Yes, it's our guide to the summer's most hotly awaited cable shows — from the time-is-a-flat-circle return of True Detective to the emancipation of Caitlyn Jenner. Some of this season's contenders are brand new; others are veteran franchises back with a new twist or two. There's the Wachowskis gone spiritual and the dawn of the Walking Dead zombies, spy thrillers and sci-fi fantasies, hip-hop gangstas and powder-wig wizards and blunt talkers and difficult people. And of course, the first day of camp for Wet Hot American Summer, returning at long last. Summer TV is ready when you are.
June 5th, Netflix
These are skimpy days for science fiction on TV, so it's been a minute since there's been a project with the ambition of Sense8, from the Matrix creators Andy and Lana Wachowski. Eight different people from all around the world suddenly find themselves sharing senses, from a Korean martial-arts queen (Doona Bae) to a Bay Area trans woman (Jamie Clayton) to an Icelandic DJ (Tuppence Middleton). How did their identities meld? What happened to link their senses, and what does that mean for their individual lives? Who is this Mr. Whispers and why are his assassins hunting them down? With each character boasting wildly different backstories, it's The Matrix by way of Orange Is the New Black.
June 6th, 9 pm, Starz
50 Cent's crime drama returns, with more money, more problems — and a surprisingly big upgrade in the drama level. Ghost (Omari Hardwick) lives a double life as a nightclub owner who's also a drug dealer — wait, that's a double life? At any rate, the combo gets him in trouble: His underworld connections keep him from going legit. Especially when he falls for Angela (Lela Loren), a childhood girlfriend who grew up to be a federal attorney.
Power's first season got better as it went along, but the second installment gets a major boost from Fiddy himself, as Ghost's old gangbanging partner Kanan. He just got out of prison after 10 years, and he's got plans to start a whole new thug life. Maybe part of the reason Power got sharper is the fact that Empire blew up — amplified by 50 Cent feuding with Taraji P. "Cookie" Henson over the similarities. But whatever the reason, Power has definitely stepped up its game. Best moment: Fiddy commands a henchman to hold his coat while he beats a rival gangster to a pulp, then walks back calmly waving a wad of bills, saying, "Let's go get some fucking egg rolls, kid! That shit made me hungry."
June 8th, 10 pm, Bravo
What is Bravo supposed to do, after depleting the world's population of real housewives? Invent some new ones. Odd Mom Out turns the Real Housewives scenario into a sitcom. It's still the same formula — a hothouse collection of rich ladies complaining — though, weirdly, it seems less scripted now that it's officially scripted. Jill Kargman is the high-strung Upper East Side mom, surrounded by lacquered socialites she despises, while her husband (The Office's Andy Buckley) suggests, "Just be yourself — on Xanax."
June 13th, 10 pm, BBC America
Harry Potter meets Pride and Prejudice? The only question is how an idea this brilliant had to wait so long to happen — all the frippery of a BBC period drama, all the powdered wigs and stockings and bodices, except it's a tale of magicians helping 18th-century England defeat Napoleon, full of wizardly spells and political intrigue. Based on Susanna Clarke's 2004 bestseller, it pairs the gallant young Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carvel) with Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan), the grumpy coot from the York Society of Magicians. It's like they split Benedict Cumberbatch in half: Carvel gets all the dashing charm, Marsan gets all the surly cumberbitch hauteur.
June 17th, 11 pm, Sundance
Germany's answer to The Americans — a Cold War thriller set amid the nuclear paranoia of 1983, the year of "99 Luftballons." Kudos to Sundance for importing this eight-part thriller, subtitles and all. Jonas Nay plays the young East German spy who infiltrates the army on the other side of the Berlin Wall. Deutschland 83 captures the mood of a divided city, with two overheated empires eyeball to eyeball. The nuclear stakes couldn't be higher — in the opening scene, a TV plays an actual Ronald Reagan speech where he's chillingly cheerful about the idea of winning a nuclear war against the Evil Empire. ("Let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness" — damn.) It sets the scene right down to the synth-pop on the radio. It's not the first TV thriller to use Peter Schilling's "Major Tom (Coming Home)" (who could forget Gale's karaoke video on Breaking Bad?), but Deutschland 83 really reminds you what a morbid song it is — a sarcastic kiss-off to a self-destructing planet.
June 21st, 10 pm, HBO
Could any star have a more quintessentially 21st-century career than the Rock? From WWE to his loincloth days (The Scorpion King) to his heart-tugging Walking Tall remake with Johnny freaking Knoxville, he's a one-man pop-culture anthology. It's fair to say he's outlived any reasonable career expectations three or four times over. Now he makes his big move to drama in HBO's Ballers, which is basically a football version of Entourage.
