Returning for an expanded second season order of ten as opposed to six episodes, SundanceTV’s flagship (and first ever) original program is a critically lauded slow-burn drama that hasn’t yet quite caught fire numbers-wise the way its reviews suggest it should (Nielsen does not track SundanceTV so hard to know exactly). Detailing the difficult readjustment to life back in his hostile and suspicious hometown of a man imprisoned for 18 years (under sentence of execution) for the murder of his girlfriend, the show’s first season has, however, proven a breakout showcase for its lead, Aden Young, and given strong supporting roles to Abigail Spencer (“Mad Men”), Adelaide Clemens (“Parade’s End”) and J. Smith-Cameron. It was created by Ray McKinnon, himself an actor also known as Linc Potter in “Sons of Anarchy” and the tremulous Reverend Smith in “Deadwood.”
Why it might be your new favorite show: It’s a beautifully shot and unusually meditative show in the Southern Gothic tradition, steeped more in mood and character arc than action and violence. A frequent comparison point that crops up visually, in fact, is Terrence Malick, which is high praise indeed. And its thoughtful approach to themes of guilt, redemption and the value or cost of incarceration (the central character’s guilt or innocence of the charge that sent him away is maintained with clever ambivalence as the show’s chief mystery) has, so far at least, unfolded with unusual grace and intelligence. Plus you’ve only six episodes to catch up on if you haven’t been watching.
Why it might not: The few dissenting critical voices complained about the show’s lack of forward momentum after a universally acclaimed pilot, and it’s hard to see how the second season is going to attract more buzz than the rather muted response to the first, especially with Sundance’s second venture, “The Red Road,” also not creating many ripples. We confess it’s one that the majority of us here have yet to fully embrace, and the lack of urgency around it makes it feel like a show that people admire rather than desperately crave more of. A ten-episode season could translate to an even slower pace, and without big names in the cast, or a big marketing push, it’s relying on quality alone to help it grow. That said, SundanceTV themselves are playing it straight down the “delighted by the response” party line, so perhaps the show’s low cost and prestige-y profile is enough for them for now.
“True Blood” Season 7 (Final Season)
Start Date/Slot: June 22nd/Sundays 9 p.m. on HBO
What it’s about: The seventh and final series of the popular vampire show based on Charlaine Harris’ series of novels, the Southern Vampire Mysteries, “True Blood” comes from creator Alan Ball who was behind the epochal “Six Feet Under.” It follows the continuing adventures of waitress and telepathic human-fairy hybrid Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) in a fictional Louisiana town in which all sorts of supernatural beings, especially vampires (chiefly Stephen Moyer and Alexander Skarsgård) are real and whose struggle for acceptance provides an easy (if not unproblematic) allegory for various civil rights movements. Ball, however left showrunning duties after Season 5, and Season 6 was more coolly received by critics and audiences alike, as the show played to average audiences of 4m, down from Season 5’s 5m average.
Why it might be your new favorite show: Honestly at this stage you’re either on the “True Blood” train or you’re not and of you’re not it’s unlikely that the final series is going to pull you in, although it rarely fails to deliver on the sex front, so “Game of Thrones” fleshhounds may find something to enjoy there. Also, 4m viewers may be down on season 5 but it’s still nothing to sneeze at, and the knowledge that these will be the last 10 episodes is likely to make the show’s considerable fanbase that bit more vociferous, especially in the lead up to the finale.
Why it might not: “True Blood” ’s mix of potboilery Southern Gothic and supernatural soap opera has always been a little overcooked for our liking, and the show hit its real heyday just when there were so many vampires on our screens otherwise that we had pretty much reached saturation levels. And as we said, you’re unlikely to jump on board for the seventh season of something you haven’t been watching till now.
“Tyrant” Season 1
Start Date/Slot: June 24th/Tuesdays 10 p.m. on FX
What it’s about: The second son of the dictator leader of a fictional foreign country returns with his American family to the country of his birth after many years self-imposed exile in Los Angeles, facing both massive culture shock and clashes within his extended family as American values come into conflict with those of his authoritarian father. The show features no particularly big stars, although lead Adam Rayner will be keeping his fingers crossed as he was tapped to play Simon Templar in the new “The Saint” show that never made it to series, and Ashraf Barhom has already impressed us greatly in “Paradise Now” and “The Kingdom.” Created by Israeli writer/producer/director Gideon Raff, who wrote the original show on which “Homeland” was based, the series pilot was originally mooted as a directorial project for Ang Lee, but when he withdrew, apparently for personal reasons ‘Harry Potter’ director David Yates stepped in.
