From Westworld to the Upper West Side — and Westeros, too, for that matter — this summer is packed with new series and a few notable returning ones, too.
What's new? On Disney +, there's the long-awaited re-entrance of Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi and on HBO, the much-anticipated prequel to "Game of Thrones." Meanwhile, after a long breather due to COVID, "The Boys" is back (June 3) and "Westworld" (June 26) too, while "Stranger Things" (May 27) is right around the corner.
Any surprises or that which qualifies as Your Next Big Obsession? Yes, and this summer preview will offer a few ideas about that too.
PREHISTORIC PLANET (Apple TV+)
The summer begins with this blast from the past — about 66 million years in the past, give or take. Over five episodes (coasts, deserts, freshwater, ice worlds, forests), "Prehistoric Planet" begins with a Tyrannosaurus Rex paddling to a distant island, with a brood of hatchlings in his wake. (Yes, apparently T Rex could swim.) The graphics are spectacular, while the commentary from Sir David Attenborough is of the "here we are with the allosaurus" variety, giving this a weirdly contemporary vibe. Prepare to be impressed.
THIS IS US (NBC/4, 9 p.m.)
This is it, "This is Us'' fans. Worry no more about Rebecca's (Mandy Moore) dementia, or Kevin's (Justin Hartley) love life, or Randall's (Sterling K. Brown) political future, or Kate's (Chrissy Metz) new marriage. Or worry all you want. This is the finale, and if "This Is Us" has proved anything over the last six seasons, expect the unexpected. There will be a surprise ending. Of that, you may be certain.
THE GREAT AMERICAN TAG SALE WITH MARTHA STEWART (ABC/7, 8); THE AMERICAN RESCUE DOG SHOW (ABC/7, 9)
Who knew Martha Stewart collected a vast assortment of junk, er, great stuff over a lifetime? We we can now witness her selling it all off (proceeds to Mount Sinai Martha Stewart Centers for Living); Meanwhile, rescue dogs at last get their prime-time close-up, in this best-in-show competition.
ELLEN (WNBC/4, 3)
After 19 years, Ellen DeGeneres' talk show wraps up a legendary run — which was made a little less legendary after sordid reports surfaced about workplace conditions on the set. But this finale won't be getting into any of that. Instead, this celebratory final episode will include Jennifer Aniston, who was the very first guest in 2003, while Pink and Billie Eilish are scheduled to also appear.
GREAT PERFORMANCES: COMPANY (WNET/13, 9)
For fans of the Stephen Sondheim's (and George Furth's) 1970 musical, this ' special looks at the recent revival over a two-year span, and promises lots of performances and interviews, including with Northport's own Patti LuPone and co-star Katrina Lenk. Sondheim, who died in November at 91, also spoke with producers about the legacy of his classic.
OBI-WAN KENOBI (Disney +)
One of TV's (and streaming) tent poles of the entire year, this six-parter is perhaps most anticipated for the return of Ewan McGregor in the role that he immortalized all those years ago — and immortalized three times no less, in "The Phantom Menace" (1999), "Attack of the Clones" (2002), and "Revenge of the Sith" (2005). The Jedi Master is older now, as we all are, and exiled on Tatooine where he's in mourning over past failures, notably that biggie: Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen, also reprising this famous role) going over to the Dark Side, as Darth Vader. "Obi-Wan" takes place 10 years after "Revenge of the Sith," and boasts some other big stars, including Indira Varma as an Imperial Officer and Rupert Friend as the Grand Inquisitor of the Galactic Empire.
STRANGER THINGS (Netflix)
Speaking of tentpoles, it's hard to overstate the importance of the long-awaited 4th season for Netflix, which will split these nine episodes over two parts, with the second arriving July 1. About this 4th, not all that much is known beyond what the (showrunners) Duffer Brothers announced via a letter to fans in February: Jim Hopper (David Harbour) "is imprisoned far from home in the snowy wasteland of Kamchatka, Russia, where he will face dangers both human and other. Meanwhile, back in the States, a new horror is beginning to surface, something long-buried, something that connects everything …".
