“Grace and Frankie” – Friday, May 8
Creator: Marta Kauffman, Howard J. Morris
Stars: Jane Fonda, Lili Tomlin, Martin Sheen, Sam Waterston
It’s an Aaron Sorkin dream team: Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston form a complicated quartet of 70-somethings grappling with a sudden upheaval in their martial statuses. When your husband tells you that he’s leaving you to marry his male business partner, what do you do? In Tomlin and Fonda’s case, the answer is to reluctantly team together as a basic act of survival. There’s been a huge level of anticipation for the show. (“9 to 5” enthusiasts, your prayers are two-thirds of the way answered. Dolly Parton’s a no-show for Season 1, to the best of our knowledge.) But the thing to get excited about is a relatively serious take on a tough situation, that makes the most of its cast’s skills with both comedy and drama. “Only on Netflix” has a lot of significance in this case; it’s not the type of show you’d expect to see anywhere else.
“Aquarius” – Thursday, May 28
Creator: John McNamara
Stars: David Duchovny, Grey Damon (“Friday Night Lights”), Emma Dumont (“Inherent Vice”)
“Aquarius” was an important show before news emerged this week that the full first season would be released online and via VOD after the two-hour premiere. Sure, now John McNamara’s series is the poster boy for pushing broadcast television into 21st century distribution models, but let’s not forget the most important factor about the period drama: David Duchovny, as a cop, punching hippies.
Duchovny, whose name has been thrown back into the cultural zeitgeist with this, but more so the upcoming “X-Files” revival, has always made for a good cop. Be it as the sharp-witted and overcommitted Agent Mulder or DEA agent Denise Bryson on “Twin Peaks,” Duchovny has the right mix of hard-edged attitude and off-the-cuff charm to make for a charismatic presence with anyone he runs into — from aliens to Dale Cooper.
Now his focus is on an even more nefarious creature of the underworld: Charles Manson. In the historical fiction of “Aquarius,” Duchovny’s Detective Hodiak — an ex-military, old school cop with a buzzcut — is put on the trail of the future serial killer before anyone has taken note of him at all. An old flame asks Hodiak to hunt down her lost daughter, and that leads him right to Manson’s door. With a six-year plan in place from McNamara, a viewer-friendly distribution model from NBC and a charming leading lad in place, “Aquarius” could be around for the long-haul. That’s bad news for hippies.
“Sense8” – Friday, June 5
Creator: The Wachowskis, J. Michael Straczynski
Stars: Daryl Hannah, Brian J. Smith, Tuppance Middleton, Aml Ameen, Bae Doona, Miguel Angel Silvestre, Tina Desai, Jamie Clayton
Even if “Sense8” didn’t promise to tell very different stories across very different locations around the globe, you wouldn’t suspect it of being boring, thanks to the involvement of the Wachowskis, who have cultivated an uneven but always conceptually exciting body of work. The series, co-created by “Babylon 5” mastermind J. Michael Straczynski, combines ensemble drama with a complex underlying mythology that ends up connecting eight strangers all reaching crisis points in their lives; and not necessarily because they’re increasingly swept up in the same conspiracy. “Sense8” might not be for everyone, but it is definitely for those inspired by the idea of a show themed entirely around the idea that all of humanity is connected — and all of humanity needs each other’s help.
“Deutschland 83” – Wednesday, June 17
Creator: Anna Winger
Stars: Jonas Nay, Alexander Beyer, Ulrich Noethen, Maria Schrader, Sonja Gerhardt
Summer is a time for fun: The weather becomes more accepting of outdoor activities. Kids are free from the burden of forced education. Movies are as mindless and broadly-appealing as ever. When better, then, to sit inside and engage fully with a German-language Cold War drama about a spy sent to gain secrets about NATO military strategy?
In all seriousness, “Deutschland 83” sounds great. It’s the first-ever German-language drama to air in the United States — and the rare TV show primarily using a foreign language — and premiered to rave reviews at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year. The New York Times said it was an “ingenious, counterintuitive look at the Cold War” (which is honestly the only way the Cold War should be explored at this point) and The Hollywood Reporter compared the tone to “Mad Men,” calling “Deutschland 83” “engagingly light” (and “The Bomb — literally”). It may not seem like typical summer fare, but really, who wants to limit themselves to more of the same?
“Ballers” – Sunday, June 21
Creator: Stephen Levinson
Stars: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Rob Corddry, Omar Benson Miller, Taylor Cole, LaToya Luckkett
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson edged closer to HBO, which couldn’t suppress the slightest hint of a giggle at the sight of the world’s greatest action hero, sitting so closely that the tiniest details of his tattoos could be seen clearly. HBO wasn’t normally so starstruck. HBO hung out all the time with incredible talent. HBO knew Martin Scorsese’s phone number! But HBO still couldn’t help but blush.
“I have something for you,” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson whispered. HBO shivered. “A show. A special show. A show like no other. A show about men, in a high pressure profession, working hard and playing hard. A show that revels in a lifestyle of excess. The kind of show that men want to fuck, and women want to be fucked BY.”
