The small screen boasts risk takers that look like us, iconoclasts that barely do, and the kind of raucous enterprises that burrow into our consciousnesses and claim a space. Whatever has to do with cinema, with viewership, has changed drastically. Streaming is the culprit. Netflix and co have dominated spaces so thoroughly that the film industry has been left with reruns rehashing characters like a sharecropper’s arid land yielding less and less while the landlord demands more and more. Studios seem to survive, only, by either injecting women into roles where men once were or exchanging good ideas for foul ones that are nonetheless relatable.
But all that small-screen artistry tends to dry up in the summer when creators and writers rooms head back to drawing boards for season whatever. Lucky for us the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Freeform, USA, HBO and others are chock full of goodies to keep us inside during bathing suit season. With this guide, we’ll be giving you the low-down on the can’t miss series of the summer, summer, summertime.
The Low Down
The Break With Michelle Wolf (Netflix)
Michelle Wolf is happening, everyone. Divisive political times catapult the careers of a chosen few and after Wolf turned Sarah Huckabee Sanders into a perfectly roasted bbq staple this past year her star has been on the rise. It’s well deserved. Wolf is legitimately hilarious and fearless, especially amid these bogus, fuck boi times.
Luke Cage (Netflix)
The second season has been lauded to high heaven already. Yet we can’t help but try to elucidate how great Bushmaster, played by Mustafa Shakir, is as the villain. He and Cage push each other around almost incidentally, but Harlem isn’t big enough for the both of them and by the end, you’re left to wonder who you’re rooting for.
Arrested Development (Netflix)
So season 4 of the iconic show was seriously flawed. Still, we’ve got high hopes for this newest slice-of-Gob. Double especially after the terrible interviews by Jason Bateman amid the sexual assault allegations against Jeffrey Tambour. #MeToo has, rightly, canceled many a show. But I’m waiting to see how that energy may manifest in a tighter story and wondrous acting by the beleaguered Bluth clan.
Ryan Murphy has created a series so without comparison that it feels like a whisper from another world. Pose roams the halls between gorgeous visualizations of 80’s ballroom and true-to-life stories of the people who wield this culture with such verve that it can come off as scatterbrained and protean at times as well as majestic at others. Frankly, we’re lucky something like this even exists.
Cloak & Dagger (Freeform)
Freeform’s Marvel masterpiece takes as its essence the inescapability of events. There is a bargain made between people and their circumstances, a handshake of lopsided power dynamic that shapes the future and the present simultaneously. Both Cloak and Dagger are victims of themselves and their happenings, making both the ties that bind and their free actions deeply palpable. It’s also just beautiful to watch.
Niecy Cash is unforgettable as Desna Simms, the unapologetically gangster owner of a nail salon cum drug operation. Claws revolves on her reverb, enlightening and admonishing in turn. Karrueche Tran is an employee named Virginia, and her scene-stealing pink fur coat took Twitter by storm last season. In this one, the pressure cooker is turned up to its zenith.
Queer Eye (Netflix)
Heterosexual culture has become staid, repetitive, and hierarchical so it was a perfect time to reintroduce the Queer Eye concept to the world. These men clean out their clients’ spaces and, in turn, their souls, creating the idea that maybe a more equal world between the sexes is possible after all. And, well, maybe we can all dress a little better as well.
Queen Of The South (USA)
Coats have always been a sign of power. Olivia Pope’s is a symbol of her strength, a totem for a woman in control of her destiny. The same is true of Queen Of The South’s Teresa Mendoza, the gun-toting Queen pin of a drug empire. The first two seasons were a feast. Let’s hope season 3 continues to up the ante.
This 80’s, meta, comedic drama about an actress whose big break is on a women’s wrestling show has been a sleeper hit. The acting of Alison Brie, Debbie Egan, and Cherry Bang is superb and the righteous, empowering aspects of it are as today as they were in 1984. It’s been thirty-four years since then. The saddest part? Not much has changed.
Nailed It! (Netflix)
Forever and ever it seems we watch reality television to revel in the best and the worst of it. There are stars, sure, but sometimes you’re there for the failures; the anti-stars. Well, this entire series is based on that love of the failure. In it, contestants are there precisely because of horrible previous performances. But a chance at redemption means the most improved can win some cash.
Sharp Objects (HBO)
Gillian Flynn shocked the sensibilities of men everywhere who found they too could become the hunted in her explosive novel and the subsequent film Gone Girl. Sharp Objects is another in that vein. It gives life to and space for “messy” women. In it, Amy Adams stars as Camille Preaker, a reporter back in her hometown to investigate the disappearances of two pre-teen girls. She sizzles in the role, even with the plodding pronouncements of the show.
Wynona Earp (SyFy)
In a highly on-brand take from a graphic novel for SyFy, there’s Wynona Earp. The heir of Wyatt Earp, demon hunter of all things, returns to her hometown of purgatory to murder the aptly named Revenants, who haunt the place. Demon slaying twists and turns follow as she is accompanied by her sister and an immortal Doc Holliday. It’s a fun, rollicking, and slick turn of the Earp legend.
Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
Netflix’s runaway hit of a series has returned with a new set of rules to break and lives to live. It’s brilliant, as you already know, and it will make you feel something — ridiculously, incredulously — even as the summer strums into deadening August heat.
The Sinner (USA)
This isn’t a who-dun-it, but rather a why’d-she-do-it. Which makes for great fun excavating the tortured psyche of Jessica Biel’s character Cora Tannetti. Above all else to thine own self be true, is a Shakespearean thing we all know, but what happens when you don’t know who or what that is?
HBO’s beloved Ballers returns in August for another bit of cult-of-personality peddling at the whim of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He’s become preternaturally popular in these roles as he punctures long-held images of masculinity by featuring some kind of Hemingwayian wound, oddly the same practice as those keeping the flame of trenchant masculinity alive. Yet, we know so little about our athletes that the show continues to bear fruit. And as Johnson’s character’s wound widens, more is revealed about the world of professional sports than we thought possible.
Issa Rae has a lot riding on Season 3 of Insecure. As far as we know Lawrence is out, but who’s in? That may be the point of this upcoming season, as we may be able to actually see the characters grow instead of waffle in stasis. It makes us ask this question of ourselves, however: Will we ever become who we’re meant to be?