Viceland gets in the scripted TV game with the world’s first EDM sitcom. IFC imports a sketch show already beloved in Canada. Discovery goes on the hunt for the Unabbomber. A Stephen King detective series. A veteran documentarian takes a sympathetic look at Whitney Houston. If your TV choices in the pre-Fall trenches seem eclectic, that’s because they are. Elsewhere, Tiffany Haddish gets a well-deserved time to shine and NBC goes all in on SNL‘s “Weekend Update.” Here’s what you’ll be tuning into/setting the DVR for in the next month. (You can check out our best movies and TV shows to stream guide for August here.)
Baroness Von Sketch Show (IFC, Aug. 2nd)
And now, for something refreshingly different. This Canadian-made sketch program has the distinction of boasting an all-female cast, as well as trenchant perspectives on office sexual politics and the indignity of ordering a fancy coffee. IFC is helping America catch up with this dream team of Second City graduates by airing pre-existing episodes before running an all-new second season. Now every mom who’s ever tried to strong-arm a nightclub bouncer by totaling up babysitting fees has finally found her representation on television.
Get Shorty (Epix, Aug. 13th)
It’s a brutal game, moviemaking. One minute, you’re on top of the world, getting a green light on the script you stole from the producer you murdered earlier that week. The next, you’re in way over your head, which is also on the chopping block. That’s the gist of this twisty, tangled TV adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s pitch-black satire, the same source material that helped John Travolta solidify his post-Pulp Fiction comeback back in 1995. This time around, Chris O’Dowd plays the crook struggling to pivot out of the criminal lifestyle and into Hollywood, and who quickly learns that a similar set of rules govern professional-killer work and the entertainment industry. A spiky-haired Ray Romano supports as the producer shanghai-ed into making our antihero’s dream project. There’s no business like etc.
Manhunt: Unabomber (Discovery, Aug. 1st)
Ted Kaczynski was, to put it mildly, a rather disturbed dude – child intellectual, distinguished Harvard grad, ideological extremist with a penchant for mail bombs. This Discovery series focuses on the days surrounding the so-called Unabomber’s capture in 1996 at the hands of FBI profiler Jim Fitzgerald, whose other high-profile cases will provide this series with material for future seasons. Paul Bettany tackles Kaczynski’s disturbing psychology and Avatar‘s humanoid-acting automaton Sam Worthington leads as the tireless investigator in a present gift-wrapped to Silence of the Lambs obsessives.
Mr. Mercedes (DirecTV, Aug. 9th)
Sheesh, another detective series? You can save yourself the eye-roll, because this one has the benefit of pedigree: It’s an adaptation of a Stephen King potboiler, spearheaded by David E. Kelley (he created Chicago Hope, Ally McBeal, and Big Little Lies, to name only a few) and features masterly Irish actor Brendan Gleeson in the lead. All that is to say that this won’t be your usual cat-and-mouse game between a harried, retired detective and the unstable young psychopath taunting him with a trail of corpses. Penny Dreadful star Harry Treadaway replaces the late Anton Yelchin as the basket-case killer; Mary-Louise Parker also stars as our gumshoe’s love interest.
The Sinner (USA, Aug. 2nd)
It’s probably not a coincidence that Jessica Biel, who rose to prominence as the pious eldest daughter on 7th Heaven, has taken the role of a woman chafing under her repressive Catholic upbringing as her next major TV gig. That’s one possible explanation floated for the inexplicable homicide that her character – a young mother with an uncaring husband and kids driving her crazy – commits during an otherwise ordinary day at the beach. It’s the rare murder mystery focused on the details of “why” rather than “who” – and anyone still needing to scratch that Big Little Lies itch will undoubtedly find themselves in seventh you-know-what.
Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood! (Showtime, Aug. 18th)
Haddish got all the best lines in the recent Girls Trip, and the played each and America (or at least, the white mainstream heretofore unaware of this tremendous comic) fell in love instantly. Now the honeymoon period has yielded this new stand-up special where, in her typically candid gal-pal manner, she holds court on everything from Rachel Dolezal to the politics of being a thot on Instagram. You already know her greatness as a storyteller thanks to that already legendary appearance on Jimmy Kimmel; as the title of the special makes clear, she’s more than prepared to hit the big time.
Weekend Update (NBC, Aug. 10th)
Here’s how you know things have gotten really bad: It’s standard operating procedure for the popular news-skewering segment to break out of Saturday Night Live while the sketch institution takes its summer break during election years. Now, it’s the new normal. Cohosts Michael Che and Colin Jost can’t let the unending stream of insane PR catastrophes out of the White House go uncommented on, so they’ll get a full half hour on Thursday night to compete with The Daily Show. The Trump administration’s personnel turnover is so fast that we lose characters just as soon as we start to love them (we hardly knew ye, Spicey), but you can expect appearances from Kate McKinnon’s Jeff Sessions and Kellyanne Conway, Beck Bennett’s Vladimir Putin and maybe even Baldwin-Trump himself.
What Would Diplo Do? (Viceland, Aug. 3rd)
Remember when James Van Der Beek played a caricature of EDM jock Diplo in that commercial? Now the duo have turned that one-off goof into a self-effacing riff on showbiz reality, the flip side of J.V.D.B.’s meta-douchey turn on Don’t Trust the B—— in Apartment 23. The former teen soap idol’s take on the producer behind Major Lazer and Jack Ü paints him as a well-intentioned doofus, blissfully unaware that his many employees think of him as little more than the idiot signing their checks. This marks Van Der Beek’s first go behind the camera as well, as he takes a dual writing and showrunner credit for this inside-baseball parody. Or as Diplo himself would say: it’s lit, fam.
Whitney. ‘Can I Be Me?’ (Showtime, Aug. 25th)
With an effortless charisma and a thousand-horsepower voice, Whitney Houston was on track to be one of the greatest entertainers of all time. Then a combination of drugs, self-doubt and excessive demands from her vampiric inner circle cut her career short – and ended her life at age 48. Nick Broomfield’s bio-doc compassionately captures the fragile woman behind the controversy; you almost wouldn’t believe this was the same man that did Kurt and Courtney and Biggie and Tupac. For fans of the legendary soul singer and behind-the-music portraits, this is essential viewing.