HBO took a moment, tried to regain its composure. “It’s not… I mean, it’s not just a rip-off of ‘Entourage,’ right?”
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson inched even closer, and smiled that billion-dollar-franchise smile as he slipped his arms around HBO’s shoulders. “Of course not.”
And HBO swooned.
“The Brink” – Sunday, June 21
Creator: Kim Benabib, Roberto Benabib
Stars: Jack Black, Tim Robbins, Pablo Schreiber, Aasif Mandvi, Carla Gugino
Jack Black is at his best when he’s challenged. Be it by transformative roles like “Bernie” or demanding comedic endeavors like “Tropic Thunder,” Black excels when he’s given more to work with than just improv and antics. “The Brink” definitely fits the bill. Creators Roberto and Kim Benabib have developed a more grounded version of “Dr. Strangelove,” taking place in the modern day and focusing on Alex Talbot (Black), a lowly Foreign Service officer called to serve a bigger role in America’s attempt to avoid World War III.
Co-starring Tim Robbins, Carla Gugino and Assif Mandvi, “The Brink” was designed to focus around a new crisis every season while still involving the same group of characters. That makes it a perfect fit, conceptually, when wedged into HBO’s Sunday night block of “Ballers” — a traditional comedy in the vein of “Entourage” — and “True Detective,” which busted down the door for a flood of anthology series. We may not be rotating casts with “The Brink,” but it seems Black will be repeatedly pushed to the, um, edge.
“Another Period” – Tuesday, June 23
Creator: Natasha Leggero, Riki Lindhome
Stars: Natasha Leggero, Riki Lindhome, Michael Ian Black, Paget Brewster, Brett Gelman, Jason Ritter, David Wain
Network: Comedy Central
You know how all of your favorite comedy actors seem to be in all your favorite comedies? “Another Period” offers up that same delightful trend, but with a unique high-concept premise at its core. Essentially a “Downton Abbey” parody set in Newport, Connecticut during the 1900s, creators Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome dug into the reality of the time period to develop an off-the-wall, hilarious take on the idiot rich. The core cast features the faces you’ve come to expect from anything even tangentially related to modern comedy’s core community — including David Wain and Michael Ian Black — but also enlists unexpected talent like “Mad Men’s” own Christina Hendricks. It’s broader than “Broad City,” but with pretty dresses and old-timey language — flavors that end up tasting great together.
Coming up: Hackers, robots, murders, zombies and rock’n’roll.
“Mr. Robot” – Wednesday, June 24
Creator: Sam Esmail
Stars: Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin, Martin Wallstrom
When we caught the first episode of USA’s hacker drama at SXSW, the show stood out as cinematic, intimate and complex on a new level for the network. So consider us intrigued by what’s to follow, as Eliot (Rami Malek) descends further into the mysterious F Society, led by Christian Slater. Or, to put it in Eliot terms:
“Scream” – Tuesday, June 30
Creator: Jill Blotevogel
Stars: Willa Fitzgerald, Bex Taylor-Klaus, John Karna, Tracey Middendorf, Jason Wiles
When “Scream” was at its best — for most of the first film and bits and pieces of the other three — it skewered its genre restrictions as thoroughly as Ghost Face did pretty young teens. Can the same concept work on TV? An aptly meta voice over tells us “no” in the first trailer for the series, but that clearly means they’re going to try. As long as they do, we’re on board.
Blending a horror premise with the soap opera themes oft-associated with teen dramas seems like the perfect fit for primetime. Night time soaps have been ripe for the satirical picking for years, and the horror genre has been sweeping through television long enough to warrant a little ridicule as well. MTV may be a new destination for viewers seeking a show as ambitious as “Scream” needs to be, but the network should also be smart enough to know that. If anything, the new generation of “Scream” — with cell phones! — should be anything but banal.
“Humans” – Sunday, June 28
Creator: Sam Vincent, Jonathan Brackley
Stars: William Hurt, Colin Morgan, Katherine Parkinson, Gemma Chan
Here’s the twist with “Humans”: It’s about robots! Betcha didn’t see that coming. But the William Hurt-led drama, like every great story about robots, has interesting potential, focused as it is on the delineation between humanity and the automatons that have been developed, in a not-too-distant future, to help care for their fleshy masters. AMC’s never really dug into the sci-fi genre before (beyond, of course, “The Walking Dead”), and “Humans” offers up a pretty grounded entry point for the network; the only real danger is the show slipping into relatively predictable territory. For decades now, science fiction has been warning us about the dangers of assuming that artificial intelligence isn’t intelligent — or, ultimately, artificial. Hopefully “Humans” can break a little new ground.
“Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” – Thursday, July 16
Creator: Denis Leary
Stars: Denis Leary, John Corbett, Elizabeth Gillies, Bobby Kelly, Elaine Hendrix
Denis Leary doesn’t have a perfect record as a creator of television, but every show he’s brought into existence has managed to stand out in one way or another. And “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” the first show he’s starred in since “Rescue Me,” looks set to combine new comedy, new characters and new music (written by Leary) as the foundation for a story of father and daughter reconnection through a shared interest. Let’s leave out the part where one of faded rock star Johnny Rock’s (Leary) first acts is to hit on Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies), who has just tracked him down after way too long apart. “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” brings together an intriguing cast (loved John Corbett in the ’90s, still love him today) for what could be a fun and irreverent story about family. With, of course, some sex and drugs and rock and roll as a side dish.
“Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp” – Friday, July 17
Creator: David Wain, Michael Showalter
Stars: Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Michael Ian Black, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper, Christopher Meloni, Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Chris Pine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristen Wiig, A.D. Miles, Lake Bell, Michael Showalter, David Hyde Pierce, Janeane Garofalo, Molly Shannon
Quick poll: Are any of your favorite comedy actors not in Netflix’s “Wet Hot American Summer”? I mean, I guess Tina Fey is missing, but she popped up without forewarning in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” so anything is possible! Though little is known of the new series’ actual plot, the names attached just keep piling up. Best of all, reports have surfaced that even the biggest stars from the original film’s cast will appear in more than just cameo roles. Thanks to the tight-knit community wrangled together over the years by creators David Wain and Michael Showalter, the eight-episode series, “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” seems to be the perfect kind of second coming for a cult film: the original creators, all the original cast and even longer than before.
“Public Morals” – Tuesday, August 25
Creator: Edward Burns
Stars: Edward Burns, Michael Rapaport, Elizabeth Masucci
Who doesn’t like Edward Burns? Seriously. Who doesn’t have fond memories of Reiben, the mouthy New Yorkah in “Saving Private Ryan” or his guest appearances as himself in “Entourage” and “Louie”? Okay, so maybe “Mob City” wasn’t his finest hour, but the beauty of “Public Morals” is that Burnsy isn’t just an actor. He’s the creator, writer and executive producer, too. As fans of his independent film work, from “The Brothers McMullen,” “Sidewalks of New York,” and his recent lighthearted holiday tale “The Fitzgerald Family Christmas,” this gets us pretty pumped for the TNT drama.
In line with his best film work, “Public Morals” is a personal story for Burns, as his father was an NYPD cop in the ’60s. Now Burns is playing a similar part: a father who’s trying to raise his sons on the straight-and-arrow, while dealing with a dark underbelly of crime everyday at work. Working in vice, he sees cops become criminals every day, and it’s his job as a policeman and a parent to keep himself clean. In a television landscape of antiheroes, Burns’ character might just be the real hero we need.
[Editor’s Note: TNT shifted the release date for “Public Morals” after publication of this story from Monday, August 17 to Tuesday, August 25. We have updated the information accordingly.]
“Blunt Talk” – August 22
Creator: Jonathan Ames
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Jacki Weaver, Adrian Scarborough, Dolly Wells
Patrick Stewart. Jacki Weaver. Jonathan Ames (the creator of “Bored to Death”). What more do you need to know? Okay, well, what if I told you Stewart was playing a British transplant working in America on a talk show, through which he advises people how to properly behave? What if I told you he was a drug addict with a penchant for illicit behavior? What if I told you he was living alone other than a butler who whips him with towels? What if again I emphasized that this is Patrick Stewart doing all this? Captain Jean-Luc Picard? Professor Xavier? As an emotionally-turbulent talk show host? In a comedy? Okay, fine! Seth MacFarlane is executive-producing. Now everyone will watch.
“Fear the Walking Dead” – Late Summer 2015
Creator: Robert Kirkman, Dave Erickson
Stars: Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Elizabeth Rodriguez
AMC is doubling down on their spinoff strategy with another two-year commitment to a companion series of a previously successful series. First, “Better Call Saul,” spun off from “Breaking Bad” (and that worked out great!). Soon, we’ll see how “Fear the Walking Dead” does filling in the small gap when “The Walking Dead” isn’t on the air. It’s about to be all zombies, all the time — on AMC, at least.
“Fear the Walking Dead” fills in the gap left in the pilot episode of “The Walking Dead,” serving to inform us how the world was taken over by the undead, via a new group of Los Angeles-based survivors. When it begins, there are only rumors of cannibals and a virus, but most people don’t believe it. Things may not be as gruesome early on compared to “The Walking Dead.”
Luckily, the new cast should make up for any lack of gore. The series’ chosen group of tormented survivors includes a favorite of any true TV fan; Kim Dickens, of “Treme,” “Deadwood,” “Lost,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Sons of Anarchy” and “House of Cards” fame (plus movie roles in “Gone Girl” and “Footloose”), will play Miranda, a divorced mother of two whose son is trying to kick a heroin addiction. Her daughter, meanwhile, is thinking ahead to college as she gets ready to graduate high school. Throw in Miranda’s love interest — a teacher at her school, played by Cliff Curtis — and you’ve got yourselves the making for one heckuva zombie survival squad.
“They’re very complicated characters,” Dickens told Indiewire during a recent “House of Cards” event. “A very, sort of a patchwork family unit that we start with. I play a school counselor who had a tough upbringing herself, and then we’re faced with the beginning of the end.”
Here’s hoping Dickens knows how to swing a shovel, shoot a shotgun or just plain survive.