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The 30 Hottest TV Shows of Summer 2018

Summer used to be boring when it came to TV. Not anymore.

Bill Skarsgård in Castle Rock
Bill Skarsgård in Castle Rock
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    Summer used to be boring — at least when it came to TV. Not anymore. Oh, don’t misunderstand, it’s still nothing compared to the absolute barrage of new shows, ratings juggernauts, and critical darlings that will be reappearing come September (The Good Place, I miss you, come back), but the era in which the lazy days of May through August meant nothing but syndicated chestnuts and the odd series someone needed to dump are long gone. Last summer we got some unexpected gems. This summer, there’s no shortage of good, exciting stuff.

    What’s perhaps most striking about the list of shows you’re about to ease on down is this: this is an extremely partial selection. In the interest of not dishing up 16,000 words, we cut reliable shows like The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, gentle beauties like the PBS/BBC co-produced Little Women miniseries, the Amy Adams-starring Gillian Flynn adaptation Sharp Objects, which as of yet lacks a release date, and the Duplass brothers’ follow-up to Wild Wild Country. And that list of things we omitted? It omitted some things.

    It may seem like a lot, and it is. But compared to what’s a-comin’ this fall, it’s child’s play. Take advantage of the air-conditioning and try something you might never check out otherwise. You’ve got time — sort of.

    –Allison Shoemaker
    TV Editor

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    Vida

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    Vida

    Premiere: May 6th on Starz

    As fellow Chicagoans, there’s no way we were missing anything created by Chicago playwright Tanya Saracho (also of How to Get Away with Murder and Looking), but our enthusiasm for Saracho’s first series as showrunner isn’t only a matter of hometown loyalty. Vida centers on Emma (Mishel Prada) and Lyn (Melissa Barrera), Mexican-American sisters who’ve left their community in East Los Angeles far behind and whose emotional distance has only been sharpened by the physical distance. When their mother, Vida, dies, she leaves behind a bar, unanswered questions, and a “roommate” who, as it turns out, is actually her wife. Saracho and her writers’ room (staffed entirely by Latinx writers) use that twisty family tension as a jumping-off point for the exploration of gentrification, sexuality, family, identity, classism, and other light topics. Prada and Barrera are well up to tackling anything that these tight, smart scripts throw at them, turning in a pair of remarkable central performances that promise to get even better with time. In short: it’s great. Watch it. –Allison Shoemaker

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    Patrick Melrose

    Benedict Cumberbatch

    Premiere: May 12th on Showtime

    In his latest televised adventure, Benedict Cumberbatch plays a self-loathing, highly intelligent, drug-addicted member of Great Britain’s aristocratic class in an adaptation of a celebrated book series. Before you preemptively roll your eyes, it’s not the return of Sherlock. Instead, Cumberbatch stars in Patrick Melrose, the highly-anticipated adaptation of Edward St. Aubyn’s semi-autobiographical novels, which the star is also producing (alongside Rachael Horovitz). The Internet may have well and truly played out every possible joke about the Cumberbatch name, but while we’re tired of the yuks, no one in their right mind should be tired of the actor, whose thoughtful, often viscerally charged performances are reliably gripping. Throw in a cast that includes Hugo Weaving (as Patrick’s abusive father), Jennifer Jason Leigh (as his indifferent mother), Blythe Danner, and Allison Williams, and you’ve got all the makings of a barnburner. –Allison Shoemaker

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    Fahrenheit 451

    Fahrenheit 451

    Premiere: May 19th on HBO

    Everything about HBO’s forthcoming adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s legendary 1953 novel checks out. Michael B. Jordan? Check. Michael Shannon? Check. 99 Homes director Ramin Bahrani? Check. These are all positives. Sure, some purists might bemoan the idea that this is another remake from Hollywood and that it’s sacrilegious to François Truffaut’s 1966 adaptation, but c’mon. It’s been over 50 years since that movie, and in a world as stupid as ours, we can only be so lucky to have something this smart and rich and exciting. Though, that may explain why we’re getting a brainy blockbuster production such as this on HBO and not in our local theaters. Whatever. We don’t have to deal with the morons on their cellphones. Throw those into the fire!  –Michael Roffman

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    Royal Wedding with Cord and Tish

    Royal Wedding

    Premiere: May 19th on HBO

    Excitement for the royal wedding is at a fever pitch, with the pending nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle creating a stir stateside as well as across the pond. HBO is getting in on the action with a live two-hour special hosted by legendary broadcasters Cord Hosenback (Will Ferrell) and Tish Cattigan (Molly Shannon), who are best known for their yearly [coverage of the Rose Parade]. Joining them for the special is their favorite man-on-the-street reporter, SNL alum Tim Meadows, and other guests are slated to appear as well. The special is being produced by Funny or Die and for those who wind up sleeping through their alarms that Saturday morning, HBO will be re-airing the special in primetime, starting at 9:45pm ET. –Kate Kulzick

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    Picnic at Hanging Rock

    Picnic at Hanging Rock

    Premiere: May 25th on Amazon

    Despite not being a horror film in the conventional sense, Peter Weir’s 1975 Australian film Picnic at Hanging Rock, adapted from the Joan Lindsey novel of the same name, is one of the scariest movies you’ll ever see – a harrowing period tale of existential mystery and lingering adolescent sexual tension set against a desolate Australian backdrop. Now, Australian channel Foxtel is remaking it into a six-part miniseries starring Game of ThronesNatalie Dormer – it’s an inspired choice to cast her as headmistress Mrs. Appleyard, given her expertise at playing complicated women advancing themselves within restrictive social structures. Early photos look promising, with glimpses of gorgeous pastoral settings and my god those costumes; all reports indicate this should be a worthy successor to Weir’s unrelentingly haunting film and the book that inspired it. –Clint Worthington

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    The Tale

     The 30 Hottest TV Shows of Summer 2018

    Premiere: May 26th on HBO

    Arguably the most anticipated film to emerge from the 2018 Sundance Film Festival is one that didn’t land with either a major studio, like Disney, or a smaller darling, like A24. Instead, The Tale — the first narrative feature from documentarian Jennifer Fox, here serving as both writer and director — walked away holding hands with the folks at Home Box Office. Based on Fox’s own experiences, The Tale centers on a documentarian named Jennifer Fox (Laura Dern), whose mother (Ellen Burstyn) finds a story Jennifer wrote at age 13. It’s a story that prompts Jennifer to reexamine her own memories of her earliest sexual experiences. Fox’s film, deeply personal in its nature, uses narrative and formal daring to get closer and closer to the truth of her own past, and in doing so, looks at the stories we tell ourselves to survive. There are flashier titles on this list, but The Tale seems the likeliest to dominate conversation — artistically, culturally, personally, politically, socially. It may not be an easy watch, but it’s sure to be an important one. Consider this not to be missed. –Allison Shoemaker

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    The Break with Michelle Wolf

    Michelle Wolf

    Premiere: May 27th on Netflix

    Fresh off of her hilarious and pointed set at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, comedian Michelle Wolf will be taking on the news and everything else in her new half-hour Netflix series. Branded as more variety and sketch than talk show or pointed political satire, The Break with Michelle Wolf will be released weekly on Sundays, with Netflix promising viewers a break from the serious news and events dominating much of the late-night comedy scene. Given Wolf’s background on The Daily Show and Late Night with Seth Meyers and the buzz around her WHCD set, political commentary will likely sneak in, but it will be exciting to see what other comedic avenues Wolf chooses to explore. –Kate Kulzick

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    C.B. Strike

    CB Strike

    Premiere: June 1st on Cinemax

    Based on J. K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike novels and originally aired in the UK in 2017, C.B. Strike follows private detective Cormoran Strike, a former Special Investigation Branch Investigator (British military police officer) now working as a PI in London. Over the course of its seven episodes, the series adapts the three novels currently available (The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, and Career of Evil) and it’s unclear whether future seasons will be forthcoming or whether the producers plan to wait for Rowling’s next novel before continuing. Either way, fans of Rowling’s dive into gritty noir detective storytelling can look forward to a faithful adaptation, with leads Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger receiving particular praise for their performances in the critical response to the series’ initial BBC One airing. –Kate Kulzick

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    Pose

    Pose

    Premiere: June 3rd on FX

    “It’s television as advocacy,” Ryan Murphy recently said of Pose, the latest addition to what feels like an infinite stable of shows from the American Horror Story creator. It’s a chance, Murphy told The New Yorker, to “put my money where my mouth is,” and he certainly seems to be doing that: more than 100 members of the cast and crew are trans, while over 30 characters are LGBTQ, and Murphy is “giving his profits to pro-trans causes.” But to dismiss Pose, an eight-episode drama set in the world of New York’s ball scene in the 1980s, as well-meaning and nothing more would be a mistake. The early trailers have promised many of the things one might expect from a Murphy joint — eye-popping design, charismatic performers, dialogue with edges as sharp as the fragments of a shattered mirror ball — but it also seems steeped in compassion and affection for the history of this world and the players, both real and imagined, who bring it to you ev’ry ball. –Allison Shoemaker

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    Succession

     The 30 Hottest TV Shows of Summer 2018

    Premiere: June 3rd on HBO

    HBO’s no stranger to slick, dark comedies about corporate intrigue (Silicon Valley, Ballers), and its latest, Succession, fits squarely in that particular brief. Set among the high-powered hoi polloi of the Roy family, the head of a global media and entertainment conglomerate, Succession concerns the impending retirement of patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and the scheming of the rest of his family (including Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Alan Ruck, and Sarah Snook) to figure out who’s next in line for the proverbial throne. The show’s a Will Ferrell/Adam McKay co-production, with McKay directing the pilot – if his Oscar nod for The Big Short is any indicator, he knows how to navigate the ecosystem of the insanely rich with an appealingly stylish, acerbic eye. In short, another winner for HBO. –Clint Worthington

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