Vampires, Prison, Sex, and Rapture: The Wire's Summer TV Preview

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As more and more cable and streaming networks dip their toes into original programming, summer TV has become less of a wasteland. Last year Orange is the New Black became the zeitgeist hit of the season; can it sustain that energy for its second season? Are people as excited for Netflix to bring back The Killing as they were last year for Arrested Development? Is network TV right in thinking that audiences want superstar miniseries events back in their life? Here's a look at what to look forward to, new and returning, in the coming months.

Returning Shows:

Masters of Sex
Showtime’s scientific sex show got moved from the fall to the summer for its second season, which will follow up on William Masters’ dramatic confession that he can’t live without Virginia Johnson. The show’s first go around mixed sharp gender politics with a hefty dose of soap, and ended up one of the best new shows of the season thanks to great performances from the likes of Lizzy Caplan, Michael Sheen and Caitlin FitzGerald. The new season brings back secondary players like Julianne Nicholson and Annaleigh Ashford, but also is set to feature a ton of guest stars, including Courtney B. Vance, Sarah Silverman, and Keke Palmer. (July 13, 10 p.m., Showtime)

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Under the Dome 
The return of CBS’s ludicrous Stephen King series is really just an excuse to make more “dome” jokes, right? Dome is where the heart is, after all. Regardless, the show is back for real, and E! is already teasing big deaths. King himself wrote the season opener, so die hards will be sure to tune in, and the rest of us can continue to think up puns on the word “dome.”  (June 30, 10 p.m., CBS)

Orange Is the New Black
One of the most anticipated returns of the summer is inarguably that of Netflix’s women’s prison drama, Orange Is the New Black. Last season ended with Piper (Taylor Schilling) brutally beating crazy evangelist Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning), and previews of the upcoming season seem to imply she is paying the price for those actions. But what makes Orange great is that it’s not just Piper’s story, and the most exciting part of the new season is the fact that we’re going to get more backstories for more of our favorite characters. (June 6, Netflix)

True Blood
HBO is finally ending the Alan Ball cajun vampire drama a couple years after everybody stopped caring (and Ball himself departed), and the show’s teasers have come off weirdly similar to new series The Leftovers, with the town abandoned by FEMA and the government. Season 7 should reveal Eric’s fate (we left him last summer naked and burning on top of a mountain) and have more material on the vampires suffering from “Hep V.”  Showrunner Brian Buckner is also promising a return to the Sookie-Bill relationship that started the whole show off. (June 22, 9 p.m., HBO)

The Bridge
FX’s border-town detective drama was never quite the critical hit it hoped for, but it attracted enough interest to return for a second season, which will go deeper into the politics and tensions between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. Marco (Demian Bechir) will pursue justice for his son’s death and Sonya (Diane Kruger) will continue to be really weird and autistic at everyone. Matthew Lillard, the surprise star of the first season, has been promoted to series regular, so get excited for that. (July 9, 10 p.m., FX)

The Killing
AMC canceled this show after its second season, but when Netflix tried to snap it up, they changed their mind and brought Detectives Linden and Holder back for a self-contained mystery revolving around missing girls. Last year, AMC decided it really was done for good, and Netflix shot right back in to pick it up for a “final” fourth season that will run only six episodes. Joan Allen is in it! It’s set at a military academy? Prediction: if this does well, Netflix will confound expectations and bring it back again. The Killing is unkillable. (August 1, Netflix)

This Southern Gothic drama was a surprise hit in six episodes on the Sundance Channel last year and is back for ten more this year. Chronicling a man’s return home to his small town after being released from a 19-year death row sentenced because of exonerating DNA evidence, Rectify has built a critical head of steam and is now streaming on Netflix. Catch up and get ready for what could be the best show of the summer. (June 19, 9 p.m., Sundance Channel)

Also returning ...

Falling Skies: The fourth season of this alien invasion drama will feature Mira Sorvino and 12 episodes rather than the usual ten. (June 22, 10 p.m., TNT)

Ray Donovan: Liev Schreiber is back as the titular grumbly Hollywood fixer in this antihero drama. (July 13, 9 p.m., Showtime)

Big BrotherSeason 16 premieres this summer. It's a new bunch of folks in a house. What else do you really want to know? Someone’s still watching this thing. (June 25, 8 p.m., CBS)

Pretty Little LiarsABC Family’s web of convoluted teen intrigue continues for season five. (June 10, 8 p.m., ABC Family)

The FostersYou'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll mostly cry as last year's weepy breakout family drama returns for a second season. (June 10, 9 p.m., ABC Family)

Hemlock GroveNetflix isn’t too fond of canceling shows, it seems. The Eli Roth-produced horror drama attracted critical groans last year but is back with 13 more episodes anyway. (July 11, Netflix)

New Shows

The Leftovers
Lost’s Damon Lindelof makes his return to TV with this HBO drama based on a novel by Tom Perrotta, author of the inspiration for movies like Election and Little Children. The Leftovers considers what happens to a community when a percent of the population disappears in a Rapture-like occurrence. Justin Theroux and Liv Tyler are among the stars. Here’s hoping the sins of Lost don’t follow Lindelof. (June 29, 10 p.m., HBO)

