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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    TV for summer 2024: ‘The Bear’ and ‘Couples Therapy,’ but few chances taken

    Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s the times we’re living in, or maybe it’s a post-Hollywood strike malaise, but the summer TV lineup is looking unimpressive. I wish I had more enthusiasm for the coming slate of premieres, but the studios are in the midst of a pipeline problem at the moment and decision-makers appear to be unwilling to take chances on the new and unfamiliar. At the very least, you can be assured these shows will be competently made. But where are the big swings?

    On the bright side, I’m expecting the return of “The Bear” to be as satisfying as it has been in seasons past (haven’t seen a lick of the new episodes, I’m just going on track record alone). New and unfamiliar athletes will become household names as the Summer Olympics kicks into gear, which is one of my favorite traditions. And “Couples Therapy,” back for a fourth season, remains one of the best unscripted shows on television.

    Here’s a look at what’s on the schedule:

    “Eric” (May 30 on Netflix): Benedict Cumberbatch returns to television as a children’s show puppeteer whose life falls apart when his preteen son goes missing. Netflix marketing describes the six-episode limited series as a thriller about a desperate father battling demons as he takes to the “vibrant, dangerous and intoxicating streets of ’80s New York.”

    “Couples Therapy” (June 2 on Showtime; begins streaming May 31 on Paramount+ ): Consistently absorbing and enlightening, “Couples Therapy” may be the least cynical reality show in existence. That’s thanks to the producers as well as the calming, thoughtful approach taken by psychoanalyst Orna Guralnik, who helps couples recognize the patterns — often shaped in childhood — that can make building a life together as adults so difficult. I always feel smarter about human beings and our struggle to connect after watching this show.

    “Clipped” (June 4 on Hulu): “Winning Time” on HBO took a sprawling look back at the rise of the Los Angeles Lakers. Now Hulu (via FX) narrows its focus to L.A.’s other NBA team, the Clippers and, specifically, the team’s notorious former owner Donald Sterling (played by Ed O’Neill), who was banned for life by the league and forced to sell the team after making racist remarks. Laurence Fishburne also stars as coach Doc Rivers.

    “Becoming Karl Lagerfeld” (June 7 on Hulu): I’m skeptical of these kinds of biopic TV projects (Apple’s “The New Look,” about Coco Chanel and Christian Dior, was embarrassing for its Nazi apologia) but hope springs eternal. This time the designer du jour is Karl Lagerfeld, who would ultimately become the longtime and influential creative director at Chanel. Despite his impressive professional standing, Lagerfeld had a less than stellar reputation as a human being, with accusations that he was fatphobic and misogynistic, among others. The Hulu series, starring Daniel Brühl, is set in 1972, long before those allegations came to light.

    “Queenie” (June 7 on Hulu): Adapted from the 2019 novel by Candice Carty-Williams, the series revolves around a 20-something Black British Jamaican woman named Queenie who is weathering a quarter-life crisis that involves messy breakup, questionable rebound hookups and just trying to find her way in the world. Reviewing the book, The Guardian called it a “smart and breezy comic debut.”

    “Presumed Innocent” (June 14 on Apple TV+): Scott Turow’s Chicago-set legal thriller was first adapted for the screen in 1990 as a star vehicle for Harrison Ford. Now it’s being rehashed as an eight-episode limited series starring Jake Gyllenhaal as prosecutor Rusty Sabich, who must investigate the murder of a colleague with whom he was also having a secret affair. Messy! If the recent multi-episode TV adaptation of “Fatal Attraction” is anything to go by, expanding a decades-old movie into a TV series runs the risk of draining much of the story’s snap and crackle. We’ll see how this one fares.

    “Grantchester” (June 16 on PBS Masterpiece): The long-running 1950s-set series about a handsome young vicar who helps solve murders had grown steadily tedious in recent seasons. Perhaps casting a new vicar will freshen things up for Season 9, which takes place in 1961. Rishi Nair steps into the role beginning in Episode 3 (the show contrives a reason to get him shirtless within the first 10 minutes; I laughed but he is legitimately dashing and makes the show watchable again). Nair replaces Tom Brittney, who himself replaced James Norton, making him the series’ third vicar to team up with Detective Inspector Geordie Keating.

    “House of the Dragon” (June 16 on HBO): I was deeply unimpressed with this Targaryen-focused “Game of Thrones” prequel when it premiered. For my money, it plays like a knockoff: Gayme of Throans. Drink every time someone says “your grace”! But to each their own, and if you were eagerly awaiting the show’s second season these past two years, here’s your Sunday night viewing for the summer months.

    “Orphan Black: Echoes”(June 23 on AMC): I liked the original “Orphan Black” primarily for Tatiana Maslany’s hilariously varied performances playing clones of herself, but the story itself ultimately became too convoluted for my taste. Krysten Ritter takes over the lead role in this reboot that purports to take “a deep dive into the exploration of the scientific manipulation of human existence.”

    “The Bear” (June 27 on Hulu): The Chicago-set hit series from FX returns for Season 3, following the restaurant trials and tribulations of Carmy & Co., who ended last season with the opening of their fine-dining revamp of the old Italian beef sandwich shop.

    “Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer” (July 11 on Hulu): A three-part docuseries about Dr. Ann Burgess, who helped develop serial killer profiling and was the inspiration for a character on the Netflix series “Mindhunter.” The series is based on her book “A Killer by Design: Murderers, Mindhunters and My Quest to Decipher the Criminal Mind” and looks into some of her most famous cases, as well her efforts in the anti-rape movement.

    “Cobra Kai” (July 18 on Netflix): I watch this “Karate Kid” TV sequel mainly for the oddball chemistry between Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, aka the one-time underdog karate kid (Ralph Macchio) and his one-time nemesis (William Zabka) who are still in each other’s lives all these years later and now somehow actually friends. I love their mismatched energy! Can’t say I’m as engrossed by anything to do with the show’s teenage contingent, who are never half as interesting. The show returns for its sixth and final season, and Netflix is dividing that into three parts. Part 1 premieres in July, Part 2 in November (November?? Yes, November) and “the final event” premieres sometime after that in 2025.

    “Lady in the Lake” (July 19 on Apple TV+): A seven-part thriller starring Natalie Portman as a 1960s housewife-turned-journalist in Baltimore who investigates the death of a Black mother.

    “Elizabeth Taylor: The Lost Tapes” (Aug. 3 on HBO): A new documentary about the Hollywood legend who died in 2011 that uses her “own voice to narrate her story, accompanied by personal photos, home movies and clips from her iconic roles that mirror her real-life challenges and triumphs, while also challenging audiences to reconsider Taylor’s legacy.”

    Other notable dates: The 77th Tony Awards hosted by Ariana DeBose (June 16 on CBS) and the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris (July 26 to Aug. 11 on NBC).

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