Why it might be your new favorite show: This is some pretty meaty stuff and fairly daring at that: the country in question may be fictional but has been imagined as a confabulation of various real Middle Eastern nations so the Arab/Western culture clash can be expected to be pointed and highly hot-button topical. In fact that might almost give us pause were it not for the pedigree of the show’s creators and producers, and the fact that despite a potentially tricky logline, the pitch inspired quite the bidding war which FX won. The channel is already snapping at the heels of the HBOs and Showtimes of the world with ”Sons of Anarchy” “Justified,” ”The Bridge” “American Horror Story” “The Americans” and now “Fargo” in terms of prestige dramas, and clearly hopes that “Tyrant” could nudge it up even higher.
Why it might not: Aside from not having the hookiest or easiest-sell premise, the overtly political nature of this drama might turn people off, especially those looking for pure popcorn escapism. Of course, the same could have been said in advance of the wildly successful “Homeland,” but on the other hand, FX’s own “The Americans” has struggled to find its niche (despite being pretty great), and part of that may be a slight discomfort at having warts’n’all American politics, even historical American politics, so foregrounded. With “Tyrant” set contemporarily, those issues could be magnified and could prove a turn-off for some audiences, who won’t even have a recognizable name or face to tune in for. Pilot episode teaser below.
“The Leftovers” Season 1
Start Date/Slot: June 29th/Sundays at 10 p.m. on HBO
What it’s about: Adapted from the novel by Tom Perotta, who also wrote the source books for “Little Children” and “Election,” “The Leftovers” is created as a TV show by successful screenwriter/object of geek outrage Damon Lindelof and follows a broad cast of characters in a suburban community coming to to terms with the disappearance of certain friends and family members during a Rapture-like unexplained event. Starring Justin Theroux as the chief of police raising his children alone now that his wife (Amy Brenneman) has abandoned them to join a cult, the cast also features the wonderful Christopher Eccleston, Liv Tyler, Michael Gaston and Ann Dowd, making it one of the starrier new ensembles on the small screen.
Why it might be your new favorite show: Boasting an approach that is by all accounts more somber and elegiac than whizz-bang, and with a pilot directed by the sure TV hand of Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”), the premise of the shows is enough to have us intrigued, and we’re happy to see Justin Theroux get some leading-man love finally. The sprawl of the material, and its potential as an examination of the workings of faith and grief feel timely and topical, if maybe not quite the hilarious, feelgood time of your life. But HBO are slotting this into the prime Sunday slot right after the final season of “True Blood,” so obviously they have high hopes.
Why it might not: How much have we all forgiven Lindelof for the “Lost” finale, or for “Prometheus,” “Star Trek Into Darkness,” or “Cowboys & Aliens,” all of which show, to some extent, his tendency to take promising high concepts and get so bogged down in the intricacies of plotting and mythologizing that he just can’t dig himself out by the end? Lindelof has reportedly said that he was chastened by the poisonous response to the “Lost” finale and has learnt his lesson well, but with a central mystery that’s not unlike that of “Lost,” do we trust the storytelling hands we’re in? Mind you, early reports are of a tone and atmosphere very different, and certainly less tricksy, than “Lost”’s so we’re hoping for the best, and the trailer is impressive.
“Under the Dome” Season 2
Start Date/Slot: June 30th/Mondays 10 p.m. on CBS
What it’s about: An expensive ($3m per episode) adaptation of the Stephen King novel brought to the small screen by comic book writer Brian K. Vaughan (whose “Saga” comic is the shit), “Under the Dome,” under the tutelage of showrunner Neal Baer, follows the inhabitants of a very King-eqsue Maine community who suddenly find themselves living beneath a massive dome that cuts them off from the outside world and renders modern communication devices ineffective. Mike Vogel (“Cloverfield”) and Rachel Lefevre (“Twilight”) star with names like Mare Winningham, Samantha Mathis and Jeff Fahey cropping up in recurring supporting roles.
