Newsday television critic Verne Gay previews the summer's hottest shows.

With the Paris Olympics approaching, most of us probably already know what we'll be watching over a two-week span starting July 26. But the streamers aren't about to roll over just because a few gold medals are about to be handed out. After a two-year break, summer 2024 will see the return of “House of the Dragon” and “Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power” while the next couple of months will be especially active on Apple TV+ and Hulu.

And if it's game shows you must have, then come on down! … to the broadcast networks, which don't seem to have much else on this summer. Seven months after those twin Hollywood strikes ended, TV is still struggling to fill the pipeline which explains (in part) why even the major streamers seem a little quiet this summer. In the meantime, here are just a few intriguing diversions:

ALREADY ON

ERIC (Netflix)

Eric and Benedict Cumberbatch as Vincent in Netflix's "Eric."

Eric and Benedict Cumberbatch as Vincent in Netflix's "Eric." Credit: Netflix

Vincent Anderson (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an irascible puppeteer for a popular '80s New York kids' show (think “Sesame Street”), married to Cassie (Gaby Hoffmann), when any parent's worst nightmare happens — their son disappears on the way to school. Vincent soon loses his mind and believes a tall puppet (don't think Big Bird) named Eric will help find the boy. This six-parter from British screenwriter Abi Morgan (“The Hour”) looks good, and really strange.

WE ARE LADY PARTS (Peacock)

After three years, you can be forgiven for forgetting what this title referred to — an all-female punk Muslim band — but the second season has finally returned.

JIM HENSON: IDEA MAN (Disney +)

This Ron Howard-directed biopic has been in development 14 years so let's all hope for the best. (Vanity Fair recently reported Henson's wife and creative collaborator, Jane Henson, will get her due as well in this.)

JUNE
 

JUNE 2

REN FAIRE (HBO, 9 p.m.)

Easily the oddest entry of the summer, this three-part doc is about the Renaissance Festival based in Todd Mission, Texas, which is 55 mils northwest of Houston but may as well be on the far side of the moon. Its founder, King George Coulam, 86, wants to retire and find a bride. Who will the lucky lady be? Who will succeed the “King?” These and other pressing peculiarities will be chronicled.

JUNE 3

ERASED: WORLD WAR II'S HEROES OF COLOR (Nat Geo, 9; streams June 4 on Disney+/Hulu)

Combat Medic Waverly Woodson Jr., (played by Francesco Di Rauso)...

Combat Medic Waverly Woodson Jr., (played by Francesco Di Rauso) tends to the wounded in a scene of a World War II historic reenactment production for "Erased: WW2's Heroes of Color."  Credit: National Geographic/Rekha Garton

Idris Elba has produced and narrated this four-parter that profiles three “heroes of color” per episode from far flung battles, then looks into how their struggles “inspired movements for freedom that swept the globe,” including in India and the U.S. Meanwhile, a one-time special on the Tuskegee Airmen, “The Real Red Tails,” airs on Nat Geo at 8 (also streaming on Disney +/Hulu the following day.)

THE 1% CLUB (Fox/5, 9)

Perhaps think of this Paton Oswalt-hosted quiz show — based on the Brit hit — as reflective of the new world order in summer TV, whereby strike-delayed scripted shows are still in the pipeline, and that famed era of “peak TV” is long since past. In plain English, get ready for a lot of game shows this summer. This actually launched on Prime Video late May, so Fox is the “second window.”


JUNE 4

STAR WARS: THE ACOLYTE (Disney+)

Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in  "The Acolyte" on Disney+.

Mae (Amandla Stenberg) in  "The Acolyte" on Disney+. Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd./Christian Black

This prequel set during the High Republic (a hundred years before events of classic films) has attracted quite a bit of attention — 10 million views on YouTube alone, along with 65,000 comments, although judging from the first few, snark does appear to be the dominant theme. Why this 6th live action “SW” series has inspired so much vitriol is a puzzle best left to the trolls themselves, but the showrunner, Leslye Headland, has a compelling track in decidedly non-Disney fare (“Single Drunk Female,” and “Russian Doll,” which she cocreated) so this deserves a closer look beyond that trailer. It's about a Jedi master (Lee Jung-jae) and his acolyte Mae, a Padawan, or Jedi-in-training (Amandla Stenberg). Two episodes stream today.

