By Shipra Gupta and Ben Travers | Indiewire April 24, 2014 at 10:30AM
Summer used to be a dead zone for new television. Kids, complaining about their favorite shows being reruns, would be forced to use their imaginations for entertainment and possibly even venture outside under the blistering sun. Adults didn't have time to watch new shows because their kids were out of school and demanding attention despite Mom & Dad getting off nine-hour shifts and still needing time to feed everyone. This ritualistic torture has thankfully ended. Virtually every network debuts new shows in the summer, now, some with lofty ambitions ("The Newsroom" was a summer premiere two years back) while others are try-outs to see if they can hack it in the fall.
Indiewire has compiled a list of the hottest summer premieres you won't want to miss. These 10 shows are all brand new, widely available, and ready to take over as entertainment for the whole family -- well, at least one of them is kid-friendly.
"Penny Dreadful" (May 11th)
Creator: John Logan
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Timothy Dalton
We liked what we saw in the premiere episode of "Penny Dreadful" when it screened at SXSW, and there's no reason to doubt what's to follow considering the talent involved. Sure, it's nice to see Josh Hartnett back in action and Eva Green digging into another meaty role, but it's hard to top Oscar winners Sam Mendes and John Logan behind the camera. Logan, the screenwriter behind "Gladiator" and the under-appreciated "The Last Samurai" created the fictional tale of three talented individuals teaming up and delving into the depths of London's cobbled streets to fight monsters.
Not just any monsters, mind you -- monsters brought to life from literary classics including Dracula and Frankenstein's monster. They're not just picking fights for fun, mind you. This isn't a procedural. Logan and executive producer Mendes have mapped out an eight-episode arc for their first television series, making it as much like a movie as possible -- just four times as long. Here's hoping the filmmakers find as much success in their new medium as they've had in their old one.
"Halt and Catch Fire" (June 1st)
Creators: Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers
Cast: Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, Kerry Bishe, Toby Huss
Another hit from this year's Episodics program at SXSW, "Halt and Catch Fire" is not a replacement for "Mad Men." Yes, it stars a suit-wearing dreamer with an attitude problem who has big plans for a relatively small company, but the similarities pretty much stop there. Set during the 1980s PC race that was being dominated by IBM before a few start-ups took them to task, AMC's new drama moves much smoother than the glitchy personal computers of old. It's as fast, sleek, and sharp as a modern day machine.
Starring Lee Pace as the aforementioned entrepreneur with secret plans in store, namely for the hard-working programmer played by Scoot McNairy, "Halt and Catch Fire" is about more than just secrets and much more than computers. The pilot, quite the impressive product demo, made sure everyone had plenty invested in each and every one of their decisions before the quick-moving hour was up. It establishes an improbably high number of storylines, and each and every one seems worthy of their own 60 minutes. Considering AMC doesn't have as many time slots as the creators do ideas, we'll have to hope they can continue to reign their creativity into incredibly effective full episodes.
"The Leftovers" (June 15th)
Creators: Damon Lindelof & Tom Perrota
Cast: Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Chris Eccleston, Live Tyler and Ann Dowd
Based on “Election” scribe Tom Perrota’s novel of the same name, “The Leftovers” marks Damon Lindelof’s highly anticipated return to television since the conclusion of “Lost” back in 2010. The series begins in medias res – following an event similar to the Biblical Rapture. A portion of the world’s population disappears without a trace and those who have been left behind must grapple with the aftermath.
Lindelof’s partnership with Perrota on this series is highly suggestive that “The Leftovers” may, in fact, possess the capacity to surpass its predecessor in both quality and success as their skill sets complement each other. Where one is lacking, the other makes up for it. Lindelof brings extensive experience with world building to the table via his tenure on “Lost,” as well as his co-writing credits on “Cowboys & Aliens” and “Star Trek Into Darkness.” Perrota, on the other hand, has demonstrated impressive breadth in his writing – having penned both comedy and drama.
"The Musketeers" (June 22nd)
Creator: Adrian Hodges
Cast: Tom Burke, Santiago Cabrera, Howard Charles
Network: BBC America
The fact that the BBC has already picked up “The Musketeers” for a second season prior to the premiere of its first suggests that the show is not one to be missed. Created by “My Week With Marilyn” screenwriter Adrian Hodges, “The Musketeers” is a period adaptation of Alexander Dumas’ oft-revisited characters. Although rife with swordplay, hopefully the series will not be as heavy as heavy as “Game of Thrones.” This behind-the-scenes video about the actors attempting to grow their beards to play their parts seems to suggest that we’re in for a fun-filled, mostly stress free journey.
