Summer is here, but, frankly, the TV premieres look a little too scrawny in their bikinis and Speedos – especially compared with recent summers. Is it because the Olympics are coming in August? Would it have anything to do with wall-to-wall Republican and Democratic convention coverage headed our way in July?
There’s a lot on (there’s always a lot on), but I still don’t see that deluxe, highly anticipated new drama series to fill out our Sunday nights. Nor am I sensing much in the way of a can’t-miss comedy. Even the reality shows seem to be resigned to the fact that our political season has been more ridiculous than anything they could cook up. Notice how ABC has resorted to resuscitating 1970s game shows all summer. (New versions of “The $100,000 Pyramid” and “Match Game” – just what we didn’t need.)
But what’s your alternative? Get up and go outside? Perish the thought! To keep you couch-bound, I present this curated list of summer premieres for new dramas, comedies, specials, reality shows and documentaries. My recommendations are noted. Sit tight and dream of fall.
(* = Worth a look)
– Shows that have already premiered
“Maya & Marty” (Tuesdays at 10 on NBC) Maya Rudolph and Martin Short make a go at reviving the variety show. Response so far? Tepid. Premiered May 31.
“Cleverman” (Wednesdays at 10 on SundanceTV) Intriguing but confusing futuristic drama about a race of “hairypeople” who try to assimilate to society, which gets harder when one of their own is accused of murder. Premiered June 1.
*”Outcast” (Fridays at 10 on Cinemax) Patrick Fugit stars as a dour West Virginia man with a skill for battling demons in this absorbing horror series from “Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman. Premiered June 3.
“Feed the Beast” (Tuesdays at 10 on AMC) David Schwimmer and Jim Sturgess play argumentative best buds who try to open a restaurant in the Bronx amid personal problems and mob interference. Based on a Dutch series, it’s unfortunately overcooked. Premiered June 5.
“Barbarians Rising” (Mondays at 9 on History) Four-episode series uses expert commentary and dramatization to re-create the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of barbarians we know and love, including Hannibal and Attila. Premiered June 6.
“The Vanishing Women” (Mondays at 10 on Investigation Discovery) Six-part docuseries examines possible links in six recent cases of missing or murdered women in Chillicothe, Ohio. Premiered June 6.
“Dark Woods Justice” (Tuesdays at 10 on Discovery) Reality series about sheriff’s deputies who patrol the vast Olympic Peninsula in Washington state – cases include poaching and missing persons. Premiered June 7.
“Ladylike” (Thursdays at 10:30 on MTV) From the folks at “Girl Code,” a prank show meant to highlight attitudes about gender. Premiered June 9.
“The American West” (Saturdays at 10 on AMC) Eight-episode docuseries (produced by Robert Redford) about the West in the decades after the Civil War – paired with the final episodes of AMC’s railroad drama, “Hell on Wheels.” Premiered June 11.
*”Still the King” (Sundays at 9 on CMT) Surreal dramedy stars Billy Ray Cyrus as a one-hit wonder who bottoms out and reinvents himself as an Elvis impersonator. Premiered June 12.
*”Ride With Norman Reedus” (Sundays at 10 on AMC) The actor who plays Darryl, everyone’s favorite “Walking Dead” survivor, takes viewers on a few motorcycle excursions. He turns out to be quite the friendly chatterbox. Premiered June 12.
*”Guilt” (Mondays at 9 on Freeform) London-set mystery series about an American student in London who winds up being a suspect in her roommate’s murder. Starring Billy Zane and Emily Tremaine. Premiered June 13.
*”BrainDead” (Mondays at 10 on CBS) Larky horror drama from “Good Wife” creators Robert and Michelle King about a Capitol Hill staffer who discovers that a parasite is eating the brains of lawmakers. Premiered June 13.
*”Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge” (Mondays at 10 on NBC) Competition series from the “American Ninja Warrior” series in which teams compete on demanding “Spartan” obstacle courses for a $250,000 prize. Premiered June 13.
“Cilla” (AcornTV) Three-part period drama about British pop star Cilla Black, whose circle of ’60s fame included the Beatles. Premiered June 13.