The Rock plays an ex-NFL stud who washes out of the league — no money, no future, just a nasty painkiller habit. But he scores a new gig in Miami as a financial manager to the sports stars. He tries to advise his high-paid baller pals on how to stay out of trouble ("No more fucking Twitter!") and act like mature adults, i.e., stop having sex with bottle-service girls in the back of the club. But he has to face his own identity issues now that his jockstrap days are done. Needless to say, this involves partying on yachts with topless models.
There's a Vince, there's a Turtle, but, best of all, Rob Corddry (from Hot Tub Time Machine) takes the Jeremy Piven role, as the sleazebag suit who hires the Rock to recruit NFL clients, or "monetize my friendships." When the Rock lands a big client, Corddry responds, "Hey, would you mind if I took you in my mouth right now? The whole shebang?" And like Piven on Entourage, Corddry steals every scene he's in: "You should see my other yacht — but I loaned it to Prince and he took it to Mallorca."
June 21st, 10 pm, HBO
The summer's most intensely awaited show by a mile. True Detective faces a damn near impossible task: how to start over and begin a new mystery that can live up to Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. Nobody's ever attempted an encore like this before, and nobody knows how the results will look. Creator Nic Pizzolatto is back to write all the episodes, while Cary Fukunaga is executive-producing instead of directing. The cast is promising, with Taylor Kitsch and a mustache-chewing Colin Farrell. And Vince Vaughn reteams with Rachel McAdams, all these years after he met her in church for Wedding Crashers.
July 12th, 9 pm, Showtime
Liev Schreiber's L.A.-via-Boston Irish superthug may have started out as a fairly generic cable antihero — but he gets more interesting every season, now that he's less of a family man and more of a freewheeling criminal operator. Ian McShane (Deadwood's Al Swearengen) is the new MVP in the cast, as a louche gangster. ("My father was a criminal, Mr. Donovan. He ensured that I didn't have to be.") And as McShane's daughter: Welcome back to prime time, Katie Holmes!
Jon Voight also returns as Ray's lowlife dad, Mickey, but the story is less dependent on him — his character has run out of steam and his scenes are essentially filler. McShane is now the real heavyweight for Schreiber to tangle with here, and it's pure pleasure to see them interact, especially since his charismatic presence balances out Schreiber's no-facial-expressions-ever approach. "Kafka said that in man's struggle against the world, you bet on the world," McShane muses at one point, with that evil purr in his voice. "But with people like us, you bet on the man. You most definitely bet on the man."
July 26th, 9 pm, E!
It's always so confusing when Keeping Up With the Kardashians lags this far behind the latest breaking Kardashian news – they can’t even keep up with themselves! But obviously, ever since Bruce Jenner heroically embraced a new life as a trans woman, this summer's Kardashian du jour is Caitlyn. ("I wanna know how this story ends" — easily the coolest thing any Kardashian has ever said, admittedly not a tough competition.) So E! jumps into action with this eight-episode reality series. I Am Cait follows Caitlyn as she begins a new identity, asking, "How many people go through life and just waste their entire life because they never deal with themself, to be who they are?" Poor Brody — Caitlyn's son hosts the new chat show Sex With Brody, but he's been scooped already. Most of us will just watch Bromance reruns and wait for I Am Cait.
July 31st, Netflix
Yet another bizarre chapter in the long-running afterlife of MTV's cult comedy classic The State – 14 years after it barely even got released, Wet Hot American Summer gets its long-prayed-for second coming. It's the prequel the world was waiting for. David Wain and Michael Showalter revive their beloved teen flick as an eight-episode miniseries. And they bring back the original cast, so many of whom went on to stardom — Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd — as well as newcomers like Jon Hamm, John Slattery and Kristen Wiig.
The summer's most tantalizing comedy prospect for sure — it's the boy/girl Broad City, produced by Amy Poehler. Difficult People stars two brilliant comic upstarts, Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner, as best friends scrounging in NYC for fame, fortune and the occasional slice of ass. A Charles Nelson Reilly and Brett Somers for our twisted time.
A spinoff doesn't have to spin that far off from the original, right? And given the ongoing blockbuster success of The Walking Dead, you have to bet the as-yet-unseen Fear the Walking Dead will not feature well-behaved zombies who patronize their local library and obey traffic signals. Creator Robert Kirkman is behind this prequel going into the origins of the zombie apocalypse.
August 22nd, 9 pm, Starz
You wouldn't expect to see the captain of the Enterprise blowing rails in Hollywood. But then, you wouldn't expect a comedy throwdown between Jonathan Ames (of Bored to Death fame) and Seth MacFarlane, starring Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself) as Walter Blunt, a blow-sniffing British TV chat-show host lost in L.A., where he flaunts his bad habits and worse manners. Make it so!