Summer can be a trying time for the indoorsy type, but thankfully there are many highly valid excuses you can offer up to your friends when they show up on your doorstep with a frisbee or when, inexcusably, one of them produces a hacky sack and thereby ruins a potentially enjoyable booze ‘n’ snooze in the park. The summer TV schedule is upon us, which means a plethora of returning favorites and a clutch of promising new shows are coming down the pike to keep you happily glued to your sofa during your leisure time, at least until the leaves start to turn.
We’re obviously coming up close to the season finale of the world-conquering “Game Of Thrones” (June 14th) and with “Mad Men” officially now retired, the staples of Sunday night quality TV are ceding way for new pretenders the Iron Throne. But there are, like, four or ten other days of the week too, and with a variety of other channels and platforms getting into the original programming game, the choice of what you wish to put in your eyeballs of an evening has never been wider. ‘Tis a Golden Age indeed, but in case you’re a little overwhelmed by the dozens of shows that will be on air over the next few months, here’s our pick of the crop: the 20 Summer 2015 TV shows, new and returning, that we’re most looking forward to.
“Halt and Catch Fire” (Season 2)
Startdate/Slot: May 31st/Sundays 10pm, AMC
Synopsis: 1980s period drama set in the nascent computer industry, dealing with the tangled professional and personal lives of Joe, a charismatic entrepreneur with a shady past (Lee Pace); Cameron, the hot shot coder he recruits (Mackenzie Davis); Gordon, the mild-mannered family man engineer he inspires (Scoot McNairy); and Donna, Gordon’s wife (Kerry Bishe), a talented computer engineer in her own right.
What You Need To Know: Even the show’s defenders, of whom we have a couple on staff, will admit that the first season did more halting than catching fire — the pace (and Pace!) was slow to hook us in. But even its detractors would have to admit that it got better as the season wore on, becoming more its own thing and less the “‘Mad Men‘ with computers” me-too that it was clearly pitched as (though it’s unlikely to ever be able to fully emerge from that shadow). In fact, the last couple of episodes were extremely strong, ramping into a season 2 that lacklustre viewership numbers made a dicey prospect. But now that it’s here we’re even more optimistic: the first episode makes the most of a sizeable jump forward in time to introduce new notes into Joe’s brooding loner persona in the shape of a long-term girlfriend who apparently knows his dark secrets (“Boardwalk Empire“‘s Aleksa Palladino), and shifts focus onto the women in this male-dominated profession by developing Donna and Cameron’s startup business into a proto-online gaming/social media platform. No one’s denying there were issues with the first season, but it looks like the showrunners have taken every IT guy’s advice ever, switched it off and switched it back on again, for a full reboot.
“Hannibal” Season 3
Startdate: Begins on NBC at 10pm on Thursday, June 4th.
Synopsis: After the events at his house, Hannibal Lecter has finally been exposed to those who loved and trusted him as a cannibalistic serial killer, but fled to Europe with his former psychiatrist, Bedelia. Will Graham is more determined than ever to find him, but soon, they both may be in danger from a new threat: the Red Dragon…
What You Need To Know: When it was announced, “Hannibal” seemed entirely redundant: yet another network serial killer show, and one that provided another riff on a much-copied character who’d already featured in five movies of increasingly diminishing returns at that. Yet in the hands of creator Bryan Fuller (“Pushing Daisies”), “Hannibal” hasn’t just threatened to overtake “Manhunter” and “The Silence Of The Lambs” as the defining screen adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter, it’s made a strong argument for being the best drama on television. It boasts an extraordinary visual style (“Cube” helmer Vincenzo Natali and Guillermo Del Toro DP, Guillermo Navarro, are among the directors returning for season 3, with “Game Of Thrones” regular Neil Marshall joining them) and a host of extraordinary performances, not least Mads Mikkelsen, in a turn he’s positively relishing. And yet for all its operatic pleasures, it has substance as well, a rare show about murder and death that doesn’t take those subjects lightly, examining what it is to take a life even as it wrings out some pitch-black humor. Season 3 looks like it’ll combine elements of the novels “Hannibal” and “Red Dragon,” with the now-disfigured Mason Verger (underrated “The Grey” actor Joe Anderson stepping in for Michael Pitt) and Francis Dolarhyde (“The Hobbit” star Richard Armitage) likely to cause trouble. Early word is that the show continues to go from strength to strength.
Startdate: All twelve episodes hit Netflix this Friday, June 5th.