*”Uncle Buck” (Tuesdays at 9 on ABC) Mike Epps stars in this update based on the 1989 movie – and it’s actually kind of funny. Premiered June 14
“Wrecked” (Tuesdays at 10 on TBS) Looking a whole lot like a “Lost” spoof that’s about five years too late, this comedy is about a group of people who survive a plane crash on an island. Premiered June 14.
*”Animal Kingdom” (Tuesdays at 9 on TNT) Based on a 2010 Australian film, this drama stars Ellen Barkin as the matriarch of a Southern California crime family that’s accustomed to living large and will fight to protect their business. Premiered June 14.
– Sunday, June 19
“Vicious” (PBS at 8, check local listings) One-hour series finale (in lieu of a third season) about a pair of sniping elderly longtime companions (Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi) who might finally realize they can’t live without each other.
“Top Secret Swimming Holes” (Travel Channel at 10) Travelogue series about the marvelous out-of-the-way places you could be enjoying, instead of watching cable TV.
“Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies” (CNN at 10) Eight-part docuseries recounts the intriguing details of newly declassified missions and the spies who carried them out.
“EJNYC” (E! at 11) EJ Johnson, son of Magic Johnson and one of the “#RichKids of Beverly Hills,” gets his own six-episode reality show.
– Monday, June 20
“Raised by Wolves” (AcornTV) British dramedy about a raunchy and socially isolated family of home-schooled kids.
*”Suited” (HBO at 9) Documentary about a Brooklyn tailor who makes custom suits for gender-nonconforming and transgender clients, including a boy getting ready for his bar mitzvah and a trans man preparing for his wedding.
– Wednesday, June 22
“Serena: The Other Side of Greatness” (Epix at 8) Documentary goes inside the private world of champion athlete/designer/businesswoman Serena Williams.
*”American Gothic” (CBS at 10) Drama series set in Boston, where a prominent family learns that one of their own may be the city’s notorious “Silver Bells Killer,” who committed a string of grisly murders years ago.
*”Any Given Wednesday With Bill Simmons” (HBO at 10) The former ESPN host and founder of “Grantland” and “The Ringer” brings his sports-meets-culture shtick to a new weekly show.
“How to Build … Everything” (Science at 10) A group of scientists break down even the most complicated machines and structures (a cruise ship, for example) and show how they’re not really that hard to build.
– Thursday, June 23
*”Thirteen” (BBC America at 10) Five-part drama about a woman who escapes the cellar where she was held captive for 13 years and now has to put her life back together. (Not a comedy, Kimmy.)
*”Queen of the South” (USA at 10) Drama series based on Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s novel “La Reina Del Sur,” starring Alice Braga as a Mexican woman who seeks refuge in the United States after her drug-dealing boyfriend is murdered and then plots her revenge on the cartel.
– Friday, June 24
“Adventures in Babysitting” (Disney at 8) A do-over of the 1987 comedy film, only this time there are two babysitters and more kids, so it’s extra shenanigans all around.
“Bizaardvark” (Disney at 9:45) Olivia Rodrigo and Madison Hu star in this new sitcom as two best friends who record songs and post them to the Internet.
– Saturday, June 25
“Center Stage: On Pointe” (Lifetime at 8) Sequel to the 2000 movie “Center Stage,” about young dancers who attend a prestigious ballet academy.
“The Wedding March” (Hallmark at 9) Jack Wagner and Josie Bissett star in this tale of college sweethearts who are reunited years later when he’s hired to sing at her wedding to another man.
“Deon Cole: Cole-Blooded Seminar” (Comedy Central at midnight) Stand-up comedy special from one of the writers at “Conan.”
– Sunday, June 26
*”BET Awards 2016″ (BET at 8) Live from L.A.’s Microsoft Theater, hosted by Marlon Wayans. Nominees include Drake, Beyoncé, Rihanna, The Weeknd – plus, of course, a tribute to the dearly beloved Prince.
*”Roadies” (Showtime at 10) Drama series from filmmaker Cameron Crowe (“Almost Famous”) follows the lives of the people behind the scenes of a big-arena rock tour and the family-like relationship that forms on the road. Stars Luke Wilson (“Enlightened”) and Carla Gugino (“Wayward Pines”).
