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Summer TV preview: 40 great shows to watch

"Friends: The Reunion" debuts May 27 on HBO

"Friends: The Reunion" debuts May 27 on HBO Max. Credit: HBO Max

Summer TV is nearly here except maybe not entirely here. The shadow of the pandemic is long and still lingers, while a quick glance at the following should reaffirm that. Returning favorites ("Succession," "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel") are still nowhere to be seen while anticipated newcomers (Amazon's "Lord of the Rings" prequels and the "Game of Thrones" spinoffs, "House of the Dragon") remain on the distant horizon.

But that's OK. We knew we'd have to wait, but in the meantime, there is plenty to keep us all occupied:

Disney+'s "Loki" arrives shortly and "Lisey's Song" too. That "Friends" reunion you've been hearing about for a couple of decades is just around the corner, while "McCartney 1,2,3" — that would be the Beatle — should brighten up July as well. A "Gossip Girls" reboot arrives in July — no date yet set — while the second season of the Jason Sudeikis breakout, "Ted Lasso" hits Apple TV + July 23.

So a quiet summer. Far from a dull one. (All times are p.m.).

MAY 23

FLATBUSH MISDEMEANORS (Showtime, 10:30)

Standups Kevin Iso and Dan Perlman launched (and starred in) a digital series back in 2017 about a couple of pals navigating life in that one square mile called Flatbush. Awards were bestowed, pay cable (or at least Showtime) came calling, and now the 10-part series. In this, Kevin's a struggling artist, Dan, a teacher. From what I've seen: Raw, raunchy, and what you'd expect from a web-to-TV moonshot.

IN TREATMENT (HBO, 9:30)

This show was last seen on Dec. 7, 2010 and HBO hinted at the time that it would return, but soon the trail grew cold. Now, 10 years later, it's finally back, while this time, Dr. Brooke Lawrence (Uzo Aduba) is in session. The show has also relocated from Baltimore to Los Angeles, with the list of patients played by Joel Kinnaman, Anthony Ramos, Liza Colón-Zayas, John Benjamin Hickey and Quintessa Swindell. Four episodes weekly, Mondays and Sundays, and 24 overall.

MASTER OF NONE (Netflix)

And speaking of missing without a trace, "Master of None" returns after a particularly eventful four-year break, during which time showrunner Aziz Ansari was accused of sexual harassment, while co-star Lena Waithe, built her own mini-empire ("Queen & Slim," "The Chi," "Twenties"). This five-episode third focuses on Denise (Waithe), a writer, and her wife, Alicia (Naomi Ackie, "Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker''). Ansari, who co-wrote this with Waithe, makes a quick cameo as his character, Dev.

MAY 25

MIKE TYSON: THE KNOCKOUT (ABC/7, 8; then following Tuesday, 8)

Not to be confused with Hulu's proposed 8-episode film — and which Tyson has already blasted as "tonedeaf" — this two-parter sounds like a straightforward look at the boxer's rise and fall.. Says ABC: "The show touches on Tyson’s deep personal losses, including how he managed to move forward after the death of his daughter Exodus. It showcases an apologetic, middle-aged Tyson making amends for his regrets."

AFTER FLOYD: THE YEAR THAT SHOOK THE WORLD (ABC/7, 10); RACE MATTERS: AMERICA AFTER GEORGE FLOYD (WNET/13, May 25, 9, May 26, 10)

On the anniversary of George Floyd's death, expect special lookbacks at its consequences, including these two. The Ch. 13 program — a "NewsHour" special — will look at what's changed, what hasn't, since last summer.

MAY 26

CRIME SCENE KITCHEN (Fox/5, 9)

In the unending line of cooking competitions shows, this one will quite literally be based on crumbs. Contestants must reconstruct a dessert based solely on what's left behind on the plate. Joel McHale hosts.

MAY 27

FRIENDS: THE REUNION SPECIAL (HBO Max)

This was supposed to help launch HBO Max last spring until the pandemic got in the way. The entire cast (Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer) reunites for this roundtable, along with some special guests (Lady Gaga, Reese Witherspoon). Multimillionaires all, they each got $2.5 million to do this, so — given the magnitude of that sum — one may assume they were not particularly thrilled about the prospect. Nevertheless, it's a first, and quite possibly a last, so let's call this a late-spring must-watch (or sample).

MAY 29

OSLO (HBO, 9)

This movie stars Ruth Wilson and Andrew Scott (the Hot Priest from "Fleabag") as the two Norwegians who brokered peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians that lead to the Oslo Peace Accord in 1993. Yes — the timing of the film is both entirely accidental and bitterly ironic. This adaptation of J.T. Rogers' Tony Award winner is, from what I've sampled, both excellent and grimly, unexpectedly amusing.

