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Summer TV Preview 2018: Spies, Sinners, ‘Sharp Objects’ and Sex Magick

From dark crime procedurals to black-magic dramas, teen superheroes to Stephen King horror – your complete summer viewing guide

Summer TV Preview 2018

Your complete Summer TV viewing guide – from Stephen King to 'Sharp Objects,' returning Netflix hits to new teen superhero dramas and NSFW sitcoms.

Summer TV – it’s not just for losers anymore. Not so long ago, the months from May to August were TV’s reject pile, the Island of Misfit Toys, a wasteland full of reruns and fluff. The airwaves turned into a dumping ground for crap that wouldn’t cut it the rest of the year.

But that’s no longer the case, as the Peak TV boom keeps raging all year round and the hustle for ratings never sleeps. This summer is packed, from Stephen King’s nightmares to J.K. Rowling’s detectives, Eighties drag divas to Marvel teen superheroes. Michelle Wolf is bringing the political heat. John Krasinski is an ass-kicking super-spy. Cowboys. Occult sex rituals. And another shot for Arrested Development to get it right this time. These are the 24 summer shows worth getting excited about this season. Who needs fresh air and sunshine and swimming pools?

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‘An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life’ (May 25)

Netflix
Who wants a good old-fashioned comedy buzz? Filmed in Greenville, South Carolina, this concert film of Steve Martin and Martin Short’s joint tour is like comfort food – a wonderfully familiar blend of Hollywood anecdotes, banjo solos (because of course), jokes, sketches and the occasional cabaret-crooning interlude. It’s like a cross between a TV variety show and a Vegas nightclub act stripped of extraneous glitz, with nothing but the pleasure of watching two comedians who clearly enjoy each other’s company. Yes, this feels like it carbon-dates back to the age of vaudeville, or possibly the late Seventies; no, you won’t mind at all. Martin’s tuneful, “impromptu” tribute to his buddy, which turns into a passive-aggressive call-and-response duet, is worth the price of admission alone. DF

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‘The Break With Michelle Wolf’ (May 27)

Netflix
“Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with a Trump, let’s get this over with.” And with those tender words, Michelle Wolf went from up-and-coming professional wiseass to instant-legend status as host of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, turning the annual media schmooze-slobber into a resistance roast. And with The Break, she joins her fellow Daily Show alums John Oliver and Samantha Bee in a weekly satirical rundown of the news. Wolf promises it will specialize in “the types of jokes my former bosses would tell me we couldn’t do on TV.” As for what she can do that other cable pundits can’t, let’s give the host the last word on her competition: “Watching Rachel Maddow is like going to Target – you went in for milk but left with shampoo, candles and the entire history of the Byzantine Empire.” RS

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‘The Fourth Estate’ (May 27)

Showtime
Welcome to a sobering documentary about the struggle of journalism in the new-model U.S.A., where the President denounces the reporters who cover him as “fake news” and “enemies of the people.” Filmmaker Liz Garbus (What Now, Miss Simone?) takes a four-part look inside the newsroom of the New York Times as it covers the first year of an astoundingly sleazy administration determined to clamp down on scrutiny or dissent. The Times strains to adapt its lofty white-shoe editorial ideals to the new hard-nosed climate. (At one point, someone says, “We have a left that doesn’t hear what the other side has to say and we have a right that feels the same way” – such a hilarious self-parody of the paper’s nostalgic both-sides–ist etiquette.) If only we knew how the story ends. Hell, if only we knew that it ends. RS

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‘Arrested Development’ Season 5 (May 29)

Netflix
A redemption story waiting to happen – Arrested Development gets another chance at a worthy comeback, after the underwhelming flop reunion from 2013. So fans will be rooting for this fifth season (17 episodes!) to be worthy of the canon. Expect more interaction with the full ensemble, right down to David Cross’ Tobias boasting, “I just blew myself for the first time in five years.” Jeffrey Tambor (who has a lot more free time on his hands after his controversial departure from Transparent) returns as the family patriarch, alongside Jason Bateman, Porti de Rossi, Tony Hale, Will Arnett, Alia Shawkat and Michael Cera (his first time playing George Michael in a sadly post-George Michael world). But the one we’re really impatient for is Jessica Walter as everybody’s favorite loathsome Bluth, Lucille. Get this woman a vodka rocks and a piece of toast. RS

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‘C.B. Strike’ (June 1)

