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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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    Dietland

    Dietland

    Premiere: June 4th on AMC

    When novelist Sarai Walker saw Fight Club for the first time, she said, “I came out thinking that I had to write the female version.” The result was Dietland, an acid-tongued satire of the beauty industry and society’s obsession with weight loss, with just a dollop of vigilante murder on the side. Now Marti Noxon (unReal) has adapted it into a series for AMC, starring relative unknown Joy Nash as Plum Kettle, a ghostwriter for a popular teen fashion mag, whose desire to lose weight and impress picture-perfect editor Kitty Montgomery (Julianna Margulies) drives her to some … dramatic tactics. Based on early trailers, Nash looks like an extremely capable lead, and Margulies looks fabulous as usual. It feels like Ugly Betty with a big sprinkling of American Psycho, and I’m extremely ready for it. –-Clint Worthington

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    Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger

    Cloak and Dagger

    Premiere: June 7th on Freeform 

    Even after Thanos has had his way with the universe, the Marvel machine chugs along without skipping a beat. This time, the MCEU expands to Freeform with Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger, the story of a teenage boy and girl (Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt) who discover that their respective superpowers – he can shroud people in darkness; she can make daggers out of light – grow stronger when they’re together. Hulu’s Runaways proved that the Marvel formula can work well in the teen-drama milieu, and Freeform’s building a great track record of innovative shows for young adults (Grown-ish, Alone Together, The Bold Type); those factors alone are enough to give it a shot. But combine that with some gorgeous-looking trailers (seriously, the superpower effects look great for a TV budget) and early glimpses of Holt and Joseph’s killer chemistry, Cloak & Dagger should shed light on another compelling corner of the Marvel Universe. –Clint Worthington

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    Sense8

    Sense8

    Premiere: June 8th on Netflix

    When Sense8’s cancellation was announced in June 2017, the show’s small but dedicated fanbase set to work pleading Netflix to give the Wachowskis’ (and J. Michael Straczynski’s) sprawling, humanist sci-fi series the closure it deserves. To their (and our) great relief, Netflix picked up on their signals and greenlit a series finale movie, which will hit the platform on June 8, 2018. Like much of the Wachowskis’ late-career output, Sense8 is an acquired taste: it’s messy, but ambitious, and has a big heart beating underneath it. After all, it’s hard to sell a globe-trotting science fiction series about eight people around the world who discover they’re psychically linked, sharing everything from thoughts to skills to sexual sensations. (Hint: if you’re not onboard by the time eight strangers do psychic karaoke to 4 Non Blondes, the show’s not for you.) But for those whom Sense8 has become a beacon of LGBT visibility, multiculturalism, and sci-fi idealism, this finale movie will be appointment viewing. –Clint Worthington

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    Claws

    Claws

    Premiere: June 10th on TNT

    Desna and her family of fellow nail artists are back! After barely surviving the first season, they have a new challenge in front of them: The Russian mob take-over of Uncle Daddy’s drug operation has forced them back into the money laundering business. Desna and her crew are smart, determined, and ready to do what’s necessary to protect themselves and their futures, and with Uncle Daddy secretly working with the Haitian mob (and Desna’s former flame, Dr. Gregory Ruval) to take down the Russian mob, things are going to get hairy. Coming off of its suspenseful and entertaining first season, and featuring a terrific ensemble cast, Claws looks ready to hit the ground running in season two, making this Palmetto, Florida-set thriller perfect summer viewing. –Kate Kulzick

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    The Bold Type

    144366 0446 The 30 Hottest TV Shows of Summer 2018

    Premiere: June 12th on Freeform

    Freeform’s The Bold Type, a one-hour comedic drama about three young women working at a Cosmopolitan-like magazine, earned a hell of a lot in its initial run: a devoted following, a two-season renewal, and the undying affection of a legion of “Kadena” ‘shippers. It also picked up a new showrunner (Amanda Lasher of MTV’s heralded Sweet/Vicious), a switch that might spell trouble if it weren’t for the fact that Lasher seems like such a good fit. Season two seems to be picking up not long after the first season ends, with Jane (Katie Stevens) struggling at her new outlet, Sutton (Meghann Fahy) working her ass off in her dream job, and Kat (Aisha Dee) introducing her parents to girlfriend Adena (Nikohl Boosheri, now a series regular). Other than that, we don’t know much, other than that we’re almost certainly in store for frank, funny, and honest stories centered on these young women and their Miranda-Priestly-but-nice boss (Melora Hardin). It’s a delight. –Allison Shoemaker