MAY 30

TULSA BURNING: THE 1921 RACE MASSACRE (History, 8)

On May 31-June 1, 1921, one of the worst race massacres in recorded U.S. history took place in the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma. This film — directed by Stanley Nelson and Marco Williams, produced by NBA star Russell Westbrook, with a music score by Wynton Marsalis — is a careful and thorough review of the facts, framed by the search for the mass grave in Tulsa last year where hundreds of victims were presumed to have been dumped. Meanwhile, there are three other films on the subject: "Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten) (WNET/13, May 31, 9); "The Legacy of Black Wall Street'' (OWN, 9, June 1); "Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer" (Nat Geo, 9, June 18), which sets the Tulsa massacre amid dozens of others that took place that summer, around the country.

MAY 31

HOUSEBROKEN (Fox/5, 9)

Animation-heavy Fox gets heavier with this series about pets who are in group therapy. Yeah, it's a cartoon with some obvious dog jokes (you can guess which ones, and wince while you're doing that), but there is promise here: Jennifer Crittenden ("Veep") is one of the writers and the voice cast includes Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Tony Hale, Maria Bamford and Sam Richardson.

JUNE 3

WE ARE THE LADY PARTS (Peacock)

There will be no new sitcoms on NBC this fall because all of them seem to be landing on Peacock instead. Of note, this six-episode one from the UK about an all-grrl Muslim punk band called the Lady Parts.

JUNE 4

LISEY'S STORY (Apple TV+)

Published in 2006, "Lisey's Story" was a return to a subject Stephen King knew best — himself. As he has said ever since, the idea for his personal favorite novel came to him after he was nearly killed while walking down that road in Maine and — after returning from the hospital — had a vision of what life would be like after he died. This 8-parter from J.J. Abrams stars Julianne Moore as Lisey Debusher Landon, widow of dead bestselling author, Scott Landon (Clive Owen) who is stalked by one of her husband's fans. The first two drop on this day.

SWEET TOOTH (Netflix)

A pandemic kills millions, but while this is going on, hybrid babies are born who are part-animal, part-human. Those babies are cute, but also a little repugnant — think tiny tots with whiskers and maybe a horn or two. No one knows why this is happening, but whatever — Netflix got a series out of it, based on the Jeff Lamire comic series.

JUNE 6

THE 43RD ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS (CBS/2, 9)

Who gets the award this year? Dick Van Dyke, for one! And it is about time. The other worthies: Joan Baez, Debbie Allen, Garth Brooks and (violinist) Midori.

THE KINGS (Showtime, 9)

For boxing aficionados only, perhaps, this four-parter nonetheless looks kind of interesting — about four great boxers from the last century: Roberto Durán, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas "The Hitman" Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard.

JUNE 9

LOKI (Disney +)

Yet another series spinoff from "The Avengers: Endgame" — the Marvel gift that keeps on giving, and the engine behind the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. This third series so far stars Tom Hiddleston reprising as the malefactor Loki, who stole the Tesseract (one of those all-important Infinity stones that comprise the basis of the entire universe) and who has been captured and given an offer he can't refuse: Fix the timeline or get deleted forever. This may be the most anticipated of the Disney+ Marvel series so far: Twenty million views of the trailer by mid-May alone, just a month after release.

JUNE 11

LUPIN (Netflix)

This unexpected Netflix success, starring Omar Sy as dashing/daring French secret agent man Assane Diop, returns for a second season (but only five episodes).

JUNE 13

BLINDSPOTTING (Starz, time TBD)

This adaptation of the 2018 film of the same name just might be Starz' big bet of the summer. It returns the original writers — "Hamilton's" Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal (although only Casal will star in the TV series) while this version focuses on Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones), who moves in with her mother-in-law (played by Helen Hunt).

TUCA & BERTIE (Adult Swim, 11:30)

"Tuca & Bertie" fans will be pleased to learn that this Netflix series, dumped after just one season, is back — this time on Adult Swim. The voice cast is back too: Tiffany Haddish, Ali Wong and Steven Yeun.

KEVIN CAN [EXPLETIVE] HIMSELF (AMC, 9)

Just to settle the matter: This AMC drama is not specifically based on the short-lived "Kevin Can Wait," but is based on the long tradition of American sitcoms in which the wife is the butt of jokes by an obnoxious husband. In this, the wife — Annie Murphy ("Schitt's Creek" )— gets revenge by offing her boorish husband Kevin (Eric Petersen). It's one of the most different newcomers of the year — and viewer reaction will be divided.

JUNE 14

THE REPUBLIC OF SARAH (CW/11, 9)

An honest-to-goodness rare original network summer drama, this is about a high school teacher (Stella Baker, "Tell Me Your Secrets") who legally declares her town an independent country when it's threatened by a mining company.

JUNE 17

iCARLY (Paramount +)

It has been nearly a decade since Miranda Cosgrove decided to leave her Nickelodeon hit, largely to lead a normal life (and go to college). Cosgrove — 28 now, if you can believe it — reprises her role, and she's all grown up now. Also returning: Co-stars Jerry Trainor and Nathan Kress, although one original cast member who won't be here for this is Jennette McCurdy.