Synopsis: Eight strangers around the world — a Chicago cop, an Icelandic DJ, a Kenyan bus driver, a Korean businesswoman, a Spanish actor, an Indian scientist, a Berlin thief and a San Francisco hacker — discover they share a strange connection, and become hunted by a mysterious group.
What You Need To Know: Perhaps aware that it would become harder to get mega-budget studio financing after “Jupiter Ascending,” the Wachowskis have followed the path of many big-name filmmakers and moved to cable or streaming TV, with their new show “Sense8,” co-created with “Babylon 5” creator J. Michael Straczynski, marking Netflix’s biggest new launch of the summer. With an impressively world-spanning scope (it shot on location on five continents) and the slo-mo, dual-gun action and martial arts that they helped to popularize, this looks just as ambitious as their last few movies. More interestingly, it seems to be pure, unfiltered Wachowski, the clearest investigation yet of their perennial themes of the fluidity of identity and how it’s untethered to physical limitations (the show also follows in the footsteps of “Orange Is The New Black” by making one of its eight leads a trans actress). Regular Wachowskilabborators, from actresses Doona Bae and Tuppence Middleton (Naveen Andrews and Darryl Hannah are among the more recognizable faces joining them), to directors Tom Tykwer and James McTeigue, are involved, but from trailers, this still seems like it could go either way: a bold, energetic vision like “Cloud Atlas,” or, well, “Jupiter Ascending.” Early reviews aren’t exactly wildly enthusiastic, but we’ll certainly be giving it a spin: when the siblings are on form, there are few talents like them who can make material like this feel fresh.
“Orange is the New Black” (Season 3)
Startdate/Slot: All episodes arrive on June 12th on Netflix
Synopsis: WASPy Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is sent to a women’s prison on drug charges, where we encounter one of the best-written, most talented and most diverse ensemble casts on television (Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Taryn Manning, Yael Stone, Samira Wiley, Natasha Lyonne, Laverne Cox, Laura Prepon, Selenis Leyva, Dascha Polanco to name a few). Meanwhile, the power struggles and politics that dominate everyday life in prison are revealingly suggested to have correlations in the world outside, too.
What You Need To Know: The sofas of America are going to see a greater than usual level of use, as the now-annual ‘OINTB’ binge begins later this month. An unqualified success story for Netflix, both in terms of the all-episodes model, and of the content of this original program, which, unlike “House of Cards,” boasted no A-list stars and the kind of female bias in its cast that a lesser network might have deemed too “niche,” the show is also a creative triumph for showrunner Jenji Kohan. Season 2 moved ever further away from the idea of Piper as the lead (even while Schilling became better and better in the role), and Season 3 promises to continue that trajectory, while again not repeating itself. Without a new Big Bad to rival Lorraine Toussaint‘s indelible Vee, instead the major season arc is apparently about the possible sale or shuttering of Litchfield Women’s Correctional. Which may possibly be less melodramatic than last season, but Kohan’s dramatic instincts have been unerring to date, and with Season 4 already a done deal, she and her writers have the luxury to be able to go exactly where they please. And we will follow.
“Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell”
Startdate/Slot: June 19th/Saturdays 10pm, BBC America
Synopsis: Based on Susanna Clarke‘s brilliant historical fantasy novel, the show follows the two titular magicians (Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan respectively) through their brief friendship, split and eventual emergence as nemeses, in a parallel early 19th Century Britain to which magic, dormant for 300 years, has returned. Also starring Alice Englert, Marc Warren, Samuel West, Charlotte Riley and Paul Kaye.
What You Need To Know: Currently 3 episodes through its 7-episode run in the U.K., ‘Jonathan Strange’ is exactly the sort of period-based, thoroughly British prestige project on which you would expect the BBC to score a home run. And indeed, they’re actually hitting this one out of the park, with writer Peter Harness and director Toby Haynes doing a great job of adapting Clarke’s dense, detailed book into fleet-footed but atmospheric TV. They’re helped by peerless casting: while Marsan was an immediate no-brainer for the bitter, egotistical, scholarly Norrell, Carvel, so expertly oily in “Babylon,” is perhaps a counter-intuitive, but no less inspired, choice for the naturally gifted but callow Strange. Equally impressive are the show’s evocations of the Faerie kingdom, home to The Gentleman with the Thistle-Down Hair (Warren, costumed as lovechild of Adam Ant and Jim Jarmusch), and the striking special effects, like ships made out of rain and horses conjured from sand, that bring the Mervyn Peake-ishness of Clarke’s imagined world to life. For anyone not familiar with the book, the initial episodes’ storylines are a bit sketched-in (and the alternate history aspect is enhanced if you know even a little about the Napoleonic Wars), but there are pleasures that more than compensate, and momentum can only build as the central rivalry comes more into focus.