BIOGRAPHY: BOBBY BROWN (A&E, 8)
Bobby Brown will be the two-night Memorial Day "event" at A&E, beginning with "Biography" on the 30th, then "Bobby Brown: Every Little Step" on the 31st (10 p.m.) The throughline: "The R&B icon unveils his struggles with substance abuse, his marriage to Whitney Houston, the devastating loss of Houston and his two children and his life as a devoted father and husband to Alicia Etheredge-Brown," plus lots of interviews, including Usher, Jermaine Dupri, Keith Sweat, Babyface …"Every Little Step" is, in fact, the first episode of a 12-part series that will follow the Browns "as they embark on a new chapter of life."
PISTOL (FX on Hulu)
The Sex Pistols are getting a six-episode series, courtesy of Oscar winner Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire," "Trainspotting"), with all of us left to wonder how even someone with the considerable talents of Boyle can begin to make sense of this band. He had a little help, notably band founder Steve Jones' 2017 memoir, "Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol." (More recently, Jones has attempted to make sense of those long-ago years with his podcast, Jonesy's Jukebox.) As you probably know, the Sex Pistols helped launch the punk movement starting in 1975, and by the time they disbanded (for the first time) three years later, had shattered a whole lot of crockery (1977's "God Save the Queen," as just one shattering example.) Boyle put it this way: "Imagine breaking into the world of 'The Crown' and 'Downton Abbey' with your mates and screaming your songs and your fury at all they represent." This is centered around Jones' (Toby Wallace) story, but other hell-raisers get their due, including Sid Vicious (Louis Partridge), Johnny Rotten (Anson Boon), Chrissie Hynde (Sydney Chandler), Siouxsie Sioux (Beth Dillon) and many others,
THE ORVILLE: NEW HORIZONS (Hulu)
Afterh the first two seasons aired on Fox, "The Orville" finally returns this time to Hulu. The cast (led by Seth MacFarlane) is returning intact. For a refresher: The Orville boldly goes where no man has gone before although a few classic TV series have, notably "Star Trek," of which this is both homage and parody.
THIS IS GOING TO HURT (AMC+)
As he so often is, Ben Whishaw ("Fargo," "A Very English Scandal" and much much else) is the chief reason to check out this amusing adaptation of a memoir by Adam Kay, a young doctor finding his way through the bewildering world of a large London Hospital circa 2006. Whishaw's Kay occasionally confides to the camera (think "Fleabag") while hell breaks loose around him over seven episodes.
THE BOYS (Prime Video)
Fans have had to wait a long time for the third season but they shouldn't be disappointed. As a refresher, Prime's franchise series is the Eric Kripke adaptation of the DC Comic of the same name (by Garth Ennis and Darrick Robertson), about the global company Vought International, which rents out a group of seven superheroes ("The Seven'') and the vigilante group ("The Boys") that seeks to demolish this craven act of hero worship and all the misdeeds that it (and they) represent. Karl Urban is back as their leader, Billy Butcher, and so is Antony Starr as arch-nemesis Homelander.
AMERICAN MASTERS: JOE PAPP IN FIVE ACTS (WNET/13, 9)
The founder of the Public Theater and "Shakespeare in the Park" and producer of "Hair," "A Chorus Line" and "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (when the Rainbow is Enuf") finally gets his "Masters" close-up, 31 years after his death in 1991.
IRMA VEP (HBO, 9)
Mira (Alicia Vikander) is fed up with her stalled Hollywood career, so does the next best logical thing — she heads to France to star in a remake of a 1915 French silent film, "Les Vampires." (No working knowledge of French to know what the subject was.) This eight-parter has famous roots: The 1996 drama-comedy-thriller of the same name with Maggie Cheung in the title role and directed by Olivier Assayas, who returns for this TV reboot.
MS. MARVEL (Disney +)
This seventh TV series from the famously prolific MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) stars newcomer Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, a shapeshifter with elongation powers and so much else. Six episodes.
Adam Sandler plays a former basketball scout who recruits a player from overseas to play in the NBA; This movie also stars Queen Latifah, Ben Foster and Robert Duvall.
QUEER AS FOLK (Peacock+)
Russell T. Davies' pioneering series on gay life (2000-05) has been rebooted once before (for Showtime) and now comes a third time. Set in New Orleans, this stars drag queen Debbie with a D, while the throughline (via IMDB) reads, "[Folk] centers on a group of club-going friends who find support in the gay community following a tragedy."
