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42 shows to watch this summer

HBO's drama series "Perry Mason" starring Emmy winner

HBO's drama series "Perry Mason" starring Emmy winner Matthew Rhys, debuts June 21. Credit: HBO/Merrick Morton


 

Welcome to the TV summer that was supposed to be wall-to-wall repeats, game shows, "classic" sports and the next 10-part documentary that ESPN could crash about someone not quite as famous as Michael Jordan (but famous enough).

Supposed to be, but not quite.

True, there will be the repeat (or two) and if it's game shows you want, then you shall have them (at least the virtual editions). But what's so remarkable about the summer of '20 is that there will be so much else too.

As usual, almost too much else. NBC's Peacock launches in July, while HBO Max (which launched May 27) promises new show rollouts through the rest of summer. Meanwhile, "The Bachelor" — perhaps the least COVID-19-proof series in all of television — may be on ice, but that won't stop ABC from repurposing earlier seasons.


Here's what to look out for:

 

NOW ON 

JEFFREY EPSTEIN: FILTHY RICH (Netflix)

Launched May 27, and while I didn't review this 4-parter, Hank Steuver of the Washington Post says the "facts that are mostly already known are recounted by victims, investigators, attorneys and journalists." Sounds about right, and from what I've seen, I would also add that it is indeed creepy and disturbing too. 


 

GAME ON (CBS, Wednesday, 8)

 Speaking of those omnipresent game shows, this one is hosted by Keegan-Michael Key, while Rob Gronkowski or Venus Williams lead other celebs in various challenges. 

ON THE RECORD (HBO Max) 

 This docuseries is about the women who have accused Russell Simmons of sexual assault. 

MAY 29

CENTRAL PARK (Apple TV+)

 This animated comedy advertises its setting in the title, if not quite the family lives there voices supplied by Kristen Bell, Daveed Diggs, Stanley Tucci, and others including co-creator Josh Gad.) 


 

SPACE FORCE (Netflix)

 Steve Carell returns to series TV as a general who runs the Space Force program; with an All-Star cast, including the late Fred Willard. The early reviews are unkind — not necessarily wrong either — but this probably had you at "Steve Carell returns" anyway.


 

RAMY (Hulu)

 Second season of Ramy Youssef's terrific comedy will have a Mahershala Ali guest role.

 

MAY 31

QUIZ (AMC, 9)

 The pretty-much true story of a quiz contestant, Charles Ingram (Matthew Macfadyen, "Succession") who figured out a way to game the British version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" back in the late '90s, also stars Sian Clifford ("Fleabag") as his spouse/accomplice. This short miniseries — directed by Stephen Frears — looks very promising.


 

JUNE 2

 DIRTY JOHN: THE BETTY BRODERICK STORY (USA, 9)

 Based on the podcast of the same name, this true crime series got some positive critical attention upon launch in 2018. The second season (starring Christian Slater and Amanda Peet) is about the Westchester woman convicted of killing her ex (and his second wife) in the late '80s. 


 

 FULLER HOUSE (Netflix)

One of the reboots that caught Netflix some early buzz (and critical brickbats) wraps. 

MAXXX (Hulu) 

O-T Fagbenle — Luke from "The Handmaid's Tale" — wrote and stars in this Britcom about a onetime boy band star who attempts to restart his career. Looks amusing from my brief sampling. Christopher Meloni also stars, as Maxxx's equally desperate manager; you can't miss him: He has shoulder-length hair.   

 

JUNE 4

 IN MY SKIN (Hulu) 

This Welsh dramedy is about a 16-year-old (Gabrielle Creevy) dealing with a tragic home life; it aired to acclaim last spring in the U.K. 

 

JUNE 5

 DEAR... (Apple TV+).

Remember that series of Apple ads featuring people who wrote to Apple about the great watch they bought? They always started, "Dear Mr. Cook," or "Dear Apple …" Well, now the TV docuseries, from R.J. Cutler, and this time the letter writers include Spike Lee and Oprah Winfrey. 

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE ALL STARS (VH1, 8)

 This is just a friendly reminder to "Drag Race" fans that they won't have to program their DVR to "Showtime" because the series — back for a 5h season — is staying on VH1 after all. 


 

JUNE 7 

 I MAY DESTROY YOU (HBO, 10:30)

 The British star Michaela Coel may be the reason to watch this 12-parter about a young Londoner who becomes a victim of date rape when her drink is spiked. Coel — 2016 BAFTA winner for her series "Chewing Gum" — also wrote this. 


 

GREASE SINGALONG (CBS, 8:30) 

 COVID-19 has -canceled the Tonys, and in its place … ummm … this? Watch the bouncing ball on the screen, folks, because for some odd reason, you'll be asked to participate in the singalong version of the 1978 movie classic starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.


 

JUNE 8 

 THE BACHELOR: THE GREATEST SEASONS — EVER!" (ABC, 8)

 Maybe not the "greatest" but definitely "all" of them. This ten-week-30-hour recap should forcibly remind us why we've developed a subliminal gag reflex whenever the word "hot tub" is mentioned.    

 

JUNE 10 

LENOX HILL (Netflix) 

Northwell-owned Lenox Hill gets its close-up in this docuseries described as "an intimate look at the lifesaving work of four doctors." Taped before COVID-19 struck, however. 

 

JUNE 11 

DON'T (ABC, 9)

On paper at least, this game show looks intriguing because it's based on the idea that if the contestant doesn't do something, they win $100,000. Which seems like a skill we could all master.


 


 

JUNE 14

GRANTCHESTER (PBS, 9)

 The series about a good vicar who also moonlights as a good detective is back for a 5th. Time to catch up? 


 

HELTER SKELTER: AN AMERICAN MYTH (Epix, available via Amazon Prime) 

 Six-parter on Charles Manson and cult, covering the '60s and '70s. 


