At long last summer is upon us, and Netflix has taken the opportunity to smother us with their #content. As the networks wind down their regular scripted series and dial up the reality-show insanity, streaming services and cable channels swoop into deliver that sweet, sweet content straight to our eye sockets. There are plenty of treats to look forward to this summer, starting with the delicious (literally — it made me hungry) second season of Master of None, which lands this Friday. Then, get ready for the long-awaited return of Twin Peaks at the end of the month. Beyond May, there are lots of new series on the horizon, including two juicy new dramas from TNT, a pot comedy starring Kathy Bates, a fascinating three-part documentary on the history of making records in the U.S., and a series about working standup comics in 1970s L.A. Happy watching!
5/12: Master of None (Netflix)
TV’s friendliest show returns this month for its second season, nearly a year and a half after the first. It’s worth the wait: Season 2 doubles down on everything that makes the show great. The second season has a definite narrative arc, one that feels more confident than the plotline of the first, and yet it maintains the show’s loose, dreamy vibe. It’s a playful series, which works perfectly for Netflix — every episode is a little adventure, not necessarily picking up where the last one left off. (And yes, Aziz Ansari’s parents are back and better than ever.)
5/12: I Love Dick (Amazon)
In retrospect, the success of Transparent was kind of a miracle. Even so, I don’t expect Jill Soloway’s latest creation — a TV adaptation of the 1997 Chris Kraus book I Love Dick — to get the same kind of mainstream love. The series centers on Chris (an amazing Kathryn Hahn), a woman on the edge of 40 who accompanies her husband to an art institute in Marfa, Texas where he’s received a fellowship. There, she becomes obsessed with her husband’s advisor, Dick (Kevin Bacon, who else), who sparks Chris’s sexual and creative awakening. I Love Dick is bold, unapologetically female-gazing television.
5/16: American Epic (PBS)
Robert Redford narrates this three-part documentary on the “‘Big Bang’ of modern popular music.” American Epic explores the rise of recorded music in the 1920s, as radio forced the record companies to branch out of the big city and venture into the Appalachians, the Mississippi Delta, the Texas-Mexico border, and many other places where for the first time, non-professionals were able to record their sounds. The vast majority of those recordings have not survived, but through film footage, photographs, and interviews, American Epic aims to reclaim this lost history. The doc caps off with a feature-length film called The American Epic Sessions in which Jack White and T Bone Burnett, inevitably, reassemble the recording system from the ’20s and tape performances by 20 contemporary artists, including Alabama Shakes, Raphael Saadiq, Elton John, Beck, and Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.
5/19: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has the same volume of jokes as their previous sitcom, 30 Rock, but with more heart. (I mean, when you center your comedy around a woman who spent 15 years being held against her will in a bunker, it should probably have more heart than 30 Rock.) In the new season, Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) continues to adjust to life as an adult, enrolling in college and dealing with the newfound presence of her captor (Jon Hamm) in her life. But the real headline here — aside from guest appearances by Laura Dern, Daveed Diggs, Rachel Dratch, Ray Liotta, Andrea Martin, and Maya Rudolph — is the Lemonade homage prompted by Titus (Tituss Burgess) and his boyfriend, Mikey (Mike Carlsen).
5/21: Twin Peaks (Showtime)
In characteristically Lynchian fashion, critics will not be receiving advanced screeners of the Twin Peaks revival; as David Lynch, the co-creator of the original series, with Mark Frost, put it to Entertainment Weekly, “People want to know right up until they know, and then they don’t care.” Tell me about it. So we’re all in the dark here together, which feels appropriate for this cult classic about the mysterious death of a pretty blonde teenage girl and a picturesque Pacific Northwest logging town that’s home to many dark secrets. Most of the original cast is returning, along with an insanely long list of guest stars, and Lynch and Frost have written all 18 new episodes, which Lynch will direct.
