Planning to spend the summer working through the backlog on your DVR? Television has other plans.
As dozens of new and returning shows head our way, here’s what looks interesting:
The Handmaid’s Tale (Wednesday, June 5, Hulu). If the second season of this dystopian story left you dispirited — or if you’re still upset about how it ended — take heart. The gloom has lifted, just a little, as June (Elisabeth Moss) tries to make her decision to stay behind in Gilead count for something. It doesn’t hurt that Bradley Whitford is back as the enigmatic Commander Joseph Lawrence. Inspired by Margaret Atwood’s novel about a post-U.S. nation ruled by religious extremists whose response to a fertility crisis is to enslave women to bear their children, this show is never going to be a laugh riot. But it does have some slyly funny moments.
Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City (Friday, June 7, Netflix). Don’t do the math. That’s the advice of Lower Merion High grad Alan Poul, who’s worked on every TV iteration of Armistead Maupin’s stories of LGBT life in San Francisco, starting with the Peabody Award-winning mini-series that was set in the 1970s and that aired on PBS 25 years ago. Poul’s both an executive producer and director on this 10-episode update, which brings Laura Linney’s Mary Ann Singleton back to the city after a long absence to help celebrate the 90th birthday of her former landlady, Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis). Paul Gross returns as Brian Hawkins, who’s now Mary Ann’s former husband, and Ellen Page is Shawna, the daughter he was left to raise on his own. For those who loved the original, or the two Showtime editions, a reunion might be enough. But there’s also a soapy mystery involving Anna’s past, and enough exposition that newcomers to 28 Barbary Lane should be able to find their way.
Designated Survivor (Friday, June 7, Netflix). Kiefer Sutherland’s still an accidental president in the third season of the series, picked up by Netflix after ABC canceled it. But now, as he runs for election, he and his aides get to swear occasionally. There are also some new faces, among them ER’s Anthony Edwards as Mars Harper, chief of staff to Sutherland’s President Tom Kirkman; Lauren Holly as Harper’s wife, Lynn; and Jamie Clayton (Sense8) as someone who’s going to make life in the White House even more interesting.
Big Little Lies (9 p.m. Sunday, June 9, HBO). The audience didn’t want it to be over, and so it’s not. The star-studded story about an affluent California town’s secrets gets another star as Meryl Streep joins Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Zoe Kravitz, Shailene Woodley, and Laura Dern for a sequel, written by David E. Kelley from a so-far-unpublished sequel novella by Liane Moriarty, who wrote the original book on which the series was based.
Pose (10 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, FX). Second season of Ryan Murphy’s Peabody Award-winning drama about New York’s underground ballroom culture moves into the 1990s, with the first episode set on the day Madonna’s “Vogue” was released.
Euphoria (10 p.m. Sunday, June 16, HBO). Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Greatest Showman) stars as Rue, a high school student just out of drug rehab, and model/activist Hunter Schafer as Jules, the new-in-town trans girl who becomes her friend in a series about coming of age in an age of anxiety. So what’s something like that doing on HBO? Adapted by Sam Levinson (The Wizard of Lies) from an Israeli show, it’s sexually frank, features Rue as none-too-reliable narrator, and is about as far from a CW teen drama as I can imagine a show like this being, despite starring some very pretty people.
City on a Hill (9 p.m. June 16, Showtime). Philadelphia’s Kevin Bacon stars as a corrupt but hard-to-dislike FBI agent who teams up with a reform-minded prosecutor (Aldis Hodge, Underground) in 1990s Boston. It’s a fictional crime thriller, inspired by true events, and is produced by Tom Fontana (St. Elsewhere, Homicide: Life on the Street), along with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
Grand Hotel (10 p.m. Monday, June 17, ABC). Demián Bichir (The Bridge) and Roselyn Sánchez (Devious Maids) star as Miami Beach hotel proprietors with secrets that may include what happened to one of the hotel’s female employees. Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives) is an executive producer of this present-day adaptation of a Spanish period telenovela; if you’re curious enough to compare and contrast, the original is available, with subtitles, on Netflix.
Yellowstone (10 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, Paramount). Kevin Costner and company return in the most-watched new cable series of 2018, in which Costner plays a politically powerful landowner who controls the largest contiguous ranch in the United States.