Why it might be your new favorite show: Those of us who’ve given this one a spin are, it should be noted, deeply iffy on it overall, but the show’s been a big hit for CBS, rarely dipping below 10m viewers, with the pilot and finale both around the 12/13m mark. And early episodes, featuring tighter storytelling and good effects did seem to promise something that perhaps Season 2 can recapture, especially considering they have King on board as the writer of the first Season 2 episode.
Why it might not: It really is very silly, thin and kind of teenybopperish, with characters often making dumb decisions that feel highly unrealistic, and new obstacles introduced weekly (fire! meningitis!) that are then scarcely even referred to afterwards. Perhaps the best barometer of whether this is for you is the following claim made for season 2: “This season of the series will include a digital-only character who is able to communicate with characters trapped in the dome” so the show can “reach out to particularly our young audience and embrace this ‘transmedia.’ ” If that sounds “Hey, cool!” to you, definitely check out “Under the Dome.” We’ll be heading for them thar hills.
“Extant” Season 1
Start Date/Slot: July 9th/Wednesdays 9 p.m. on CBS
What it’s about: An astronaut (Halle Berry) returns home to her family (“ER”‘s Goran Visnjic and “Looper”’s Pierce Gagnon) after a year alone on a space station, mysteriously pregnant as the result of an encounter she cannot remember, and a wider conspiracy gradually reveals itself. Newcomer Mickey Fisher is the series creator and showrunner, Steven Spielberg is exec producing, Grace Gummer co-stars.
Why it might be your new favorite show: Further details are still pretty scarce on this one, though you can check out a rather choppy trailer below that gives you an idea of the look and feel of it, but Berry’s considerable star power should pull in a few curious heads for the first few episodes at least. The premise sounds a little like “Rosemary’s Baby” meets “The Astronaut’s Wife” but the conspiracy thriller element hopefully promises something other than wily old aliens at the bottom of it all.
Why it might not: We’re not sure we buy Halle Berry as an astronaut, “The Astronaut’s Wife” was pants, and while Spielberg’s name is buried in here somewhere, he also exec produces CBS’s big hitter “Under the Dome,” which we’re by no means mad about. And even CBS’s other sci-fi-ish show “Person of Interest” has left us cold so far, so we’re not sure the network’s tastes in that direction and ours overlap. I’m sure they’ll get over it if this plays to anything like ‘Dome’ numbers, though.
“The Bridge” Season 2
Start Date/Slot: July 9th/Wednesdays 10 p.m. on FX
What it’s about: This will be the second season of acclaimed but underwatched immigration drama/murder mystery procedural starring Diane Kruger and Demián Bechir as an American police detective and her Mexican counterpart tracking a serial killer across the geographical and cultural U.S./Mexican border. Annabeth Gish, Ted Levine and Matthew Lillard round out the cast for the show that is based on the Danish/Swedish co-production of the same name, which is itself currently in the writing stage of its third season.
Why it might be your new favorite show: “The Bridge”’s relative lack of chatter, and its Wednesday night slot’s viewership figures of around 8-900,000 (in the most important 18-49 age bracket) are only half the story: the show broke a small record recently by being the most time-shifted show (via DVR) on TV. That is, it gained 165% on its first-airing numbers when you take into account people DVR-ing it and watching it later in the week. In fact FX has five of the ten titles that benefit most from DVR boosts (“Sons of Anarchy” “American Horror Story” “The Americans” and “Justified” are the others). What this indicates exactly is hard to tell, perhaps it’s a show that’s just in the wrong slot, but certainly there is an audience for the show, and critical response has been very positive, especially as to the show’s treatment of potentially thorny political topics. It has even won a Peabody, and with just one season behind us and a few weeks before the season 2 premiere, perhaps now’s the time to start catching up.
Why it might not: Even counting its stellar DVR numbers, “The Bridge” is not exactly a blockbuster, and its overtly socio-political bent may be offputting to a certain segment of its potential viewership. Though to them we’d say, hey, it’s really a serial-killer crime procedural, so maybe time to give it a chance?
“Hemlock Grove” Season 2
Start Date/Slot: July 11th/Netflix
What it’s about: The 10-episode second season of the Eli Roth-produced horror serial “Hemlock Grove” will be available, presumably to inhale all in one go should you feel so inclined, come July 11th. It’s based on the well-loved doorstop novel of the same name by Brian McGreevy who also created and co-wrote the show. Starring Famke Janssen, Dougray Scott and Lili Taylor among a host of lesser-known names, the story is set in the titular fictional Pennsylvania town in which two goodlooking young chaps (with dark supernatural secrets of their own) played by Bill Skarsgård and Landon Liboiron team up to solve a series of grisly murders that may just have a supernatural explanation.