 

JUNE 17 


 

PREHISTORIC ROAD TRIP (PBS) 

 Host Emily Graslie takes viewers on a trip through the Dakotas, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming "to explore 2.5 billion years of our planet’s history." No screeners but this does sound promising. 


 

JUNE 19 

 THE POLITICIAN (Netflix)

Ryan Murphy's hit-and-miss satire of a single-minded apprentice politician bound for the White House (Ben Platt) returns for the second season. 

LOVE, VICTOR (Hulu)

Greg Berlanti's sequel to his 2018 teen romcom, "Love, Simon," stars Michael Cimino as Victor, the new kid at Creekwood High, who is navigating his sexuality (he's gay) and troubles at home. 


 

TASTE THE NATION WITH PADMA LAKSHMI (Hulu) 

 "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi gets her own docuseries "exploring the rich and diverse food culture of various immigrant groups, seeking out the people who have so heavily shaped what American food is today." And — no — hamburgers and pizza probably don't count. 

JUNE 21

PERRY MASON (HBO, 9)

 Matthew Rhys ("The Americans") is the youngish Perry Mason of the Erle Stanley Gardner novels, rather than the oldish (and roundish) Perry Mason of Raymond Burr fame (from the CBS series of the late '50s and '60s.) In this he's a PI in 1931 Los Angeles, looking into a kidnapping case. This period drama/reboot may be the biggest TV draw of the summer, with an All-Star cast (John Lithgow, Tatiana Maslany, Shea Whigham, Stephen Root, Nate Corddry, Lili Taylor, Robert Patrick, Juliet Rylance).

 

JUNE 23

GREENLEAF (OWN, 9) 

Fifth and final season of this sharply written and acted (Keith David, Lynn Whitfield, Merle Dandridge) series about a family-run megachurch.


 

JUNE 25

THE TWILIGHT ZONE (CBS All Access) 

 The second season arrives, and most fans probably have just one modest request: Please be better than the first. The cast is at least of the All-Star variety, and includes Damon Wayans Jr., Gretchen Mol, Daniel Sunjata, Billy Porter, Gillian Jacobs and Christopher Meloni. Ten episodes drop on this day, which already feels like an improvement.    


 

JUNE 26

INTO THE UNKNOWN: MAKING FROZEN 2 (Disney+) 

 What could possibly be "unknown?" After all, Disney knew it would be a hit; knew millions of kids would buy "Frozen 2" merch; knew there'd be a "making of" miniseries. (The title refers to the hit song of the same names, but you knew that.) 


 

JUNE 28 

BET AWARDS (BET, 8)

 The always-entertaining BET's are back; maybe even more entertaining this time around. And yes, to answer the obvious question: This will be a "virtual" awards show. 

I'LL BE GONE IN THE DARK (HBO)

 This six-parter about the hunt for the Golden State Killer — Joseph James DeAngelo, arrested April 24, 2018, on the basis of DNA evidence — is based on the book by Michelle McNamara, who died two years before he was caught.

 

THE HISTORY OF LATE NIGHT (CNN)

 This docuseries will look at the whole span of late night TV, starting with Steve Allen. 


 

JULY 3

THE BABYSITTERS CLUB (Netflix) 

 Ann M. Martin's children's book about a babysitting business in fictional Stoneybrook, Connecticut goes to series. 


 

JULY 5 

OUTCRY (Showtime, 10) 

 This docuseries looks at the sexual assault conviction and exoneration of a Texas high school football player. 


 

JULY 7

THE VOTE (PBS, 9)

 This "American Experience" two-parter looks at the fight for women's suffrage that led to the passage of the 19th amendment 100 years ago.

JULY 8

TOUGH AS NAILS (CBS, 9) 

 About time someone came up with a reality-competition series called "Tough as Nails" — this one about "everyday people" who work long hours at hard jobs, or at least they did pre-quarantine. "The Amazing Race's" Phil Keoghan created.     

JULY 9

EXPECTING AMY (HBO Max)

 Once, Amy Schumer was a stand-up comedian, now a reality TV star. This most recent series — her second since "Amy Schumer Learns to Cook" for the Food Network — charts the progress of her most recent pregnancy. 

JULY 10 

LITTLE VOICE (Apple TV +)

 The production team behind this romcom about "the search to find your true voice — and then the courage to use it" may be what's so intriguing: J.J. Abrams and Sara Bareilles. 


 

JULY 15

BRAVE NEW WORLD (Peacock) 

 July 15 is launch day for Comcast's new streaming channel, Peacock, and among the many original offerings — many of which are British, incidentally — is this adaptation of the Aldous Huxley classic starring Demi Moore, Harry Lloyd, Jessica Brown Findlay, Alden Ehrenreich, Kylie Bunbury and Hannah John-Kamen..   


 

JULY 24 

ROOM 104 (HBO, 11) 

 The Duplass Brothers' anthology about the mysterious room wraps with this season.


 

JULY 26

THE ALIENIST: ANGEL OF DARKNESS (TNT, 9) 

The first season (you may recall) was one of the major launches of 2018 — and a considerable letdown as well. This second is based on the second novel of Caleb Carr's Kreizler series, about the 1890s NYC detective hunting a serial killer of children. 

JULY 31 

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY (Netflix) 

The second season arrives (and the first was quite an eyefull, by the way). Based on the graphic novels by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance. 

 

AUGUST 9

THE GOOD LORD BIRD (Showtime, 10) 

 Showtime could have one of the summer's big draws with this 8-part adaptation of the 2013 (and National Book Award winner) James McBride novel about abolitionist John Brown and the Kansas slave, Henry Shackleford, who joins up with him. Starring Ethan Hawke and Daveed Diggs.

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