It’s a strange month for TV, a sort of negative zone after the networks wrap up their big-ticket programming and before they launch their summer favorites. (Game of Thrones doesn’t come back until July, so we can all chill, if not Netflix-and-chill, for another few weeks.) While a few favorites will make their long-awaited returns this month – good to see you again, Preacher! How ya been, Orphan Black? – there’s no better time to investigate something new and/or more unusual. Say, a Florida noir touched up with ridiculous humor, or a down-and-dirty dystopian Z-movie seemingly transplanted from the Seventies. Or hell, why not the take advantage of the chance to get up close and personal with one of the most dangerous men on the face of the Earth right now. Check out you 10 best boob-tube-and-beyond viewing options for June. (And for your primo streaming options, go here.)
Blood Drive (Syfy, June 14th)
You can almost hear creator James Roland in the pitch meeting with Syfy’s executives: “It’s like Death Race 2000, but the cars literally run on human blood!” For the show’s intended audience, a premise that over-the-top is all they need to be sold on this low-budget demolition derby, and there’s plenty of cinema du carsploitation fun to be had with this gonzo drive-in throwback involving killer vehicles gobbling up unsuspecting victims. You are for one hell of a joyride, folks.
Claws (TNT, June 11th)
Revenge comes in two finishes in this Florida-set noir-comedy: matte or lacquered. Desna (Niecy Nash of the late, great Getting On) runs the Manatee County Nail Artisans with a perfectly-manicured iron fist, building an empire out of rhinestones and neon-colored polish. But of course, that’s only the front end – her booming nail salon provides an upstanding facade for her scummy-but-sexy boyfriend’s money laundering needs. Throw in Breaking Bad alum Dean Norris as a local crime boss named Uncle Daddy (!) who’s not so pleased with the ladies moving in on his turf, and you’ve got an absurdly violent/just plain absurd street war on the horizon. They may be glam, but these artisans won’t hesitate to chip a nail if the situation goes south.
The Great British Baking Show: Season Four (PBS, June 16th)
Fan-favorite judge Mary Berry may have taken her talents elsewhere, but the most civil food competition on TV has found a suitable replacement in Prue Leith. She’s but one of the new personalities in a season marked by change, as the show welcomes a pair of fresh hosts in Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding. They’ll keep it prim and proper as they go through another round of cakes, breads, cookies and tarts, putting an emphasis on doing your best over the spirit of competition. The recipe of food porn with a Zen sense of tranquility has helped turn this U.K.-made series into an unlikely smash stateside; for TV drinking-game fans, take a shot every time you hear the proper pronunciation of sponge.
If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast (HBO, June 5th)
Carl Reiner wants to let you in on a little secret: Life only gets really good once you hit 90. This curious new documentary sees the noted director-actor chatting with a starry assortment of nonagenarian celebrity pals about the ups and downs of old age, finding that there’s more to love about the twilight years than you might think. Tony Bennett, Mel Brooks, Kirk Douglas, Norman Lear, Stan Lee, Betty White and Dick Van Dyke all discuss the necessity of remaining active and the surprise of experiencing personal growth after nearly a century on the planet. No nonfiction film this year will be richer with hard-won wisdom or perspective.
I’m Dying Up Here (Showtime, June 3rd)
The Seventies – the hair was feathered, the coke was clean, and stand-up had impolitely elbowed its way into the realm of legitimate art. Showtime’s new period-piece prestige TV series (based on William Knoedelseder’s chronicle of the dog-eat-dog Hell-Ay laugh-shack scene) focuses on the assorted faces around Goldie’s, a buzzy L.A. comedy club and an incubator for big-league comic stardom, with Melissa Leo lording over it all as the mother-hen-with-fangs owner. (Any resemblance to a real-life comedy kingmaker and her Nixon-era hotspot is, er, totally coincidental.) The era’s takes on race, gender, Vietnam and other aspects of social upheaval all get hashed out, as does the psychological deformity that compel some poor bastards to seek laughter for a living. Just don’t call it the Vinyl of airplane-food jokes, please.
The Mist (Spike, June 22nd)
Stephen King was in classic form when he penned the 1980 novella on which this series (and the 2007 film sharing its title) was based. Through the story of a town engulfed by a mysterious fog, the master of horror-lit could play to his strongest suits: the lingering suspense of suggestion, the sudden and terrifying exposure of monstrosity, the examination of how personalities warp under extreme conditions. This Spike TV show takes just as much interest in the reactions of seemingly sane folk to imminent danger as the nature of that danger itself, pairing the chills of horror with a considered psychological component. Whatever you do, don’t go out after dark.
Orphan Black: The Final Season (BBC America, June 10th)
Tatiana Maslany, Tatiana Maslany, Tatiana Maslany and Tatiana Maslany star in the fifth and final season of this clone-heavy sci-fi series, featuring outstanding supporting work from, of course, Tatiana Maslany and Tatiana Maslany. Original article Sarah Manning and her many doppelgangers continue their search for the truth this year, continuously evading capture by the mysterious bio-tamperers in the Dyad Group and the religious zealots of the Proletheans. Each new season has expanded its pre-existing mythology, weaving in other duplicates and secret factions at war; this latest batch of episodes is sure to build upon that while following through on the previous experimental bent. We get to say it one last time: Send in the clones!
Preacher (AMC, June 25th)
The sacrilege-friendly trio of Jesse (Dominic Cooper), his tough-as-nails ex Tulip (Ruth Negga) and Irish vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) continue to raise hell while searching for God in the sophomore season of AMC’s offbeat comic book adaptation. The series has piped in six actors’ worth of fresh blood for the next go-round, though last season’s body count would suggest that they’re not long for this world. Audiences are guaranteed another bullet-riddled joyride through West Texas, shot through with black comedy and casually profound meditations on faith, doubt and belief. Say your prayers – if you really think that’ll help.
The Putin Interviews (Showtime, June 12th)
Oliver Stone has trained his camera on such lightning rods as JFK, Nixon, Dubya and Edward Snowden, but always with the safety net of a script to protect him. The director gets real, however, for his latest and perhaps most controversial project, sitting down with tVladimir Putin for a chat about the usual things: weather, local sports teams, whether the Russian government deliberately tampered with the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Stone is on the hunt for some answers as our government gets embroiled in a scandal rivaling Watergate, and while a full resolution to the current quagmire might seem a lot to ask of the director, that certainly seems like what he’s intent on giving us.
TJ Miller: Meticulously Ridiculous (HBO, June 17th)
He may be parting ways with Silicon Valley, but HBO isn’t fully rid of T.J. Miller just yet. He’s dropping this new hour-long special for the cable channel, in which he provides his lovable-asshat perspective on the timeless subjects of alcoholism, consumerism and Spanish-language ATM menus. The comedian is like the last guy at the bar, a wasted loudmouth who you can’t help but love because you’re in his good graces. His principled rants just so happen to have better punchlines.