Why it might be your new favorite show: Kind of a gorier, fleshier “Supernatural,” “Hemlock Grove” is a pricey and often well-mounted production with some good effects (a Season One werewolf transformation was a particular high point) that may appeal to anyone who watched “Game of Thrones” not for the epic storytelling but for the head cleavings.
Why it might not: Its first season was terrible. Tonally odd (quite flat and dull in parts) bafflingly plotted (fine, it’s a supernatural story but nothing makes any sense even within those parameters) and even rather badly acted (outside the engaging lead pair) the show has a lot of lost ground to make up in its second season if it’s going to attract anything like season one numbers for Netflix (who claimed that Season 1 was in fact watched by more people on its opening weekend than “House of Cards” which is a startling factoid if true and a testament to the might of the younger, more genre-oriented and dare we say it, less discerning audience toward which it skews). Alison Willmore’s on-point takedown of its turgid emo excesses for Indiewire is here. Impressively gory NSFW second season trailer below.
“The Strain” Season 1
Start Date/Slot: July 13th/Sundays 10 p.m. on FX
What it’s about: If at first you don’t succeed at selling your pitch for a TV show about a viral outbreak of vampirism, write a trilogy of novels about it instead and then get them made into a TV show. So it goes if you’re Guillermo del Toro, anyway, who, along with Chuck Hogan, wrote the books “The Strain,” “The Fall” and “The Night Eternal” which will form the basis for this FX show, the pilot to be directed by del Toro of course, and which will star “House of Cards” breakout Corey Stoll alongside Mia Maestro, David Bradley, Kevin Durand and Sean Astin among it sprawling cast. It tells the horror/thriller story of the sudden spread of an infection which causes the carrier to display symptoms of vampirism, and the small band of misfits who battle to prevent the spread, kill the existing vampires and protect their families and the city at large from complete breakdown.
Why it might be your new favorite show: If you’ve had your fill of hunky southern vampires, and the misunderstood undead who just want a cuddle (and obviously, no vampires at all is simply not a televisual option) “The Strain” marks a welcome return to nasty—del Toro’s creatures are ugly, grotesque and malevolent. Del Toro’s own name should attract genre fans too, as well as those who’ve read the books (like us); they’re not earth-shatteringly original (and kind of hurriedly written it feels at times) but there’s a solid genre story in there that has plenty of potential to work even better as a TV show.
Why it might not: The source, as we’ve said, is pretty generic and the show will be up against it, once the novelty factor has worn off, to distinguish itself from other genre fare like “The Walking Dead.” That said, ‘Dead’ doesn’t return till October so perhaps “The Strain” is poised to hoover up its massive audience in its absence, which is probably a pretty canny strategy, borne out by its prime Sunday slot. The only thing that really remains to be seen is if we can buy Corey Stoll with hair, but we’re going to try.
“Masters of Sex” Season 2
Start Date/Slot: July 13th/Sundays 10 p.m. on Showtime
What it’s about: Probably the best show you’re not watching, we’re hoping this clever, detail-rich period drama, from showrunner and “The Pacific” writer Michelle Ashford, that follows real-life pioneering sexologists Masters and Johnson (Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan) will find a broader audience in its second season, now moved to summer instead of fall. Its first season was explicit, yes, but also adult in the sense of grown-up; a surprisingly insightful and often very funny, occasionally very touching character study set in an era of sexual repression and taboo. The stars are two of our favorite actors anyway, and the supporting cast is a treasure—Allison Janney provided one of the most moving moments in season one (or indeed in the history of TV ever, seriously) while Beau Bridges as her husband the dean, Caitlin Fitzgerald as Mrs. Masters and the awesome Julianne Nicholson as a flinty rival doctor round out the regular supporting cast.
Why it might be your new favorite show: The casting good news doesn’t stop with the return of all the season 1 favorites, season 2 looks to have added Sarah Silverman, Courtney B. Vance and “Breaking Bad”’s Betsy Brandt as well as Rene Auberjonois “as Georgios Papanikolaou, inventor of the Pap smear” and if that last doesn’t pique your interest, we give up on you.
