It used to be that TV during the summer months consisted of tired reruns, made for TV movies and the occasional reality programming that was used to fill a time slot but that the audience never fully invested in. However, over the past few years, networks—broadcast, cable and other—have begun trotting out new, fresh programming to keep their audiences entertained until their regularly scheduled shows make it back on the air waves. With so many delights from which to choose, picking only ten shows to watch can be daunting but the shows listed below are the ones that are worthy of your eyeballs. Some are shows previously established, but still worth getting caught up on, and some are brand new, never before seen titillating programs that we think have a high chance for success.
Be warned, a few spoilers for the already existing shows follow!
The word “extant” means "to still be in existence," so it might not come as a huge shock that this new CBS show, beginning July 9th, is a science fiction thriller. Halle Berry stars as an astronaut who has recently returned from a mission in space, only to discover that she did not come back alone. The series is set at thirteen episodes and has brought on Steven Spielberg to produce it. There are plenty of science fiction shows on TV, but in order to snag up the likes of Oscar winner Halle Berry, the script and concept must be out of this world.
If space mysteries don’t suit you, how about a high sea adventure with one of the most notorious pirates in history? This NBC show, set to begin airing Friday nights, starting May 30th, focuses on the pirate Blackbeard, who was an actual pirate and who has become the archetype for modern Hollywood depictions of the scallywags of the sea. The show stars John Malkovich as Edward “Blackbeard” Teach, and has already been picked up for a ten-episode arc. The trailer for the series makes the show seem adventurous and fun, with a bit of pirating shenanigans as your weekdays wind down.
8 The Strain
Beginning on July 13th, FX will air this vampire horror series that was adapted from the novel trilogy of the same name. The series has a few big names already attached to it: Guillermo del Toro adapted the books for TV and directed the pilot; Carlton Cuse, formerly of LOST and now series creator and show runner for AMC’s Bates Motel, will be serving as show runner for the 13 episode run. The premise of the show centers on a mysterious plane that lands in NYC with all but four passengers dead. The situation only gets worse and more intense when the bodies begin disappearing from the morgues and lead CDC doctor, played by House of Cards alum Corey Stoll, has to protect his family and the city from an ancient terror. David Bradley, Kevin Durand, and Sean Astin are also set to appear in the series.
7 The Leftovers
Another show adapted from a book series, this HBO show is set to premiere on June 29th. Attached to the show are stars Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, former Doctor Who and Thor: The Dark World star Christopher Eccleston, and Liv Tyler. The premise of the show follows several individuals who are trying to cope with the loss of their friends and family. What makes the show worth your time is that those friends and family were not lost in some sort of accident or by chance, but rather were taken in what is commonly called (in the Bible) “The Rapture." The characters still living on Earth—those left over—must now deal with the new world in which they live. Because the show is on HBO, don’t expect a feel-good moralistic tale; the show is guaranteed to have a few mysteries. If the co-creator's past work is any indication, Damon Lindelof of LOST fame, those mysteries will be dense and twisted.
6 Masters of Sex
Returning on July 13th for its second season, this Showtime period drama received wide acclaim for their daring first season, earning a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The show, set in the late 1950s, follows the lives and careers of real life sex experts Dr. William Masters and Dr. Virginia Johnson. Michael Sheen plays Masters and Lizzy Caplan portrays Johnson. The show is known for its highly complex characters and, what would have been in the 1950s, taboo topics on sex and sexuality. It also has a killer set design; you feel as though you really have stepped back in time. You may have to spend a day or two getting caught up, but a binge watch of the first twelve episodes is well worth it.
5 Halt and Catch Fire
While this period drama is set to premiere on TV on June 1st, AMC made a bold and daring move by releasing it early, for free, on their Tumblr page. The show, which will take Mad Men’s place on Sunday nights, stars Lee Pace as Joe MacMillan, who is a man that wishes to revolutionize the computer industry and end the monopoly a few select companies had in the technology boom of the 1980s. AMC has become a staple of good cable TV, like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, and the trailer for this new show, set to the hauntingly beautiful song “Sweet Dreams,” gives the show a dark and mysterious quality that might have audiences coming back for more. So, if you can’t wait until the 1st, check out the pilot episode early!
4 Pretty Little Liars
If you have a teenager daughter, then chances are you’ve heard of this show. The teenage soap opera is a mega ratings hit for ABC Family. The fifth season is set to begin on June 10th so you may have to binge watch the first 4 seasons on Netflix, but trust us…it’s worth it. The show follows four best friends—played by Lucy Hale, Ashley Benson, Shay Mitchell and Troian Bellisario—whose lives are turned upside down when a mysterious shadowy figure known as “A” begins stalking them and ruining their lives. The catch? "A" might just be connected to their friend Allison, who has been dead for a year. The show’s storyline is complicated (sometimes head-scratchingly complicated) but there is something incredibly fun in watching these four high school students deal with the insane plots “A” comes up with to torture the four girls. Along the way, there is romance, drug use and other classic teen angst moments, but through it all the four “Liars” stick together (while wearing top of the line clothing and shoes). Add in a pint of ice cream, and it's the ultimate guilty pleasure show for your summer.
3 Penny Dreadful
To be fair, this Showtime series has already started airing; it premiered May 11th. But as there are only two episodes currently out, you can easily get caught up. The show takes places in Victorian England and centers on some favorite classic gothic horror characters who have come to life—like Frankenstein, Dorian Grey, and probably eventually Dracula. The show is gritty and graphic, never shying away from some of the more bloody aspects of demon hunting. The mystery of a vanishing girl is established from the start, but along the way, we meet a cast of characters ripped from literature. There is Malcolm Murary (father of Mina Murary of Dracula), played by acting veteran Timothy Dalton; mysterious gunman and American Ethan Chandler, played by Josh Hartnett, and Vanessa Ives, played by Eva Green, who rounds out the main cast. If you make it to the second episode, Green gives quite the performance as a woman possessed by spirits during a séance—body limbs contorted, foreign speech, and all.
2 Under the Dome
The ratings for this CBS show of the Steven King adapted novel were unprecedented. Over 13 million tuned in for the first episode, proving that broadcast TV could do summer shows just as well as cable. The science fiction drama stars Mike Vogel and Dean Norris, the latter of Breaking Bad fame. The town of Chester’s Mill in Maine seemed like your average all-American town. And then a giant impenetrable see-through dome fell over most of the town, cutting off the inhabitants from the outside world. When you live in a fishbowl, and there is no hope of getting out, how does humanity react? The mystery of who sent the dome (and what it is for) is slowly uncovered while the real meat of the first season focuses on the residents of the town and how they try to cope (and not cope) with their new situation. The second season is set to premiere on June 30th and will continue to flesh out the mysteries of the dome and answer the questions the cliffhanger of season one left audiences with.
1 Orange Is the New Black
Get prepared to go back to prison. On June 6th, Netflix will put out the second season of the smash hit series; the season will be available all at once, which means you should cancel any plans you may have made for that day because OITNB is best viewed in a nonstop binge. The innovative show follows Piper Chapman, played by Taylor Schilling, as she struggles to cope in her yearlong voluntary stay in a woman’s correctional facility. The show has an incredible cast of characters, from loveable but perhaps unhinged Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, to transgender fashionista Sophia Burset, Russian chef and substitute mom, Red, and religious extremist Pennsatuky, who shocked everyone at the end of season one by shanking Piper in the snow! The show is a mix of humor, heart and drama and should absolutely be on your list of things to watch this summer.