As I write this, there’s light rain and a chilly wind blowing from somewhere. It’s about 10 C. Eventually it will be hot. And this year’s summer TV menu is especially hot. Herewith, a rough guide to what’s coming and what’s returning.
June is especially busy. Big Little Lies, last year’s huge and Emmy-winning series returns (Crave/HBO, June 9) with Meryl Streep joining the already star-studded female cast. She plays the mother-in-law to Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and wants to know why her son died. That same night (June 9, Bravo, Crave/HBO) sees the start of the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale. June (Elisabeth Moss) fights against the Gilead regime, and what’s promised is “startling reunions, betrayals and a journey to the terrifying heart of Gilead.”
Also next month on Crave/HBO there comes the Drake-produced Euphoria (June 16), about “high-school students as they navigate drugs, sex, identity, trauma, social media, love and friendship.” Uh-oh. A notable new horror series, NOS4A2 (June 2, AMC; say it aloud and yes, its “Nosferatu”), is based on the 2013 novel by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King) and stars Zachary Quinto as an evil vampire who feasts on souls and abducts children, forcing them to live in an alternate fantasy universe known as Christmasland. His nemesis is a young artist (Ashleigh Cummings, who is excellent) with an ability to find lost things. I’ve seen the first two episodes and it’s very dark, moody, strange and a bit addictive.
By the way, CBC Gem has the already acclaimed Das Boot German-language series (all episodes begin streaming June 7), which is not simply a remake of Wolfgang Petersen’s classic film. “New submarine. New crew. New story,” is the slogan. The action shifts between the claustrophobic conditions and tensions of the submarine, and the story of a woman fighting for the Resistance.
Netflix revives Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City (June 7) with a 10-episode sequel to the original series of stories of queer life in San Francisco. It comes from Orange Is the New Black writer Lauren Morelli, has original cast members Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis and a heavy Canadian contingent with Paul Gross and Ellen Page also starring. Pose, which was perhaps the best new series of 2018, returns (FX, June 11) with more exquisite drama centred on New York’s ballroom culture in the late 1980s.
High-grade soap-opera antics is what Grand Hotel (ABC, CTV, starts June 17) delivers. Produced by actor Eva Longoria, and adapted from a Spanish series, it is set at an old family-owned hotel in Miami Beach. Longoria calls it “a contemporary take on an upstairs/downstairs story,” but says there’s a heavy emphasis on Latin and female characters, and that the show has mostly female writing staff. Beautiful people having a torrid time is the upshot.
A must-see in late June is the searing dystopian British drama Years and Years (Crave/HBO, June 24), which posits the course of politics and its impact in one British family between 2019 and 2034. Emma Thompson plays a populist demagogue who gets elected – think a female Trump on steroids – and wreaks havoc with her simplistic solutions to post-Brexit Britain and the world. The miniseries comes from Russell T. Davies (A Very English Scandal, Doctor Who, Queer as Folk).
Also on the politics side, there’s The Loudest Voice (made by Showtime, on Crave here starting June 30), a miniseries about the life and times of Fox News founder and Republican Party operative Roger Ailes. Russell Crowe plays Ailes and Naomi Watts plays former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson. About Fox News, the Ailes character pronounces, “People don’t want to be informed. They want to feel informed.” It’s also as torrid as Grand Hotel, it seems.
July will bring what’s predicted to be the summer’s most-fascinating trashy reality series. That’s Love Island. The original British formula has been a sensation there for the past three summers. Such is the heft of it, CBS will run its version a full five nights a week, starting July 9 (In Canada, it’s on CTV). The gist is, a group of single contestants are put in an exotic location and must couple-up, and their choices are judged by the viewers. If they choose unwisely, they risk getting eliminated. It sounds utterly mad but there’s great affection for it in the U.K.
The third season of Stranger Things arrives on Netflix on July 4. By the time August arrives, it will be time for the debut of the hilarious and wacky satire The Righteous Gemstones (Crave/HBO, date to be announced), with Danny McBride and John Goodman playing the leaders of a notorious and not-so-righteous televangelist family. The second season of Succession, with Brian Cox playing the menacing, rapacious patriarch of a media family, also returns (date to be announced) in August. And then along comes BH90210 (Fox, starts Aug. 7), in which some cast members of Beverly Hills, 90210 reunite for a six-episode reboot, which is, in fact, about a reboot of 90210. And by then it will look like fall TV is almost upon us.