Startdate: All the episodes will hit Amazon Prime on June 19th
Synopsis: An American man and an Irish woman have a brief affair in London, only to discover weeks later that she’s pregnant.
What You Need To Know: In their great war with fellow streaming giants Netflix (and, of course, all the other more established networks), Amazon Prime landed their first killer app with “Transparent,” Jill Soloway’s glorious comedy-drama, but the rest of their output has ranged from slightly disappointing (“Mozart In The Jungle”) to is-that-a-thing-that-exists (“Alpha House”). It remains to be seen if most of what they have coming up can make an impact, but we know for a fact that “Catastrophe,” their next show to debut, is great, because we’ve seen the whole thing. The show’s a little different from other Amazon originals, in that it’s actually an export, having been acquired from Channel 4 after its British airing at the beginning of this year. It’s a smart move, though, both because there’s an inherent U.S. appeal in the Transatlantic premise, and just because it’s one of the funniest TV romances in a long time. The premise might be a well-trodden one, but it’s given new life from creators/stars Sharon Horgan (“Pulling”) and Rob Delaney (a veteran U.S. stand-up who got a huge boost after building up a big Twitter following). Even more so than an Apatow project, this leavens its central love story with an enjoyably fucked-up sense of humor (Horgan’s character at one point wishes that her friend, Fran, played by “Extras” star Ashley Jensen, would have her father caught with child porn “just to knock the smug out of her”), but the show has an inherent sweetness that stops it from ever becoming mean-spirited. Already commissioned for a second series, this could well be a major cult in the U.S by the end of the summer.
“True Detective” Season 2
Startdate: Returns to HBO on Sunday June 21st at 9pm.
Synopsis: A highway patrolman (Taylor Kitsch) discovers a horrific murder scene, kicking off a chain of events that will bring in two LAPD detectives (Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams), a dirty businessman (Vince Vaughn) and billions of dollars.
What You Need To Know: Undoubtedly the summer’s biggest TV event, this is the much-anticipated, much-feared follow-up to the biggest new show of 2014. As has been widely reported (and joked about with the #TrueDetectiveSeason2 meme), Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson and director Cary Fukunaga are nowhere to be found here, with creator Nic Pizzolatto the only continuity between the Louisiana investigation into the Yellow King, and the new case (which does mean that we should have plenty of philosophical monologues and shades of the occult to go around, at least). Now shifted to California and with overtones of “Chinatown,” among others, this seems like a more expansive follow-up, with four protagonists and a bigger supporting cast (including Kelly Reilly, Abigail Spencer, Lolita Davidovich and, uh, Rick Springfield), but trailers so far have suggested a familiar “True Detective” tone to it. Fans reacted with disappointment to the announcement of the cast and filmmakers involved (the show’s dropped the single-director concept, with “Fast & Furious” veteran Justin Lin helming the first couple, and Janus Metz, the Danish director of documentary “Armadillo” the only helmer announced beyond that), but there’s an intriguing meta-narrative of redemption here: Kitsch and Farrell looking to shake off blockbuster disappointments like “Battleship” and “Total Recall,” Vaughn re-establishing himself as a serious actors after the dire comedies of the last decade, and Lin hoping to show he’s a serious filmmaker after years spent crashing cars. Will this be the difficult second album, or the relaunch of several careers?
Startdate: Begins airing after “True Detective” on HBO at 10pm on Sunday June 21st
Synopsis: A look at the business and pleasure of the sports world, told through the eyes of a former NFL star turned top agent.
What You Need To Know: Co-starring in the (soon to be) third-biggest movie in history, finally landing a solo blockbuster with “San Andreas,” and continuing to be one of the best-paid actors in Hollywood, you’d have forgiven Dwayne Johnson for keeping his calendar tentpole-blockbuster only. But it’s a mark of the lack of stigma around TV, and HBO in particular, that Johnson’s next project is starring and producing in a new comedy for the pay-cable network, “Ballers.” Created and written by Steve Levinson (Mark Wahlberg’s producing partner: the star also produces, along with “Friday Night Lights”’ Peter Berg, who directed the pilot), this toplines Johnson as a former NFL legend trying to carve out a life after retirement, with Rob Corddry as his right-hand man, and Omar Benson Phillips (“Miracle At St Anna”), Troy Garity (“Sunshine”) and Denzel Washington’s son John David in support. It’s a premise that’s irresistible enough that you’re surprised it hasn’t been tried before, but trailers have suggested a yachts-and-parties-heavy approach that’s more “Entourage” than “Jerry Maguire” (Wahlberg’s involvement not helping there). That said, there are hints of something more interesting and nuanced in the footage, something about the fleeting nature of fame (“If it drives, flies or floats: lease it,” Johnson tells potential clients). If nothing else, we’re intrigued to see what Johnson does: he’s a hugely charismatic star and underrated actor, and we’re looking forward to seeing him getting to do things other than punch earthquakes for once.
