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Summer TV Preview 2017: ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Defenders’ and ’80s Lady Wrestlers

From the Iron Throne to the Black Lodge – Rob Sheffield lays out your complete must-see viewing guide for the season

Here’s
to a long hot summer of TV – in case you’re tempted to venture outside in
the sweltering heat, the airwaves are full of excellent reasons to stay
inside and watch.
Our summer TV preview has brilliant new shows and returning old
favorites, from the Iron Throne to the Black Lodge. There are innovative
dramas about stand-up comics, female wrestlers, drug dealers and Seventies stand-up comics. There are clones and cowgirls and dragons.
There are erotic thrillers, wild comedies and ridiculous game shows.
Praise the TV gods and pour the damn good coffee.

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‘Snowfall’

FX
July 5th

John Singleton created this tough, gritty drama about the Eighties crack epidemic, set in South Central L.A. Damon Idris is the kid who gets swept up into the drug trade, named Franklin Saint. (Singleton has never worried much about being too subtle with names; this is the guy who cast Janet Jackson as a girl named Justice who writes poetry in Poetic Justice.) Franklin went to a fancy school in the Valley, but now he’s back in the hood, working at a convenience store, making his plans to escape while grooving to “Jam on It” on his blaster. He deals weed to his rich prep-school friends – then he meets high rollers who have new plans for him. There’s a CIA agent with a connection to the Nicaraguan contras, funding their terrorist war against the Sandinista government; there’s a Mexican wrestler who makes money on the side collecting debts for the mob. Their stories intertwine with a new kind of drug: One that’s cheap, quick and deadly – and is about to transform the crime world.

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‘Candy Crush’

CBS
July 9th

It’s
difficult to describe this show without sounding like you just gobbled up a bag
of mescaline-dusted cheese puffs, but here goes. Candy Crush is a live-action game show based on the phone game,
with human contestants trapped on a giant screen where they use their whole
bodies to slide and swipe until they match the magic video candies. And it’s
hosted by human emoji Mario Lopez, who coaches these lucky folks to win valuable
prizes. Lopez’s career has taken him plenty of strange places since Saved By The Bell, but it’s fair to say Candy Crush must be the trippiest. In
case you’re the gambling type, three episodes is the over/under for how long it
takes before one of the contestant screams, “I’m so excited! I’m so excited!
I’m so scaaaaared!

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‘Game of Thrones’: Season 7

HBO
July 16th

It’s
the most fervently anticipated TV event of the year – the return of Game of Thrones. The white raven from
the Citadel has touched down in Winterfell, which means it’s official: Winter
is here. Cersei Lanner sits on the Iron Throne in the aftermath of the Battle
of the Bastards; in
last season’s stunner finale, Cersei she a host of her problems at once by
setting the Sparrows ablaze, wrapping up one of the saga’s least enthralling
subplots in a great ball of fire. Jaime arrived home just in time to see his
sister/lover take over as queen, before the ashes of their last remaining child
have a chance to get cold. Daenerys sets sail with Tyrion as her Hand of the
Queen, while Jon Snow reigns as King in the North. They are all ready to make their next
move. Season Seven promises to be the tightest yet – seven episodes instead of the usual 10.
With George R. R. Martin’s books now distant in the rear view mirror, Game of Thrones breaks out in new
directions, adding cast members like Jim Broadbent and Tom Hopper – along with
some guy named Ed Sheeran.

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Anne Marie Fox/HBO

‘Insecure’: Season 2

HBO
July 23rd

The
return of the mack: Issa Rae faces up to her so-called life in the new season
of Insecure, one of last year’s
brightest sitcom newcomers. The creator of Awkward
Black Girl
gets even more awkward as she grapples to figure herself out.
What is she doing at the inner-city educational nonprofit I Got This? Is she
wasting her talent by not chasing her dream of rapping? Does she belong with
the guy who makes her feel like “the black couple fighting at CVS”? Or does she
belong with the less reliable but hotter guy she tells him not to worry about?
Why is her coolest friend Molly single? For that matter, why is Issa? That’s a
lot of drama to resolve in one season, but watching her try will be a pleasure,
especially with her bathroom-mirror raps for commentary.

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‘Difficult People’: Season 3

Hulu
August 8th

The
New York comedy of bad manners gets a few new twists this summer – yet Julie
Klausner and Billy Eichner remain the tight connection at the heart of their
stomach-clenchingly cringe-intensive fictional universe. Stockard Channing
shows up to play Julie’s unbearable aunt, while Billy makes a move to figure
out how to be part of a bona fide couple with boyfriend John Cho. But there
seems to be no need to worry either of these Difficult People will get normal on us. As always, it’s the
dysfunctional adventures of two BFFs who bring out the catty worst each other,
in a city full of people who’d rather gargle broken glass than spend a minute
with either of them.

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‘The Defenders’

Netflix
August 18th

The long-awaited Marvel Netflix all-star team finally gets it together to battle the forces of evil. On deck: The whiskey-swilling hard-boiled detective Jessica Jones; her Hell’s Kitchen neighbor (and her attorney) Matt Murdock, known on the streets as Daredevil; Harlem’s bulletproof black messiah Luke Cage; and some douchey martial-arts kid who wants people to call him Iron Fist, but looks like his true superpower is his mystic hacky-sack skills. Well, three out of four aint bad.

The Defenders thrives on the tension between these four wildly divergent heroes – Krysten Ritter‘s Jones and Mike Colter’s Cage have a stoic sense of grief in their bones, while Charlie Cox plays it a bit mellow as Daredevil. They’re not exactly equal partners, in terms of their skill sets or star power; letting Finn Jones’ lame Danny Rand on this squad is like putting Sammy Hagar in the Traveling Wilburys. (It’s reminiscent of the classic sketch on The State where the Super Friends tell Aquaman, “Go talk to some fish.”) But these loners join forces with some help from the underpraised Rosario Dawson as Clare Temple, along with other figures from the Marvel Netflix orbit – Elodie Yung makes a welcome return as Elektra, while Sigourney Weaver makes an elegantly sinister super-villain.

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