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Thu11142019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Bill Frost

Halt and Catch Fire (Tuesday, Aug. 23, AMC), two-hour season premiere: AMC just can’t quit Halt and Catch Fire, a critical darling that hasn’t cracked 1 million viewers since its premiere in 2014, despite improving markedly over the course of two seasons (both available on Netflix, FYI). The ’80s-set drama chronicles the personal-computer revolution more accurately than the, what, 19? Steve Jobs biopics cluttering the cultural landscape, and gives some long-overdue credit to women in the early days of PC tech. Season 2 really, ahem, caught fire when the story shifted focus to Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) and Donna (Kerry Bishé) and their Mutiny Co. startup struggles. Season 3 picks up in 1986, with Mutiny leaving Texas for Silicon Valley, a make-or-break play that leaves Donna’s engineer husband, Gordon (Scoot McNairy), professionally and emotionally adrift. The three are followed out west by ex-partner/antagonist/eyebrow creeper Joe (Lee Pace), because that’s how Joe do. Behind Better Call Saul, Halt and Catch Fire is AMC’s best capital-D Drama, even if it doesn’t generate zombie numbers. Halt and watch it already.

You Can Do Better (Tuesday, Aug. 23, TruTV), series debut: In most markets, this column runs under its given name, True TV, while some retitle it with drab monikers like “TV Reviews” or “On the Tube” (and you thought alternative papers were supposed to be “edgy”). One recently switched from a weekly publishing schedule to monthly and dropped this column, because they couldn’t figure out how to present it in a monthly format—never mind that major American magazines have been running monthly TV-review columns for 30 years. Still, the loss of that beer-money stream is no match for the insult of TruTV, the former Court TV network that swiped my name in 2008 and got away with it because TimeWarner Inc. has waaay more lawyers than I do. But: TruTV finally has a worthwhile offering in You Can Do Better, a guide series to “real-life” skills—first up being how to get drunk more efficiently. They’re doing God’s work here.

Better Late Than Never (Tuesday, Aug. 23, NBC), series debut: No, never would have been just fine. Geezers Henry Winkler, William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw and George Foreman are taken on a no-itinerary trip across Asia by comedian Jeff Dye … why? Because it worked on Korean television? If you’re curious about what else plays well in Korea, just Google “Korean TV Game Show” and wait for the porn filter to explode your computer.

The View: 20 Years in the Making (Tuesday, Aug. 23, ABC), special: Great panelist moments from The View that will likely be glossed over in the 20 Years in the Making anniversary special: Dangerous idiot Jenny McCarthy spews anti-vaccination nonsense for a full season; benign idiot Sherri Shepherd doubts the Earth is round, claims Christians predate everything on this flat planet, and admits to never voting because she “didn’t know the dates” (and won an Emmy in the process); champion idiot Elisabeth Hasselbeck survives a full decade on the show with no discernible brain activity; comedian Michelle Collins is hired to bring some funny to The View, only to be fired after one season for making jokes; Libertarian journalist Jedediah Bila is promoted to a regular for the upcoming 2016 season, and will probably be canned by the end of it for being too smart for the panel and the audience … there’s more, but I have to go watch The Talk now.

Zoo (Tuesdays, CBS), still on: Season 2 is almost over—have you even heard of Zoo, bro? Every network wants a sci-fi series; the best CBS could come up with was an “animal uprising,” based on a James Patterson book, no less. In Zoo, James Wolk plays ... I can’t believe I’m about to type this ... “renegade zoologist” Jackson Oz ... the first to make the connection between an uptick in critter-on-people violence and his father’s “crazy” theories about human extinction at the paws of fed-up animals. In Season 2, the animals are making the planet uninhabitable for humans almost as quickly the writers are making it unwatchable for humans. Zoo is just more stoopid, expensive-looking proof that CBS should stay the hell away from sci-fi, and yet it’s just been renewed for a third season … huh?

The Get Down (Friday, Aug. 12, Netflix), series debut: It’s the last Prestige TV debut of the summer, and viewers and critics alike are probably going to go easier on Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down than they did on that other high-profile ’70s NYC musical-history tour, HBO’s Vinyl. It’s nearly as messy as that Martin Scorsese/Mick Jagger rock ’n’ roll blowout, but The Get Down, which chronicles the origins of hip-hop in the Bronx, uses that chaos to better effect—it just takes a few episodes to, well, get down to it. Like Vinyl, The Get Down kicks off with an overstuffed 90-minute episode that tries to introduce everything but accomplishes little; unlike Vinyl, it gets better and, occasionally even stunning, from there. Unfortunately, Part 1 is only six episodes; Part 2 won’t drop until 2017. Didn’t anybody explain to Luhrmann how Netflix works?

Perfect Sisters (Saturday, Aug. 13, Lifetime), movie: This is billed as a new “Lifetime Original Telefilm” even though it was actually a 2014 theatrical release—but that was in Canada, so who cares? Perfect Sisters stars Abigail Breslin and Georgie Henley as the daughters of a violent, alcoholic mother (Mira Sorvino). Fed up with mom’s abuse, asshole boyfriends and drunken insistence that she used be an award-winning actress in Woody Allen films, the sisters plot to knock out Mom with sleeping pills and drown her in the bathtub; spoiler (since it’s based on a true story): They succeed. Enough with the downer dramas, Mira—let’s make Romy and Michele 2 happen, already.