Next up: June
6/4: I’m Dying Up Here (Showtime)
Showtime’s last stab at an entertainment-industry-drama — last summer’s Roadies — was a major disappointment. I’m cautiously optimistic about its latest attempt, I’m Dying Up Here (it’s got a strong trailer, but then, so did Roadies), which is set in Los Angeles in the 1970s and follows a group of would-be standup comedians. The series stars the always-excellent Melissa Leo as smoky-voiced nightclub owner Goldie, and features a glut of both comedic and dramatic actors, including Clark Duke, Jake Lacy, Al Madrigal, Dylan Baker, Cathy Moriarty, Alfred Molina, Sebastian Stan, and RJ Cyler.
6/4: Decker: Unsealed (Adult Swim)
As Catherine Baab-Muguira wrote for Flavorwire back in March, Decker is the Trump satire we didn’t know we needed. The show began as a spinoff of Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington’s web series On Cinema, in which Heidecker plays an extreme right-wing version of himself — who winds up creating and starring in Decker, a gloriously low-budget action series in which “Decker” saves America from terrorists and climate-change hoaxes. Decker returns to Adult Swim this summer, with a new subtitle — the first new episodes since Trump actually took office.
6/9: Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
Er, let’s pretend a hacker didn’t just leak the first ten episodes of the new season of Orange is the New Black. I’m resisting the urge to look up spoilers; it’ll taste so much sweeter if it’s fresh. You may remember that last season left us on a cliffhanger, with Daya (Dascha Polanco) picking up guard Humphrey’s (Michael Torpey) gun in the midst of a prison-wide riot and pointing it square at his face while the other inmates look on. Season 5 does something a little different: It takes place over just three days as the riot rages on.
6/11: Claws (TNT)
This new TNT drama is one of those shows that had me hooked with nothing more than a few names and a basic description: Niecy Nash, Rashida Jones, Florida nail salon. Game, set, match. Jones executive-produces and Nash (Getting On) stars as Desna, the owner of a strip-mall salon in Manatee County who also cares for her mentally ill, live-in twin brother. Claws follows Desna and her fellow manicurists, including her best friend, Jennifer (Jenn Lyon), a barely-sober former party girl raising two kids from two fathers.
6/23: GLOW (Netflix)
The one with all the spandex. This new series from Nurse Jackie writers Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch (Jenji Kohan is an executive producer) takes its inspiration from a 1980s promotional series of the same name, an acronym that stands for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. GLOW stars Alison Brie as Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress in 1980s L.A. who enters the wild world of women’s wrestling. Marc Maron plays the washed-up director tasked with whipping Ruth and her fellow wannabe wrestling stars into shape. Really, the photos say it all.
Next up: July
7/9: Candy Crush (CBS)
What, you thought some network exec wasn’t going to try to capitalize on the ubiquity of this app and turn it into a TV show? Did they or did they not make a movie out of Angry Birds ? Is this or is this not the United States of America?! Of course CBS has created a game show called Candy Crush; of course Mario Lopez is hosting. The details are fuzzy, but teams of two will compete on life-sized, interactive game boards. I dunno guys, maybe we don’t deserve democracy.
7/10: Will (TNT)
There’s just no chance in hell that Will, TNT’s new Shakespearean drama, will rival Slings & Arrows, the Canadian series set at a fictionalized small-town Shakespeare festival for which I search Netfix eagerly from time to time, alas. Anyway, Will stars newcomer Laurie Davidson as a young hot Will Shakespeare, sowing his wild oats as a twentysomething rising star in England’s rowdy 16th century theater scene. Expect anachronous, contemporary music, à la Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and a bold production style to match its singular hero.
7/12: I’m Sorry (truTV)
The great Andrea Savage is a veteran comedic actor, but she’s only recently become more well-known, largely thanks to two roles — the savvy network exec Helen Basch in Episodes and newly-minted President Laura Montez in Veep. Savage is both the creator and star of I’m Sorry, which is loosely based on her own life as a comedy writer and mother/wife and which boasts Will Ferrell and Andy Samberg as executive producers. There’s not much else to go on as of now, aside from a stellar supporting cast that includes Tom Everett Scott as Andrea’s husband, Kathy Baker, Martin Mull, Judy Greer, Steve Zissis, and Jason Mantzoukas — plus guest appearances from Lizzy Caplan, Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer, June Squibb, and more.