Why it might not: The loving period detailing that rivals anything “Mad Men” has achieved, and the splashy, potentially titillating subject matter didn’t really do the trick in season one, so perhaps audiences were put off by the potential unglamor of the show’s storyline. Certainly, Sheen’s Masters is a whole different bird from Don Draper—uptight and repressed despite his field of study, he’s a nuanced central character who, along with his terrific foil in Caplan’s spiky, liberated-before-her-time Johnson, doesn’t have anything of the fetishizable cool of Jon Hamm‘s character. But dammit, if we have to, we’re going to beg you to give this one a chance nonetheless as otherwise they’ll take it away and we won’t be allowed have nice things anymore.
“Ray Donovan” Season 2
Start Date/Slot: June 13th/Sundays 9 p.m. on Showtime
What it’s about: Another not-quite-on-fire Showtime entry, along with “Masters of Sex” which it will now run directly before, “Ray Donovan” tells the not-hugely-original story of a high-powered fixer (Liev Schreiber) with a slew of personal issues involving his wife (“Deadwood”’s Paula Malcolmson) and father (Jon Voight) who’s recently been released from prison, as he works to clean up the various sticky situations that the powerful Hollywood elite get themselves into. The pilot of season one was Showtime’s biggest-ever premiere, when you include YouTube and on-demand views, but since then the show has rather bubbled under the radar, despite an immensely impressive cast which also included Eddie Marsan, Elliot Gould, Rosanna Arquette, James Woods, Josh Pais and Jonathan Schaech in season one.
Why it might be your new favorite show: In terms of star power at least, Showtime appear to be doubling down for the second season, enlisting Hank Azaria, Sherilyn Fenn, Ann-Marget, Kip Pardue, Wendell Pierce and Vinessa Shaw in addition to the core cast. And indeed it’s largely as a performance showcase that the show’s has gained its most positive notices; even those, like us we’re afraid, who find the premise almost interchangeable with quite a few other shows out there, notably “Scandal, compliment the strength of the performances, which are, unusually for this sort of thing, allowed to breathe.
Why it might not: When it’s not focused on one of its knottier, more complex characters and is instead following its procedural, case-by case structure as Ray prevents another TMZ-style PR leak or puts the lid on another simmering Hollywood sex scandal, the show can feel very familiar. Still, with this cast plus the terrific new additions, we have to say our curiosity is more piqued for the second season, which also feels like one that viewers can dive straight into without necessarily having to have seen all of the first. And this trailer may well get you in the mood.
“Married” Season 1
Start Date/Slot: July 17th/Thursdays 10 p.m. on FX
What it’s about: We’ve been pretty drama-heavy on this list so far, so here’s a comedy to mix it up a bit: the new FX series “Married” is the sitcom brainchild of Andrew Gurland, co-writer and director of “The Virginity Hit” and “Mail Order Wife” (he’s listed in our recent ranking of directing teams), and will star Judy Greer and Nat Faxon as the central wedded couple who move to a new city with three kids in tow, with Jenny Slate and Paul Reiser in support as a May-December pairing along with Bret Gelman as a divorced guy who can’t get over his ex (Regina Hall).
Why it might be your new favorite show: With “Obvious Child” still in theaters, it’s timely to be able to cite Jenny Slate’s involvement as one of the main reasons we’re anticipating this show—she’s a terrific comic presence and we’re happy to welcome her, as well as longtime favorites Greer and Faxon, into our living rooms on a weekly basis, especially if they’re going to be on the kind of earthy, dirty-minded form the trailers show.
Why it might not: It’s a sitcom about couples, dealing with relationship issues, especially the ups and downs of married life, that even has the gall (or fingers crossed, the self-referential irreverence?) to cast “Mad About You’‘s Paul Reiser as one of the participants. Then again we can;t remember too many jokes about someone’s vagina “eating” a condom in “Mad About You” so maybe we’ll be OK here.
“You’re the Worst” Season 1
Start Date/Slot: July 17th/Thursdays 10:30 p.m. on FX
What it’s about: The other half of FX’s Thursday night all-new comedy hour, “You’re the Worst” may boast fewer recognizable names in front of the camera than “Married,” but did snag Playlist favorite Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”) as director for its pilot, and the Stephen Falk-created and -penned show has maybe the slightly edgier logline. It’s billed as an anti-romantic comedy (which, along with this summer’s film “They Came Together” is perhaps an idea whose time has come?) in which “a completely self-absorbed, proudly outspoken, and utterly insensitive writer living in L.A. who is deeply unsettled when he finds himself developing feelings for a recent one night stand.”