LOOK AT ME: XXXTENTACION (Hulu)
This documentary on the rapper — shot and killed in 2018 at the age of 20 — was directed by Sabaah Folayan, who made her debut at Sundance back in 2017 with "Whose Streets?" (about Ferguson, Missouri when Michael Brown Jr. was killed). "Look at Me" was the hit single off XXXtentacion's 2017 debut album.
BECOMING ELIZABETH (Starz, 9)
Can the world get enough of Elizabeth — in this instance, Elizabeth I (German actor Alicia Von Rittberg)? A rhetorical question with an obvious answer: Probably not. This eight-episode series from British playwright Anya Reiss promises a slightly different perspective on Elizabeth, by looking at her life after the death of her father Henry VIII in 1547 and before her ascension to the throne in 1558. Those 10 years were complicated ones filled with other major figures, including her siblings Edward (Oliver Zetterström) and Mary (Romola Garai). This one looks good indeed.
DARK WINDS (AMC, 9; AMC+)
Fans of Tony Hillerman (who died in 2008) will be lining up for this six-parter, which is why AMC has taken the unusual move of launching it on both its linear and streaming channels. While not tied to a specific novel, this does bring back veteran Tribal cop Joe Leaphorn (Zahn McClarnon) and his restless protégé Jim Chee (Kiowa Gordon) under the wide-open skies of New Mexico (and yes, parts were filmed in the Navajo Nation.) A wild armored car heist opens the series — a little wilder than anything Hillerman ever wrote This comes from Prime's "Jack Ryan" co-creator Graham Roland, so expect a touch of Tom Clancy too. Of note: Noah Emmerich and Rainn Wilson also star, as an FBI agent and missionary, respectively.
Two words — "J" and "Lo." OK, maybe not words but you get the idea. This documentary (from Amanda Micheli) charts the career of Jennifer Lopez but refracts it through the perspective of just one performance, her halftime show at Super Bowl LIV in 2020.
AMERICAN MASTERS: BRIAN WILSON — LONG PROMISED ROAD (WNET/13, 9)
This must've been quite the curiosity at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it bowed in 2021, if only because of the unorthodox format: Wilson and Rolling Stone editor Jason Fine driving around Los Angeles, talking about his storied career.
GOD'S FAVORITE IDIOT (Netflix)
Melissa McCarthy and (husband) Ben Falcone in a rom-com about a guy who gets struck by lightning because God has decided he is the one to save the world. Falcone created this eight-parter.
THE OLD MAN (FX, 10)
Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges finally returns to a regular TV series role after — ready for this number? — after a 61-year absence. (He was last seen on the small tube when small himself, alongside dad Lloyd in "Sea Hunt.") There's considerable anticipation here for other reasons — the series was shut down twice, first for COVID, then for Bridges' cancer treatment. It's based on Thomas Perry's 2017 thriller about a former CIA operative on the run from hit men. Seven episodes.
JERRY AND MARGE GO LARGE (Paramount +); SPIDERHEAD (Netflix)
These two movies on two streaming services should offer considerable distraction upon arrival. The former stars Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening, as Jerry and Marge Selbe who figured out a trick to win the Massachusetts lottery; and "Spiderhead," based on the George Saunders short story about prisoners who can reduce prison time by volunteering to become guinea pigs in a drug experiment (with Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller and Jurnee Smollett).
HOTEL PORTOFINO (WNET/13, 8)
This six-parter should easily become someone's summer fixation for two fairly obvious reasons: 1.) Star Natascha McElhone, who plays an expat hotel proprietor in Italy; and 2.) Italy. This period dramedy about the Roaring '20s on the Italian Riviera was filmed (yes) in Portofino.
THE FUTURE OF … (Netflix)
Per the tagline, “What if we could look into the future to see how every aspect of our daily lives — from raising pets and house plants to what we eat and how we date — will be impacted by technology?” To which I ask, isn't this pretty much the present already? This future shock series will look at many pressing questions, although "What will become of Netflix '' is not expected to be among them.
LOOT (Apple TV+)
Maya Rudolph and Alan Yang star in this 10-part workplace comedy about a billionaire (Rudolph) who decides to save herself by saving the world. Besides Rudolph and Yang, this has quite the cast: Michaela Jaé Rodriguez ("Pose"), Ron Funches, Nat Faxon and Joel Kim Booster (also starring in the Hulu movie, "Fire Island," on June 3).
