1) “Orange is the New Black” Season 3 (available June 12)
Why Should I Watch It? “Orange is the New Black” has become one of those shows you just have to watch. Like “Mad Men,” “True Detective,” and newcomers like “Transparent” or “Daredevil,” some series just dominate the cultural conversation for weeks, months and years after they debut. “Orange is the New Black” is about to take over June, and the discussion will run long into September thanks to the new Emmys rules. What better way to decide what genre Jenji Kohan’s dramedy should compete in than watching the new season? Well, watching Season 2 would probably be better, as that’s the eligible season at this year’s Emmys — even though nominations don’t come out until July, the month after Season 3 is released. Man, the TV Academy sure makes some confusing policies. Hopefully this doesn’t cost “OITNB” a spot…
Best Episode: Without breaking any embargoes, it’s safe to say the Season 3 premiere establishes one of this year’s major themes: motherhood. You don’t have to wait long to get hooked on “OITNB” again, folks.
2) “Sense8” Season 1 (available June 5)
Why Should I Watch It? Even if you haven’t been a fan of the Wachowskis’ work since “The Matrix” (which, for frame of reference, came out in 1999), the imaginative scope of their work leads to engagement, even on a smaller scale. Maybe you didn’t watch “Cloud Atlas” in theaters, but surely you made sure to watch a couple scenes at home (if only to laugh manically at the makeup). I bet many of you are planning the same thing for “Jupiter Ascending,” though its appeal is much clearer. “Sense8” may be a disaster on the same level, but there’s still the faintest of hopes it could — at least in some ways — follow in the footsteps of the best action film since “Die Hard.”
Best Episode: Again, knowing the Wachowskis’ unwise addiction to non-action of late, “Sense8” will likely be full of material that’s less engaging than the 16th “reinvention” of bullet time. That being said, when the Wachowskis do dip a toe into the action pool, they’re still the directors to beat in terms of visually lavish combat spectacles. “Jupiter Ascending” does have one damn fine scene in it, and no, it has nothing to do with a cleaning woman becoming queen of the universe. So I’m sure the best episode of the sci-fi series about eight strangers who discover they’re connected in mysterious ways is the one where all hell breaks lose and people start fighting each other in extremely cool new ways. Hopefully it can top “Daredevil” Episode 2, but perhaps I’m setting my hopes too high.
3) “Scandal” Season 4 (available June 13)
Why Should I Watch It? “Scandal” is no longer just a quality nighttime soap. It’s the nighttime soap, responsible for an ABC takeover via Shondaland and a resurgence of the guilty pleasure TV genre without the guilt. “Empire” wouldn’t exist without “Scandal,” and obviously neither would “How to Get Away With Murder” or upcoming drama “The Catch.” “Grey’s Anatomy” may be Shonda Rhimes’ breakout hit, but “Scandal” made her the power producer she is today. Get on board or get out of the way.
Best Episode: Episode 19, “I’m Just a Bill,” marked the last quality episode before a disappointing season finale. Rowan Pope returned (always a welcome sight) and Susan was a total badass. If only the finale could have kept the momentum going, or at least not faltered under the pressure a twist-heavy series always carries.
READ MORE: How ‘Scandal’ and ‘Hannibal’ Are Winning The Social Media Game
4) “Danger Mouse” Seasons 1-10 (available June 15)
Why Should I Watch It? Even I didn’t realize how popular “Danger Mouse” was until I started my research for this list. The British animated series spoofing both James Bond and “Danger Man” ran for 10 seasons (or “series”) and was pulling in more than 21 million viewers at its peak. Wikipedia states it’s the first British cartoon to break into the United States market, and I don’t question things written about ’80s cartoons on the all-knowing Wiki. So trust in your elders and give this charmingly animated series a go.
Best Episode: As entertaining, clever and subtly satirical as this show was, the best thing ever produced by “Danger Mouse” was the 2004 mixtape titled “The Grey Album,” which brought together The Beatles and Jay-Z for some truly enlivening mashups. Am I talking about another Danger Mouse? Yes. Do I feel under-qualified to judge 10 seasons of a series that began before I was born? Yes. Is this a cop-out? Yes. Do I care? No. The best episode of “Danger Mouse” I ever saw was “Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind” — which somehow combined alien abduction with the Bermuda Triangle in an animated series about a rodent secret agent — but I’m guessing die-hard fans have better suggestions. Please tell me how wrong I am in the comments.
