A peek at what’s on tap for summer TV season
The big news in TV right now is the Hollywood writers strike, which began earlier this month. For many, it’s no longer a profession that pays a living wage. Here’s hoping the studios, networks and streamers — which are boasting profits and paying their CEOs hundreds of millions — work out a fair contract in the coming days or weeks. But it’s possible they could delay, confident that the strike won’t affect their summer rollout of scripted series.
If the strike lasts for months? The network lineup — all those cop shows and sitcoms — will not be ready to premiere in the fall as usual. We’ll cross that bridge if and when we get to it. For the time being, writers have not yet asked audiences to boycott TV altogether or cancel their streaming subscriptions, but a number of shows in production have been paused.
Before we get to your summer preview, there’s one other minor change to the TV landscape worth noting: HBO Max and Discovery+ will no longer be separate streaming platforms. As of May 23, they are combined into a single app called Max. The hope is that audiences will come to think of it as a superstore of content, not unlike that offered by Netflix.
A mix of new and returning shows, here’s a look at what’s on tap in the first few weeks of the summer TV season.
“I Think You Should Leave” (May 30 on Netflix): There’s not much sketch comedy on TV these days outside of “Saturday Night Live,” which is what makes the return of Tim Robinson’s sketch show on Netflix such a welcome arrival. A veteran of “SNL” and Chicago’s comedy scene, Robinson goes for weird — and in my opinion, weird is good when it comes to sketch.
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (June 7 on FXX): Who would have predicted a sitcom about a group of malcontent pals in Philly would outlast nearly any other comedy of recent vintage? The gang is back for Season 16 and per the show’s marketing: “Mac battles with allergies and long-distance dating, Charlie takes on his long-forgotten sisters, Dee fights for rent control and women’s athletics, Frank wrestles for his gun, and Dennis struggles to improve his mental health.”
“The Crowded Room” (June 9 on Apple TV+): From creator Akiva Goldsman (who won an Oscar for “A Beautiful Mind”), the limited series thriller unfolds through interrogations with a man who is arrested following his involvement in a 1979 shooting in New York City. Tom Holland, Amanda Seyfried and Emmy Rossum star.
“The Full Monty” (June 14 on Hulu): Another pointless reboot! But let’s temper our cynicism, maybe this TV adaptation (from FX) will be as modestly charming the 1997 British film. The story picks up 25 years later with the “same band of brothers as they navigate the postindustrial city of Sheffield and society’s crumbling health care, education and employment sectors.” That sounds deceptively dour, because the lads were always an amusing bunch. I appreciate that FX is gambling that American audiences have an interest in British stories that aren’t about the royal family, but something far more grounded in human realism.
“The Bear” (June 22 on Hulu): The Chicago-shot series about life at an Italian beef sandwich shop is back for Season 2. The cast includes standouts Jeremy Allen White as a fine dining chef who tries to bring a little of that talent to a humble Mr. Beef-type of storefront, and Ayo Edebiri as his thoughtful and talented sous chef. Plus Bob Odenkirk joins the show this season in an unspecified role. With its blend of dark comedy and drama, the show was a hit when it premiered. Can it repeat that magic?
“I’m a Virgo” (June 23 on Amazon): From Boots Riley (“Sorry to Bother You”) comes another surreal story. The seven-episode comedy/fantasy/coming-of-ager centers on a 13-foot-tall guy from Oakland played by Jharrel Jerome, who won an Emmy for “When They See Us.” An avid fan of TV and comic book stories, his character is launched on a mythical quest when he encounters a real-life superhero played by “Justified’s” Walton Goggins.
“Grantchester” (July 9 on PBS): Nobody does cozy mysteries better than the Brits, particularly the subgenre that features a clergyman (or nun) sleuthing away and helping to unravel the whodunit of it all. “Grantchester” returns for Season 8 courtesy of Masterpiece, with its reliable twosome of man of the cloth Will (Tom Brittney) and police detective Geordie (Robson Green). (Masterpiece also has the final season of another mystery series, the “Inspector Morse” prequel “Endeavour,” which premieres June 18.)
“The Afterparty” (July 12 on Apple TV+): Season 2 of the comedic whodunit takes place at a wedding where the groom is murdered and every guest is a suspect. I was a fan of the first season and the way each episode riffed on the tropes of a different genre, from rom-com to musical. Tiffany Haddish returns as the detective to help Aniq and Zoë from Season 1 (played by Sam Richardson and Zoë Chao) solve the latest mystery.
“Only Murders in the Building” (Aug. 8 on Hulu): Season 3 of the murder mystery starring Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez. Meryl Streep joins the shenanigans this time out.
“Painkiller” (Aug. 10 on Netflix): A limited series fictional retelling that “explores some of the origins and aftermath of the opioid crisis” starring Matthew Broderick as Richard Sackler (of the now-infamous billionaire Sackler family and an executive at Purdue Pharma) and Uzo Aduba as an investigator building a case against the pharmaceutical company.
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