By Darwyn Carson — What are you watching this month and when did summer-launched series become must-watch events?
It was June 2013; just as the movie buzz was at its height—debating which superhero apocalyptic film release would reign as the summer box office king or queen—along comes a CBS Summer Event series that would take up most of the oxygen around the water coolers and game rooms. Yes, Under the Dome started it all.
It was the massive success of that CBS science fiction thriller series, which rendered the phrase “summer rerun season” obsolete. It has led to a spat of some of the most creative, original programming to shimmy across the airwaves; keeping us saturated with much appreciated chill bump raising entertainment during the seasonal sweltering heat.
To name a few:
Orange is the New Black (July, 2013 – Netflix)
The Last Ship (June, 2014 – TNT)
Outlander (Aug 9, 2014 – Starz!)
The Leftovers (June, 2014 – HBO)
Zoo (June, 2014 – CBS)
Mr. Robot (June, 2015 – USA Network)
Stranger Things (July, 2016 – Netflix)
The Night of (June, 2016 – HBO)
(NOTE: Your favorite might not be included. Feel free to call out any which super success, missing from this list.)
Sadly, not all have had the legs needed to secure renewal past Season 3. Under the Dome being one of those; averaged 11.19 million views year one. It seemed a juggernaut. By year three, however, viewership had dropped to 4.7 million. That still beats some of the Cable favorites numbers, which has a lot to do with running commercially, understandably; though times are a changing and fast.
Co-created by Tom Perrotta (Election, Little Children) and Damon Lindelof (Lost), The Leftovers, was such a one as well. Adapted from Perrotta’s (well received novel, there was so much pre-buzz (that’s right, talk before the talk), this series’ initial launch seemed slated to be a real-deal winner that would last years and, in truth, the show wasn’t bad.
After the doom and gloom of the first year, it seemed to reset on ground that was solid and while its atmosphere remained cloudy with rain in the forecast, there were bits of sun from time to time, which bode well for a longer running series. Also, unlike the other’s in the pack, it didn’t return in the summer. There was no rush, the show returning when it was ready, which worked to the show’s good if judging by the uptick in better reviews for seasons’ 2 and 3.
By its second year it landed on quite a few “best of” lists. Alas, though The Leftovers gained critics’ favor, it never quite took hold with the viewers and its third season was its last.
As for this year’s new arrivals, there are two possible standouts in a crowded pack.
Spun from the popular novels of Charlaine Harris, who gave us the deliciously devilish True Blood, comes a new supernatural original from NBC. Midnight, Texas promises to be a chill bump raising, rip-roaring time for Science Fiction/Fantasy lovers. It will also be a bit tamer viewing, on the commercial network, than what True Blood fans were used to during its popular HBO cable run, but that should only prove to widen its appeal and thus its audience.
Anyone who has ever felt the odd man out would probably feel right at home In Midnight, Texas; a place where being blessed with an undefined, unexplained gift means, “It must be Tuesday.”
The town is “… where outcasts go to be themselves,” says François Arnaud who plays Manfred Bernardo, a young man with psychic abilities that are “unwanted.” Arnaud ends up in the far-from-everywhere town after taking advise from his grandma, who communicates with him from another realm already as she’s dead. That’s right. Dead.
There’s Joe Strong—played by long-locked Jason Lewis—who can fly, cuz, yeah: he has a wingspan of, say, a small two-seater aircraft.
Peter Mensah is Lemuel Bridger: a tall, handsome fanged being with iced-blue orbs, ‘cuz it would be strange if there weren’t Vampires, right?
There’s the Reverend Emilio Sheehan (Yul Vaszquez), Creek (Sarah Ramos), Fiji Cavanaugh (Parisa Fitz-Henley), and who knows who will pop up because, once all these “others” begin to collect in one place, bad fellows follow and bad stuff erupts like late-breaking news on a slow day.
This odd assortment will be what stands between the family of man and an ultra-dimensional realm which threatens to invade the planet by ripping through the veil of hell.
Midnight’s not like most places.
It screams to be terrifying and last heard; scary is good. PG-rated fun.
A sizable cast includes: François Arnaud, Dylan Bruce, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Arielle Kebbel, Jason Lewis, Peter Mensah, Sarah Ramos, Yul Vázquez and Sean Bridgers as the Sheriff.
Monica Owusu-Breen serves as writer and executive producer. David Janollari and Director Niels Arden Oplev also executive produce. Midnight, Texas is a Universal Television and David Janollari Entertainment production.
Midnight Texas premieres July 24 on NBC – Mondays, 10/9pm central.
The number two pick to top the TV ratings chart this summer has got to be CBS’s Salvation, the pilot will rerun tonight at 9pm, after which it will return to its regular night Wednesdays.
The story is simply, exciting.
It opens with a real-life catastrophic event: a meteor the size of a small house hits a small town in Russia injuring a thousand people. How did this happen and how did we not see it, a news woman asks Neil deGrasse Tyson? The astrophysicist explains that there are so many floating rock forms and debris out in space there is no way we can remain aware of them all.
Then events heat up in real time and we’re only ten minutes in.
A young MIT tech grad, Liam Cole (Charlie Rowe) is “creating a map of space,” as his passion project. His earthly trajectory causes him to intersect with tech superstar and MIT alum Darius Tanz (Santiago Cabrera), just in time to alert the cocky genius to his finding: that an asteroid large enough to decimate the earth has been detected… not by a member of the government or a highly respected professor teaching astrophysics teaching at a top-rated university, but by him… a student who can’t make it to class on time, much less fully dressed.
All of the must-have boxes are ticked off with this one: a high concept piece with a great cast with a solid creative team and an exceptional promotional rollout.
Based on a short story by Brit producer/writer Matt Wheeler (I’m still waiting for Sony to produce his adaptation of Thomas Perry’s novel, The Informant), Salvation is scripted by Liz Kruger and Craig Shapiro who serve as showrunners. It is produced in association with Alex Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout, with Peter Lenkov also executive producing. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo directed the pilot episode.
Salvation stars Santiago Cabrera, Jennifer Finnigan, Charlie Row, Jacqueline Byers, Rachel Drance, Shazi Raja and Ian Anthony Dale.
Catch the pilot tonight on CBS at 9pm central.
Watch Salvation, Wednesdays, on CBS and CBS All Access at 9/8pm central.
My bets on both Salvation (CBS) and Midnight, Texas (NBC) on saving the world… each in its own fashion, but a couple other contenders are making some noise:
After the female driven success of Orange is the New Black, Netflix has brought us Glow; a retro look at a young actress who meets her monthly nut from the proceeds of an unusual booking: Women’s Wrestling.
Starring Alison Brie, this one’s created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch and is streaming now.
Glow is streaming now on Netflix.
Another new one from Netflix is a Naomi Watt’s starrer, which looks intriguing in a dramatically, erotic lick the glue off the inside of the envelope before pushing it to the edge sort of way. In Gypsy, Watt’s plays a psychiatrist whose “Hippocratic Oath” includes “I will not violate the physical boundaries of the patient.”
Calmly efficient, she steers her patients through muddied waters while a low heat simmering in her personal world threatens to disrupt her home life.
Billy Crudup, as her caring husband, shares the screen. Episodes 1 and 2 were directed by Fifty Shades of Grey helmer, Sam Taylor-Johnson. So yeah… There’s that element.
Gypsy premiered this June and is streaming on Netflix.
TNT is in there giving it a go with Claws. Think women, attitude, drug crime, designer nails and you’re good to go. In Claws, needs—must. We’re located in the south for another humor-laden crime drama. A Florida township, where the population is small and the crime rate is way high.
In the interest of family, friends and self-interest, these women do what they must, and they make us laugh in the middle of it all. There are no victims here. Sure, it’s been done before, but this looks different enough to “Wanna see it.” Plus, it comes with good pedigree: Rashida Jones (Angie Tribeca, Parks and Recreation) exec produces and the show is stuffed with a terrific cast of players: Niecy Nash, Carrie Preston, Jenn Lyon, Judy Reyes, and Karrueche Tran.
Claws premiered this June. You can catch it Sundays on TNT.
(NOTE: Summer of 2011, the network premiered Falling Skies with great success)
British crime drama remains the ticket to get in the states: writers love setting their stories in peaceful communities dotted with thatched roofed, sandstone cottages and lovely picket fences. Then, with quiet relish, they take the onion peeler and slowly begin to work, unveiling a darkness we can scarcely believe and is hard to watch.
If you write it, they will come, it seems, because we viewers continue to lap it up. Case in point Broadchurch and Happy Valley. Broadchurch just premiered its third and final season, but fear not: the void has already been filled.
Acorn TV’s original programming brings us Loch Ness, which is set… a bit outside the English countryside, but close enough; near the tightly knit Sottish community of Lochanfoy adjacent to the loch shoreline.
A serial killer is operating in the town and a get-it-done, competitive investigator (Siobhan Finneran) is brought in from Glasgow to assist the constabulary. DCI Finneran (Downton Abbey, Happy Valley) sees potential in one of the local detectives: Annie Redford portrayed by Laura Fraser (Breaking Bad, The Missing), who nurtures a competitive streak of her own.
What give this one an amped-up tension is the, so far, unknown disruptive force occurring. While everyone is focused on unearthing the sadistic killer, there is another mystery which goes unnoticed. A dead man, weighted at the bottom of the Loch remains anchored in the bowels of the Loch.
The urgent question: who is he and, if he’s from the village, why has no one reported him missing?
Series brings with it other established players: John Sessions, (Florence Foster Jenkins), Don Gilét (Brief Encounters), Gray O’Brien (Coronation Street), and William Ash (The Tunnel). Loch Ness is an ITV production, written and created by Stephen Brady. Alan J. Wands serves as producer.
Loch Ness, premiered on Acorn TV in June, with a new episode unveiled weekly for six weeks.
The shows above offer up enough crime fare to keep murder mystery fan sated for the next couple months. Happy viewing all and let us know what Event Series turns out to be your winner to participate in choosing the Best of Freshman Series.
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NOTE: Game of Thrones doesn’t figure in the mix as this juggernaut originally premiered in April of 2012 and until this year returned late spring. This year will be its first time being in contention for The TVolution’s Best Overall Summer Show category.
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