Startdate/Slot: June 21/Sundays 10:30pm HBO
Synopsis: A black comedy in which the Secretary of State (Tim Robbins) must work with a junior foreign office lackey (Jack Black) and a Navy fighter pilot (Pablo Schreiber aka Pornstache from “Orange is the New Black“) to avert global nuclear war following a coup in Pakistan. Also Starring “The Daily Show“‘s Aasif Mandvi, Carla Gugino, Maribeth Monroe and Esai Morales.
What You Need To Know: Pitched somewhere between “Dr. Strangelove” and “Veep,” this original comedy from brothers Roberto and Kim Benabib (Roberto was a longtime writer and producer on “Weeds“) promises to fill the currently unoccupied “geopolitical satire” niche in our weekly programming. Reportedly, each season will take place against the backdrop of a different flashpoint crisis, and so the choice to set out their stall in the Middle East certainly suggests they’re not pulling any punches, while the trailer showcased an interesting tone — landing somewhere just west of reality, but not straying too far into “wacky.” Jack Black is at his best these days when his more OTT impulses are curbed in service of something with more bite than roar, and he’s surrounded by a cast of ringers: Robbins is always welcome, while Schreiber made such hay out of his time on ‘OITNB’ that he certainly deserves an opportunity to shine as a co-lead. Our only hesitation is around whether “satire” here, as so it often does in the context of narrative shows, signals “not funny,” but pilot director Jay Roach doesn’t just have political form for HBO with “Game Change” and “Recount,” he is also the director of “Austin Powers” and “Meet the Parents” so we’re hopeful he can help establish a balance between barbs and belly laughs.
Startdate: This begins on AMC on June 28th, though it’ll air in the UK two weeks earlier, hitting Channel 4 on June 14th.
Synopsis: In the near-future, an ordinary family buys a Synth — a lifelike android servant that are now commonplace. But their new purchase may be more than it appears…
What You Need To Know: “Better Call Saul” turned out to be more “Frasier” than “Joey,” but even so, AMC is in a transition: “The Walking Dead” is a hit but mostly critically derided (even if the most recent season got better notices), and none of their latest shows look to have taken on the critical love, or commercial success, of “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” which launched the network into the drama world and wrapped up in the last few years. Could “Humans” be the one to break the curse? A co-production with the UK’s Channel 4, and a remake of a Swedish show called “Real Humans,” it’s a sci-fi series (more “Black Mirror” than “Blade Runner”) examining the ever-popular themes of robotics and artificial intelligence, set in a world where lifelike android servants are like iPads, in the home of every well-to-do family, but may be destined for something more. “Spooks” writers Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent are the writers in charge, and they’ve assembled a strong, mostly British cast including Katherine Parkinson (“Sherlock”), Tom Goodman-Hill (“The Hollow Crown”), Gemma Chan (“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”), Colin Morgan (“Merlin”) and Neil Maskell (“Kill List”), with William Hurt lending some U.S. appeal. A.I.’s well-trodden enough ground that it’s easy to be cautious that anything could provide a fresh take, but “Ex Machina” showed that there are still new approaches out there, and footage so far has been very promising, though whether AMC audiences take to a predominately British show remains to be seen.
Startdate/Slot: June 30th/Tuesdays 10pm MTV
Synopsis: An adaptation of Wes Craven‘s film franchise of the same name, “Scream” follows an entirely new set of attractive teenagers, played by Willa Fitzgerald, Bex Taylor-James and John Karna among others, as an incidence of viral video-related cyberbullying leads to murder in the small town of Lakewood, which in turn starts to bring the town’s buried secrets to light.