Odd Mom Out (Mondays, Bravo), new season: I know nothing of the book Momzillas, nor author Jill Kargman, who stars as a wackier version of herself in the Momzillas-for-TV adaptation Odd Mom Out, which has all-too-quietly entered its second season. (Where’s the promotion, Bravo?) Kargman is charmingly manic; she and her co-stars (including a consistently scene-stealing Abby Elliott) save OMO from becoming what could have been a flat send-up of Manhattan-mommy culture and over-privileged urbanites. It didn’t even have to be this sharp and funny: Odd Mom Out, mercifully, isn’t another bullshit Bravo reality show (it’s the cable net’s second scripted series, after the surprisingly good Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce). Anything that takes programming time away from The Real Housewives of Who the Hell Cares? is all right by me.

Elvis Lives! (Tuesday, Aug. 16, AXS TV), movie: Who should we trust with bringing the conspiracy theory that Elvis Presley didn’t actually die on Aug. 16, 1977, to the screen? Mark Cuban’s deep-cable music channel and the producers of Sharknado, duh. Set two months before his “death,” Elvis Lives! finds The King (played by B-movie vet Jonathan Nation) fat, druggy and paranoid for his life—but not for the obvious health reasons: He believes a crime syndicate is out to get him because of his FBI testimony against them, contrasting with the historical 1970s reality that the feds just thought Elvis was a caped loon requesting a badge. In this film, he got that FBI badge and faked his own death to become an undercover agent … yeeeaaah. Cool concept, but zero threat to the ultimate Elvis-never-died movie, Bruce Campbell’s 2002 cult classic Bubba Ho-Tep.

2016 Summer Olympics (Through Aug. 21, NBC), sports: Has anyone noticed that, due to NBC’s coverage of the Republican National Convention, the Democratic National Convention, and now the 2016 Summer Olympics, Aquarius hasn’t aired a new episode in more than a month? And the remaining six episodes of Season 2—which has been an improvement on Season 1 so far, despite lousy ratings—haven’t even been scheduled? Is NBC planning on burning them off on Saturday nights before the fall TV season arrives? Or shipping Aquarius off to a cable cousin like Syfy or USA? Or, worse, NBC.com? When are we going to learn how the ’60s ended? Or if David Duchovny finally caught Charles Manson? With or without an assist from Special Agent Elvis Presley? So many questions; so little interest in the Summer Olympics.

Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23 (Netflix; 26 episodes): Before she was Jessica Jones, and after she was a Breaking Bad casualty, Krysten Ritter was the funniest bitch ABC ever dared to cancel. Besides Elisabeth Hasselbeck, anyway.

Gravity (Hulu, 10 episodes): But, before she was the B, Ritter starred in this mopey-but-magnetic Starz dramedy about a suicide-survivors group. The show is occasionally as dark-humored as Jessica Jones. Original title: Suicide for Dummies.

Penny Dreadful (Hulu, Netflix; 27 episodes): The just-ended Showtime steampunk soap opera is one part Victorian X-Files and 50 parts crazeepy (crazy + creepy), with Eva Green’s killer performance inducing all of the feels.

Better Off Ted (Netflix; 26 episodes): Ted Crisp (Jay Harrington) works for mega-corporation Veridian Dynamics, an obvious precursor to Mr. Robot’s Evil Corp., in yet another of ABC’s genius comedy cancellations.

Happyish (Hulu, Netflix; 10 episodes): Steve Coogan (stepping in for Philip Seymour Hoffman) seethes hilariously as an advertising man in waaay more midlife turmoil than Don Draper ever drank through. A 2015 one-season-wonder.

The Venture Bros. (Hulu; 26 of 75 episodes): Not just the best cartoon on Adult Swim, but the best—and most densely back-storied—animated series ever, with a richer character bench than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Yeah, I said it.)

Birds of Prey (Amazon Prime; 13 episodes): In 2002, long before the DC Comics TV takeover, The WB gave us Batman’s daughter, Huntress, fighting crime and metahumans in Gotham. For DC completeists mostly … or only.

Human Target (Amazon Prime; 25 episodes): And another DC Comics property: a 2010 Fox take on a snarky bodyguard-for-hire (Mark Valley) action thriller. Also starring Jackie Earle Haley (Preacher) and Janet Montgomery (Salem).

The Good Guys (Netflix; 20 episodes): A criminally (ha!) overlooked 2010 Fox buddy-cop comedy starring Colin Hanks and an over-the-top-of-the-top Bradley Whitford as Dallas detectives. Not to be confused with the lesser The Other Guys.

The Riches (Amazon Prime, Netflix; 20 episodes): Killed off by the 2008 TV writers’ strike, The Riches, about a family of traveling grifters led by Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, should have been an FX classic, not a footnote.

Invader Zim (Hulu; 27 episodes): Pint-sized alien Zim is dispatched to Earth to prep the planet for takeover, resulting in one of the smartest and funniest cartoons ever to somehow wind up on Nickelodeon. Seriously, how did that happen?