“Alexander Hamilton” (History at 9) A two-hour documentary cashes in on the renewed interest in America’s “forgotten” Founding Father.
“The $100,000 Pyramid” (ABC at 9) Michael Strahan hosts a new version of the classic syndicated game show.
*”Match Game” (ABC at 10) Alec Baldwin hosts a new version of the occasionally bawdy ’70s game show.
– Monday, June 27
*”How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things That Climate Can’t Change” (HBO at 9) The third documentary in Josh Fox’s “Gasland” trilogy tries to end on a positive note about the human spirit, which prevails in the face of so much environmental ruin.
*”POV: The Look of Silence” (PBS, check local listings) Joshua Oppenheimer’s Oscar-nominated documentary about an Indonesian man who confronts the people who killed his brother.
– Tuesday, June 28
“Gold Medal Families” (Lifetime at 9) Docuseries follows a group of Summer Olympics hopefuls and the families who support them.
“No Man Left Behind” (National Geographic Channel at 9) Docuseries revisits the harrowing tales of soldiers and special agents who were stranded in enemy territory and had to survive on their own while awaiting rescue.
– Thursday, June 30
“Greatest Hits” (ABC at 9) Forget the lip-sync showdowns. Arsenio Hall hosts this friendly competition among celebrities to see who can actually sing hits from the 1980s, ’90s and ’00s.
– Friday, July 1
“Jim Jefferies: Freedumb” (Netflix ) Stand-up special from a provocative Australian comedian who has his own ideas about (among other things) airplane etiquette and Americans’ discomfort with the c-word.
“Marcella” (Netflix) British series stars Anna Friel as a detective whose life is at a breaking point.
– Sunday, July 3
“The Hunt” (BBC America at 9) David Attenborough narrates this new docuseries on the speed, stealth, stamina and strength of some of nature’s most successful predators.
“Island Explorers” (Travel Channel at 11) Travelogue features a husband and wife who go deep on discovering the Hawaiian Islands. Nice work if you can get it.
“Secrets of America’s Favorite Places” (Discovery Family Channel at 6) Travelogue visits iconic sites (including the Statue of Liberty and Lincoln Memorial) in search of facts about them that you probably didn’t know, unless you’re one of those dadsplainers who can always be found nearby.
– Monday, July 4
“Idris Elba: No Limits” (Discovery at 7) The award-winning star of “Luther” goes on some races across land, air and water – all designed to test his physical and mental abilities.
*”A Capitol Fourth” (PBS at 8) Fireworks and festivities live from the Mall for people who love air-conditioning. It’s the perfect solution.
– Tuesday, July 5
“Big Easy Motors” (History at 10) Docuseries/car culture. Charles Handler travels all over Louisiana looking for overlooked automotive treasures in the junkyards of the bayous.
“Greatest Ever” (TruTV at 10) Comedy countdown show hosted by Amanda Seales takes viewers through the do’s and don’ts of topics like weddings, animal videos, sports, political campaigns, what-have-you.
“Black Market” (Viceland at 10) Docuseries hosted by Michael K. Williams explores the dangerous world of illicit trade.
– Wednesday, July 6
“Vice Does America” (Viceland at 10) Three Vice staffers set off on a road trip from comfortably hip Brooklyn and travel across the country to meet actual Americans and examine their realness. Actual Americans will be delighted to meet them, no doubt.
– Friday, July 8
“Million Dollar Matchmaker” (WeTV at 10) Remember Patti Stanger, Bravo’s bossy yenta for emotionally fragile, hard-to-date millionaires? She’s back, on WeTV this time, ready to give the folks in her millionaires club another chance at finding love.
– Saturday, July 9
“Jail: Big Texas” (Spike at 9) Twenty new episodes of this reality series about incarceration (from the producers of “Cops”), this time in some of the Lone Star State’s county jails.
“Princess Diana: Behind Closed Doors” (Reelz at 9) NBC’s Natalie Morales hosts this look at all the things about Diana (who would have turned 55 this month) that we apparently never knew.