5) “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.LD.” Season 2 (available June 11)
Why Should I Watch It? Because you have to if you want to enjoy the onslaught of Marvel entertainment properties heaved your way in both TV and film. The Marvel Cinematic Universe — something that has inexplicably become an accepted part of our culture rather than a monopolistic exercise in synergy to rebel against — isn’t just for its many, many movie franchises anymore. Now it’s on ABC, Netflix and now an ABC show airing again on Netflix. As my colleague Liz Shannon Miller points out, the sheer amount of material is daunting. You better get to watching.
Best Episode: “Making Friends and Influencing People,” or Episode 3 of Season 2, is the expert’s pick for best episode of the season. As a “key early episode,” Miller argues its attention paid to Simmons, “a supporting character who’s easily one of the show’s most charming [cast members]” is what sets it apart, along with an important plot line sure to be crucial for fans’ understanding of “Iron Man 6.” Or whatever.
6) “Pretty Little Liars” Season 5 (available June 10)
Why Should I Watch It? If anyone can actually explain to me the ABC Family brand, I would be forever indebted to you. Not only do I not understand how a subsidiary of Disney with the word “family” in its network name can air TV-14 series like “Baby Daddy,” “Freak Out” and “Young & Hungry” next to animated movies like “Despicable Me” and “The Princess Diaries 2,” but I would have bet money before today that “Pretty Little Liars” was on The CW. It just seems like a better fit, doesn’t it? Of course, I don’t know what fits on ABC Family, so I could be way off base.
Best Episode: “Miss Me x 100” proves that most 100th episodes are damn fine entertainment. “Pretty Little Liars” is still cruising along, keeping its main secret while exploring the depths of its core characters, and Episode 5 of Season 5 does just enough right to keep both trends on the upswing. The mysterious “A” is seen texting our stars — Aria, Emily, Hanna, Spencer and Alison — after her (“A” has gotta be a girl, right?) shocking return to Rosewood. How’s “she” reintroduce herself to the neighborhood? By blowing up a house, of course. ABC Family, you’ve done it again.
7) “Grace of Monaco” (available June 8)
Why Should I Watch It? Oh, “Grace of Monaco.” From Cannes opener to Lifetime movie of the week, this would-be Oscar contender starring Nicole Kidman was as fun to track failing as it would have been to watch flourishing. Though certainly not a TV show, the film’s basic cable premiere — as opposed to a theatrical or VOD rollout — qualifies it for under the ever-more-inclusive TV label, and thus makes it applicable to discuss here. What’s left to say? Honestly, I think Indiewire has done a bang up job so far. Just make sure you read one more story…
Best Episode: …this one! Put together over at Criticwire, the aforementioned link aptly encompasses all the trials and tribulations of the film in the fitting form of a Lifetime live tweet…by one person. Screenwriter Arash Amel went balls to the wall on Memorial Day, tweeting his thoughts, concerns and behind-the-scenes secrets while “Grace of Monaco” was finally unveiled to the world. While he probably should have stopped ranting about the music — clearly, it was awful — anyone eager to watch this catastrophe should know which cut they’re getting into on Netflix. Will it be the French version, Lifetime version or the oh-so-scare writer’s cut? We’ll find out in just a few short weeks.
The Rest of the Incoming TV:
“Bindi’s Bootcamp” Season 1 (available June 15)
“Really Me” Seasons 1-2 (available June 15)
“Team Toon” Season 1 (available June 15)
“Wizards vs. Aliens” Seasons 1-3 (available June 15)
“Heartland” Season 6 (available June 17)
“Dragons: Race to the Edge” Season 1 (available June 26)
“Drugs Inc.” Seasons 2-3 (leaving June 1)
“Ink Master” Season 1 (leaving June 1)
“Inside Combat Rescue” Season 1 (leaving June 1)
“Iron Man: Armored Adventures” Seasons 1-2 (leaving June 29)
“The Baby-Sitters Club” Season 1 (leaving June 30)