What You Need To Know: There are shows we’re avidly anticipating and others we’re considerably more “we’ll see” about, and this is undeniably in the latter category, but there are a few reasons to hope that “Scream” could surprise. The concept has been revitalized by a whole new set of creative heads (Wes Craven is solely a producer here and franchise writer Kevin Williamson is nowhere to be seen), which is good news seeing as what started off as a fresh, fizzy and enjoyably metatextual riff on the horror movie genre devolved through diminishing returns into dull retreads by the 4th installment — indeed, you could easily suggest that the franchise was always better suited to the small screen anyway. On the dampener side, however, the new showrunners are TV veterans of shows that never really made it onto our radar (Jill Blotevogel has written for “Harper’s Island,” “Ravenswood” and “Eureka,” which writer and fellow “Scream” showrunner Jaime Paglia co-created), and MTV does not have much form in the original dramatic show stakes. Still, we’ll be tuning in to the first episode at least as, if it follows the format of the films at all, the prologue will be a guilty pleasure, especially for those of us who enjoy watching teenagers being offed in inventively gory ways (when is the next “Final Destination” movie out anyway? Why in God’s name isn’t that a TV show yet?).
“The Spoils Before Dying”
Startdate/Slot: The 6 episodes air two per night, Wed July 8th-Fri July 10th, 9pm IFC
Synopsis: Maverick hyphenate genius Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell) presents his adaptation of his own pulp novel, in which 1950s jazz pianist turned private eye Rock Banyon (Michael Kenneth Williams) teams up with his erstwhile singer muse Delores DeWinter (Kristen Wiig) to clear his name and avoid the chair following the murder of his girlfriend (Maya Rudolph), all while his manager (Haley Joel Osment) pressures him to cut another jazz record.
What You Need To Know: Considering its star-studded cast and easily digestible 135-minute total runtime, Matt Piedmont and Andrew Steele‘s “The Spoils of Babylon” didn’t make quite the splash we might have expected, although as producer Adam McKay put it “The first Spoils mini-series beat the NFL and ‘Big Bang Theory‘ in ratings (adults: ages 74-92) and changed the way Americans talk, think and prepare meat.” But the Funny or Die parody, of the kind of bloated TV miniseries “event” that peppered the schedule in the 1980s, was a treat — uneven, but pinpoint-accurate in its skewering of the genre’s idiocies, while also delivering a truly unforgettable Will Ferrell performance as the irascible, late-life Wellesian figure of Jonrosh. His return alone would be cause to seek out “The Spoils Before Dying,” but Piedmont and Steele have also secured the reappearance of ‘Babylon”s other MVPs Wiig and Osment, as well as Val Kilmer and Michael Sheen, and have the eye candy front covered with new additions Emily Ratajkowski and Berenice Marlohe. A lead role for Williams is always welcome, and with Tim Meadows, Andy Daly and Kate McKinnon rounding out the cast, we’re excited to see if the team can pull together as much affectionate piss-taking as ‘Babylon’ did, with hopefully greater consistency.
“Masters Of Sex” Season 3
Startdate: Returns to Showtime on July 12th at 10pm (9c)
Synopsis: Many years on from its beginning, Masters and Johnson finally prepare to unleash their study of human sexuality on the public, but is the public ready for it? Or worse, is it old news by now?
What You Need To Know: It’s not had the same wall-to-wall critical adulation or awards adulation as some, but “Masters Of Sex” is still one of the better second-generation shows to have followed those that premiered in the ‘golden age’ of prestige cable drama, a ferociously smart, often unexpectedly moving period drama that feels now more than ever like the true heir to “Mad Men,” even if it doesn’t seem likely to match Matthew Weiner’s show in the annals of television history. Anchored by extremely great performances from Michael Sheen, Caitlin Fitzgerald and especially Lizzy Caplan, it’s confident enough to unfold at its own pace, and has been borderline revolutionary in its un-exploitative, unsensational examination of sex and sexuality. The second season was perhaps not as consistent as its predecessor, a little more narratively unruly and occasionally slightly dull, but when it hit the real heights, as with highlight episode “Fight,” it can compete with anything on TV. Season 3 skips a full half-decade ahead, to 1966, with Masters & Johnson continuing to grapple with their own unconventional relationship while educating the country about the facts of sex, with the ‘sexual revolution’ both aiding and abetting their work. There are a few new faces getting involved — Maggie Grace, Isabelle Fuhrman, and TV veterans Josh Charles and Tate Donovan, while Allison Janney and Beau Bridges, who’ve been highlights of earlier runs, look to be returning for an extended arc, too, which can only be good news.