7/16: Game of Thrones (HBO)
This summer Game of Thrones finally returns to HBO, more than a year after the last season ended. Of course it’s a bit early for the typically tight-lipped PR team behind this show to be giving too much away (aside from some typically uncommunicative photos), but we do know that, like Season 6, Season 7 will consist largely of material not found in any of the books — although it will include content from the sixth and seventh books, which have yet to be released. (George R.R. Martin promises the sixth will come out in 2017, but he said that last year, too.) The upcoming season will only run seven episodes, not the usual ten, which hopefully just means less wheel-spinning.
7/23: Insecure (HBO)
Call it the anti-Game of Thrones: We didn’t have to wait long for Season 2 of Insecure, which only wrapped up its first season in November — one of the more confident TV debuts I’ve seen. The first season was perfectly plotted: It follows Issa (creator Issa Rae), just turned 29 and feeling antsy about her lackluster job and her long-term boyfriend (Jay Ellis), who’s struggling to find work. She starts flirting with an ex (Y’lan Noel), which pisses off her best friend, Molly (Yvonne Orji), a corporate lawyer who’s single and not thrilled about it. By the end of the season, things are going great with Issa’s job — and not so great with her relationships. After such a solid start, I can’t wait to see where this one goes next.
Next up: August
8/8: Difficult People (Hulu)
I’m so thrilled people seem to be catching on to Difficult People, a Hulu original comedy created by Julie Klausner and starring her and Billy Eichner as bitchy best friends determined to make it in show business. It’s hands-down one of the funniest comedies on TV — particularly if you have a thing for mean jokes at the expense of celebrities and New York theater scenesters — and this season, it’s going to get even better because it’ll have John Cho in it. Cho will have a recurring role as Billy’s first serious boyfriend. We should all be so lucky.
8/10: SNL: Weekend Update (NBC)
Good news for viewers who wait for/skip to the Weekend Update segments on Saturday Night Live: There’s a show just for you! (No word yet on that muffin top café from Seinfeld.) This summer, NBC tries something new with SNL: Weekend Update, a primetime spinoff of sorts hosted by Weekend Update anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che. It makes sense that SNL would want to capitalize on its hot streak: The show’s current season, its 42nd, is the most-watched in 24 years. Weekend Update will air four primetime episodes while SNL is still off the air; expect other cast members to drop by.
8/18: Marvel’s The Defenders (Netflix)
This summer, the eponymous heroes of Netflix’s Marvel series — Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and yes, even Iron Fist — team up to fight the ninja collective The Hand. Stronger together, right guys? The best part about this series as far as I’m concerned is that Sigourney Weaver plays the show’s villain, Alexandra.
8/20: Episodes (Showtime)
It’s been a while since we last saw Episodes — that is, if you saw it at all, because this one can be a hard sell, mostly because of the whole “it stars Joey from Friends as himself” concept. Yes, it does indeed star Matt LeBlanc as himself, a sitcom star who’s cast in an adaptation of a British series that’s network-noted to death, to the never-ending sorrow of the original creators, married couple Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig). It’s a scathing Hollywood satire, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the fifth and final season ends with Sean and Beverly high-tailing it back to London — hopefully with their marriage still intact.
8/25: Disjointed (Netflix)
Kathy Bates as the owner of a weed dispensary? Done! Like Claws, Disjointed sounds like a no-brainer. Created by Big Bang Theory creator Chuck Lorre and former Daily Show head writer David Javerbaum, Disjointed centers on Ruth (Bates), a lifelong legal marijuana advocate who opens up a dispensary in her Los Angeles neighborhood, with the help of her twentysomething son and a few “budtenders” who are pretty much constantly high. (The first trailer, of course, dropped on 4/20.) At 20 episodes, the first season has an unusually long order for a streaming service, but it’s a good sign that there are two network TV writers at its helm.