Houston, America, we’ve reached that point of summer. The point where our bloodlust for football and basketball can’t be quenched for another three months. (Four, in basketball’s case.) Baseball won’t do because, unlike the halcyon days of Home Run Derby appearing on your television screens, there aren’t many public arguments about baseball teams. Well, except for the Astros, but the importance of baseball has become more of a regional thing as opposed to being “Our National Pastime.”
As much as we hate talking-head television, we immediately transport our hot takes, conspiracy theories and the sort to social media. To our friends whom we keep up with at a peripheral level. To our co-workers whom we give a maximum, and I mean a maximum, of 15 minutes of speaking time before we ignore them and go on about our lives. Monday mornings were made to talk Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and This Is Us reruns.
We welcomed back The Carmichael Show with open arms a couple of Wednesdays ago, and the appreciation for it has only grown. Orange Is the New Black returned to a less than satisfying response from fans and critics, House of Cards' latest season fully ups the ante of being the political version of Empire. And I’d probably shed more tattoo tears over Pitbulls & Parolees and Desert Games, but they don’t carry the same panache that drives water-cooler talk. Cubicle talk, maybe.
Since we’re going to have to be doing a lot more talking this summer thanks to the lack of an Olympiad on the sports calendar, here are five shows that can satisfy your sports hunger until the NFL comes back in September to take over our Sunday nights, Monday nights, Thursdays and even some Saturdays.
Season Premiere Date: June 23
Why This Show? Right as wrestling entered its first boom period in the 1980s, the countercultural Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling came into the world. Don’t remember GLOW? It was a legit wrestling promotion that featured story lines about the current President of the United States before the WWE even got the bright idea to host WrestleManias IV and V at one of his hotels. GLOW is a retelling of the story, so to speak. Alison Brie of Community fame stars as an out-of-work actress looking for something to do, and thus she stars on a weekly television show about women wrestling. Unlike real-life wrestling, GLOW worked in seasons with wrestlers getting dropped and replaced. GLOW adds a little comedy in the retelling of the story. So if you’re a fan of the cheesy era of wrestling when everything was blown-up and extra cartoonish, GLOW works.
Season Premiere Date: June 25
Why This Show? There needs to be one show in the universe where you pray for everyone to die and the universe to start over. It is not The Wire in any sense, in terms of “prestige television,” but Power has charm, a main baddie in the charismatic Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, and a lot of good-looking people doing terrible, terrible things in the drug game. Oh, there's also the fact that not a single main character on this show can be seen as redeemable. The third season of Starz’s No. 1 show ended with a bit of a cliffhanger as Ghost (Omari Hardwick) got arrested not for being a drug kingpin in New York, but for a crime he didn’t even commit. The upcoming fourth season will more than likely feature all of the blood, violence, treachery and sex fans have come to love and appreciate about the show. Oh, and maybe the final onscreen appearance of Charlie Murphy, who died of leukemia this year.
GAME OF THRONES
Season Premiere Date: July 16
Why This Show? Besides The Walking Dead, it remains the main fantasy show on TV that gets name-checked by celebrities, your boss and the guy in IT who occasionally fixes things and also stays around far too long. The Great War is upon us. After the events of an amazing sixth season in which characters were brought back to life, the satisfaction of “The Bastard Bowl” and a woman committing the ultimate revenge on those who shamed her, Season 7 aims to push the show even further into greatest-of-all-time territory. Plus, if you’ve yet to watch a single episode of GOT, you’ve got a full month to binge six seasons of brutality, treachery and perhaps the single greatest shock moment in the history of modern television, The Red Wedding.
Season Premiere Date: July 23
Why This Show?: We live in a world where Entourage is over, How to Make It in America died as it was beginning to grow its wings and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is still the most bankable thing on television. Ballers is your id doing a line of cocaine while speedboat racing in Biscayne Bay with a four-star wanted level on Grand Theft Auto. Okay, not really, but the point is no show on TV is going to give you the satisfaction of hot women, the specter of the NFL, celebrity cameos and The Rock probably but certainly losing his mind over something done to him during his brief career as a financial adviser.
Other shows to watch on HBO: The Defiant Ones (July 9), Insecure (July 23), Room 104 (July 28)
Season Premiere Date: August 6
Why This Show?: Quick note here: My father, all 67 years of him, can tell you that the three most enjoyable television characters he’s paid any attention to in the past five to seven years are Walter White, Tony Soprano and Ray Donovan. What do all three have in common? They’re ruthless assholes who routinely bend the rules in order to get what they want. Liev Schreiber is probably going to be up for an Oscar when he stars as Chuck Wepner, the real Rocky, in Chuck later this year, but this is his best TV role. Plus, he still has a dad, played by Jon Voight, who is an old, cantankerous mobster in the vein of Uncle Junior. They’re as dysfunctional as the family on Shameless, Showtime’s other big series of the moment, except you kind of root for Voight. Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants good for William H. Macy’s Frank Gallagher.
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Other shows to watch on Showtime: I’m Dying Up Here (currently airing), Episodes (August 20), Dice (August 20)
MARVEL’s THE DEFENDERS
Season Premiere Date: August 18
Why This Show?: Netflix and Marvel’s partnership has been building up to this exact moment, when the three shows they got right (Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage) and the one that was a complete dud (Iron Fist) all team up to save New York City. Or fight The Hand again, in the case of Daredevil and Iron Fist. Point is, The Defenders is Netflix’s next big game in regards to serials. Fans who thought they were getting Jessica Jones Season 2 before this may be disappointed, but every scene where the other three Defenders are annoyed with Iron Fist is a winner in my book. Considering how gritty and great most of Marvel’s Netflix programming has been, there’s no way they can mess over The Defenders, right? Right.
Other shows to watch on Netflix: Gypsy (June 30), Friends From College (July 14)