Cinemax
J.K. Rowling wrote the Cormoran Strike detective novels under the pen name Robert Galbraith, following the adventures of a rumpled London private eye with a prosthetic leg and a few nasty habits. (He’s also got a rock & roll lineage – his mom was a Blue Oyster Cult groupie.) The BBC adaptation comes to Cinemax this summer, after becoming a U.K. hit last year, with seven episodes based on Rowling’s three noir-inspired Strike novels: The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm and Career of Evil. Tom Burke is Strike, a former military cop haunted by the violence in his past. As one slick suspect asks him, “Are you attracted to troubled women? Or do they become troubled because of you?” Holliday Grainger is his spunky new sidekick Robin, a decidedly non-street-smart rookie who yearns to walk on the wild side. Bring on the Scully-and-Mulder-style rapport. RS

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‘Pose’ (June 3)

FX
“Darling, the champagne is burned.” In his last hurrah of his amazing run on broadcast TV before he takes off to Netflix, Ryan Murphy takes a look at the rise of the New York City drag ball scene in the late 1980s, set in the New York underground immortalized in the classic doc Paris Is Burning. This is where the dance floor creates a home for the city’s outcasts – as MJ Rodriguez’s legendary mother Blanca puts it, “Balls are a gathering of people who are not welcome together anywhere else.” Murphy has assembled a deep cast of LGBTQ performers, many of them never on camera before; James Van Der Beek plays a coked-up tycoon, with Evan Peters and Kate Mara as a white-bread Jersey couple who get drawn into this world. This promises all the gaudy opulence that makes Murphy the Mother of the House of Basic-Cable Melodrama. RS

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‘Succession’ (June 3)

HBO 
Succession takes you inside the power struggles behind a family empire – one where virtually every character is the kind of corporate shark who calls Thursday afternoon “the preekend” without irony. Brian Cox is the crusty patriarch Logan Roy, watching his back-stabbing kids – Jeremy Strong, Alan Ruck, Kieran Culkin and Sarah Snook – squabble and plot to take over. It’s a surprisingly solemn dramatic production from Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and Peep Show‘s Jesse Armstrong, full of jerky camera moves and clever media gags, as in a very 2003-looking website that’s a cross between Gawker and Vulture, called “Vaulter.” (“Don’t we own them?” one of the Roy kids asks.) The real find in the cast is Snook as Siobhan, or “Shiv,” the D.C.-living sister who dad tries to cajole into rejoining the family business: “Not to crude about it, but politics is what comes out the asshole. Wouldn’t you rather be up front feeding the horse?” RS

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‘Wrong Man’ (June 3)

Starz
What if some death-row convicts – ones who have steadfastly claimed innocence for years, possibly decades – had, in fact, been wrongly incarcerated for crimes they did not commit? Veteran documentarian Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost) and a team of private investigators dig into three different capital-punishment cases, each with some very extenuating circumstances and questionable evidence from the prosecution. You thought only Netflix put out deep-dive true-crime docs? DF

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‘Dietland’ (June 4)

AMC
Novelist Sarai Walker said she was inspired to write her 2015 satire about teen-mag columnists and underground vigilante groups after seeing Fight Club; one can only hope that AMC’s TV adaptation gets within spitting distance of that movie’s subversive shock therapy or the source material’s bite. Joy Nash is Plum Kettle, who pens advice for a beauty-industry publication under the name of her bigwig editor (welcome back, Julianna Marguiles!). Our heroine is already struggling with body-image issues; soon, she also finds herself involved with a feminist empowerment group and caught in the middle of an epidemic of bad men getting murdered. We like the sound of this one. DF

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‘Condor’ (June 6)

Audience Network
Brendan Fraser continues his noble Fraserssaince in this espionage thriller on the Audience Network, the tale of an idealistic young CIA analyst. (Part of his top-secret assignment: figure out what exactly the Audience Network is or who the hell watches it.) Condor is loosely based on the 1975 Robert Redford flick Three Days of the Condor, starring Max Irons as a babyface agency grunt who accidentally invents a terrorist-finding algorithm. He meets his match in Fraser, the evil criminal mastermind with a plan to spread a deadly plague virus among the American civilian population. The bosses include vets like Bob Balaban, William Hurt and an extremely welcome return for Mira Sorvino. Fraser has been on a roll with Trust and The Affair – here’s to the next chapter. RS

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‘American Woman’ (June 7)

Paramount Network
We’ve been waiting for someone to hand Alicia Silverstone a meaty, Cher Horowitz-level role for a while now, and we’re crossing our fingers that this is the one. She stars in this Seventies-set comedy as Bonnie Nolan, a have-it-all woman who splits from her no-goodnik husband and joins the working world. She also gets a taste of the decade’s “new freedoms” – drugs! swingers’ parties! second-wave feminism! – alongside friends played by American Pie/American Beauty actress Mena Suvari (we’re sensing a theme here) and UCB alumna Jennifer Bartels. Yes, the hair is Farrah Fawcett-feathered; yes, the Guess Who song does show up on the soundtrack. DF