“Rectify” (Season 3)
Startdate/Slot: July 9th/Thursdays 10pm SundanceTV
Synopsis: Having spent 19 years on Death Row for the rape and murder of his teenage girlfriend, Daniel Holden (Aden Young) is released following new evidence which vacates the case against him without ever fully establishing his innocence. Daniel returns to his family, including his devoted sister (Abigail Spencer) and mother (J Smith-Cameron), but is drawn to his stepbrother Teddy’s (Clayne Crawford) pious wife (Adelaide Clemens), even as the locals in his hometown react with antagonism and sometimes outright violence to his release, many still believing in his guilt.
What You Need To Know: If we wanted to berate anyone for not watching “Rectify” we couldn’t — it took even us a year of passionate advocacy from others to discover it for ourselves. But now that we have, we’re diehard fans of the show’s thoughtful, characterful take on Southern Gothic: an achingly compassionate and deeply moving study of guilt, redemption and the elusive, almost tauntingly unkind promise of “a second chance.” The performances are not just good, they are universally revelatory, from the damaged, mournful Young, who manages to be thoroughly empathetic without ever compromising the character’s central unknowability, to Smith-Cameron as his fraying mother and Spencer as the resolute sister who is suddenly without a cause now that he is free. But special mention has to go to Crawford, whose Teddy was probably season 2’s MVP as both antagonist and perversely pitiful victim of circumstance, and Clemens, who has the unenviable job of making a deeply religious woman into an interesting, relatable figure. Created by multihyphenate Ray McKinnon (Reverend Smith in “Deadwood“) the first original program from Sundance TV beat the odds to a third series and there’s no show more deserving: “True Detective” may have the hype factor, but “Rectify” is the 2015 show in which we have the most complete confidence.
“BoJack Horseman” Season 2
Startdate: All Season 2 episodes will premiere on July 17th, 2015.
Synopsis: The further adventures of washed-up sitcom star/talking horse BoJack Horseman, his roommate Todd, his crush/ghostwriter Diane Nguyen, and his arch-enemy Mr. Peanutbutter, with our hero landing his dream role in a biopic of Secretariat, as he tries to become a better person.
What You Need To Know: It seems that the shows that Netflix sneak out often turn out to be rather better than their more high profile ones. Like “Orange Is The New Black,” “BoJack Horseman” arrived on the streaming service at the height of summer with a fraction of the hype afforded to “House Of Cards,” but built an impassioned following as word-of-mouth gradually spread, ultimately proving rather better-liked. In fairness, ‘BoJack,’ their first animated series for adults, and hailing from newcomer Raphael Bob-Waksberg, started a little slow, appearing to be a rather rote showbiz satire of the kind we’ve had plenty of in television history. But as it unfolded, it became stranger and sadder, a show blessed with more pathos and tragedy that you’d imagine for a portrait of a burnt-out, alcohol-fuelled talking horse (especially in its astounding drug-trip episode, one of the best things we saw on TV last year). Though its deep bench of weird characters — highlights including Andrew Garfield, who hates Mondays and loves lasagne, and Vincent Adultman, the new boyfriend of agent Princess Caroline, who only BoJack is aware is three children standing on each others shoulders wrapped in a trenchcoat, being particular highlights — and stellar voicecast, with Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Amy Sedaris and Aaron Paul joined by Patton Oswalt, Stanley Tucci, J.K. Simmons, and Naomi Watts, among others, keep the funny coming. Details are sparse on the second series, but we’re excited to see where it goes.
“Rick & Morty” Season 2
Startdate: This returns to Adult Swim on July 26th for ten episodes.
Synopsis: The return of the title character, a nervous, neurotic teen and his grandfather, a brilliant, morally unscrupulous, alcoholic scientist.
What You Need To Know: It might seem to Dan Harmon like the world is upside down. He created “Community” as an attempt at a legitimately popular mainstream hit, and saw it never become more than an cult item (albeit a beloved, surprisingly long-lived one). Then, with longtime pal Justin Roiland, he created animated show “Rick & Morty,” a deeply strange and twisted comedy that, despite the weirdness, and airing on Adult Swim, became a surprise smash, regularly outdoing network shows in the ratings. The cult has only grown in the eighteen-month absence of the series, but it’s soon back, and hopes are high that it’ll go from strength to strength. If you’ve never seen the show, imagine “Back To The Future,” but if Doc was a deeply immoral danger to just about everyone, taking his mess of a grandson on bonkers sci-fi adventures riffing on everything from David Cronenberg to “Zardoz,” anchored by the strangest, most compelling vocal turns around. It’s howlingly funny, entirely imaginative, but also backed up by Harmon’s rock-solid storytelling chops and a surprising capacity for pathos, so it’s not entirely shocking that it got paid about the highest compliment an animated series can get, crossing over with “The Simpsons” in the couch gag of the recent season finale of the latter show. Details are thin on what to expect for season two, but Roiland did reveal that Jim Rash, Stephen Colbert and, best of all, Werner Herzog will all be making guest voice appearances.