"The Strain" (July)
Creator: Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan
Cast: Corey Stoll, David Bradley, Kevin Durand, Mia Maestro
Based on Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire horror novel trilogy of the same name, “The Strain” centers on an epidemiologist who is called in to investigate a mysterious biohazard situation at John F. Kennedy International Airport involving a plane that lands with two hundred corpses and four survivors.
Given the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, it will be interesting to see how del Toro and Hogan’s universe both reinforces and challenges our notions of this uncannily similar real-life incident.
"Extant" (July 9th)
Creator: Mickey Fisher
Cast: Halle Berry, Goran Visnijic, Pierce Gagnon
CBS gave a straight-to-series order to this project, which features Halle Berry as an astronaut who has just returned to Earth after spending a year in space. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, the show is shrouded in mystery. A 25-second preview with the definition of the word “extant” superimposed on images of cells dividing and an ultrasound of a fetus suggests that the show is equal parts science fiction and drama. Perhaps CBS is stepping outside the confines of the procedural? We shall see.
"Welcome to Sweden" (July 10th)
Creator: Greg Poehler
Cast: Greg Poehler, Illeana Douglas, Aubrey Plaza (guest star), Amy Poehler (guest star), Will Ferrell (guest star)
While it would be easy to write this off as, "NBC loves Amy Poehler so much she let her brother have his own show," things look pretty promising for this summer premiere. Greg Poehler, who executive produces and created the show, also stars as a celebrity lawyer version of Greg Poehler. "Welcome to Sweden" is based on Poehler's own experiences leaving the U.S. and traveling to Sweden to be with the woman he loves.
Executive produced by his sister Amy, who also just so happens to be the face of the best comedy on any of the big four networks, "Welcome to Sweden" features celebrity cameos playing exaggerated versions of themselves. Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, and Aubrey Plaza all play former clients of Greg's character who aren't too happy he's left them to move to Sweden. There's lots of upside for comedy sprinkled throughout, so here's hoping funny runs in the family.
"Legends" (August 20th)
Creator: Howard Gordon
Cast: Sean Bean
"You were never supposed to remember," an unnamed voice exclaims. "Remember what?" asks Sean Bean. "Who you are."
No, the above quotes aren't from "The Bourne Television Series." They're from the trailer for TNT's new action drama, "Legends," starring "Game of Thrones" & "Patriot Games" star Sean Bean. Based on the novel by Robert Littell, "Legends" follows Martin Odum, an FBI agent deep undercover who can change his identity at the drop of a hat. All that cap switching gets to his head, though, when someone starts asking the right questions, and Odum begins to doubt who he really is. To increase the prestige factor, "Legends" has at least three "Homeland" veterans behind it. Howard Gordon ("Homeland"), Alexander Carry ("Homeland"), and Jonathan Levin ("Charmed") make up an impressive group of executive producers and the pilot was directed by David Semel, who directed episodes of "Homeland," "American Horror Story," and "Hannibal." If TNT is going to finally break the mold from too-tame network fare ("Falling Skies" included), this is the show to use.
"The Knick" (summer)
Creators: Jack Amiel and Michael Begler
Cast: Clive Owen, Andre Holland, Juliet Rylance
If these were ranked, this would probably be at the top of the list -- the top of everyone's list, really. Steven Soderbergh's retirement from directing was put on hold to shoot all 10 episodes of the new Cinemax series starring Clive Owen as a surgeon in 1900 New York who test the limits of his practice to try to save lives. The eerie teaser trailers flash the slogan "Surgery wasn't always science," a matter of fact yet surprisingly effective tag for a show fraught with possibilities. One odd note: the creators' resume is stacked with mostly family friendly films like "Big Miracle" and "The Prince and Me." This doesn't exactly scream "edgy surgical drama." We'll be tuning in to see what Soderbergh has in store for us, but hopefully staying for more.
"Girl Meets World" (summer)
Creator: Michael Jacobs
Cast: Rowan Blanchard, Sabrina Carpenter, Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel
Network: Disney Channel
In this highly anticipated spinoff series of the hit 90s sitcom “Boy Meets World,” Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel a.k.a. Corey and Topanga, return to our television sets – except now, the beloved couple has a pre-teen daughter. Played by newcomer Rowan Blanchard, Riley Matthews promises to be as curious and mischievous as her parents were when they were her age. Our knowledge of Corey and Topanga’s childhood adds a dimension that did not exist in the original series. Whereas the adults in “Boy Meets World” existed on the periphery, Corey and Topanga are bound to have their own stories in “Girl Meets World” – stories that are not exclusively tied to Riley.