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‘Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger’ (June 7)

Freeform
The ever-expanding Marvel Universe takes over the Freeform network (formerly known as ABC Family). Cloak and Dagger has a YA twist – our heroes are a couple of New Orleans teenagers who come from different worlds, until they discover that they’re connected via their mysterious superpowers. Aubrey Joseph is Tyrone, or “Cloak,” who can plunge anyone into darkness; Olivia Holt is Tandy, or “Dagger,” who can cut people up with light. And in post-Katrina NOLA, their city needs them to rally into action to battle the forces of evil. As Dagger tells Cloak, “Hold my hand – we’ll show these assholes a divine pairing.” They’re an immediately likable pair with real chemistry – nobody can truly understand this dynamic duo except each other. RS

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‘Strange Angel’ (June 14)

CBS All Access
Are you looking for rocket science or Aleister Crowley-inspired sex-magick rituals? Come on – you’re looking for both, sicko! Welcome to this space oddity from CBS’ subscription streaming service All Access, looking to repeat the success of Star Trek: Discovery with the tale of real-life American weirdo Jack Parsons. He was a major figure in the history of rocket engineering during the 1930s and 1940s, founding NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories; he was also was a member of Crowley’s occult society Ordo Templi Orientis in L.A., having a torrid affair with his sister-in-law until she left him to marry his pal L. Ron Hubbard. He spent his nights in sex rituals trying to magically summon the Mother of Abominations. Parsons’ short and crazy life is a hell of a story, and this show has a hell of a cast to match – Sing Street‘s Jack Reynor as the rocket man, alongside Rupert Friend and Bella Heathcote. Created by Black Swan‘s Mark Heyman (and executive produced by Ridley Scott), Strange Angel seems like it could be an episode of Drunk History, except it’s really drunk history. RS

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‘Yellowstone’ (June 20)

Paramount Network
The last time Kevin Costner turned to TV – five years ago – he won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for Hatfields and McCoys. The star returns to the small screen (as he probably calls it) with the Western drama from Taylor Sheridan, who’s been on a screenwriting roll (Hell or High WaterSicario). Costner gets his Lorne Greene on as a stubborn old rancher who wants to keep doing things the old-fashioned way: “Ranching is the only business where the goal is to break even – survive another season.” He’s got land developers and oil tycoons poisoning the water with fracking; he’s got heat from the Native American reservation next door. He’s also got his issues with wife Gretchen Mol, who somewhat bizarrely plays the 45-year-old mom of 39-year-old Wes Bentley. (Like ranchers, Hollywood can be slow to embrace change.) RS

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‘Luke Cage’ Season 2 (June 22)

Netflix
The Rage in the Cage is back! Cheo H. Coker’s Marvel/Netflix series on the Harlem avenger returns for its sophomore season, with Mike Colter’s strong, silent, brooding hero once again kicking much uptown gangster ass. Old favorites like Rosario Dawson’s saintly Claire Temple, Alfre Woodard’s villainous Mariah Dillard and Simone Messick’s mecha-armed Misty Knight are present and accounted for; Luke’s father (played by the late, great Reg E. Cathey) and a tough new bulletproof villain named Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir) are also along for the Round 2 ride. “Sometimes brutality gets shit done,” Cage says in the trailer, right after a montage of people getting royally thumped. Uh-oh. DF

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‘Glow’ Season 2 (June 29)

Netflix
If you’d told us last spring that one of our favorite new shows would have been a dramedy about the Eighties kitsch-totem known as TV’s Glorious Ladies of Wrestling, costarring a Community cast member and a veteran stand-up/podcast host, we might have thought you’d been hit in the head with a can of Fresca. But damned if the first season of Netflix’s left-field hit didn’t bodyslam us with its colorful, compassionate world of women on the showbiz periphery – and now, for the love of spandex, we finally get more episodes. Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin and the rest of the gang are back for more grappling; Marc Maron returns for a fresh round of pep talks and scowling; and once again, the Los Angeles air is thick with sweat and AquaNet. Go Zoya the Destroya! DF 

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‘Sharp Objects’ (July 8)

HBO
Fresh off his run on the smash first season of Big Little Lies, director Jean-Marc Vallée brings his woozy, dizzying style to this adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller about a reporter (Amy Adams) with a drinking problem, a traumatic past and an apprehension to covering a murder in her old hometown. But return to those stomping grounds she does, digging up a lot more than she bargained for. Mindy Project hunk Chris Messina is a detective on the case; Patricia Clarkson is sloshed Southern matriarch; It girl (no, literally, she was in It) Sophia Lillis plays Adams’ character as a teenager. Why, yes, this probably will be your dark-procedural Prestige TV pleasure of the season. DF