– Sunday, July 10
*”DB Cooper” (History at 9) Four-part documentary about the mysterious man who hijacked a plane in 1971 and jumped from it out over the Northwest with $200,000 in ransom money, never to be seen again. Series revisits the case in depth and tags along with people determined to solve it.
“Princess Diana’s Death: Mystery Solved” (Reelz at 9) An “internationally renowned” detective revisits the 1997 car crash that killed the royal icon.
– Monday, July 11
“Jericho” (AcornTV) Eight-episode British period drama set in the 1870s about a widowed mother who opens up a lodging house for workers building a railway viaduct.
*”POV: Pervert Park” (PBS, at check local listings) Documentary about a Florida trailer park that offers shelter to 120 registered sex offenders who have difficulty finding new places to live.
“VH1’s Hip Hop Honors” (VH1 at 9) Annual show pays homage to groundbreaking hip-hop artists.
– Wednesday, July 13
“The A Word” (Sundance TV at 10) British drama about a couple whose 5-year-old son is diagnosed with autism. The story broadens to include other family members, including the boy’s aunt and uncle, whose marriage is on the rocks, and his recently widowed grandfather.
“2016 ESPYS” (ABC at 8) John Cena hosts this year’s all-things-sports awards show.
– Thursday, July 14
“Doc & Darryl” (ESPN at 9) A “30 for 30” documentary (produced by Judd Apatow) about the highs and lows of New York Mets stars Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry.
– Friday, July 15
“Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru” (Netflix) Documentary from Joe Berlinger (“Metallica: Some Kind of Monster”) goes behind the scenes at a Boca Raton, Florida, weekend seminar hosted by the successful self-help author Tony Robbins.
– Sunday, July 17
“Vice Principals” (HBO at 10:30) Comedy series from Jody Hill and Danny McBride (“Eastbound & Down”) stars McBride and Walton Goggins as inept high school administrators locked in a battle to become the next principal.
“Life’s a Beach” (Travel Channel at 11) Trips to incredible beach towns that could persuade visitors to stay forever. (Who needs convincing?)
– Monday, July 18
“Cradle to Grave” (AcornTV) Comedy series set in 1974 recounts humorous stories of British broadcaster Danny Baker and his family.
“Open Your Eyes” (HBO at 9) Documentary follows an elderly Nepalese couple who’ve acquired profound cataracts after a life in the Himalayan sun; a team of doctors offers the chance to help them see again.
*”Six” (History at 10) Drama series about Navy SEAL Team 6, whose 2014 mission to eliminate a Taliban leader goes awry when they uncover a U.S. citizen working as a jihadist fighter with the terrorists. Written by William Broyles (“Cast Away,””Apollo 13”) and his son, David Broyles, a Special-Ops veteran.
– Tuesday, July 19
*”Shooter” (USA at 10) In this series adaptation of former Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter’s best-selling novels, expert marksman Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillippe) comes out of retirement to prevent a presidential assassination – but winds up being the prime suspect instead.
– Thursday, July 21
“Syfy Presents Live From Comic-Con” (Syfy at 8) Live coverage of all the news from this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego. (Wait – don’t tell me: Another dozen new superhero movies ahead.)
– Saturday, July 23
*”Looking: The Movie” (HBO, time tba) A two-hour film wraps things up on the superb (but underwatched) HBO series about three gay men in San Francisco. Hope springs eternal that Patrick (Jonathan Groff) will wind up with Richie (Raúl Castillo).
– Monday, July 25
“Murdoch Mysteries: A Very Murdoch Christmas” (AcornTV) Movie-length holiday special of the popular Canadian series, with guest stars Ed Asner and Brendan Coyle. A philanthropist goes missing, threatening the yuletide happiness of Toronto’s orphans. But Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) is on the case.
– Thursday, July 27
“Ozzy and Jack’s World Detour” (History at 10) Travelogue series features heavy-metal legend Ozzy Osbourne and his son, Jack, hitting the road – not for a rock tour, but to indulge their mutual interest in historical sites, such as the Alamo, Stonehenge, Mount Rushmore, Roswell, N.M., and the Jamestown colony.
