1. “Orange is the New Black” – Season 4 (June 17)
Why Should I Watch It? “Orange is the New Black” is the first television series to be nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Drama Series in back-to-back years. And nothing changed but the Emmys rulebook. “OITNB” is simply so indisputably incredible, both comedy fans and drama enthusiasts cannot resist its deep dive into the modern prison system through the eyes of a diverse and compelling cast of characters. It’s won an Emmy in both of its eligible seasons and looks like a strong contender again this year. Should we go on, or are you good? Good? Okay then.
Best Episode: Though we’ve sat down with a few of the episodes from Season 4, we can’t say just yet which is the best. So, let’s dig into Season 3 instead. Though the Season 3 finale is certainly worth talking about, “A Tittin’ and a Hairin’” is our pick for the out-and-out best episode. Rape is never an easy topic to explore, especially in the limited medium of TV, but Jenji Kohan and her team handle this particular storyline deftly. Heartbreaking and emboldening at the same time, the 10th episode relies heavily on flashback (just as Episode 9 before it) to elicit a complex array of emotions from the viewer — all of which hit home in a big way. Pennsatucky’s episode is one that stands out even after you’ve seen the full arc of Season 3, and for that, it deserves its time in the sun.
2. “Off Camera” – Series 1 (June 1)
Why Should I Watch It? Going under the full title “Off Camera with Sam Jones,” this DirecTV series (airing on the Audience Network) earns its black-and-white presentation by offering compelling interviews in a simply framed but beautifully captured back-and-forth. Yup, this is an interview show; an extended sit-down focusing on the person Mr. Jones has been asked to capture moments earlier. The photographer-turned-talking head effectively draws out the essence of each subject, not forcing any particular issue and allowing the celebrity’s voice to stand out. There’s no ego here, no gimmickry; and that’s why it can get away with whatever it damn well wants.
Best Episode: What better way to prepare for “Maya & Marty” — Maya Rudolph’s new variety show on NBC — than spending an hour with her co-host, Martin Short? The legendary comedian is a fascinating interview — and not just because he’s used to leading the discussion as his talk show alter ego Jiminy Glick. From “Three Amigos” to “Captain Ron,” nothing is off the table.
3. “Scandal” – Season 5 (June 11)
Why Should I Watch It? Well, you need your yearly dose of sexy nighttime soap don’t you? And is any broadcast entry as consistently wild, exciting and (at times) quite grand as Shonda Rhimes’ political drama? Sure, the series may have jumped the shark a year or so back thanks to a few preposterous storylines, but the ABC series still merits interest for Kerry Washington alone. There are other reasons, but damn she’s good.
Best Episode: I mean, it’s got to be “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” right? Without getting too spoiler-y, the fall finale of Season 5 showed what kind of courage can come from owning a night of the week. Shonda Rhimes used her biggest Thursday night platform to tackle a topic taboo to broadcast TV, and she didn’t look back from it. Credit to her and the team, but it didn’t hurt that Episode 9 was pretty good, to boot.
4. “The League” – Season 7 (June 14)
Why Should I Watch It? If you’ve stuck with Ruxin (Nick Kroll), Taco (Jonathan Lajoie) and Jenny (Katie Aselton) for this long, you may as well see how it ends. With its loose to nonexistent scripts, “The League” has never been about building a larger arc or solving a greater mystery, but it’s the kind of show you’ll miss when it doesn’t pop back up on your DVR next football season. These guys (and Aselton!) really knew how to make the most of a fantasy, and seeing their personal lives get purposefully fouled up in a game none of them could control was always a delight.
Best Episode: The official summary of “The Draft of Innocence” (Episode 2) reads, “No one likes Andre’s idea of a themed draft; Pete isn’t speaking to Andre; the league agrees to an auction draft and, shockingly, there are huge problems.” While it all sounds familiar, it also sounds pretty great, right? I mean, that’s why we tune in for “The League”: to see simple situations complicated by the excellent improv of these stellar comedians. You know what’s coming even if you don’t really know where they’re going to take it, and the second episode of Season 7 proves how great that kind of reliable surprise can be.
5. “Grey’s Anatomy” – Season 12 (June 18)
Why Should I Watch It? Really, you shouldn’t. This season is like a train wreck — or, more accurately, a car wreck. After all, it’s the most common of all accidents that proved to be the series’ best character’s undoing, as [spoiler alert for anyone without the Internet] Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd died from a car accident to end Season 11. Now, the series seems lost in a sea of new faces — some fresh only in comparison to the show’s age, and others actually brand spankin’ new. Rather than kill off your best asset, why not just end the show?
Best Episode: “Best” is also a relative term here, considering none of Season 12 compares to the series’ heyday. Still, “How to Save a Life” gets back to basics in a refreshing way, even if it opens with an extreme. Meredith is attacked by a patient, but later fights to save his life. It’s an hour all about Meredith, and that’s fine — especially considering the lack of similarly worthy characters around her.
6. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 3 (June 16)
Why Should I Watch It? You know, I think the best reason to watch “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” lies somewhere in between the commercial interests of its existence. Yes, you could be watching simply to fill in the gaps between Marvel’s studio tentpoles, but one would hope that’s not the only reason you’re watching. The show should be able to stand on its own two feet, but at least some of the fun still resides in seeing things click together across platforms. So when thinking about why you watch, just make sure it’s for more than one reason.
Best Episode: Focusing on Elizabeth Henstridge’s Simmons, “4,722 Hours” finds success in its (mostly) singular focus and solid lead performance. Admittedly, I’m far from an expert here, but I do enjoy when a series can succeed when following a side character. So give it a try, and report back with your own picks.
7. Beauty & The Beast – Season 3 (June 2)
Why Should I Watch It? Honestly, I can’t tell you. All I know is that “Beauty & The Beast” became a favorite among the Indiewire offices last year. Well, specifically in one Indiewire office housing precisely one Indiewire employee. While she could never convince me to dive in fully myself, I’ll accept her obsession as a worthy source for bottom placement on this list.
Best Episode: No idea. Liz? “Bob & Carol & Vincent & Cat”? “The Beast of Wall Street”? “Shotgun Wedding”? Your pick. [I confess that I gave up on “Beauty and the Beast” at the beginning of Season 2, when the Beast got Beast Amnesia. But based on those episode titles, I vote “Bob & Carol & Vincent & Cat.” — Liz]
The Rest of Incoming TV
“72 Cutest Animals” – Season 1 (June 1)
“72 Dangerous Places” – Season 1 (June 1)
“Breaking the Magician’s Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed” – Seasons 1&2 (June 1)
“Gentlemen and Gangsters” – Season 1 (June 1)
“The Good Witch” – Season 1 (June 1)
“Pokemon: XY: Kalo’s Quest” – Season 2 (June 1)
“Pretty Little Liars” – Season 6 (June 2)
“LEGO Friends: The Power of Friendship” – Season 2 (June 10)
“Voltron: Legendary Defender” – Season 1 (June 10)
“Being Mary Jane” – Season 3 (June 16)
“All Hail King Julien” – Season 3 (June 17)
“Cedar Cove” – Season 3 (June 18)
“Bunk’d” – Season 1 (June 19)
“Life Story” – Series 1 (June 20)
“Best Friends Whenever” – Season 1 (June 21)
“Dragons: Race to the Edge” – Season 3 (June 24)
“A Very Secret Service” – Season 1 (June 30)