Only ancient, cable-unfriendly, New Media–resistant folk dread the doldrums of what used to be called rerun season — you know … summer? Nowadays we have hope and Netflix and a more delightful year-round production period brought to you by content producers instead of studios. Sure, you could spend the warm months wallowing in video leftovers, bingeing on the joys of the “regular” season past. You meant to watch The Last Man on Earth all year, and there it sits on your DVR. But, even better, new shows both fresh and familiar beckon from your TV, computer screen, and smartphone. Who even has time for the great outdoors? Since when does dodging the Zika virus seem more promising than an all-black-cast remake of a big John Candy movie?
Returning shows are plentiful, but only a couple seem mandatory. The first is the crazy success story of Orange Is the New Black (Netflix, June 17) in its fourth season, bringing the epic complexity and character range of Game of Thrones to the constricted genre of white-heat-behind-bars, girl-prison films. Like The Americans, which seems to be softening in front of our eyes, OITNB manages to routinely take us to catastrophe’s edge and stop just before show canceling seemed inevitable. The best return to TV, however, and one of the most intensely crafted programs in TV history, is Mr. Robot (USA, July 13), a show about an idealistic and corrupt hacker. It’s intelligent, beautifully shot, riddled with profound mysteries, and frightening on a level more psyche-disturbing than nerve-tingling. Watching it religiously, I’m still not convinced that it isn’t an extensive delusion.
Bewildering new stuff is coming, too, as television outlets battle for your eyes. On broadcast television, which seems to have stepped up its risqué games, we have fresh horrors such as American Gothic (CBS, June 22), yet another abuse of the Grant Wood painting title. This one includes Virginia Madsen and the youngest of the Bateman boys, Gabriel. BrainDead (CBS, June 13), from the creators of the The Good Wife, brings Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Tony Shalhoub together in a psychotic version of Veep. Freeform, formerly ABC Family, enters the jokey horror cycle with Dead of Summer (June 28), featuring teens alone in a spooky camp called Stillwater. What could go wrong?
Animal Kingdom (TNT, June 14) is the movie-to-TV adaptation of the summer. Ellen Barkin stars in the thrilling existential role Jacki Weaver created on the 2010 big-screen Australian film transplanted to beachside U.S.A., the story of a cold-blooded mother hell-bent on protecting her sociopath sons. The movie was great; let’s hope the show expands the concept like the TV Fargo did for the Coens’ film. The always style-driven AMC folks are busy adapting, too; in this case it’s Preacher (AMC, already running), taken from the bloody Steve Dillon Vertigo comic book starring the great Dominic Cooper as a man of God possessed by a demon. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg produced this hipster Southwest blood fest.
Just relax — there is a lighter side to summer months ahead, and the most promising debut is The Get Down, a hip-hop, punk-rock-disco origin story coming from the Baz Luhrmann (Netflix, Aug. 12), and nobody does overlavish like Luhrmann. The rather infamous telenovela La reina del sur is being remade as, you guessed it, Queen of the South (USA, June 23) with the electric Alice Braga stepping in for the infinitely more famous Kate del Castillo — famous if you speak Spanish, that is. (Castillo played a pivotal role in the rounding up of El Chapo, who was a fan of the original show, too.) Netflix and Cameron Crowe are paying overdue tribute to the life of rock and roll’s slaves. Roadies stars two of the greatest women working the pulp end of cinema, Imogen Poots (Green Room) and Carla Gugino (Sin City, San Andreas.)
Most Intriguing awards go to three debuts: Stranger Things, a Netflix creeper feature with Wynona Ryder, among others. Little info has been offered. Uncle Buck, the aforementioned all-African-American remake of John Candy’s tour de farce. And last but likely best, Vice Principals, an HBO show starring Danny McBride and Walton Goggins as the profane lords of discipline in a high school where getting high is paramount. It’s a maraschino cherry on a rich summer parfait, and I’ll be there when not sunk down in Retro TV’s 1980s Doctor Who episodes, rerunning my way to ecstasy.