WESTWORLD (HBO, 9)
After what seems like an eternity ("seems; it's only been two years) "Westworld" returns from COVID hiatus for a 4th season, and more indeterminate questions about sentient and robotic intelligence on earth. And the gang — both robot and human — is all here: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandiwe Newton, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Luke Hemsworth, Aaron Paul and Angela Sarafyan.
ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING (Hulu)
After widely despised Arconia board member Bunny Folger (Jayne Houdyshell) is found murdered — with her blood all over podcaster Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) — the cops think they've found three likely suspects. Guess who? Steve Martin — as fellow podcaster Charles Haden-Savage and Martin Short as Oliver Putnam — are also back for the second season of one of the most improbable hits in Hulu's history. Amy Schumer also joins this season as (umm) Amy Schumer, a famous comic who is also moonlighting as a Sammy Glick-like show biz manager intent on securing rights to the breakout podcast hit called "Only Murders in the Building." (Shirley MacLaine is also aboard.) From what I've seen so far, the second is another winner.
THE TERMINAL LIST (Prime Video)
Based on the Jack Carr novel of the same name, this eight-parter stars Chris Pratt as Navy SEAL James Reece who is ambushed on a covert mission along with some other SEALs. Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day," "The Equalizer" and much else) is returning to his roots here (filmic mayhem), so expect a wild ride.
BLACK BIRD (Apple TV +)
From crime novelist Dennis Lehane, and adapted from a true story, this could be another one of those surprise summer obsessions. It stars Brit actor Taron Egerton as a former star football player who becomes a drug dealer, gets caught and is sentenced to 10 years — a sentence he is assured will be reduced if he gets a suspected serial killer (Paul Walter Hauser) to confess to his crimes. Based on James Keene and Hillel Levin's “In With the devil: A Fallen Hero, A Serial Killer, and A Dangerous Bargain for Redemption,” the first two of six episodes drop this day.
BETTER CALL SAUL (AMC, 9)
The first of the final six episodes of one of the greatest series in TV history lands then will wrap for good (unless there's a far-in-the-future reboot, like "Better Call Saul Again") on Aug. 15.
THE BACHELORETTE (ABC/7, 9)
The 19th season of another one of the greatest shows in TV history also lands July 11 — what are the odds! This season we will all learn the amatory fates of Rachel Recchia, of Clermont, Fla., and Gabby Windey, of O'Fallon, Ill. Yes, that's unique: "The 'ette" hasn't had two leads in years. Both were runners-up on the 26th season of "The Bachelor."
RESIDENT EVIL (Netflix)
First there was the PlayStation video game, then more games, followed by comics, novels, merch, live action films and animated ones. What's missing? The 8-episode live action Netflix series starring Lance Reddick as virologist vigilante (is there even such a thing?) Dr. Albert Wesker. His twin daughters are joining him in New Raccoon City too. For a refresher, if needed: "RE" is about the battle against big pharma Umbrella Corp. which makes mutagens that turn people into zombies.
THE CAPTAIN (ESPN)
This six-parter on Derek Jeter (time TBA) promises interviews with the captain himself (first question — hey, what about those Marlins?) Other interview subjects need no introductions: Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Joe Torre, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Brian Cashman, Nomar Garciaparra and Roger Clemens.
Neil Patrick Harris returns to series TV in this comedy from Darren Star, about Michael, whose husband leaves him after 17 years. Also with Tisha Campbell who plays his business partner, and Marcia Gay Harden, a soon-to-be divorcee. Eight episodes.
HOUSE OF THE DRAGON (HBO, 9)
Yes, "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power'' may be technically a late summer launch (on Sept. 2) but "Game of Thrones'' prequel "House of the Dragon'' lands squarely in the dog days, so that makes this hands down the most anticipated series of the summer and (along with "Rings'') the whole year. There is so much to cover with this launch that a brief fact check list might help. Set 200 years before events of "GOT." All about House Targaryen, and everything leading up to the Targaryen Civil War, which "GOT'' fans knew as "Dance of Dragons." Yes, there will be dragons in this (that's what the Targaryens do after all — ride dragons.) Also, all of this is drawn not from any specific George R.R. Martin work, but from his rather obsessive (and lengthy) history of the Targaryens which he published late in "GoT's" run. This ten-episode first season stars Paddy Considine as King Viserys Targaryen; Matt Smith as heir presumptive Prince Daemon Targaryen; and Emma D'Arcy as the King's firstborn, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen.