In our 2020 Summer Guide, I noted that the general TV vibe felt a lot like 2000. And the same is still true this year. The pandemic popped the Peak TV bubble in many ways, and it’s uncertain if that will last as productions start ramping back up. But for now, we’re simply seeing fewer premieres. In some ways that’s nice, because it suggests that while there are a lot of TV shows coming up, it’s not quite as overwhelming as past premiere seasons. Plus, it means there’s a better chance that some of us might actually be watching TV (especially weekly episodes) at the same time again, something the binge-watch era had threatened to end. And yet, the shows themselves are scattered across more content platforms than ever in a way that just isn’t sustainable.
Where it all leads, who knows? But for now, we can get excited about some fun shows across various viewing services that will help bring a little summer fun to a world slowly emerging from a nightmare. Yay!
For our list, we’re considering new and returning series airing between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Networks were still updating their release dates as we were making this list, though, which means that while Evil (June 20th, Paramount+) didn’t make the cut because of a late press release, know that it is there in our hearts.
Below are the shows (and events) that our Paste editors and TV writers are looking forward to the most, in calendar order:
Premiere Date: June 1
After the year+ we’ve all had, who doesn’t need some creative order amidst all the chaos? Thankfully, Will Arnett returns to host a second season of all-new adult builder teams representing a broad array of LEGO lovers. Over 10 weeks, the teams will compete to win challenges for the eventual title of LEGO Master Builders. It’s fun, it’s inspiring, and Arnett keeps it snappy and surprisingly emotional. —Tara Bennett
Premiere Date: June 3
Marc Cherry has always understood the simmering rage that seethes beneath a woman’s pleasant exterior. He also recognizes that women often are underappreciated and overworked no matter what era they live in. Why Women Kill, from the Desperate Housewives creator, returns for a second 10-episode season this summer. This time instead of jumping between decades, the series is set in 1949 where mousy housewife Alma (the always fantastic Allison Tolman) longs to be a part of the exclusive garden club run by Rita (Lana Parrilla), a trophy wife just waiting for her aging husband to die. Alma’s daughter Dee (B.K. Cannon) wishes her mom had more of a backbone while her husband Bertram (Nick Frost) doesn’t pay her much attention. With its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, murder, infidelity, betrayal, and horrifying secrets ensue in this dark dramedy with a terrific title. —Amy Amatangelo
Premiere Date: June 4
Before he was telling layered stories for both DC and Marvel Comics, Jeff Lemire created a post-apocalyptic world where hybrid babies were born—and hunted by humans who blamed them for a pandemic that caused “The Great Crumble” of civilization. Jim Mickle (Hap and Leonard) has adapted Lemire’s Sweet Tooth comics into an engaging new series for Netflix that follows the titular hybrid, a young boy/fawn nicknamed Sweet Tooth (Christian Convery), raised in the woods by his father (played by end-of-the-world veteran Will Forte), and protected by a former star football player named Tommy Jepperd (Nonso Anozie). Meanwhile, the remaining humans must grapple with their own struggles—finding a cure, protecting the hybrids, finding their tribe, surviving the new world order. The end times have been mined to near exhaustion on TV (and reality?) lately, but Sweet Tooth manages to mix a little lightness with its bleak setting, thanks to its charismatic young lead. —Josh Jackson
Network: Acorn TV
Premiere Date: June 7
I will admit: Adjusting to the frenetic boisterousness of the 60s-set Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries after spending so many seasons luxuriating in the glib sensuality of the series’ 20s-set predecessor was… a challenge. Essie Davis made such a meal out of playing Miss Phryne Fisher, the modern Ms. Fisher’s long-disappeared private detective aunt, it was hard to see how anyone could even come close to filling her shoes—nevermind the audacity of trying to set up any kind of romance as positively smouldering as Phryne had with Nathan Page’s Detective Jack Robinson. That the Melbourne station Jack once ran with such a righteously open mind had been transformed to a sexist hellscape by the time Geraldine Hakewill’s amateur-but-game Peregrine arrived on the scene to banter with Detective James Steed (Joel Jackson), the precinct’s only reasonable (and charming) man, was almost too much to bear. And yet, over the course of the series’ first short season, the fizzy cheerfulness of the new gang’s whole “Modern Adventuresses’ Club” vibe had won me over, and now, as America is heading into what might be the first real summer of our own Roaring 20s hedonism, dipping back into Peregrine’s Swingin’ 60s fizziness is the very thing I want to do. I truly can’t wait. —Alexis Gunderson
Premiere Date June 9
One of the MCU’s biggest breakout characters is finally getting his own show. Tom Hiddleston will be reprising his role as a trickster god in the limelight for Loki, which looks like it might just reach the same stylistic and narratively-bonkers heights as WandaVision. One of the opportunities Disney+ has with its Marvel TV series is to allow them to be strange, exploring all of the weird comic flourishes and in-depth character work that the movies can only hint at in their limited runtimes. Loki will still be fairly short—only 6 episodes—but it’s sure to be an incredibly fun ride as perhaps the most anticipated of all the Disney/Marvel series to date. —Allison Keene
Premiere Date: July 13
After the bureaucracy of Heaven and the sludge of the Middle Ages, the third season of the Miracle Workers anthology will again see Daniel Radcliffe, Steve Buscemi, Geraldine Viswanathan, Karan Soni, and Jon Bass taking on a new adventure: the Oregon Trail. This delightful but woefully overlooked comedy has always perfectly balanced its humor with a sweet undertone of real pathos for its often befuddled and beleaguered characters, and the new season is unlikely to be different. Though there has been no indication of when the new season might be available to stream on HBO Max, the first two seasons are there for you to catch up on and enjoy (even though it’s not required to dive in to Season 3!) —Allison Keene
Premiere Date: June 17
My not-so-guilty-pleasure is back for a third season with ABC, with ESPN sportscaster Joe Tessitore and comedian Rob Riggle providing hilarious color commentary about the dumbest mini-golf course in the world. Previous season’s bespoke course names include Polcano, Hole Number Two, and Caddysmack, so expect no shortage of fresh double entendres and overly-confident duffers who dramatically end up in the drink. —Tara Bennett
Network: Apple TV+
Premiere Date: June 18
If there is a reason to consider getting an Apple TV+ subscription this summer, it’s Physical. The 1980s-set half-hour dark comedy from Annie Weisman stars Rose Byrne as Sheila Rubin, a permed and permanently unhappy housewife who quietly struggles with her inability to assert herself as well as her self-image. All of that changes though once she finds renewed strength and purpose in a new exercise fad that is taking the country by storm—aerobics—and merges it with emerging technology in the form of the videotape. In doing so, Sheila creates an exciting new business venture while also becoming a powerful (and empowered) lifestyle guru. The show, which is set against the sunny backdrop of beautiful San Diego, is not a replacement for the unfairly canceled GLOW, but if you’re still missing the Netflix show, it definitely scratches a similar itch. —Kaitlin Thomas
Premiere Date: June 20
Schitt’s Creek darling Annie Murphy stars in this dark comedy that blends multi-camera sitcom silliness with the grittiness of prestige drama to create something that feels entirely fresh. The title is a twist on the CBS comedy Kevin Can Wait, which killed off its wife character (memorably played by Erin Hayes) because it basically ran out of ideas to keep the show going, and this series turns an uncomfortable gaze on why exactly we’ve been so comfortable laughing at these women all these years.
