Back when I was young and free, unencumbered by a “job” and “higher education” and “rent” and “buying groceries,” I could easily channel surf the entire summer away looking for something, anything to watch that wasn’t daytime talk shows or some mind-bogglingly terrible 80s movie. In this wonderful modern age, however, the push for off-season viewing is growing stronger. That being said, quantity does not equal quality.
The summer schedule may be more crowded than normal with shows just gearing up rather than repeats or burn-offs, much of what we’re left with is either asinine (Under the Dome, Crossbones) or choking on failed potential (Halt and Catch Fire). There’s also a ton of pulp, some entertaining in its brazen audacity (Penny Dreadful, Teen Wolf), most just 42 minutes of audience eye rolling (True Blood, Witches of East End). So, out of all that, what’s worth watching live, what’s worth saving up for a late summer binge, and what’s worth forgetting it ever existed?
Shows with an * are new this season.
*Crossbones (NBC, Fri 10p): John Malkovich as a beardless Blackbeard on NBC’s watered down version of a pirate yarn. Too bad the plot isn’t as stunning as the scenery.
Defiance (Syfy, Thu 8p—June 19): I suppose I should add this to my To Watch queue…eventually…
*Dominion (Syfy, Thu 9p—June 19): It’s a Syfy show based on the movie Legion. I mean, come on.
*Extant (CBS, Wed 9p—July 9): David Tennant’s expressive face says it all…
Falling Skies (TNT, Sun 10p—June 22): The most I can muster is a hearty “meh.”
*Halt and Catch Fire (AMC, Sun 10p): The pilot could’ve been worse, but it doesn’t inspire a lot of faith…or interest. I suspect this is going to be Low Winter Sun all over again—a reverse-engineered drama full of directionless emotions and utterly forgettable.
Hell on Wheels (AMC, Sat 9p—Aug 2)
Hemlock Grove (Netflix—July 11)
*The Knick (Cinemax, Fri 10p—Aug 8): Please, Hera, let this be good. I strongly suspect it won’t—it’s on Cinemax, so—but a girl can dream.
*The Last Ship (TNT Sun 9p—June 22): When I saw the trailer for this in the movie theater, I laughed so loud the usher gave me a stern look.
*The Leftovers (HBO, Sun 10p—June 29): Didn’t Kirk Cameron already do this?
*Legends (TNT, Wed 9p): Sean Bean is in this. Um, spoilers?
*Masters of Illusion (CW, Fri 8p—Aug 1): All this talk about prestidigitation makes me want to re-read Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic.
*The Musketeers (BBC America, Sun 9p—June 22): All I’ve seen of this show is the Tumblr fanart/slash, so my opinion is skewed. But I do love me some British people dressing up in old-timey clothes and going on adventures (especially ones created by a PoC).
Orange Is the New Black (Netflix): Ya’ll came for “affluent white girl goes to jail,” ya’ll stayed for the Wonderful Adventures of Taystee, Crazy Eyes, Red, Poussey, and Sophia.
*Penny Dreadful (Showtime, Sun 10p): Think of it like the crazy bastard lovechild of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen the comic and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen the movie. (Psst! Our very own Ryan Britt is covering it.)
*The Strain (FX, Sun 10p—July 13): Guillermo del Toro plus vampires equals sign me up!
Teen Wolf (MTV, Mon 10p—June 23): Just gonna leave this here…
True Blood (HBO, Sun 9p—June 22): The final season. At long last, our national nightmare is almost over.
Under the Dome (CBS, Mon 10p—June 30):
*The Wil Wheaton Project (Syfy, Tue 10p): Densely geeky show in the same vein as The Soup. Pleasant but familiar. Here’s hoping it improves with age, as I’d hate to see it go.
Wilfred (FXX, Wed 10p—June 25): A weird, weird, weird show that sadly never got the ratings it deserved comes to its final season. In need of a tv marathon? This is the show for you.
Witches of East End (Lifetime, Sun 9p—July 6): I coulda sworn this got cancelled, but I guess it was just wishful thinking.
Hate to disappoint, but I’m probably not going to watch most of these. And neither are you, if we’re being honest. Although you couldn’t pry Teen Wolf or OITNB from my cold, dead hands, and I’ll likely watch Extant for the same slow-motion-train-wreck-fascination that made me tune into Rosemary’s Baby, a majority of that list will fade from memory until next season when I discover that Falling Skies is still on (really? Really?). There are a few shows I remain cautiously optimistic about, and even fewer that’ll get knocked down to Something to Have on in the Background Whilst Folding Laundry. There’s a Don’t Touch That Dial coming up covering a few shows SFFers should watch if you haven’t already, but until then, here’s a look at what’s occupying my laptop/DVD player/mom’s hacked Netflix Watch Instantly account until fall.
Bates Motel: Uh, this is probably going to sound weird and kinda creepy, but turns out this is the perfect show to watch at the gym. The episode length is just right for a solid sweat, it’s silly enough that I don’t have to focus too hard, and also intense enough to distract me from counting down the minutes until I can get off the frakking elliptical.
Bob’s Burgers: My lunch breaks have gotten exponentially better in recent weeks with the addition of the Belchers… I just completely forgot where I was going with this section. What started as a YouTube hunt for a Tina clip turned into a Tumblr rabbit hole and then devouring 4 episodes. Basically, this show is the best and Tina is my spirit animal.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: I, like just about everyone else, gave up on this show after about 3 episodes. From the reviews, I gather it still hasn’t gotten great, but is definitely better than the dreck it started out as. I doubt it will ever be one of the best shows on television—too many restrictions to what they can and can’t do, storywise—but I’d like it to at least be marginally better than the premiere. Definitely looking forward to adding it back onto my radar, and hopefully season 2 will keep the trend of “slightly better than decent” moving upward.
Orphan Black: This is akin to heresy on a site like Tor.com, but Orphan Black has never really done anything for me. The reviews are generally positive (if somewhat frustrated), and I adore Tatiana Maslany, but, man, I’m halfway through and I’ve already lost all interest in every single character. I can’t explain it, either. It has everything I usually love—feminist hero, twisty sci-fi, murder mystery, terrible wigs—but every viewing feels like a chore.
Enough of my blabbing on. What shows are you binging on? What are you looking forward to with a cloud of dread? Or perhaps you just want to tell me why I’m wrong for not liking Orphan Black. Whatever it is, go forth, commenters, go forth!
Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.