Nikita (Netflix; 73 episodes): Where La Femme Nikita was ponderously talky and (sigh) Canadian, The CW’s Nikita upped the action and intrigue, putting Maggie Q and Lyndsy Fonseca upfront as serious (if 98-pound) ass-kickers.

Boss (Netflix; 18 episodes): Cutthroat Chicago mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) keeps his degenerative dementia a secret and makes House of Cards’ Frank Underwood look like a pansy. Another Starz shoulda-been hit.

Lucky Louie (Amazon Prime; 13 episodes): Louis C.K.’s comedy experiment—a cheap ’70s-style sitcom with adult language and nudity—plays even better now than it did in 2006, removed from TV critics who don’t “get it.”

Huff (Crackle; 26 episodes): Hank Azaria starred as troubled psychiatrist Dr. Craig “Huff” Huffstodt in this overlooked 2004-2006 Showtime series, along with Paget Brewster and Oliver Platt. No, no one else has heard of it, either.

Secret Diary of a Call Girl (Hulu; 32 episodes): The professional misadventures of high-end London escort Belle (Billie Piper) are funny, sexy and even educational—and a lot more fun than The Girlfriend Experience.

Daria (Hulu; 66 episodes): Your old VH1 Classic channel has just been replaced with MTV Classic, a new ’90s rerun home for Beavis and Butt-head and its superior spinoff, the masterfully deadpan Daria. Watch it on Hulu instead.

Dead Like Me (Amazon Prime, Hulu; 29 episodes): The oft-forgotten link in the TV resume of creator/producer Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies), this is a Showtime dramedy about grim reapers living—and soul-collecting—among us.

Friday the 13th: The Series (Amazon Prime; 72 episodes): This late-’80s horror-cheese had nothing to do with Jason, just possibly incestuous cousins (John D. LeMay and the gloriously big-haired Robey) and cursed antiques.

Sheena (Crackle; 35 episodes): Ex-Baywatcher Gena Lee Nolin played barely clothed “Queen of the Jungle” Sheena in this early-2000s jigglefest that might be the dumbest series ever syndicated. No, definitely the dumbest.

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens (Sunday, July 31, Syfy), movie: Who’s joining Ian Ziering and Tara Reid (apparently, the #AprilLives campaign from Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! worked) this time? David Hasselhoff (Baywatch), Gena Lee Nolin (also Baywatch), Alexandra Paul (again with the Baywatch), Gary Busey (snubbed Donald Trump VP candidate), Cheryl Tiegs (elderly model-shamer), Carrot Top (elderly prop comic), Stacey Dash (pretend Fox News “conservative”), Duane Chapman (“Dog” the Bounty Hunter), Vince Neil (Motley Crue), Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour), various “personalities” from Bravo reality shows, and more from the “Is Pepsi OK?” department of central casting. After chomping on Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., the next logical (?) locale to be hit with a Sharknado is, of course, Las Vegas. (Don’t fret; Palm Springs will probably get its turn by Sharknado 16.) Now the story … doesn’t matter in the least, duh.

2016 Teen Choice Awards (Sunday, July 31, Fox), special: The Teen Choice Awards are voted by kiddies age 13-17, so can anyone explain the nomination of Jennifer Lopez’s barely-seen cop serial Shades of Blues for “Choice TV Drama”? Or geezers like Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton in the music categories? Or R-rated Deadpool for, oh, everything? Technically speaking, these are not “teen” choices, nor are any other nominations recognizable to the writers, and readers, of publications such as this one—if it can’t be experienced at an outdoor amphitheater in a $200 camping chair with pinot, brie and a golden retriever within reach, it doesn’t exist. The YouTube and Vine “Star” categories, however, make complete sense—expect Nash Grier to clean up at the 2028 Teen Choice Awards for his dramatic work in Chicago A/V, produced by Dick Wolf Jr.

Squidbillies (Sundays, Adult Swim), new season: Both Squidbillies and Duck Dynasty premiered for their respective 10th seasons this month, just a week before the 2016 Republican National Convention—coincidence? All three represent modern ’Merican (note, not necessarily American) values: god, guns, gumption, plus a general rejection of science, facts and reality. But while one is a tedious, worn-out, idea-depleted show about a crew of self-absorbed fakes who are only in it for the money, and so is Duck Dynasty, Squidbillies remains a vital, instructive window into the soul and “thoughts” of Redneckia, USA, whether it resides in the Deep South, at your neighborhood Walmart, or in those “Hussein Obama” emails your parents keep forwarding. These characters are among us …

Ghost Hunters (Wednesday, Aug. 3, Syfy), season premiere: … and they watch Ghost Hunters, guaranteed. This is the Season 11 premiere—11! More than a decade of finding no ghosts! Would you be able to keep your job if you produced zero results in that timespan? (No need to answer that, chiropractors and TV critics.) Like Finding Bigfoot (still not “found”) and Keeping Up With the Kardashians (nothing ever happens to “keep up with”), Ghost Hunters is an explicably long-running reality series that spawns even-worse imitators every year and … wait … did you hear that? I’m sensing something over there in the corner! Let me turn on my EMF meter … hmmm, it’s not picking up anything … BECAUSE GHOSTS DON’T EXIST! HUNT OVER! JUST! STAHP! Oh, this is the final season? I’m off to see my chiropractor then.