– Sunday, July 31
“Sharknado: The 4th Awakens” (Syfy at 8) The bad-movie franchise that doesn’t know the meaning of “jumping the shark” returns for a fourth chapter, even though pop-culture forecasters have reduced it to waterspout.
“Teen Choice 2016” (Fox at 8) Couldn’t all teen choices be settled via Instagram and Snapchat these days? Apparently not, so it’s still a full-blown awards show.
– Monday, Aug. 1
*”Meet the Donors: Does Money Talk?” (HBO at 9) The latest documentary from Alexandra Pelosi, who hits the road to meet the mega-donors who bankroll America’s presidential candidates.
– Tuesday, Aug. 2
*”American Experience: The Boys of ’36” (PBS, check local listings) Documentary about nine men from the University of Washington who rowed their way to a gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.
– Wednesday, Aug. 3
*”Koko – The Gorilla Who Talks” (PBS, check local listings) Documentary about the famous cat-loving gorilla, now in her 40s, who captivated the world when she became conversant in sign language.
“CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” (ABC at 8) Three-hour special hosted by Brett Eldredge and Thomas Rhett features highlight from a four-day festival in June.
– Friday, Aug. 5
*”2016 Rio Olympic Games – Opening Ceremonies” (NBC) Kickoff extravaganza to the Summer Olympics, which run through Aug. 21.
– Monday, Aug. 8
“The Rise and Fall of El Chapo” (History at 8) Documentary about the slippery (recently recaptured) fugitive head of an international drug cartel.
*”Hitchcock/Truffaut” (HBO at 9) Documentary revisits the week-long 1962 conversation between directors Francois Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock, when the great British director shared cinema secrets and advice with his younger admirer.
– Tuesday, Aug. 9
“Botched by Nature” (E! at 9) Spinoff reality series features patients who are seeking to fix something about their appearance that is all nature’s fault.
– Friday, Aug. 12
*”The Get Down” (Netflix) First six episodes of a hip-hop drama series from Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge,””Australia”). Cast includes Jimmy Smits, Giancarlo Esposito and Jaden Smith.
– Sunday, Aug. 14
“Chesapeake Shores” (Hallmark at 9) Based on novels by Sheryl Woods, about a divorced New York City mother (Meghan Ory) who travels back to her Maryland home town, where old friendships and loves await, including her high school sweetheart (Jesse Metcalfe).
– Monday, Aug. 22
“Cheer Squad” (Freeform at 10) Reality series follows a group of competitive cheerleaders known as the Great White Sharks. (Get this, they’re from Canada. That just seems wrong – isn’t cheerleading the ultimate American folk culture?)
– Tuesday, Aug. 23
“Better Late Than Never” (NBC at 10) Reality show sends four celebrities (William Shatner, Henry Winkler, Terry Bradshaw and George Foreman) across Asia with no itinerary and no help – other than “guidance” provided by a comedian (Jeff Dye) who is lying to them. To answer your question: Yes, the Olympics are over.
“Lifescaping”(TruTV at 10:30) Reality series offers tips to all those things you’re supposed to know how to do, but don’t – such as getting a bartender’s attention or knowing when to tell a lie.
– Wednesday, Aug. 24
*”Gomorrah” (SundanceTV at 10) Italy’s “all-time most popular TV series” comes to SundanceTV, a mob drama set in Naples and told through the perspective of godfather’s right-hand man.
“Cleveland Hustles” (CNBC at 10) NBA superstar LeBron James and his friend and business partner Maverick Carter give advice (and seed money) to local entrepreneurs in Cleveland.
– Friday, Aug. 26
“Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy: We’ve Been Thinking …” (Netflix) Comedy special features topical discourse between two widely admired public intellectuals.
– Sunday, Aug. 28
“MTV Video Music Awards” (MTV) Live from Madison Square Garden, the usual stuff and nonsense.
– Wednesday, Aug. 31
*”Shut Eye” (Hulu) Drama series about the world of storefront psychics in Los Angeles and the organized crime syndicate that controls their lives. Jeffrey Donovan (“Burn Notice”) stars as a failed magician who now oversees a group of fortunetellers.