LET THE CANARY SING (Paramount +)

Launched last year at the Tribeca Film Festival, veteran doc producer Alison Ellwood's film on Cyndi Lauper is narrated by Lauper herself.

JUNE 5

HITLER AND THE NAZIS: EVIL ON TRIAL (Netflix)

This latest from Joe Berlinger — who seems to have a particularly deft touch in documenting monsters (“Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes”) — is a watchable and chilling overview of the Nuremberg trials.

JUNE 7

QUEENIE (Hulu)

(from left) Llewella Gideon, Ayesha Antoine, Dionne Brown and Cristale De'Abreu...

(from left) Llewella Gideon, Ayesha Antoine, Dionne Brown and Cristale De'Abreu in Hulu's "Queenie."  Credit: Hulu/Latoya Okuneye

A social media assistant at a London newspaper, Queenie (Dionne Brown) has an “it's-complicated” love life, difficult co-workers, a boyfriend and family members who just don't get her. This (fictional) chronicle of life and times of a 25-year-old British-Jamaican woman — who's already been dubbed the “Black Bridget Jones” — is Hulu's big pitch of the summer, and Brown's buoyant performance is the reason why. The eight-episode series is based on the 2019 novel of the same name by Candice Carty-Williams.

WHEEL OF FORTUNE (WABC/7, 7:30)

Pat Sajak's final day (a Friday) arrives, but — fear not fans — you will not be surprised by an abrupt departure. The full week preceding will be themed “Thanks for the Memories,” and after 43 years as host, there should be quite a few of those.

BECOMING KARL LAGERFELD (Hulu)

Daniel Brühl (“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”) plays the Chanel fashion titan (who died in 2019), and this six-parter, in French, does look entertaining indeed.

POWER BOOK II: GHOST (Starz)

The beginning of the end for Tariq St. Patrick (Michael Rainey Jr.) has arrived, or at least as far as “Ghost” is concerned, which will wrap four seasons in two parts starting today — the second arriving Sept. 6. Meanwhile, there is a “Power Book” prequel in the works.

PRESUMED INNOCENT (Apple TV+)

Scott Turow's 1987 legal page-turner has been adapted before — the 1990 film with Harrison Ford as the Chicago prosecutor charged with the murder of a colleague and woman with whom he's been having an affair — but this version comes from the (deservedly) celebrated David E. Kelley (“Boston Legal,” “The Practice''). Promising cast too: Jake Gyllenhaal as prosecutor Rusty Sabich (along with Ruth Negga, Bill Camp, O-T Fagbenle, Chase Infiniti, Nana Mensah, Renate Reinsve, Peter Sarsgaard, Kingston Rumi Southwick and Elizabeth Marvel) with J.J. Abrams at the helm. Two episodes stream today, and the first one (which I've seen) looks promising — it's grim, dark and kinky.

JUNE 13

THE BOYS (Prime Video)

Jeffrey Dean Morganand& Karl Urban in a scene from "The...

Jeffrey Dean Morganand& Karl Urban in a scene from "The Boys" Season 4 on Prime Video. Credit: Prime Video/Jasper Savage

Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit) may be getting closer to becoming president, which means Homelander (Anthony Starr) may be getting closer to taking over the world too.  The boys, and Butcher (Karl Urban) sure have their work cut out for them!  A newcomer to this 4th and (let's admit) highly anticipated season is Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“The Walking Dead”). 

BRATS (Hulu)

In 1980s Hollywood, the cool kids were known as the Brat Pack, their loose affiliation tied to an appearance in just two iconic films, “The Breakfast Club'' and “St. Elmo's Fire.” This doc is directed by one of them — Andrew McCarthy — who assembles most of the gang for a few laughs and reminiscences (including Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy).

JUNE 16

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON (HBO, Max, 9)

Matt Smith and Emma D’Arcy in HBO's Season 2 of...

Matt Smith and Emma D’Arcy in HBO's Season 2 of "House of the Dragon." Credit: HBO/Ollie Upton

The Targaryen civil war (“dance of the dragons”) is about to get hot after the death of King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) at the end of the first season. This second season (which somehow avoided disruptions by the strikes) will be different from the first in at least a couple of ways: Foremost it will be shorter (eight episodes) and have another showrunner joining the team, Alan Taylor, an esteemed “Game of Thrones '' director. Perhaps most promising of all, Simon Russell Beale will join as Ser Simon Strong.

77th ANNUAL TONY AWARDS (CBS/2, Paramount +, 8)

Everyone's favorite Tony host, Ariana DeBose, is back to celebrate Broadway's finest, this time from Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater.

GRANTCHESTER (WNET/13, 9)

The 9th season of this beloved ecclesiastical murder-mystery series will see the departure of Rev. Will Davenport (Tom Brittney) and the arrival of a new chaplain, Alphy Kotteram (Rishi Nair), whose shoulder Det. Geordie Keating (Robson Green) will now cry on.

HOTEL COCAINE (MGM+)

Roman Compte (Danny Pino, “Laws & Order: SVU'') is general manager of the glam/seedy Mutiny Hotel where cocaine is plentiful and the clientele — business owners, politicians, international narcos, CIA and FBI agents, models, sports stars, and musicians — is there for one reason, and it's neither the pool or amenities. This eight-part crime-thriller is set in the late '70s.

JUNE 17

CULT MASSACRE: ONE DAY IN JONESTOWN (Hulu today; NatGeo, Aug. 14)

This Nat Geo/Hulu collaboration — the third of the “One Day in America” series — is “told by survivors and eyewitnesses, along with rare footage and rare recordings of [Jim] Jones,” per Nat Geo.

JUNE 18

DISCO: SOUNDTRACK OF A REVOLUTION (WNET, 9, then June 25 and July 2)

Think disco these days and (maybe) think Studio 54 or Donna Summer or “Saturday Night Fever” or “Disco Inferno” but this three-parter aims to rescue the formative, and for a time, beloved soundtrack of our lives from obscurity. Part one looks at the birth in mid-'70s New York; the second part (“Ain't No Stoppin' Us”) explores how disco turned “Black women and gay men into icons); and “Stayin' Alive” (Part 3) is about how “disco fell to a violent backlash and emerged to come back stronger.”

JUNE 19

BLACK BARBIE: THE DOCUMENTARY (Netflix)

This history of Black Barbie is a “personal journey” by filmmaker Lagueria Davis who celebrates “the legacy of my aunt Beulah Mae Mitchell, Kitty Black Perkins, and Stacey McBride Irby” — all three Mattel executives in the '70s who launched someone revolutionary in 1980 — Black Barbie.

TRIUMPH: JESSE OWENS AND THE BERLIN OLYMPICS (History, 8)

From LeBron James' and Maverick Carter's Uninterrupted, this is yet another look at Owens' achievement during the '36 Olympics: Four gold medals (100-meter dash, long jump, 200-meter dash, 4×100-meter dash) and a Nazi rebuke for the ages; his daughters, Marlene and Beverly Owens, are among those interviewed.

JUNE 23

BIOGRAPHY: DEE SNIDER (A&E, 9)

The Twisted Sister frontman (raised in Freeport and Baldwin, now of Belize and other points west) gets his close-up.

ORPHAN BLACK: ECHOES (AMC, BBC America, 10)

Krysten Ritter headlines the return of the 2017 series about a woman and her clones who were pursued by powerful interests. As you'll recall, Tatiana Maslany won a much-deserved Emmy for playing multiple versions of herself while this time the task falls to Ritter (“Jessica Jones,'' “Breaking Bad”) — as someone who is faced with the reality that “she was created in a lab and those who had a hand in making her want her dead” (per production notes). Keeley Hawes (“The Durrells'') and Reed Diamond are aboard too.

JUNE 25

BABYLON BERLIN (MHz Choice)

The 4th season of this well-regarded (and now former Netflix) series about Berlin during the Weimar Republic has arrived but you'll need to go looking for it. Here's a tip: The streaming service (with a focus on international fare) is available on Prime Video for $7.99 a month.

JUNE 26

LAND OF WOMEN (Apple TV+)

When the bad guys come looking for the $15 million her husband owes them, Gala (Eva Longoria) is left with one choice: Flee, and even better, flee to Spain. But first, she has to pick up mom (Carmen Maura) and daughter Kate (Victoria Bazúa). No, this is not “Desperate Housewives,” but just one desperate housewife, and some of the comic vibe of the former. Maura is a highly-acclaimed Spanish actorwith deep professional ties to Pedro Almodóvar. This six-parter, taped in Spain and based on the novel by Sandra Barneda, is largely in Spanish.