Stranger Things (Streaming, Netflix), new series: I could use the “There’s Too Many Shows” excuse yet again for letting the premiere of Stranger Things slip by me—but it stars Winona Ryder, so the whole incident is just unforgivable. This retro-creepy fright fest throws Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and a dizzyingly giddy amount of ’80s horror-flick references into a blender and hits “Puree,” becoming progressively scarier as episodes roll out. Ryder plays—and occasionally overplays, but NBD—a grief-stricken Indiana mom holding out hope that her missing teen son might be found, but Stranger Things isn’t just her story: There’s also a Goonies-worthy troupe of misfit kids, a telekinetic girl, a government conspiracy, a flesh-eating monster, a parallel dimension and … well, you should be all in, or completely out, by now. Note that this will be the one and only time I’ll ever recommend ’80s revivalism.

BoJack Horseman (Friday, July 22, Netflix): Prior to the premiere of Season 3, Netflix released promo art that placed cartoon character BoJack Horseman (voiced by Will Arnett) in the same league as troubled dramatic TV anti-heroes Tony Soprano, Don Draper and Frank Underwood. It’s no joke: They all struggled to find happiness within the American Dream (though it could be argued that House of Cards’ Frank Underwood is simply nuts—and still a better presidential choice than anyone running in reality), and so continues BoJack. He should be happy: He’s back in the public eye, doing press and Oscar (!) campaigning for his dream starring role in Secretariat … but it’s all meaningless, hollow crap. More so than depression and ennui—yes, a cartoon has forced me to break out the fancy words—BoJack Horseman is about the aggressive shallowness of Hollywood and celebrity, and Round 3 goes even deeper and darker than before. This might be a good time to mention that this show is also funny as hell. Really, it’s everything as hell. BoJack Horseman should win all of the awards, not just the handful of niche critical trophies it has already … but awards don’t bring joy or a sense of achievement … so … I don’t know what to think. Thanks, BoJack.

Looking: The Movie (Saturday, July 23, HBO), movie: Canceled more than a year ago by HBO, Looking was never a flashy “Gay!” series, but a low-key and honest, if occasionally over-talky, depiction of everyday (but, admittedly, ridiculously good-looking) gay men in San Francisco—which could be why it only lasted 18 episodes. Unlike those in the then-groundbreaking Queer as Folk more than a decade ago, the characters of Looking have nothing to prove or reveal; they’re already out and established, and just trying to get through this thing called life. Looking: The Movie is a 90-minute series wrap-up, and easily one of the more satisfying TV finales in recent memory. (At least it’s better than the unexpected ends of HBO’s Vinyl, Togetherness, The Brink, Enlightened, Bored to Death, etc.)

Ozzy and Jack’s World Detour (Sunday, July 24, History), series debut: Ozzy Osbourne and son Jack are back on reality TV—but this time, it’s educational-ish. The 10-episode Ozzy and Jack’s World Detour is a travelogue history lesson (on the History channel? GTFO) hitting such destinations as Mount Rushmore, Stonehenge, Roswell, the Jamestown Settlement, Sun Studios and even The Alamo, which Ozzy famously pissed on in the ’80s when he was chemically insane (as opposed to whatever strain of insane he is currently). World Detour has its share of funny, obviously scripted “reality” moments, but Ozzy’s indecipherable mutterings and Jack’s … what does he bring to the table again? … feel 10-years played-out.

MadTV (Tuesday, July 26, The CW), series re-debut: The CW’s recent 20th anniversary special for MadTV proved that there’s little from the 1995-2009 Fox sketch-comedy series that holds up today—so this must be the perfect time to revive it as summer filler. The “new” MadTV features an unknown cast of varyingly talented newbies who could have come up with something better if not stuck with an ancient brand name that means nada in 2016, as well as forced guest-appearances by original Mad cast members dredging up best-forgotten characters from the past. (Seriously, no one needs to endure “Mrs. Swan” and “Stuart” ever, ever again.) Even if Maya and Marty hadn’t just destroyed any possibility of sketch comedy working in modern primetime, MadTV would still be a tough (re)sell.

Wayward Pines (Wednesday, July 27, Fox), season finale: Well, that was a complete waste of time. It’s getting harder to remember how good Season 1—you know, the originally planned only season—of Wayward Pines was; I’d say the limp, unnecessary follow-up is the Speed 2: Cruise Control of sophomore TV seasons, but poor Jason Patric (who replaced Keanu Reeves in that movie, and Matt Dillon on Wayward Pines) has been through enough, and I can’t completely dismiss 1997 Sandra Bullock in a bikini. Anyway: I’m rooting sooo hard for the mutants outside the walls of Wayward Pines (the unfortunately named “Abbies”) to kill off all of the remaining humans on Earth and any chance of a third season. The only remaining question is … Is Speed 2 on Blu-ray?

Vice Principals (Sunday, July 17, HBO), series debut: While I still contend that Eastbound and Down was one of the greatest TV comedies ever, I’ll also admit that it was long out of material by its fourth and final season, and that Danny McBride probably shouldn’t carry a series on his own—and, most importantly, that water jetpacks are cool AF. HBO’s new Vice Principals, which re-teams McBride and writer/producer Jody Hill, solves one problem right away by giving McBride’s “new” character—basically Kenny Powers minus the mullet—a foil in Walton Goggins (Justified). The pair play high school vice principals vying to replace the retiring principal (Bill Murray!)—until the school district hires an outsider (Kimberly Hebert Gregory), prompting them to take a break from pissing on each other in staggeringly escalating volleys of vulgarity and instead team up to bring her down. Vice Principals is E&D 2.0; it’s as familiar as it is funny (Kenny Powers haters, however, should stay far away), with the added bonus of Goggins in full-on comedic weirdo mode. There are no water jetpacks, but it is still worth checking out.

Ballers (Sunday, July 17, HBO), season premiere: This is back, huh? HBO canceled the Tim Robbins/Jack Black political comedy The Brink, but kept Dwayne Johnson’s Ballers … what-ever. I get that people like the sportsball and all, but Johnson still isn’t completely convincing in an “underdog” role, here as a Miami pro-footballer-turned-sports-finance-manager leading the hard-knock life of making millions while baby-sitting millionaires surrounded by hot models and hotter cars. Fortunately, the comic broship between Johnson and Rob Corddry saves Ballers from slipping entirely into the Entourage douche-abyss, but I’m still waiting for a little more … something … to justify Season 2.

BrainDead (Mondays, CBS), new series: Apparently, tagging BrainDead as “from the creators of The Good Wife” and placing insanely appealing star Mary Elizabeth Winstead upfront hasn’t been enough to get CBS viewers to buy into a political sci-fi thriller/comedy about brain-munching space bugs. (I know, right?) Too bad, because what initially looked to be nothing more than summer filler designed to at least pull the same numbers as NCIS: Los Angeles reruns (it hasn’t—not even close) is a smart, funny and subtly scathing commentary on Beltway bullshit … oh, that’s why it’s not working on CBS. BrainDead would have been better off on CBS cable cousin Showtime, and we’d all be better off if it followed Ray Donovan on Sundays instead of Roadies, peppering in some Veep-level F-bombing and more-graphic gore (though the brain-splattery is pretty impressive for a network series). I would recommend just waiting to binge BrainDead when it eventually winds up on CBS’ pay-streamer All Access … but nobody’s going to buy into that, either.

2016 Republican National Convention (July 18-21, most channels), convention coverage: Spinal Tap, Drew Carey … Donald Trump. The Holy Trinity of Cleveland comedy is now complete, thanks to what’s sure to be the most hilarious political debacle since Hunter S. Thompson hit Washington D.C. in 1971. (Wiki it, kids.) The 2016 Republican National Convention, being covered live from Cleveland by most broadcast and cable outlets—curiously, not Cartoon Network—will likely be the zenith of Trump’s Idiocracy rise, the moment when true believers and detractors alike finally come to the stark realization, “This is really happening … Fuuu … .” Not that the Democratic National Convention later in the week is going to offer much more hope for the nation (In my defense, I’ve said “Hillary Clinton will never be president” many times, but those statements were made back in reality!), but this particular RNC is going to be special. Or apocalyptic. But definitely entertaining.

Shooter (Tuesday, July 19, USA), series debut: For every great call USA makes (Mr. Robot, Colony, Queen of the South), there are a couple of “WTF?!” moments (the recent renewal of Chrisley Knows Best; moving WWE Smackdown to Tuesdays; the continued existence of Suits). I’m not sure where Shooter, based on the 2007 Mark Wahlberg flick, falls: It looks like an intriguing drama (ex-Marine sniper comes out of retirement to stop a presidential assassination, only to be framed for said assassination), but with caveats (the aggressively-meh Ryan Phillippe stars as “Bob Lee Swagger”—lamest porn name ever). Also, how did the producers not use the only non-loathsome song Robin Thicke ever recorded, “Oh, Shooter,” as the series’ theme? Missed opportunities, people.

The Night Of (Sunday, July 10, HBO), series debut: One review has already beaten me to the punch in tagging HBO’s new crime miniseries The Night Of as “the longest, bleakest Law and Order episode ever,” but I’ll press on. Novelist/screenwriter Richard Price (Clockers, The Wire) and writer/filmmaker Steve Zaillian (A Civil Action) spend eight episodes chronicling eight bad, bad days in the life of Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed), a New York City college student who thinks he’s lucked into the Manhattan party of the year—until he wakes up covered in blood next to a girl who’s been stabbed to death. Much tense and ssslllooowww drama unfolds from there, with none-too-subtle call-outs to an overtaxed justice system, the constant state of surveillance in which we live, racial profiling and, of course, The Wire (Michael Kenneth Williams!). More so than True Detective, The Night Of is an intricately produced downer of an art flick for crime nerds—but it still Law and Orders so hard that you half expect Ice-T and Richard Belzer to cross in the background.

Running Wild With Bear Grylls (Monday, July 11, NBC), season premiere: The biggest surprise about Season 3 of “famed adventurer” Bear Grylls’ (not to be confused with “famed insurance adjuster” Bear Grylls) celebrities-in-wilderness-peril-but-not-really reality show? Actual celebrities: Courteney Cox! Vanessa Hudgens! Nick Jonas! Lindsey Vonn! That’s more bonafide stars than have been featured on 45 seasons of Dancing With the “Stars,” if not the Sharknado franchise. First up on tonight’s season premiere is Julianne Hough, a perfectly lovely dancer/singer who nonetheless deserves to be thrown off African cliffs and waterfalls, and threatened by elephants and snakes, because of the painful “acting” she’s inflicted upon the ’Merican public. (Ever seen Rock of Ages? Safe Haven? Grease: Live? She’s getting off easy here.)

Maya and Marty (Tuesday, July 12, NBC), season finale: When Maya and Marty first premiered, I told you that the stars and the setup instilled “more confidence than the network’s previous variety-show attempt, Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris.” If I strangled your toddler to death and then used the corpse to beat your grandmother into a coma while blasting some Florida Georgia Line jams from my Confederate-flag-and-TruckNutz-adorned Dodge Ram, I’d still feel more obligated to apologize for kinda-recommending Maya and Marty. Whereas Best Time Ever at least tried some new tricks (“new” meaning “stolen from James Corden and Jimmy Fallon”), M&M is just an undead collection of rejected Saturday Night Live sketches for Maya Rudolph and Martin Short to shamble though like The Walking Dead gang smeared in zombie guts, desperately trying to avoid attention. Again, sorry (to you too, NPH).

Difficult People (Tuesday, July 12, Hulu), season premiere: It defies all logic that Billy Eichner would be tolerable in larger “acting” doses than he was in brief Parks and Recreation bursts (his Billy on the Street series doesn’t count—he’s meant to be insufferable there), but Difficult People works, hilariously. Along with co-star Julie Klausner, Eichner makes the daily kinda-grind of being self-absorbed New Yorkers who hate everyone but each other sing like an off-Broadway musical about frustration, contempt and loathing that their characters would love to see, but getting to that part of town would be too much of a bother—because who cares, anyway? Eichner and Klausner are great here, but it’s James Urbaniak (The Venture Bros.) who steals the show. Don’t miss another season of Difficult People.

Mr. Robot (Wednesday, July 13, USA), season premiere: So that was a hell of a first season few expected from USA and Mr. Robot, a show I initially dismissed as just “Fight Club meets The Matrix in a Dilbert strip.” As Mr. Robot progressed over last summer, it became clear that this was game-changer for not only a previously sleepy network, but basic-cable-as-prestige-TV as a whole (and it’s also the first Christian Slater series to not be canceled on arrival, so that’s something). Elliot (Rami Malek) and hacker group fSociety finally brought down E(vil) Corp at conclusion of Season 1, but did it solve anything? Is the 99 Percent any better off? (No.) Is Elliot still nuts? (Yes.) Could Season 2 actually be darker than the first? (Going by the initial episodes, oh hell yes.). Mr. Robot is also getting its own live after-show, Hacking Robotnot hosted by Chris Hardwick, BTW.

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll (Thursday, June 30, FX), season premiere: The debut of Denis Leary’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll last summer presaged two rock-centric dramas, HBO’s just-cancelled Vinyl and Showtime’s currently meh Roadies—and his occasionally haphazard, always-swaggering comedy still nails inter-band relationships better than either. As Season 2 opens, Johnny Rock (Leary) and his Assassins bandmates react to the death of a fellow musician—2016 is the year for it—as only rock narcissists would: We each gotta establish solo-career immortality! (Wiki “Kiss,” “1978” and “mountains of record-company cocaine,” kids.) As terrible/hilarious as that idea sounds, SDRR doubles-down with actor Campbell Scott (as himself) buying the Irish Potato Famine rock opera by bassist Rehab (John Ales) from Season 1 and remaking it as a Hamilton-esque Broadway musical. Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is still gloriously ridiculous—rip off the knob, and turn it up.

Greatest Hits (Thursday, June 30, ABC), series debut: In 2015, a study circulated stating that the average person stops seeking out and listening to new music at the age of 33, settling into a one-ear-in-the-grave groove of just sticking with the tunes of their formative years. This is why all “classic rock” radio stations play the same 20 songs every day, as opposed to the same 10 songs spun into the ground hour after hour on younger-skewing “pop hits!” stations, broken up by regular 12-minute ad breaks on both. So, if you’re dead inside enough for commercial radio, Greatest Hits is probably for you: O.G.s (Original Geezers) and newer artists come together to perform the chart-toppers of yesteryear. Sound harmless? Tonight’s premiere episode features the union of REO Speedwagon and Pitbull. Think about what you’ve let happen, ’Merica.

Killjoys (Friday, July 1, Syfy), season premiere: Neither Killjoys, nor its Friday-night companion, Dark Matter, were ratings blowouts in their debut seasons last summer, both hovering at around 1 million viewers a week—but at least they got Syfy back into space (and, as observed in publications geek-thinkier than this one, projected a more realistically race- and gender-diverse future than most sci-fi series). Killjoys, about a trio of interplanetary bounty hunters (Hannah John-Kamen, Aaron Ashmore and Luke Macfarlane) working a quadrant seething with societal-class tensions (before Syfy’s pricier The Expanse did it), was more fun, balancing action, humor and clear stakes, and letting John-Kamen’s Dutch just be a badass heroine with none of the genre’s usual Strong Female Lead hype. A Season 1 Hulu binge here is a must, more so than with …

Dark Matter (Friday, July 1, Syfy), season premiere: Syfy seemingly thought Dark Matter would be last year’s insta-hit, promoting it heavily and leaving Killjoys to bat cleanup. But a really, really, really ridiculously good-looking cast didn’t make up for a muddled storyline (six people wake up on an adrift spaceship without memories, but with specific mercenary skills and bad attitudes) and a dreary, claustrophobic setting. (Their ship made the Battlestar Galactica look like a Carnival cruise.) Even though Season 2 opens with the gang entering an intergalactic prison in their undies—well-played, Syfy—the Sexy Six will see more of the outside world this time around before unleashing some vengeful ass-kickery onto the Corporate Warlords (which I’m trademarking as a band name as you read). In addition to more focused plotting, Dark Matters has scored a major get in casting Franka Potente as a galactic authority determined to bring the group down. Season 1 is on Netflix, but you might as well just jump in now.

Lady Dynamite (Streaming, Netflix), new series: Yeah, I missed this when it debuted—have I mentioned that There’s Too Many Shows? But there’s no better way to spend the Fourth of July weekend than watching all 12 episodes of Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite, a meta-comedy that does for bipolar disorder what Bojack Horseman did for depression, and Jessica Jones did for PTSD: Make entertaining, thoughtful art out of the usually “too heavy” to even talk about. Lady Dynamite’s time-jumping storytelling and fourth-wall-breaking asides would be overkill even in a less-surreal setting, but the long-underrated Bamford (and a boatload of guest stars) makes the weirdness of this semi-autobiographical story work seamlessly—and kudos to Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath for one of the most self-deprecating rock-star cameos of all time. Sounds good, feels right.

Queen of the South (Thursday, June 23, USA), series debut: USA continues to get somewhat browner—this is a baby step for the not-quite-whitest network on cable. (That’d be Glenn Beck’s The Blaze.) In the net’s new Queen of the South, Teresa Mendoza (Alice Braga) flees to America from Mexico when her drug-dealer boyfriend is murdered, and then plots her bloody revenge upon the cartel that killed him. Queen of the South is flashier and pricier than the Telemundo series, La Reina Del Sur, from which it was lifted, but the grit and pain remain, and Teresa’s transformation from grieving victim to vengeful badass would make Walter White tip his fedora. The initial episodes occasionally feel rushed and jam-packed, as if this production is attempting to squeeze the original’s 63 hours of action and drama into 10, but Braga carries it effortlessly (and sometimes terrifyingly). Now let’s see if USA’s audience is ready for a Scarface/Blow/Narcos mashup fronted by a Latina.

Adventures in Babysitting (Friday, June 24, Disney), movie: The Disney Channel’s 100th “original” movie is a remake of a 1987 classic that cannot be improved upon, an iconic era film that launched the careers of Elizabeth Shue and Ron Canada (yes, The Strain’s Ron Canada!), and featured a surprisingly legit blues soundtrack. Wasn’t molesting the corpse of Uncle Buck over on ABC enough for you, Mickey? This version is Adventures in Babysitting in name only, altering the storyline nearly beyond recognition and extracting any sense of danger in favor of cranking out a cheapo Disney flick indistinguishable from the previous 99. But, hey, if we’re doing this, let’s do it: How about Blue Velvet 2016, starring Selena Gomez as the “older” femme fatale? Natural Born Killers with Austin and Ally? Dog With a Blog as Cujo!

Ray Donovan (Sunday, June 26, Showtime), season premiere: After a nasty brush with the Armenian mafia, a failed attempt at NFL ownership, and getting caught between the overacting of Ian McShane and the underacting of Katie Holmes last season, Ray (Liev Schreiber) finds himself at a personal and professional crossroads in Season 4—you know, just like in Seasons 2 and 3. Ray Donovan doesn’t stray from its troubled-Hollywood-fixer-to-the-rich-and-famous formula, but Schreiber—and Jon Voight, and Paula Malcomson, and the show’s uncredited true star, Schreiber’s immaculate facial stubble—are so damned good, it matters not. This season’s secondary subplot to the Donovan family drama involves a human-trafficking ring with ties to a pro boxer. (Dog fighting and spousal abuse are so passé.) But, really, it’s all about “What’s Mickey (Voight) up to in Nevada?”

Roadies (Sunday, June 26, Showtime), series debut: It’s Almost Famous: Backstage! Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino, Imogen Poots and cameo bands galore star in Cameron Crowe’s ode to the hard-knock life behind the rock ’n’ roll fantasy. Unlike HBO’s dark, retro Vinyl, Roadies is set in current times and more comedic (because, Cameron Crowe). Wilson and Gugino play well off one another as longtime road colleagues who are obviously in love, which is part of the problem: This is more rom-com than rock show, while the rock side is rife with music-biz-movie clichés by the semi-truckload. (“It’s about the music, man!” declarations, rock-star eccentricities, fake British accents, old road dogs dispensing tour wisdom, unhinged groupies, rampant band namedropping, the inevitable wheezing Bob Dylan “classic,” etc.) Roadies has nine more episodes to prove itself as more than an unfinished Crowe movie from the ’90s, but the pilot is an underwhelming opening act.