Why it might be your new favorite show: The logline sounds refreshingly sourhearted and the cast of relatively unknown names (Aya Cash, Kether Donohue, Johnny 5, Brandon Smith, etc.) are actually fairly experienced TV actors mostly, so you may recognize their faces and this show may provide a well-earned breakout for some.
Why it might not: I guess we were sort of hoping this might land on FXX, FX’s slightly more outre sibling station, which would have indicated that it goes as far as we’d hoped with the mean-spirited nature of its premise. As it is, there’s a danger that it could slip into niceness, but even so, if the characters are well enough drawn, perhaps it’ll fly. The proof will of course be in the funny, and if something as potentially awful as “New Girl” can bring that, then hopefully so can “You’re the Worst.” Somewhat unhilarious teaser to follow.
“Manhattan” Season 1
Start Date/Slot: July 27th/Sundays 9 p.m. on WGN
What it’s about: The latest smaller channel to want a bit of the period drama pie for itself, WGN is putting what looks like a fair few of its eggs into “Manhattan”’s basket. Set in 1940s Los Alamos, it tells the story of the public, private and occasionally top secret lives of the scientists involved in the so-called Manhattan project to develop the U.S.’s first nuclear bomb. First looks promise the kind of period detail we’ve come to expect from the show’s obvious precursors, and the cast is an intriguing mix of familiar (the great Olivia Williams, “House of Cards”’ Rachel Brosnahan, Daniel Stern, “Orange is the New Black”’s Michael Chernus) and not-so-familiar faces.
Why it might be your new favorite show: We’ll admit this hits right in our wheelhouse—a fascinating true story that looks, from this distance anyway, to have been told with an eye for both drama and historical accuracy. Further whetting out appetite is that it comes from creator/exec producer/writer Sam Shaw who previously worked on the overlooked “Masters of Sex,” which we’ve already begged you to tune in for, and the first couple of episodes will be directed by “West Wing” helmer Thomas Schlamme.
Why it might not: It’s not straying very far from the “Masters of Sex” template—it’s a period recreation of a scientific breakthrough and how it impacted the personal lives of those working on it, and since ‘Masters’ itself is criminally underseen, and “Manhattan” doesn’t even have that show’s sexy title, nor the relatively mighty clout of the bigger Showtime behind it, there’s a danger that this could fizzle out. We have our fingers crossed for it though.
“The Honorable Woman” 7-episode Miniseries
Start Date/Slot: July 31st/Thursdays 10 p.m. on SundanceTV
What it’s about: It’s looking to be a pretty good summer for women on TV, with a few of our favorite actresses landing what look to be meaty roles in some of the season’s new offerings. But it might be that Maggie Gyllenhaal takes the crown, as the titular honorable woman in this miniseries, co-produced with the BBC, that follows the daughter of an Israeli arms dealer who takes over her father’s empire following his assassination only to change its purpose to focus on reconciliation projects between Israel and Palestine, thereby creating a political maelstrom.
Why it might be your new favorite show: Gyllenhaal isn’t the only reason to tune in, as the show features Stephen Rea, Janet McTeer, “Broadchurch”’s Andrew Buchan, “Nurse Jackie”’s Eve Best and Belgian actress Lubna Azabal from “Paradise Now,” “Incendies” and “Coriolanus” amongst its huge cast too. And the subject matter certainly sounds controversial and potentially very fertile, with the whole show written and directed by Hugo Blick, who was previously behind 2011’s acclaimed “The Shadow Line” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Christopher Eccleston.
Why it might not: Hard to say what sort of push this will get, and as a miniseries it’s not like it’s being marketed toward the possibility of renewal so it may remain fairly under the radar for most. We, however, will be there with bells on. No trailer yet but here’s Gyllenhaal talking about taking the role.
So hopefully a lot there to get you through the dog days of June and July. Then in early August “The Killing” returns for its final season, but more excitingly Steven Soderbergh’s period hospital drama “The Knick,” starring Clive Owen and written by Jack Amiel, premieres on Friday August 8th on Cinemax. That’ll be a big one and we’ll be covering it in some depth, but in the meantime, don’t be shy about letting us know how you get on with any of the above. —with Rodrigo Perez