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‘Heathers’ (July 10)

Paramount Network
Yes, remember that TV show based on the greatest teen black comedy of all time, the one whose spring premiere was delayed right after a school shooting? It will finally get to see the light of day, assuming another why-do-we-not-have-gun-control-in-this-country-again? tragedy does not happen right before this start date. A whole new group of young, warm Heatherettes rule the school, and next-gen versions of the Ryder royalty rebel and Slater homicidal maverick characters are on deck as well. It’s less a reboot, we’ve heard, than an extension of the Heathersverse … which, well, you know what you can do with that chainsaw. DF

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‘Castle Rock’ (July 25)

Hulu 
One of the summer’s most mysterious – and eagerly awaited – surprises: the dark secrets of a certain small town in Maine called Castle Rock. Stephen King and J. J. Abrams team up for this thriller, as Moonlight‘s Andre Holland receives a message from Shawshank Prison that brings him out to the rustic capital of King’s horror universe, where all his most frightening tales intersect. The cast is full of familiar faces: Scott Glenn as the local sherriff, Sissy Spacek, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgard and Terry O’Quinn. All anyone knows for sure about this anthology show is that with its haunted houses, shadowy woods, underwater cars and ominously barking dogs, it’ll tap deep into the the author’s deep-cut lore. RS

'The Sinner' Season 2 (August)

Lyndon French for Rolling Stone

‘The Sinner’ Season 2 (August 1)

USA
The first season of this “whydunnit” about a woman accused of murder and the rumpled detective trying to unravel the mystery behind the act was impressive enough and proved that producer/star Jessica Biel has been a generally underused actor for most of her career. But the reason we’re incredibly excited for the USA show’s sophomore season? This new batch of episodes features the return of Leftovers/Fargo star Carrie Coon to TV, in a new storyline that finds dogged law-enforcement officer Bill Pullman investigating a different unexplained murder involving a kid who’s murdered his parents. We have no idea where the actress fits in, but Carrie Coon, people! DF

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‘Insecure’ Season 3 (August 12)

HBO
Issa Rae’s misadventures of a teacher/would-be rapper/woman trying to figure out life in Los Angeles has been one of the most consistently solid new shows of the past few years – a perfect distillation of an artist’s voice into a premium-cable prestige-comedy format. Season Three promises more of the same, along with a new cohabitation set-up for our heroine, probably no Jay Ellis appearances and more Molly shenanigans. DF

Summer TV Preview 2018

‘Disenchantment’ (August 17)

Netflix
Good news, Futurama fans! The man behind that animated sci-fi show – and another TV toon about a family in the small town of Springfield, the name of which escapes us at the moment – returns to your screens with a brand new series. Matt Groening’s latest venture follows a liquor-swilling princess (voiced by Broad City‘s Abbi Jacobson) as she battles all sorts of fantasy-based beasties, enemies and other Tolkienesque obstacles. Luckily, she’s got a sidekick elf to help out; unluckily, she has a “personal demon” nagging at her as well – we’re going to assume that it’s an actual demon and not a colloquialism. If Groening can do for sword-and-sorcery what he did for interstellar shenanigans, we see a long, fan-quotable shelf life for this. DF

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‘The Innocents’ (August 24)

Netflix
Another tale of two alienated teenagers who find common ground in the supernatural. The Innocents comes on very British indeed, as you can tell from the fabulously named leads Sorcha Groundshell and Percelle Ascott. They’re a young couple named Harry and June whose families can’t understand their forbidden love – he’s black, she’s white. But when they run away from the adult world, they find out June is a shape-shifter, with mysterious professor Guy Pearce tutoring her in her powers and tantalizing her with the whereabouts of the mother who abandoned her three years ago. It’s Romeo meets Juliet, with a side order of Species. RS

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‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan’ (August 31)

Amazon
The latest version of Tom Clancy’s red-blooded CIA agent has a Lost pedigree in creators Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland – not to mention an Office pedigree in John Krasinski. Hot from the success of A Quiet Place, the erstwhile Jim completes his stunning makeover by stepping into the role made famous by Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine … and ah yes, Ben Affleck. His new boss is Wendell Pierce (that’s right, Bunk from The Wire); the cast also includes Abbie Cornish Peter Fonda and Timothy Hutton. Amazon is betting heavily on this franchise, and Krasinski plays Ryan as a schlubby office drone: “I’m an analyst! I don’t interrogate people, I write reports!” Guess who reluctantly gets pulled into a Middle Eastern terrorist plot and discovers his inner action hero? RS