Murphy plays Allison McRoberts, a prototypical Sitcom Wife who realizes that there has to be more to life than serving as the butt of all her husband’s jokes. (Period humor! So original!) The genre-bending plot follows Allison in the gleaming sitcom world both dominated by and catered to her spouse, and in the dark, single-camera reality of her own life, as she struggles to figure out who she really is and what she wants. (Which very well may be to kill her husband.) —Lacy Baugher Milas
Network: Adult Swim
Premiere Date: June 20
Our favorite dimension-hopping grandpa is back: Rick and Morty finally returns this June. The Adult Swim animated series and its passionate fanbase have made quite a few headlines over the years, and with Season 5 on the horizon, we can’t wait to see what comes next. Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s irreverent comedy follows Rick Sanchez and his grandchildren as they travel through time and space, creating as much chaos as they can along the way. With the trailer featuring some new zany aliens, ridiculous superhero-esque costumes, and a “strange, horny ocean man,” we’re already counting down the days until Season 5 premieres. —Kristen Reid
Premiere Date: June 22
No show has captivated me so fully or so immediately as Tarin Alvin McCraney’s impossibly lyrical, Peabody Award-winning David Makes Man did when it first premiered on OWN way back in 2019. The series is set in the same South Florida that featured in Moonlight and introducing the world to Akili McDowell, the series’ absolute powerhouse of a lead. But as much as I rejoiced as that first chapter in David’s bifurcated young life slowly unfurled, I despaired that it was on a network only haphazardly included in basic OTT cable package—it seemed then that David Makes Man might never find the audience it deserved. Thankfully, with HBO Max having picked up the streaming rights shortly after launch, the potential audience for what looks to be a narratively ambitious, emotionally astounding second season can only expand. I can’t wait to see David’s story take over our worlds. —Alexis Gunderson
Network: Apple TV+
Premiere Date: June 25
From the creators of Bob’s Burgers, Central Park tells the story of the Tillerman family and their life living in Central Park. As the park manager, patriarch Owen Tillerman (Leslie Odom Jr.) does his best to keep his family and the sprawling grounds in order. Featuring Odom’s Hamilton costar Daveed Diggs, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Tituss Burgess, and the internet’s beloved Kathryn Hahn, Central Park is lighthearted and filled with the pun-based ballads we’ve come to expect from Loren Bouchard. The comedy series returns this summer, and from what we’ve seen based on the first look video above, the new season promises to be just as clever and silly as the first. —Kristen Reid
Network: HBO Max
Premiere Date: July 8
Good morning Upper East Siders, rumor has it that the reboot of the soapy and promiscuous teen classic Gossip Girl will be hitting our screens this summer. The original drama had it all: it was the story of an outsider breaking through into high society, it had titillating teen sexual romps, and featured a partying lifestyle that made growing up in New York City seem positively insane. HBO Max’s reboot promises a lot of the same intrigue, set a decade later with new Gen Z versions of Blair and Serena, but crucially updated to reflect the NYC of today. According to showrunner Joshua Safran, who was an executive producer on the original show, his reboot will make concerted efforts to feature a more diverse cast inclusive of BIPOC and LBGTQ+ characters, and will thankfully include the return of Kristen Bell as the voice of the faceless titular character (I refuse to acknowledge Dan Humphrey’s alter ego at this time).
Set in 2021, I’m most interested to see how the show updates the flow of the gossip mill and deals with Gen Z’s inherent relationship with social media, as this Gossip Girl 2.0 will apparently expand her empire to be a complete social media platform. It sounds scary because it’s totally possible: Gossip Girl is basically a fictionalized version of Deux Moi and other tattletale accounts that pop up regularly across social sites, which make a point to spread rumors about those in elite positions.
They say life imitates art, but maybe it’s the other way around. XOXO —Radhika Menon
Network: IMDb TV
Premiere Date: July 9
The average person might be shocked to learn that IMDb, the wonky, Amazon-owned Hollywood database that doubles as a bizarre mash-up of social networking app/unmoderated wiki, even has an associated streaming platform, nevermind one that is actively producing Original Content. This is a shame, since, as a completely free, ad-supported streaming platform that’s already hosting Anthony Horowitz’s teen spy drama Alex Rider and has recently acquired both a spin-off of Amazon Prime’s massively beloved Bosch and a Garret Dillahunt-fronted pandemic heist comedy from My Name is Earl-creator Greg Garcia, IMDb TV has made it clear that what it most wants to be is “for the average person.” Think TNT, but streaming.