Halt and Catch Fire
AMC is getting good buzz for Halt and Catch Fire, despite it’s silly name and its lame advertising campaign. The bizarrely titled drama centers on the 1980s personal computing boom in Texas’ Silicon Prairie, so the challenge for the network will be to do for computers what Mad Men did for advertising. With Breaking Bad gone and Mad Men one foot out the door the network is looking for its next zeitgeist-y hit. We’re personally exciting for the television return of Pushing Daisies’ Lee Pace in the lead role. (June 1, 10 p.m., AMC)

After not saying much at all in X-Men: Days of Future Past, Halle Berry turn to TV for this Steven Spielberg-produced CBS drama. Berry stars as an astronaut on a solo mission who comes back to earth mysteriously pregnant. CBS had success last summer launching a high-profile drama—the returning Under the Dome—and is clearly hoping that formula will repeat itself. (July 9, 9 p.m., CBS)

Avast! Admit it, you’re weirdly tempted by the logline for this show--John Malkovich as the legendary pirate Blackbeard--even if the fact that it’s been pushed to summer after a straight-to-series commitment by NBC does not bode well. Creator Neil Cross made the well-regarded Luther, and Malkovich will certainly bring his all in the lead role, but don’t hold out hope for a second season. (May 30, 10 p.m., NBC)

Girl Meets World 
Misguided nostalgia will reach its peak with the premiere of this Disney Channel show that chronicles the adventures of the daughter of Boy Meets World’s Cory and Topanga. Though ostensibly Disney is hoping to draw in a young audience, the millennials of the Internet will coo until they lose interest. At least Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel are getting work. (June 27, 9:45 p.m., Disney)

The Strain
Guillermo del Toro created and directed the pilot of this pulpy horror show which interprets vampirism as a viral plague. Corey Stoll is a scientist looking to stop the outbreak, and David Bradley is a crotchety old man who’s also maybe a badass vampire hunter. It’s based on del Toro and Paul Hogan’s trilogy of novels and retains that “silly while serious” tone del Toro always aims for. For example: Stoll’s character is named “Ephraim Goodweather.” (July 13, 10 p.m., FX)

Kelsey Grammer stars in his upteenth new show alongside Martin Lawrence in what could be the comedy pairing of the year. The premise? They’re lawyers...and they’re partners...and that’s CRAZY! For some reason. This is one of those 10/90 shows, so if it does okay in the ratings, be prepared to see ads for it forever, like that awful Charlie Sheen show that FX doesn’t really like to admit still exists. It’ll air back-to-back for five consecutive weeks. (August 4, 9 p.m., FX)

The Knick
Hey, remember how Steven Soderbergh retired? Well, that was from directing movies, so here’s The Knick, a Cinemax series entirely directed by Soderbergh, starring Clive Owen as a surgeon in early 20th Century New York. The teasers have focused on the bloodiness of the affair. (August 8, 10 p.m., Cinemax)


Rising Star
“It’s not JUST a music competition,” ABC assures us. Yes it is. Based on an Israeli hit, Rising Star has a voice-like gimmick where a singer is blocked from view by a wall of TVs, and if enough people internet-vote for him or her, the screen rises and they advance. ABC honcho Paul Lee said the voting app the show will use was designed by Mossad, which seems like a valuable use of everyone’s time. Ludacris, Josh Groban, Brad Paisley and Kesha have been announced as judge/mentor people. (June 22, 9 p.m., ABC).

Tyrant is the latest from Homeland’s Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff. It follows the son of a Gaddafi-like Middle Eastern ruler, who has left his homeland for America. When he is drawn back for his nephew’s wedding he gets more entangled in the politics than he would like. The show is bound to create some measure of controversy, if for other reason than the fact that the half-Arab lead is played by Adam Rayner, a white English actor. (June 24, 10 p.m., FX)


Also premiering ... 

The Last ShipAn inadvertently quarantined battleship tries to save humanity when Earth is afflicted by a deadly virus. Michael Bay produced, Eric Dane stars. (June 22, 9 p.m., TNT)

MarriedThe chronically underused Judy Greer stars in this comedy about—what else?—the trials and tribulations of a married couple. She is joined by Nat Faxon, late of Fox’s Ben and Kate. The show comes from Andrew Gurland, whose resume includes writing The Last Exorcism. (July 17, 10 p.m., FX)

You’re the WorstThis anti-romantic comedy follows a destructive pair who attempt a relationship against all odds. (July 17, 10:30 p.m., FX)

Welcome to Sweden: Lots of celebrity cameos in this show from Amy Poehler’s brother Greg. (July 10, 9 p.m., NBC)

ManhattanWGN America’s intriguing period drama about people working on the Manhattan Project stars Olivia Williams and John Benjamin Hickey. (July 27, 10 p.m. WGN America)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.