Netflix has a big summer ahead of them, with some of their most popular series facing down the sophomore slump (how ya been, Glow? How’re things, Luke Cage?). But they’ll have plenty of competition: Amazon’s got a marquee miniseries straight from the BBC; CBS is going online with a delectably bizarre historical drama; and YouTube – yes, that YouTube – gets in the game with its response to Stranger Things. Here’s your must-stream guide for the month of June. (We interrupt our regular scheduled programming to draw attention to your non-streaming TV options, which you can find here.)
Alex Strangelove (Netflix, June 8th)
High school senior Alex Truelove (Daniel Doheny) finds himself facing a bit of a dilemma: Should he stay with his girlfriend (Madeline Weinstein) and fulfill her request for deflowering, or pursue the cute guy (Antonio Marziale) he can’t stop flirting with? And really, are either of these options the perfect solution to his romantic problems? Director Craig Johnson (The Skeleton Twins) gives us an antic coming-of-age comedy with a bit of a twist. The adolescent self-consciousness is timeless; the polysexual longings and a set piece in which characters get high by licking an exotic toad, however, qualifies as new.
Glow, Season 2 (Netflix, June 29th)
Stock up on leg warmers, treat yourself to a brand new perm and get your lycra out of the storage unit – the baddest ladies of the Eighties are back to throw a few more elbows. Alison Brie returns as Ruth Wilder, a frustrated actress taking control of her destiny by joining up with an unusual spectacle known as the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, ginned up by Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron). The sophomore season of this populist favorite sees the ensemble seizing some more agency in a man’s world, one sleeper hold at a time. Go get ’em, Liberty Belle!
Goliath, Season 2 (Amazon, June 15th)
Hard-drinkin’ lawyer Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) emerged from the debut season of this legal thriller victorious, having improbably won a big case against a tech giant. But one Golden Globe win for Thornton later, he’s still a malcontent struggling with his vices, and another major assignment involving his friend’s 16-year-old son and a double homicide rap, isn’t going to improve his mood. Did we mention that drug cartels, the kind who are unafraid to resolve their problems the old-fashioned way (with murder!), enter the scene as well? Amazon’s legal-eagle thriller gave Thornton a juicy TV antihero to sink his teeth into and viewers an impressively solid first season to dig into. We’re curious to see what the show’s sophomore run has in store.
Impulse (YouTube, June 6th)
On the most fateful night in the life of Henrietta “Henry” Coles (Maddie Hasson), three things happen in quick succession: a classmate attempts to rape her: her latent teleportation powers spontaneously manifest for the first time: and her aggressor is inadvertently crushed. She’s now left struggling to make sense of the trauma that she has survived as well as the new ability she can neither understand nor control. With this sci-fi series from no less than Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow), YouTube’s gunning to poach some Stranger Things fans; judging by the small-town strangeness in the trailer, they shouldn’t have too much trouble.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Hulu, June 1st)
In the sweatiest days of summer, there’s nothing better than hunkering down for a full-franchise movie marathon – and Peter Jackson’s lavish adaptation of the seminal fantasy novels is the perfect way to kill a heat wave. The great journey of humble Frodo, loyal Samwise, gallant Aragorn and the rest of the Fellowship has lost none of its power in the era of Marvel and Star Wars extended-universitis and the thoughtful production design has only grown more enchantingly immersive. Not to mention that you’ve probably forgotten how fun it is to do your best Gollum voice and growl about “the Precious” or “the tricksy hobbitses.”
Luke Cage, Season 2 (Netflix, June 22nd)
He’s still the neighborhood’s defender, an inspiration to black youth throughout the five boroughs and an irremovable thorn in the side of Harlem’s organized-crime racket. But when the bulletproof Luke Cage (Mike Colter) gets the crap kicked out of him by an equally invincible brute named Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir), our hero smells a superpowered rat. Throw in Alfre Woodard’s politically connected gangster and Simone Missick’s Misty Knight – now with a bionic arm! – and our man has his hands full. Marvel’s hit series brings the pulp pleasures and a fresh soundtrack of hip-hop cuts for Round Two, but if the trailer is any indication, this is going to be a darker, far more brutal season.
Sense8 Finale (Netflix, June 8th)
Democracy may not be doing so hot, but vox populi is alive and well: After Netflix pulled the plug on the singular sci-fi whatsit from the Wachowski sisters, the ardent fanbase raised a furor. Thankfully, the streaming service approved this two-hour special to providie a bit of closure. Supernatural bonds link eight strangers – including an Icelandic DJ, a trans hacking expert in San Francisco, a closeted telenovela star south of the border – scattered across the globe, all of them targeted by a shadowy force hoping to steal and command whatever it is that makes them special. This one’s for devotees only, but if this inspires you to go back and look at one of the more ambitious TV series in recent years, there’s nothing wrong with that either.
Set It Up (Netflix, June 15th)
Harper (Zoey Deutch) can’t take another day under her tyrannical boss Kirsten (Lucy Liu); Charlie (Everybody Wants Some!!‘s Glen Powell) has been driven to his wits’ end by his implacable superior Rick (Taye Diggs). After the two personal assistants strike up a friendship as the last ones leaving their shared office building, they concoct a scheme to get the banes of their respective existences to fall in love and become slightly more tolerable. Guess who also develops feelings for each other? It’s The Parent Trap goes corporate America in a fluffy new rom-com format!
Strange Angel (CBS All Access, June 14th)
Jack Parsons worked as a lowly janitor at a chemical factory in Los Angeles during the Thirties, marking time until he’d claim his place in history. He would go on to use his autodidact book-learnin’ and indomitable spirit as fuel while creating the field of American rocket science … but that’s not even the half of it. As he made technological leaps and bounds, Parsons also fell into a shadowy subculture of occultism, sex rituals and just a dash of Satan-worship. Jack Reynor plays the lead role in this retelling of the most bonkers footnote you won’t find in the engineering textbooks, which provides nice fodder for a period piece exploring America’s violent id lying beneath the attractive surface.
A Very English Scandal (Amazon, June 29th)
Another entry to be filed under “strange but true”: During the Seventies, Liberal Party leader and Parliament member Jeremy Thorpe was accused of a secret affair with one Norman Scott, setting off a scandal involving public disgrace and one inadvertently murdered dog. This BBC import dramatizes this already-pretty-dramatic chapter of English government, with a pair of esteemed thespians bringing the tabloid story to life. Hugh Grant uses his trademark charisma to mask nastier intentions as Thorpe, while willowy Ben Whishaw makes a stand for himself as Scott, both men locked in an intense pas de deux of secrets and lies.