6 summer shows to watch as TV's stockpile of new shows begins to thin
The moment of reckoning is here, my couch-bound friends -- where the COVID-19 pandemic and social-distancing shutdown collides with what would have been the summer TV schedule. There are blank spots where a full slate of new shows should have been.
Some good projects wrapped before the shutdown, however, so there might be just enough to sustain us until production can resume. I usually pick at least 10 new shows to recommend each season. Now you get six -- none of which take place in a Zoom meeting. If I were you, I'd ration them like the last canister of Lysol wipes.
'I'll Be Gone in the Dark'
(HBO at 9 p.m. Sunday, June 28)
True-crime connoisseurs know all about California's elusive Golden State Killer, who is believed to have committed 13 murders and some 50 rapes in the 1970s and '80s; that notoriety is largely due to the blogging and ad hoc sleuthing of Michelle McNamara. Not long after her death in 2016, the FBI and local law enforcement agencies relaunched the investigation and, using DNA advancements, arrested a suspect in 2018 -- two months after McNamara's book on the subject (also titled "I'll Be Gone in the Dark") -- was posthumously published.
Master documentarian Liz Garbus ("Who Killed Garrett Phillips?") has made a six-part docuseries that lays out the years spent hunting for the Golden State Killer, and how the case was kept alive by curious citizens like McNamara (who was married to comedian Patton Oswalt), who are inexorably drawn to finding new clues in old evidence. It's a story about how an obsession with true-crime evolved into a quest for justice.
(Showtime at 9 p.m. Sunday, July 5)
This five-part docuseries looks at the perplexing case of Greg Kelley, a popular senior football player at a suburban high school north of Austin, who was convicted in 2014 of sexually assaulting a child at an in-home day-care center. A quick Google search might spoil the ending (Kelley's conviction was overturned last year), but "Outcry," directed by Pat Kondelis, takes its time to slowly analyze a dangerous combination of sloppy police work, contemptuous prosecutors and a frenzied public sentiment clouded by football worship.
The first two episodes acquaint viewers with the basics of the case, as well as the ambivalent reactions to it. After Kelley is sentenced to 25 years, his cause is taken up by an outside observer, who holds rallies proclaiming Kelley's innocence. "Outcry" also looks at how children can be coaxed into making false claims. (McMartin preschool, anyone?) An uncertainty about the truth lingers -- doesn't it always in a series like this?
- Courtesy of Apple TV+
(Apple TV Plus, Friday, July 10)
There's an optimistic sweetness to this half-hour, 10-episode series created by "Waitress" collaborators Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson, billed as a love letter to the striving and struggling it takes to find success in New York. It may seem at first to be full of the very tropes that highly successful performers like to believe in (i.e., with enough work and talent and Big Apple magic, anyone can make it), but "Little Voice" aims higher than the usual pipe dreams.
Brittany O'Grady plays Bess King, an aspiring and talented musician who jots down scraps of her life and observations and turns them into songs she's too intimidated to perform in public. "Little Voice" makes Bess' efforts economically plausible -- she spends as much time in her storage unit as in her small, shared apartment; she walks dogs, teaches piano and tends bar to pay the rent. The music, featuring original songs from Bareilles, is the bonus.
(Starz at 8 p.m. Sunday, July 12)
Playwright Katori Hall ("Tina") adapts her play about black women who work as exotic dancers into this drama series set in a club called Pynk, in a rural part of Mississippi. Hall delivers a deep and often revealing look at the culture and demands of strip-club dancing and its viability in a place that offers little in the way of economic opportunity.
After a hurricane and flood destroy her hometown, Autumn Night (Elarica Johnson) takes the opportunity to escape to P-Valley, where she wins an amateur competition at Pynk and a job from the club's gender-fluid owner, Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan). Autumn immediately runs afoul of the club's star, Mercedes (Brandee Evans), and although the show has subplots galore (including a church scandal and a shady deal to build a mega casino), there's a proudly empathetic tone woven in with all the drama.
"Brave New World"
- Courtesy of Peacock
'Brave New World'
(Peacock, Wednesday, July 15)
The midsummer debut of Comcast's Peacock streaming service (featuring NBCUniversal's considerable library of content, including "Parks and Recreation" and, in 2021, "The Office") brings with it some original dramas and comedies, including this stylish re-imagining of Aldous Huxley's 1932 dystopian classic, set a couple of centuries from now, where pharmaceuticals, psychological reprogramming and regular dance orgies have built the perfect society. Everyone's happy here -- except when they're not.
A stratospheric rocket ride away, John the Savage (Alden Ehrenreich) works as a stagehand at the Savage Lands, a desert amusement park dedicated to re-creating the former world's blight and corruption. (The House of Want, for example, features Black Friday shopping madness.) John finds himself helping two visitors caught in a violent uprising, which loosely hews to the original story, but if you find this "Brave New World" isn't completely faithful, just remember: in Huxley's future, monogamy is a no-no.
- Courtesy of TBS
(TBS at 9 p.m. Thursday, July 23)
So much of the reality TV genre equates happiness with finding true love (and an engagement ring), but where does that leave the people who have so much baggage that they can't even qualify for a dating show?
That's where "Lost Resort" comes in, which has summertime guilty pleasure written all over it, as nine participants arrive at an isolated Costa Rican retreat for three weeks of work with alternative healers to get at the root of their unhappiness and hang-ups. They have trust issues, intimacy problems, financial failures and personality complexes. An array of therapies await!