Airing on Oprah’s OWN network, Greenleaf is the first role the TV mogul has taken in a fictional series in two decades. She plays a relatively minor role, but the show — about a woman who returns after 20 years to her Memphis home and the mega-church her family runs — features scores of terrific performances from lesser-known actors like star Merle Dandridge, 17-year-old Bronx native Lovie Simone, and in particular, Lynn Whitfield as the Greenleaf family matriarch.
Thursday: Queen of the South
“Thanks to me, you always have weed for your stupid weekend dinner parties. Or a gram for your shitty bachelorette thing. You’re welcome.” Premiering on Thursday, USA’s new summer series Queen of the South tells the story of Teresa Mendoza (played with steely intensity by the gorgeous Brazilian actress Alice Braga), who rises from humble beginnings in Sinaloa, Mexico to become a drug queen-pin in the United States. Although the character is fictional — the show is based on the novel La Reina del Sur by the Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte — Braga based her performance on Griselda Blanco, the “Cocaine Grandmother” responsible for the growth of Miami’s drug trade in the 1970s and ’80s.
If you’re in the mood for a harrowing few hours, BBC America’s Thirteen is a gripping five-part series about a 26-year-old woman who escapes after being kidnapped and held captive for 13 years. The series stars British actress Jodie Comer, who also appeared in the terrific BBC series Doctor Foster. Unusually (for American TV, at least), the show’s creator/writer, directors, and executive producers are all women.
This week’s episode of Outlander, the third-to-last before the July 9 finale, is the first to be written by Diana Gabaldon, the author of the book series on which the show is based. Titled “Vengeance is Mine,” the episode sees the return of two characters whom we haven’t seen since our heroes Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Catriona Balfe) left Paris for Scotland a few episodes back. “Vengeance is Mine” includes both the swoon-inducing sight of a shirtless Jamie reciting a Gaelic prayer of protection while he watches Claire sleep and a particularly gruesome parting shot.
Sunday: The Jim Gaffigan Show
The second season of The Jim Gaffigan Show premieres on Father’s Day, this Sunday, a fitting start date: Created by Gaffigan and his wife, Jeannie, the show is based on his life as a comedian raising five children in a two-bedroom Manhattan apartment. (The real Jeannie Gaffigan is a writer and executive producer; on the show, she’s played by the lovely — and it must be said, nearly-a-decade-younger — Ashley Williams.) Blending the woes of big-city parenting with the travails of being a working comic, the show at its worst can feel like a Louie knockoff. But with an adorable brood of child actors playing the wee Gaffigans, and plenty of guest stars popping in, at its best, it feels like a big, warm hug on a cold New York day.