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    The Last Defense

    The Last Defense

    Premiere: June 12th on ABC

    Mass incarceration and the death penalty remain huge, controversial issues in the American justice system, and ABC’s docuseries The Last Defense seeks to explore these concerns in depth. Executive produced by Viola Davis and Julius Tennon, The Last Defense will present seven episodes examining two different Death Row cases – Julia Darius Jones in Oklahoma and Darlie Routier in Texas. Investigating their convictions from a comprehensive, granular perspective, the series will investigate all angles of their cases, from arrest to police misconduct to criminal proceedings, to determine the possibility of their wrongful conviction and get them out before an execution date is set. The Last Defense won’t be light viewing by any means, but its aim of educating viewers on the flaws of the penal system and the ways it disproportionately punishes black men is important, hard-hitting work. –Clint Worthington

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    Strange Angel

    Strange Angel

    Premiere: June 14th on CBS All Access

    Jack Parsons is the kind of real-life figure that it’s almost impossible to imagine living in any version of this world. He was a janitor who became a rocket scientist, and it was largely because of inspiration that he was able to do it. That inspiration? The famed occult leader Aleister Crowley. The connection between Parsons and Crowley forms the basis of Strange Angel, the new CBS (?!) series from director David Lowery (A Ghost Story, Pete’s Dragon). On pedigree alone, this project has our immediate attention, the latest byproduct of CBS’ seeming willingness to push boundaries on its All Access streaming service that it wouldn’t on network TV. But the story it’s going to tell is what has us most excited, and what might have people talking about the series before long. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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    Marvel’s Luke Cage

    Luke Cage

    Premiere: June 22nd on Netflix

    Luke Cage is back, and he wants everyone to know about it. After keeping a low profile in season one, season two sees Luke embracing his role as a leader and protector in his community, putting baddies on notice and cleaning up Harlem. Which is all well and good until someone new arrives on the scene — someone who can drop Luke without breaking a sweat. Marvel’s Netflix series have a shaky track record, but the first season of Luke Cage stood out with its compelling performances, strong thematic resonance, and distinct visual and aural approach. Season two promises more of the same and Misty Knight’s new arm to boot. Look for more Mike Colter humor and intensity as Luke, more scheming from Alfre Woodard’s Black Mariah, and what is bound to be an affecting performance from the late, great Reg E. Cathey as Luke’s father. –Kate Kulzick

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    The Great British Baking Show

    Great British Baking Show

    Premiere: June 22nd on PBS

    Sure, we still inhabit the hell of a world where Mary Berry is no longer on The Great British Baking Show, and we’ll continue to inhabit that godless realm for the rest of our days. That said, television’s friendliest cooking competition show is back once again, with noted hunk Paul Hollywood leading the charge as amateur bakers try their very best to make delicious treats while supporting one another and having a generally fine time. There’s a reason TGBBS has amassed such a dedicated following, and it’s right there: it’s a truly nice show in an era full of television shows, good and bad alike, which are decidedly not nice. Sometimes you just need to watch somebody smile their way through an upside-down cake. —Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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    Preacher

    Preacher

    Premiere: June 24th on AMC

    Hitler’s loose, God’s chilling at a motel, and Jesse and Cassidy are on their way to Angelville to get help for Tulip. The season two finale of Preacher left a lot of balls up in the air, but this has never been a series afraid of juggling a few disparate threads. Tony Award-winning actor Betty Buckley joins the cast for season three as “Gran’ma,” one of several new characters Jesse, Cassidy, and Tulip will be encountering this season as they try to recover from and respond to the events of the finale. Based on the “Until the End of the World” arc from the comic’s second volume, season three kicks off at Angelville and explores Jesse’s history and family. –Kate Kulzick

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