“Review” Season Two
Startdate: Returns to Comedy Central on July 30th
Synopsis: Despite having wrecked his life in the first run, Forrest MacNeil returns for a second run at reviewing life experiences, having tackled everything from Drug Addiction to Going Into Space before.
What You Need To Know: Comedy Central are having something of a golden age, with “Inside Amy Schumer” and “Key & Peele” winning acclaim beyond the network’s staples of “The Daily Show” and “South Park,” but one of their best shows might also be the least watched. “Review,” a remake of an Australian show, has a simple conceit: one man sets out to review not books or movies, but life experiences, over the course of the season getting divorced from his wife, accidentally killing his father-in-law and generally self-destructing. The show, starring and co-created by comedic secret weapon Andy Daly, was never a big ratings hit, but its reviews were enough that Comedy Central picked up a second season, which finally hits this summer, two years after filming on the first batch. Jeffrey Blitz, director of “Spellbound” and “Rocket Science,” returns to helm every episode, and beyond that there’s little known about what’s in store, beyond a viral campaign launched by the network to promote the return. That said, Daly said in an interview not to expect a complete reboot, saying that Forrest “comes back solely believing in the show and apologetic in his lapse in beliefs that he underwent,” while promising that the second run could yet surpass “Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes,” the tragicomic highlight of the first season that we consider one of the greatest episodes of comedy in recent years. If that’s the case, we’ll have no reservations about giving it five full stars.
“Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp”
Startdate: All eight episodes hit Netflix on July 31st.
Synopsis: Prequel to the 2001 cult comedy hit “Wet Hot American Summer,” as we see the beginnings of the various campers and counselors at Firewood Camp in 1981.
What You Need To Know: From “Arrested Development” to “Coach,” reviving comedies of old is all the rage, but even we weren’t really expecting David Wain and Michael Showalter’s cult classic “Wet Hot American Summer” to be the next, nor were we expecting its return to be in the form of an eight-part Netflix limited series. Partly because it’s always been a very cult cult comedy, without the giant home video sales of a “Zoolander” or “Anchorman.” And in part because so many of its original cast, people like Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper, have gone on to bigger and better things since. And yet here we are, a couple of months away from the show’s debut, and Wain and Showalter have got the whole gang together, with Rudd, Poehler, Banks and Cooper joined by Janeane Garofolo, David Hyde Pierce, Molly Shannon, Christopher Meloni, Marguerite Moreau, Ken Marino et al. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, with new big names getting involved in the fun, too: Chris Pine, Jon Hamm, Jason Schwartzman, Kristen Wiig, John Slattery, Michaela Watkins, Josh Charles and Lake Bell being just a taste of the murderer’s row of comic talent lined up, the most tantalizingly funny cast of 2015. Now, we’ve been disappointed by some of these comedy revivals — “Anchorman 2,” anyone? — and the sheer logistics of this bring to mind the green-screen disappointment of the fourth “Arrested Development” season. But if Wain and co are even halfway to the insanity of the original, this should be a lot of fun.
“Show Me A Hero”
Startdate: August 16th on HBO
Synopsis: In the 1980s, a federal court orders the young mayor of Yonkers to de-segregate housing in his town, causing an uproar and the politician’s downfall.
What You Need To Know: Any discussion around the greatest TV show ever has to include “The Wire” damn near the top, and as such, any time David Simon returns to HBO it’s always going to be an event. His latest endeavor is a six-part miniseries, adapted from Lisa Belkin’s non-fiction book, about the attempt to build low-cost housing for poor, mostly black residents in an affluent, mostly white part of Yonkers, and the political fallout that followed. It’s a story that plays into most of Simon’s favorite themes — municipal politics, racial disharmony, and communities. That Paul Haggis is directing might be a bit of a warning sign to some, but as he’s not writing, we should get a much more nuanced and complex tale than, say, “Crash,” and he’s proved himself to be capable enough at the helm. And a cast this good should virtually direct themselves. Catherine Keener, James Belushi, Michael Stahl-David, Daniel Stern, Clarke Peters, Winona Ryder, Alfred Molina, and Jon Bernthal are all in the ensemble, which is headed up by the great Oscar Isaac as the young mayor. Could there possibly be a better fit for Simon’s writing than the star of “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “A Most Violent Year” (just before he hits megastardom with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”)? Simon’s last project, “Treme,” occasionally felt like eating your televisual vegetables, but with a tighter focus, this will hopefully be a return to his very best work, and his very best is as good as television gets.