JUNE 27

THE BEAR (FX on Hulu)

 (l-r) Ricky Staffieri as Ted Fak, Jeremy Allen White as...

 (l-r) Ricky Staffieri as Ted Fak, Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carly” Berzatto, Matty Matheson as Neil Fak in "The Bear." Credit: FX/Chuck Hodes

While the rebooted “Original Beef of Chicagoland” -- now called "The Bear" --  finally had its opening night in the second season finale, all was not well nor possibly could be because Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) was still very much Carmy (self-loathing, self-destructive, self-sabotaging.) The cast is all back (including Ayo Edebiri as Carmy protégé Sydney). The return of the Emmy-winning series is one of the summer's “events” with all 10 episodes dropping today.

MY LADY JANE (Prime Video)

Lady Jane Grey was Queen of England for a scant nine days — July 10 to July 19, 1553 — hence the name that has carried down to this day (“Nine Days Queen.”) But what if this teenager had reigned for much longer — the throughline of 2016's “My Lady Jane,” by co-authors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows? This alt-history-comedy-fantasy starring Emily Bader (“Charmed”) lays out the possibilities.

JULY

JULY 2

HARD KNOCKS: OFF-SEASON WITH THE GIANTS (HBO, 9)

John Mara once famously declared he'd never let “Hard Knocks” through the door but there was an apparent change of mind since because the Giants are about to get the “Knocks'' treatment on the eve of their 100th season. What's different here is this edition picks up at the end of last season. Long-suffering fans will no doubt want to suffer some more through these five episodes.

JULY 10

SUNNY (Apple TV +)

 Rashida Jones and Hidetoshi Nishijima in "Sunny,"  on Apple TV+.

 Rashida Jones and Hidetoshi Nishijima in "Sunny,"  on Apple TV+. Credit: Apple TV+

Sunny is a talking AI robot given to Suzie (Rashida Jones) upon her husband and son's apparent death in a mysterious plane crash. Living in Japan, and alone, Suzie may be lonely but she hates robots, especially ones that prattle on and are cloyingly attentive and make her cocktails. But Sunny also knows everything about her because her husband programmed her. This fascinating oddball defies categorization (comedy? tragedy? sci-fi? murder mystery?) but it sure looks different, in a good way (I think). This 8-parter is adapted from the 2018 novel “The Dark Manual '' by Colin O'Sullivan.

WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? (ABC/7, 8)

The show that once filled a network's schedule — and broke prime-time TV in the process (and we're not talking about “American Idol” either) — is back after a three-year break. Jimmy Kimmel is once again in the business of handing out lifelines.

JULY 11

SAUSAGE PARTY: FOODTOPIA (Prime Video)

How to explain “Sausage Party” to those who haven't been waiting for this spinoff or who may consider “Foodtopia” the most anticipated launch of the summer season? The 2016 Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg creation was about foul-mouthed food products in a grocery store who believed humans were gods that had come to save them by taking them to the Great Beyond (little did they know). This sequel will bring back much of the original cast (including Rogen) for another epic food fight, over eight intensely vulgar episodes.

JULY 16

MAFIA SPIES (Paramount +)
Between July 24, 2017 and April 26, 2018, some 50,000 documents relating to the JFK assassination were released by the National Archives. Sorting through this mountain of new information, former Newsday investigative reporter Thomas Maier found quite the story, about a pair of Chicago mobsters and their ties to the CIA and Cuban exiles in Miami, along with much (much) else. This adaptation of Maier's 2019 book, “Mafia Spies: The Inside Story of the CIA, Gangsters, JFK and Castro” — produced by Danny Strong (“Dopesick”) — will stream in six parts.

JULY 18

COBRA KAI (Netflix)

The long goodbye begins, as the first leg of the sixth and final season drops today — five episodes in total. (The second part arrives this fall, and the last next year.) Everything is leading up to that climactic Sekai Taikai international tournament.

THOSE ABOUT TO DIE (Peacock)

Anthony Hopkins is the chief draw for this 10-episode sword-and-sandal epic leading into the Summer Olympics — although how much he actually appears on-screen as Roman emperor Vespasian remains to be seen (Hopkins, 86, remains a busy, in-demand guy). There's a whole lot going on here, much of it in the form of bloodletting in the Flavian amphitheater. Disaster master Roland Emmerich directs the gory action.

