Remember when summer used to be the dead zone for TV programming? Ha! Now it’s the time when a young upstart like Paramount Network (R.I.P., Spike TV) can drop two swing-for-the-fences shows – one set in the modern Wild West, the other in swingin’ Seventies SoCal – featuring glossy production values and brand-name stars. Also on deck: Cinemax has a new J.K. Rowling import (non-Potter division) from the BBC; Freeform joins the Marvel Universe; and that mystery entity known as the Audience Network delivers a new take on a classic post-Nixon thriller. And that still leaves the billionth show from supreme TV emperor Ryan Murphy. Here’s what you television addicts need to check out over the next month. (Check out our top streaming picks here.)
American Woman (Paramount, June 7th)
It’s the Me Decade, baby – cocaine, feathered hair, swingers’ parties, glass-ceiling-smashing feminism, you know the drill. Amid these currents of social change, Bonnie (Alicia Silverstone) embarks upon an odyssey of self-discovery after she walks in on her husband with another woman. Along for the ride: Kathleen (Mena Suvari), who has reason to believe her husband’s a homosexual on the down-low; and Diana (Jennifer Bartels), who’s a decade into a career and still gets no respect from her chauvinist pig boss. Here’s to pushing back against the patriarchy with a perfectly kitschy wardrobe and a kickin’ soundtrack of solid-gold oldies.
C.B. Strike (Cinemax, June 1st)
England’s richest novelist J.K. Rowling brings her Cormoran Strike detective novels (written under pseudonym Robert Galbraith) to our shores and small screens, with her war veteran turned hard-nosed P.I. Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke) and his faithful assistant Robin Ellacott (Holliday Grainger) solving crimes one compelling-antihero-tic at a time. It’s already proven to be a hit on the BBC, and given that American audiences love nothing more than a crime-solving lone wolf who doesn’t play by the rules, we see this charming beaucoup viewers on this side of the pond as well.
Condor (Audience Network, June 6th)
The titles keep shrinking: James Grady’s thriller began in novel form as 1974’s Six Days of the Condor, then was cut down to Three Days of the Condor for its film adaptation the next year.Now this loose TV reboot whittles it down to a single word. (Oh brevity, the soul of wit and paranoid political-conspiracy potboilers.) Max Irons does his Redfordian best as CIA analyst Joe Turner, a naive idealist who returns from his lunch break to find that all of his coworkers have been slain by anonymous gunmen. That launches him down an agency-spooks-and-secret-ops rabbit hole that will forever disabuse him of his rosy notions about American intelligence-gathering. Fans of the genre bits in Captain America: The Winter Soldier would do well to give it a look.
Dietland (AMC, June 4th)
Plum Kettle (Joy Nash) isn’t living her best life. Grinding out a living ghost-answering letters to the chic editrix of a teen fashion magazine, she wrestles with frustration in romance, business and everyday life that she traces back to her weight. Just when she’s decided to do something drastic about it, she falls in with a radical underground cell of female vigilantes laying waste to men who mistreat women. This wickedly funny new series comes to television courtesy of Marti Noxon, who last tackled the darker side of womanhood with the tonal tightrope act of so-called “anorexia comedy” To the Bone. Being pretty ain’t all pretty.
Just Another Immigrant (Showtime, June 8th)
This comedic docu-series follows the Indian-British comic Romesh Ranganathan as he packs up his eccentric family – his flamboyantly dressed, wannabe-gangster uncle will be an instant breakout – and relocates to Los Angeles. After booking himself a gig at the 6,000-seat Greek Theater, he must sell out the house by hook or by crook while his family goes through the ol’ culture-clash blues. When a hairdresser tells you that your beard gives you a “terrorist” look, what can you do but crack some jokes and try to communicate the immigrant experience to a premium-cable audience?
Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger (Freeform, June 7th)
In this addition to the ever-growing canon of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s TV offshoots, teenagers Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson (Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph, respectively) discover that they’ve got superpowers during the honeymoon phase of their new relationship. They’re young, they’re in love, she can shoot knives made of light and he can trap others in a plane of pure darkness – it all seems to be YA paradise, except for your requisite unforeseen foes threatening their lives and their love. Good luck making it past graduation, in other words.
Pose (FX, June 3rd)
Paris is still burning, people. This handsomely mounted new series from Ryan Murphy returns to the year 1986, when downtown New York still had grubby charm and drag ball culture took root offered the marginalized a platform to be their most gloriously over-the-top selves. The last big network project for Murphy before he decamps to Netflix, this flashback to vintage fabulousness includes a record number of trans cast members and promises of a cross-section of vintage Gotham high society and underground dance-offs. The challenge is: basic cable eleganza! You better work.
Succession (HBO, June 3rd)
What if King Lear was a CEO instead of a monarch? And rather than a mere kingdom, he’s got an entire media empire to divvy up amongst his adult children? Brian Cox is crumbling titan Logan Roy; Kendall (Jeremy Strong) is the golden boy heir apparent to Pop’s throne, though not without his flaws (or Dad’s disappointment); Roman (Kieran Culkin) is the hard-partying screw-up; Siobhan (Sarah Snook) would rather pursue success in politics; and Connor (Alan Ruck) is the black sheep. Billions viewers in need of a new “rich people yelling in board rooms” fix during the off-season, man, has HBO got a show for you.
Take Two (ABC, June 21st)
It’s the kind of implausible match that could only be made in sitcom heaven: A former cop-show star (Rachel Bilson) gets out of rehab, and to prepare for her big comeback to procedural TV, she rides along with a no-nonsense P.I. (Eddie Cibrian). She’s bubbly, he’s all tough-guy posturing. She’s a chatty Kathy, he prefers to drink his black coffee in silence. They couldn’t be more different – can they learn to work together, and maybe find romance in the process? Whaddya need, a road map?!
Yellowstone (Paramount, June 20th)
Writer-director Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water) continues charting America’s badlands (and the unrest percolating within them) in this neo-Western series. Meet the Dutton clan, who has claim to the single largest contiguous ranch in the U.S. of A. – and you bet your butter beans everybody and their sister is fixin’ to get their mitts on it. Paterfamilias John (Kevin Costner) and his sons (Wes Bentley and Luke Grimes) must stand united if they hope to hold onto their land, but as is the case with modern oaters, identifying the heroes and villains isn’t always so simple. If this is the middle spoke of a TV Western renaissance – following Netflix’s stellar Godless and the upcoming Coen brothers’ oater anthology The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – we’re a-ok with that.