Startdate/Slot: August 22nd/Saturdays 9pm on Starz
Synopsis: A volatile Brit broadcaster (Patrick Stewart) decamps to LA with his alcoholic manservant (Adrian Scarborough) to host a late-night cable talk show along with producer/manager (Jacki Weaver), passing judgment nightly on the foibles of his guests and his audience while his own private life, encompassing several failed marriages, is hardly exemplary. “Doll & Em“‘s Dolly Wells and “Enlightened“‘s Tim Sharpe also co-star.
What You Need To Know: If the chance to see Stewart on our screens weekly wasn’t enticement enough, the behind the camera talent involved would have us lining up for this one: the head writer and showrunner is author Jonathan Ames whose “Bored to Death” for HBO was one of the most delightfully eccentric, individual and original comedies to have come down the pike in years. Consequently, it only made it to three seasons, of course, but there were still enough ideas in those three seasons to confirm Ames’ off kilter sensibility. And here with a little luck, the more populist instincts of producer Seth McFarlane will help the show reach a wider audience, along, of course, with Stewart’s enduring appeal. The Brit-American divide would seem to be fertile territory for a kind of culture clash comedy of manners, and the show also has an element of workplace comedy about it, but with Ames steering the ship and early reports also teasing “Kato”-style sparring matches between Stewart and Scarborough, it should be plenty odd, too. Also heartening: Starz are putting their money where their mouths are on this rare foray into comedy for the network, and have already ordered 20 episodes (the first two seasons, essentially).
What else is coming up? Well, we might have included Disney’s exemplary animation “Gravity Falls,” but the show’s incomprehensible schedule means that we’ll be technically midway through a second season when it returns (likely in dribs and drabs) in July. Nevertheless, check it out if you haven’t seen it, it’s one of the best things on television. It’s possible that we’ll see Playlist favorites “You’re The Worst” and “The Knick” returning before the end of August, but neither have announced dates yet, and it seems like the fall might be more likely for both.
Elsewhere, we get the return of some disappointing shows from last year’s freshmen class — Guillermo Del Toro’s surprisingly dull vampire show “The Strain” and faintly racist Middle East drama “Tyrant,” both on FX, along with Halle Berry sci-fi show “Extant,” which apparently is essentially being rebooted, and Showtime’s “Ray Donovan,” which despite a strong cast sometimes comes across as a parody of the white male anti-hero prestige cable drama.
NBC drama “Aquarius” has already begun (and is streaming in full online), pitting David Duchovny against Charles Manson (“Game Of Thrones”’ Gethin Anthony), while CBS’ big summer event is the ridiculous looking animals-go-crazy “Zoo,” with the network also bringing “Under The Dome” back, despite the show having exhausted any dramatic potential soon after the pilot. Denis Leary returns with a new FX comedy set in the music world, inevitably titled “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,” while the network also bring back likeable, but never stellar, middle-age dramedy “Married,” with Judy Greer and Nat Faxon.
Bro-y action series “Strike Back” gets a final run on Cinemax, while in terms of new shows, Edward Burns stars in “Public Morals” on TNT, Ben Kingsley and Nonso Anozie topline Egyptian miniseries “Tut” on Spike, Sundance air Fassbinder-y German show “Deutschland 83,” Natasha Leggero and Riki LIndhorme star in Comedy Central’s “Another Period,” a 1902-set period of Kardashian-style reality shows, USA begins hacker drama “Mr. Robot,” with Rami Malek and Christian Slater, which sounds ridiculous but apparently went down pretty well at a SXSW screening. Best of all, a fifth season of “Key & Peele” comes — we’d have included it in the main list, if it was interesting to write or read about the fifth season of a sketch comedy, but it’s bound to be worth watching.
And, for completism’s sake, filler-y new shows debuting including “The Whispers” (which Mark Romanek directed the pilot for), “Stitchers,” “Proof,” “Astronaut Wives Club” and the hilariously-named “Impastor,” while “Falling Skies,” “Suits,” “Royal Pains,” “Hell On Wheels” and “Welcome To Sweden” all return for further seasons.