The now-prevalent year-round barrage of television premieres assures viewers will receive another selection of new and returning programs throughout the summer, whether riches or rubbish. So what’s worth eyeballing? And no, I will not be recommending the August debut of Sharknado 5 on Syfy.
We’ve already been graced by the long-awaited return of the cult-adored supernatural crime-noir TV series Twin Peaks on May 21. David Lynch’s trippy Pacific Northwest mix of murder mystery, other-worldly weirdness, dark comedy, and human oddity is currently rolling forward on Showtime with its first new episodes — 18 episodes all — since the show went off the air after a high-profile two-season run on ABC in 1990 and 1991. It may have been a victim of diminishing ratings brought on by questionable creative decisions or fading novelty. Still, the show was like nothing else on the air at the time, presenting the adventures of straight-arrow FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) who is tasked with investigating the death of a high school homecoming queen in a small logging town populated by a slew of weirdoes with dark secrets. Regardless of what Lynch and company have up their collective sleeve, MacLachlan and many other original cast members are back, and so is the off-kilter nonsensibility.
PLAYING CARDS AND VENTURING INTO THE BLACK
Continuing as of May 30 via Netflix streaming service, the seemingly prescient political drama House of Cards presents its fifth season with Kevin Spacey as conniving congressman Frank Underwood, who ascends to the U.S. presidency through a variety of machinations and Robin Wright as his driven, opportunistic wife, Claire.
June 4 brings new episodes of Fear the Walking Dead, AMC’s Southwestern-based spinoff of their stratospherically popular zombie apocalypse program The Walking Dead.
Orange Is the New Black, the lionized, ground-breaking dramedy set in a women’s prison, also returns for a fifth Netflix run June 9, so get ready to lock it down.
With a few well-deserved best-actress awards under her belt, Tatiana Maslany headlines her fifth and final season as a troop of distinctive, sometimes combative, sometimes loving clone sisters on the clever, technically dazzling science-fiction adventure, Orphan Black, back on BBC America starting June 10. It’s not a multiple personality disorder; it’s a tour de force.
A serialized reinterpretation of Stephen King’s horror novella-turned-movie The Mist — featuring a group of small town folks bedeviled by a strange fog and besieged by alien creatures — begins June 22 on the Spike cable channel.
Preacher, adapted from the mature readers’ comic book of the same name, returns June 25 for a second season on AMC with more of its snarky mix of modern Western, the sacred, the profane, and the downright freaky.
HBO pulls out the biggest gun (or spear) in its arsenal when the premium channel premieres the penultimate season of the sweeping sword-and-sorcery epic Game of Thrones on July 16. The game in question continues to be “who wants to be ruler of the seven kingdoms?” And yes, there will be dragons (bigger and badder than ever), not to mention all of the characters who have survived the chaos of war to try to attain the Iron Throne of Westros. Longtime cast members Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Lena Headey, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are all back — at least as this seventh season commences.
Another genre property returning to home screens July 16 is filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s bio-shock series The Strain, coming to FX for a fourth and final run. Catch the virulence at your own risk.
CRIME, PUNISHMENT, AND TV
Although it never reaches the heights and depths of The Sopranos, Ray Donovan, beginning its fifth Showtime season Aug. 6, is also a consistently entertaining television saga about a family undone by a criminal legacy. Liev Schreiber’s spring-loaded performance as antihero Ray — morally conflicted husband, father, brother, son, and Hollywood fixer — is the show’s anchor. Adding to the package, the program additionally offers insights into the entertainment, business, and sports worlds Ray navigates in sunbaked contemporary Los Angeles.
A quartet of gritty, more traditional heroes comes together as the heart of The Defenders, the latest Netflix series about the darker side of the Marvel Comics universe. Available for streaming Aug. 18, The Defenders is set in the mean streets and alleys of New York City, and brings together the stars of the previous Marvel/Netflix shows — Charlie Cox (Daredevil), Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones), Mike Colter (Luke Cage), and Finn Jones (Iron Fist) — to face common enemies, including super-stealth ninja warriors and an enigmatic woman played by Sigourney Weaver.
Ending the summer debuts on a comedic note, Episodes — one of the flat-out funniest TV series of the past decade — returns to Showtime for its fifth and final season Aug. 20. Even as former Friends mainstay Matt LeBlanc takes the conventional prime-time route these days with the tired CBS domestic comedy Man with a Plan, he’s been doing the best work of his career as a fictionalized version of himself on Episodes. LeBlanc is just one of the pleasures of this Anglo-American co-production about a British husband and wife writing team (Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan) lured stateside to remake their award-winning U.K. series as a dumbed-down American sitcom. More daunting, the couple is forced to build the U.S. version of their show around an egomaniacal, self-destructive LeBlanc, trying to regain the glory and fame of his Friends days. Episodes manages to skewer the television industry and Los Angeles lifestyles with wit and uncommon insight. Now, that’s must-see TV.