Years and Years (9 p.m. Monday, June 24, HBO). Emma Thompson stars as a celebrity-turned-politician who divides Britain in this six-episode BBC mini-series from Russell T Davies (Doctor Who, Queer as Folk) that follows the lives of one family over 15 years, beginning with one apparently fateful night.
The Rook (8 p.m. Sunday, June 30, Starz). A woman (Emma Greenwell) who can’t remember her own name wakes up surrounded by dead bodies in this sci-fi-meets-spy-drama series and eventually discovers she’s a member of a secret government organization for people with paranormal abilities. Other stars include Olivia Munn, Joely Richardson, and James D’Arcy (Agent Carter).
What Just Happened??! (9:30 p.m. Sunday, June 30, Fox). A broadcast network pokes fun at a largely cable phenomenon — the “after-show” — with this spoof hosted by Fred Savage of a talk show aimed at fans of The Flare, a sci-fi show that (spoiler alert) doesn’t actually exist.
The Loudest Voice (10 p.m. Sunday, June 30, Showtime). An almost unrecognizable Russell Crowe stars as Roger Ailes, the late cofounder of Fox News, and Naomi Watts as Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox & Friends anchor whose sexual-harassment suit against Ailes helped lead to his downfall. The first episode of the seven-part limited series was written by Oscar-winner Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) and Gabriel Sherman, the reporter on whose book The Loudest Voice in the Room the show is based.
Stranger Things (Thursday, July 4, Netflix). We don’t have to wait until Halloween. The third season of the streaming hit ties itself to a different holiday. Beyond an expectation of strange happenings in a small Indiana town in the 1980s, I don’t know much. But if the trailer’s any indication, there will be fireworks.
Chasing the Moon: American Experience (9 p.m. Monday, July 8, through Wednesday, July 10, WHYY12). There will be no shortage of things to watch about the first moon landing, whose 50th anniversary is July 20. This one is about much more than astronauts. Filmmaker Robert Stone was 10 when Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface, and he says he wanted his three-night documentary to “capture that feeling of what it was like for all of us to live at a time when we were doing this grand, aspirational goal, and how that sort of infected our lives, our perceptions about the future.”
Grantchester on Masterpiece (9 p.m. Sunday, July 14, WHYY12). We’ll be changing vicars at some point during this fourth season, as James Norton’s Sidney Chambers departs and Tom Brittney is introduced as the Rev. Will Davenport, who’ll no doubt soon be investigating murders, too, with the cranky assistance of Detective Geordie Keating (Robson Green).
Pearson (10 p.m. July 17, USA). On the same night that Suits, the legal drama created by Melrose Park’s Aaron Korsh, launches its final season, the show that formerly costarred Meghan Markle gets a spin-off. Gina Torres takes her recently disbarred Suits character, Jessica Pearson, to the office of Chicago’s mayor, where she’ll be learning about life as a political fixer.
Veronica Mars (Friday, July 26, Hulu). I believe that all good things must come to an end, but I am ridiculously excited by the return of Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars, a no-longer-teenage private detective who’ll be investigating the murders of spring-break revelers in the seaside town of Neptune for an eight-episode continuation of the UPN/CW series.
The Boys (Friday, July 26, Amazon). Superheroes aren’t such super people in this comic book adaptation from producers Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Supernatural creator Eric Kripke. The title characters are vigilantes out to right the wrongs done by overly entitled people with powers.
Orange Is the New Black (Friday, July 26, Netflix). The streaming dramedy’s seventh and final season will focus both on the post-prison experiences of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) and the lives of the women she left behind at Litchfield.
Pennyworth (9 p.m. Sunday, July 28, Epix). From Bruno Heller (Gotham, Rome) comes another Batman prequel, this one with a different tone and set in swinging ’60s London, where Bruce Wayne’s future butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Jack Bannon), is a special-forces veteran working for Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge).
Four Weddings and a Funeral (Wednesday, July 31, Hulu). Twenty-five years after the Richard Curtis film, Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton (The Mindy Project) are turning it into a series that begins with four American friends who “reunite for a fabulous London wedding.”
Succession (9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, HBO). Darkly funny drama about a media mogul and his fractious family — who may or may not remind you of the Murdochs — returns for a second season. Malvern’s Adam McKay (The Big Short), who directed last season’s pilot, is among the executive producers.