JULY 19

LADY IN THE LAKE (Apple TV+)

Natalie Portman and Moses Ingram in "Lady in the Lake,"...

Natalie Portman and Moses Ingram in "Lady in the Lake," premiering July 19, 2024 on Apple TV+. Credit: Apple TV+

In 1966 Baltimore, Maddie Schwartz (Natalie Portman) is a prominent member of the city's Reform Jewish community, and Cleo Sherwood (Moses Ingram, “Obi-Wan Kenobi'') is a Black woman struggling to take care of her family. Their worlds converge after Cleo's murder, and Maddie has become a reporter for the Baltimore Sun who investigates what happened to her. Those are the basics to this sinuous mystery-thriller based on Laura Lippman's novel of the same name. And to answer your obvious question: Yes, this is indeed Portman's first TV series.

JULY 24

TIME BANDITS (Apple TV+)

Lisa Kudrow stars in this 10-episode series adaptation of Terry Gilliam's 1981 classic about that merry band of thieves who travel through time to save the world (and 11-year-old Kevin's parents). This comes from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi of “What We Do in the Shadows.” While there's nothing to see just yet, they (and Kudrow) are promising signs.

JULY 26

 THE PARIS OLYMPICS (NBC/4, Peacock, July 26-Aug. 11)

The opening ceremony arrives for the meta-TV event that will dominate the summer. Of note, Kenan Thompson and Kevin Hart will provide “highlights”' — obviously comic riffs — of the action for Peacock over eight episodes.

AUGUST

AUG. 1

BATMAN: CAPED CRUSADER (Prime Video)

This animated re-imagining of the classic was canceled by Max (cost-saving measure, per reports), then rescued by Prime, which doubtless saw the potential with J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves as showrunners (Bruce Timm, creator of the beloved “Batman: The Animated Series' ' from the early '90s on Fox is on-board too.) “Caped Crusader'' promises expanded backstories for the iconic characters and a noirish vibe.

AUG. 3

ELIZABETH TAYLOR: THE LOST TAPES (HBO)

In 1964, the world's most famous star recorded some 40 hours of interviews with journalist Richard Meryman who ended up ghostwriting her 1965 autobiography, “Elizabeth Taylor by Elizabeth Taylor.” The tapes were presumed lost but (in fact) Meryman's widow held onto them. For this, they've been cleaned up, and the reviews — or at least Deadline's — are positive: “Liz comes vividly alive here …”

AUG. 14

BAD MONKEY (Apple TV+)

This 10-parter based on Carl Hiaasen's comic novel of the same name stars Vince Vaughn as the ex-Miami cop who ends up in the Keys as a restaurant inspector — and badly wants to get back in the action. Showrunner Bill Lawrence (“Ted Lasso”) has assembled quite the cast, including Michelle Monaghan, Jodie Turner-Smith and Rob Delaney. 

AUG. 27

ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING (Hulu)

Mabel (Selena Gomez), Oliver (Martin Short) and Charles (Steve Martin)...

Mabel (Selena Gomez), Oliver (Martin Short) and Charles (Steve Martin) in "Only Murders in the Building." Credit: HULU/ Patrick Harbron

“OMITB” will leave New York City for the first time for Hollywood — a risk for a series where Manhattan is a lead character but a producer wants to make a movie out of their podcast so duty (and fame) call. Fear not -- only part of the season will be out west. Meanwhile, the gang (Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez) has reunited to investigate the unfortunate demise of Sazz Pataki (Jane Lynch). Meryl Streep — as Loretta Durkin — is back too. Guest stars: Eugene Levy, Molly Shannon, Zach Galifianakis, Melissa McCarthy, Kumail Nanjiani, Eva Longoria, Richard Kind, and Desmin Borges.

AUG. 29

LORD OF THE RINGS: RINGS OF POWER (Prime Video)

Sauron, one of the great baddies of world literature (and cinema), was revealed to be human, or human-like (technically, a Maia, or servant of the Valar) in the first season — Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) who had been rescued at sea by Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) in an early episode. You may reasonably assume, then, that Sauron will be a central figure in season two, as he grows in power and gets down to business in Mordor. 

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