Summer doesn’t have to be a bleak time for television-viewing — some of the best shows on the air (“Breaking Bad”) or on Netflix (“Arrested Development”) are on just in time for Memorial Day and beyond.
This season there are plenty of new shows that look promising, including a limited-series run from the mind of Stephen King, acting showcases from Liev Schrieber and Mark Strong and a handful of adaptations from previously existing shows abroad, including an intriguing international murder mystery. Whether you want comedy or drama, serious or soap, we’ve got your summer couch time plotted alphabetically right here, with the top 10 new and returning shows worth checking out.
“Arrested Development” (Netflix)
The Bluths (and Fünkes) are back! After seven years (both in terms of the real world and the world within the show), Michael returns to town, George Michael is in college (and may or may not have a thing going with Maeby), Lucille is under house arrest and Tobias and Lindsay are still figuring out their relationship.
Guest stars including John Krasinski, Busy Philips, Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen promise to liven up the escapades, where each chapter follows a single member of the family over the same stretch of time. Showrunner Mitch Hurwitz originally told audiences they could watch the 15 episodes of this anthology series (which were released on Sunday at 12:01 PST) in any order, but he has since reconsidered. He now says the show should be watched in sequential order, as this is but the first act of a potential movie. Get ready to binge.
“Breaking Bad” (AMC)
The final eight episodes, which will determine whether Walter White will live, die or go to prison, premiere on August 11. Show creator Vince Gilligan is keeping the plot under wraps, but in a recent interview with New York magazine, he did give one clue: “In my mind, the ending is a victory for Walt. You might see the episode and say, ‘What the f**k was he talking about?’ But it’s a somewhat happy ending, in my estimation.”
“The Bridge” (FX)
In this remake of a Scandinavian series (“Bron”), premiering on July 10, Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir play detectives hunting down a serial killer operating on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. A journalist (played by Matthew Lillard) gets involved, since his car was used in the crime, and before long, he’s getting phone calls from someone taking credit for the murders. The cartels, immigration issues and poverty all play a part in unraveling the truth, which they promise will be revealed in a rewarding way.
The eighth and final season of “Dexter” kicks off on June 30, and although six months have passed since Deb shot LaGuerta, she’s worse off than before, surviving on a cocktail of Xanax, Paxil and Adderall. Confronting her serial killer brother, she tells him, “I shot the wrong person in that trailer… You made me compromise everything about myself that I care about and I hate you for it.” Meanwhile, neuro-psychiatrist Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) has been brought in to help Miami Metro as an expert on psychopaths, since a new one is killing people and scooping out parts of their brains. Never a dull day in Miami.
“Low Winter Sun” (AMC)
Based on the 2006 British miniseries, Mark Strong plays a detective in Detroit who murders his partner, a fellow cop, on the show that premieres August 11. “There is an ongoing conspiracy and a secret that his character has,” explained co-star James Ransone. “It’s definitely taking its own path from the BBC series, because that was only two episodes, so it was more like a four-hour movie, and this is long form and a little more human.” Expect to see the dark side of Motor City.
A summer soap premiering June 3, “Mistresses” is based on a British series of the same name about four friends who bond over their illicit affairs. Star Alyssa Milano said they tried to bring the show to the United States a couple of times in different incarnations — including one version for Lifetime with her “Charmed” co-star Hollie Marie Combs — until finally this one, co-starring Yunjin Kim, Rochelle Ayets and Jes Macallan — worked out. “I don’t know why things work or don’t work,” she said. “You just have to take a leap of faith and hope something sticks.” She said that the show will be a “guilty pleasure for men,” and a “pure pleasure show for women” as “It’s very sophisticated.”
“Ray Donovan” (Showtime)
Liev Schreiber plays a Los Angeles fixer (think Olivia Pope on “Scandal,” but with more athletes and celebrities as clients than politicians), who has trouble when his father (Jon Voight) is released from prison five years early. Premiering on June 30, the show explores “male sexuality in all its variant incarnations,” Schreiber said. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of sex scenes. “Male sexuality doesn’t have to do with nudity,” he laughed. “It has to do with people’s psychological and sexual behavior. Nudity is one thing; sex is another.”
“Save Me” (NBC)
Ann Heche plays a Cincinnati-based woman who thinks she has a direct line to God after choking on a sandwich — and no, this is not based on the actress’ alter ego Celestia. “Save Me” premiered May 23 and revolves around Beth Harper’s journey back toward being an involved wife and mother, as she cheerfully strives to make amends to everyone she’s ignored or alienated, including her husband who wants a divorce. “There is this notion of second chances, about transformation, and where that comes from,” Heche said. “Plus, she now knows stuff about everyone in town, and it doesn’t necessarily come in the way you think God might talk to someone. Like she’ll say someone needs to have more sex in their life.”
“True Blood” (HBO)
When we last left Sookie and company, Bill had drank the blood of the first vampire, Lilith, and re-emerged from his own goo as a possible god. When we return for a 10-episode run (instead of the usual 12) on June 16, humans and vampires are going to war, courtesy of Louisiana Gov. Truman Burrell (new cast member Arliss Howard). “Humans are fighting back,” Alexander Skarsgard said. “They’ve figured out a way to actually be a real threat to vampires.” The faeries are still very much a factor, as Sookie and Jason learn more about their family lineage, starting with Rutger Hauer as Niall Brigant. Sookie also will find a spark with Ben Flynn (played by Rob Kazinsky), a faerie she nurses back to health after a vamp attack. “I just want my life back,” she says — but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
“Under the Dome” (CBS)
The town of Chester’s Mill, Maine — population 1,976 — finds itself abruptly separated from the rest of the world by an invisible, semi-permeable barrier, which is so powerful that planes crash when they encounter it and pacemakers explode when close to it. Premiering on June 24, this 13-episode series is based on a Stephen King novel, produced by Steven Spielberg and written by “Lost” scribe and comic book creator Brian K. Vaughan. The people in the town are cut off, with no idea why they’re stuck inside — not only with each other, but with a murderer on the loose. We’ll be watching.
By Jennifer Vineyard
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