Dead of Summer (Tuesday, June 28, Freeform), series debut: Pretty 20-somethings in a 1980 summer-camp slasher flick that's a weekly series! There’s a killer on the loose at Camp Stillwater, and if these kids can't keep it in their pants, they’re all dead ... so, yeah, they’re all pretty much dead. But, Dead of Summer isn’t just a straight-up Friday the 13th riff; there’s a supernatural element as well, with “demons” from characters’ pasts “literally manifesting themselves” (the showrunners’ words, because that’s how showrunners talk). Also, DoS is meant to be a multi-season anthology series, à la American Horror Story, with new characters and time-periods every year, which sets it apart from the rest of Freeform programming in terms of sheer ambition. Or suicidal delusion.

Aquarius (Thursday, June 16, NBC), season premiere: When last we (meaning me; I’ve yet to meet anybody who watched Season 1) left Aquarius, it was spring of 1968; Det. Hodiak (David Duchovny) and the Los Angeles Police Department were possibly going under an internal affairs investigation; and milquetoast messiah Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) was finally starting to show some psycho-spunk. (Remember, it took Axl Rose a couple of albums to get there, too.) In keeping with history, the two-hour Season 2 premiere of Aquarius sees the Manson Family moving in with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson (Andy Favreau), as Hodiak becomes caught up in another missing-girls case while still making time to snark at hippies; and beat cop Tully (Claire Holt) gets in over her head in a dangerous case again because, you know, even the late ’60s still sucked for women. Aquarius may never achieve its five-season plan, but it has more swagger and grit than most current cop dramas, and features as much sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll as, well, FX’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. (Seriously, the ’60s music rights and oregano budgets must be staggering.)

Orange Is the New Black (Friday, June 17, Netflix), season premiere: Netflix has put so many “No Spoilers!” review restrictions on Season 4 of Orange Is the New Black that there’s not much left to say besides: There’s a busload of new characters (literally); Piper (Taylor Schilling) has less screen time than ever; Alex (Laura Prepon) has more troubles than ever; there’s darkness; there’s light; there’s more darkness; and creator/writer Jenji Kohan is still maintaining an impressive level of dramatic quality. (Then again, her previous series, Weeds, began to run off the rails around Season 4, so … .) Besides, you’ll have binged all 13 episodes by the time you get around to reading this, anyway.

The Jim Gaffigan Show (Sunday, June 19, TV Land), season premiere: TV Land has rebranded, dumping Baby Boomers in favor of Gen-Xers (can’t keep catering to a demo that’s almost extinct—unless you're a newspaper … uh …). Laugh tracks and cheap sets are being replaced with single-camera film and a scrappier attitude, and The Jim Gaffigan Show is the flagship for the new TV Land. If you’ve seen Gaffigan’s standup, you know this sitcom: tubby white guy, wife and kids, junk food. Despite a few critical nags about the series being a pale—nope, not going for the easy pasty-Jim joke here—imitation of Louie and Curb Your Enthusiasm, TJGS rose above its anticipated blandness with sharp writing and a sharper supporting. Fun fact (unless you’re an NBC Universal exec): Like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Lip Sync Battle, The Jim Gaffigan Show was rejected by NBC (which stands for Now Bereft of Comedy).

American Gothic (Wednesday, June 22, CBS), series debut: Compared to the long-lost 1995 also-CBS American Gothic drama about a supernaturally evil small-town sheriff menacing the locals—YouTube it; Gary Cole was almost as menacing in it as he is now on Veep—the new American Gothic (posh Boston family has a secret serial killer among them) seems like a snooze. It is—with a recycled title, no less. Not only does this iteration add to the glut of shows with “American” in the title (which all suck, with the lone exception of American Dad); it also wastes actors like Virginia Madsen, Antony Starr (Banshee) and Justin Chatwin (Shameless) on what CBS is now calling “A 13-Part Murder Mystery” (which really means, “We’re sure as hell not getting any more seasons out of this”). Now, American Gothic as a reality-challenge show about goths competing American Ninja-style … there’s a winner!

Murder in the First (Sunday, June 26, TNT), season premiere: Cop-show vet Steven Bochco is still hanging in there with Murder in the First, a reduced redux of his 1995 network series Murder One (a single case investigated over a season—and on cable, that means 10 episodes instead of 22). Season 3 involves the homicide of that most precious of ’Merican celebrities: a pro football player (nooo!), with San Francisco detectives English (Taye Diggs) and Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) just as gorgeous and troubled as ever. And it’s all … whatever. If the new Animal Kingdom doesn’t break the network’s meh streak (and it probably won’t), TNT is serious danger of becoming USA. No one wants that. (The premiere was scheduled for June 19, but was pushed back a week.)