No, really—think TNT, as the next IMDb TV Original set to hit you streaming screen is Leverage: Redemption, a slick-looking revival of the long-running twenty-aughts TNT crime drama, Leverage (now fronted by Noah Wyle, erstwhile lead of the equally long-lived 2010s TNT sci-fi drama, Falling Skies). I mean—heists? ER docs? Aldis Hodge bantering with Christian Kane?—talk about TV “for the average person”! It looks like the cleanest, most average-cable-drama fun we could hope to get in 2021, and man, I am so ready for it. —Alexis Gunderson
Network: The CW
Premiere Date: July 11
Wellington Paranormal, a spin-off of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s cult favorite vampire mockumentary film What We Do in the Shadows (also now a brilliant comedy on FX), is finally coming to the U.S. this summer. (The trailer above is from its NZ run). The horror-comedy follows two police officers from Wellington’s paranormal unit, played by Karen O’Leary and Mike Minogue (reprising their roles from the 2014 film), as they investigate strange supernatural occurrences in and around the titular city. At this point I’ve learned never to question Clement and Waititi, especially when paired together, and this series promises to build upon the film’s brilliant legacy by mixing absurd humor with elements of the supernatural and the beats of a crime procedural to create yet another unforgettable adventure. —Kaitlin Thomas
Network: Apple TV+
Premiere Date: July 16
If all goes well, Broadway will be back in action this September but theater-lovers can pre-game with this six-episode musical comedy starring Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key. Equal parts earnest celebration of musicals and biting satire of everything that makes the genre so incongruous with real life, the series is the brain child of animation screenwriter Cinco Paul, mixed with executive producers Barry Sonnenfeld and Lorne Michaels. It’s chock full of new songs, weird set pieces, and delightful cameos from theater’s brightest stars (jazz-hands included). —Tara Bennett
Premiere Date: July 23
The 2020 Olympics became the 2021 Olympics because of COVID-19, but despite having a vaccine and the relaxation of some restrictions (as Japan tries to more quickly vaccinate its population in preparation), the idea of a large-scale global sporting event that centers around one very tightly-packed village of close-contact athletes feels… ill-advised, to say the least. But for now, NBC insists the show will go on. There are plenty of questions about how things might play out regarding distancing, testing, and spectating, and some of those concerns (or the potential proliferation of the virus in this setting) could dampen the general enthusiasm the Summer Games bring. That aside (and it’s a massive aside), there is always something incredibly exciting about seeing these competitions play out as the world comes together to show off our best, celebrating the physical heights of human achievement. From the Opening Ceremonies to the Cinderella stories, The Olympics are a special time. Let’s also hope it’s a safe one for the participants and the Japanese citizens who will make it all come together. —Allison Keene
Premiere Date: July 23
When things in 2020 looked bleakest, a most unlikely hero arrived to restore our collective belief in things like kindness, hope and human decency. Dressed in khakis and a sweater—or maybe sweatpants with a white polo—and a whistle around his neck, Coach Lasso disarmed the surliest of English soccer players with his folksy Midwestern charm and heart-on-sleeve passion for the wellbeing of everyone he encountered. That this hero was born of a 2013 ad campaign and released on a new platform by a personal computing company makes it all the more surprising that it works. Ted Lasso is the show I’ve begged every passing acquaintance to watch, and the response to it has been universal joy. Sweet without being saccharine, earnest while retaining a dry humor and full of characters you’ll feel as invested in as our titular coach is, this is the show I’m most looking forward to returning to this summer. Because there’s no time in this modern age that couldn’t use a little more kindness (or a little more soccer). Richmond FC till I die. —Josh Jackson
Premiere Date: July TBD
Yes, there are two iconic shark-specific programming blocks every summer, but only one has Chris Hemsworth. In the one-hour documentary, Shark Beach, that will kick off four weeks of original programming, the Australian actor will “embark on a personal mission to investigate how we can live more harmoniously with sharks.” Focusing on why sharks are so feared and often misunderstood, SharkFest is sure to serve as a visual vacation, even if you haven’t had a chance to dip a toe in coastal waters yourself this summer. —Allison Keene
Premiere Date: August TBD
A standard feature in superhero comics, from their very inception, is that they get weird. Like TV soap operas, once all of the normal plotlines are exhausted, it’s time to bring back popular characters from the dead, introduce evil twins, and maybe even step into an alternate dimension. With superhero comics, those things are pretty much already in play, so one way to shuffle the decks and experience it all in a new way is to completely re-imagine those iconic characters and how those scenes happen.
What If…? is Marvel’s exploration of some of those alternative possibilities: What if Peggy Carter became the super soldier, not Steve Rogers? What if Star-Lord teamed up with baby T’Challa? Using animation, but basing character models on the actors who starred in the blockbuster movies (and having them do the voice acting), What If…? promises to be a 10-episode playground of creativity. In other words, it’s basically sanctioned fanfic, and we love to see it. —Allison Keene
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