JUNE 18

PHYSICAL (Apple TV+)

This dramedy is an '80s throwback, about a desperate housewife named Sheila, played by Rose Byrne, in only her second regular series role since "Damages" (She was most recently in the limited series "Mrs. America"). Sheila decides to start a VHS aerobics business. First three of 10 episodes drop.

JUNE 20

US (WNET/13, 9)

This two-parter is about a British couple (Tom Hollander, "Luther's" Saskia Reeves) whose marriage is on the rocks, but they still go on a tour of Europe. (This got good reviews out of the UK, where it has already aired.)

JUNE 22

MYSTERIES OF MENTAL ILLNESS (WNET/13, 9)

This four-parter promises an exploration of mental illness — how science and society approaches it.

COLLEGE BOWL (NBC/4, 10)

Peyton Manning hosts this reboot of the series of the same name that Allen Ludden hosted from 1959 to 1962 (then LI native Robert Earle until 1969). This quiz show, which pits teams from various colleges against each other (including here University of Alabama, Auburn University, Columbia University, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, and Morehouse College), lands the winning team a free tuition ride.

JUNE 25

BOSCH (Amazon Prime)

The 7th and final season of the show that got the streaming party started at Amazon arrives, and with it, your chance to finally see one of the best cop shows of recent vintage. This final season will be based on Michael Connelly's "The Burning Room," from 2014, and inspired by a real-life arson case, and will bring Det. "Harry" Bosch (Titus Welliver) and partner Det. Jerry Edgar (Jamie Hector) their final case (or at least until Welliver gets busy with the spinoff series).

THE CHLOE SHOW (FX, 10)

Talk/variety starring artist David Chloe who interviews guests as he paints a portrait of 'em.

SEX/LIFE (Netflix)

From B.B. Easton (writer of "Praying for Rain"), this adaptation of her memoir, "44 Chapters about 4 Men," is about a woman ("Chicago Fire's" Sarah Shahi). confronting a midlife crisis — her ongoing fantasies about an ex.

JULY 11

WELLINGTON PARANORMAL (CW/11, 9)

That would be Wellington, New Zealand, and this would be the spinoff of "What We Do in the Shadows." Also created by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, it's about the Wellington PD's hapless ghostbuster unit.

THE WHITE LOTUS (HBO, 9)

Mike White — you know him from "Enlightened," but he's also the prolific and successful writer behind movies like "School of Rock" — has created this satire about a Hawaiian resort and its loopy guests (and employees).

JULY 16

MCCARTNEY 3,2,1 (Hulu)

This six-episode music doc links a couple of legends — Paul McCartney and producer Rick Rubin — who explore, in what Hulu promises will be exclusive and intimate detail, Sir Paul's glory days as a Beatle and many of the days thereafter.

JULY 16

SCHMIGADOON! (Apple TV+)

Either one of the summer's standouts, or oddities — -or, likely, both! — this Lorne Michaels-produced six-parter is about a couple (Cecily Strong, Keegan-Michael Key) who, while backpacking out west, come upon a town that thinks it's a living, breathing 1940s musical. Also stars Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Fred Armisen and Jane Krakowski.

TURNER & HOOCH (Disney+)

For those who remember the 1989 Tom Hanks movie, this reprisal stars Josh Peck ("Drake and Josh") as Turner, son of Hanks' character in the movie. And yup, Hooch is still a pooch.

JULY 27

AMERICAN MASTERS: BUDDY GUY (WNET/13, 9)

This career retrospective (subtitled "The Blues Chase the Blues Away") is all about seminal blues guitarist Guy, who is 84 and is still chasing the blues away — or was pre-pandemic.

AUGUST 10

FANTASY ISLAND (Fox/5, TBD)

Well, yes, you are right to be suspicious: a reboot of that goofy ABC cheese factory, best known and remembered for Herve Villechaize's "da plane, da plane." Nevertheless, it should be amusing to see Roselyn Sanchez ("Without a Trace," "Rush Hour 2") pick up Ricardo Montalban's old role.

AUGUST 15

HEELS (Starz, 9)

About a couple of professional wrestlers (Stephen Amell and Alexander Ludwig) looking for respect and a paycheck; also stars Mary McCormack.

MR. CORMAN (Apple TV +)

A very busy summer for Apple TV + wraps with this series about a 5th grade teacher/failed musician, starring/written/directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

AUGUST 27

THE CHAIR (Netflix)

In a way, think of this as the decompression series for David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, coming off their decadelong run at "Game of Thrones." And I do mean decompress: It stars Sandra Oh as head of an English Department at a fictional university. Benioff's wife, Amanda Peete — who does not star here — created this intriguing series, which also stars Jay Duplass, Holland Taylor, Bob Balaban and David Morse.

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