Summer TV Preview: 15 New Shows Worth Checking Out

From a potential new Mad Men to a sitcom in which Tori Spelling solves crime, a look at the most promising—and craziest—looking new shows debuting this summer.

Dale Robinette/CBS

Francisco Roman/NBC

Because there aren’t already enough excellent returning TV series to ensure that you stay on your couch the entire summer and emerge in September as white and tan-less as you were when June began (just kidding, there are so many good shows coming back over the next few months), here’s a look at the 15 new series that seem to be the most promising (or at least the craziest). From AMC’s great hope for its next Mad Men hit to a series starring Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling that looks deliciously awful, here’s an overview of what we think is worth checking out.

Francisco Roman/NBC

Crossbones (NBC)

Premieres May 30


“John Malkovich as a pirate.” That seems to be the crude selling point behind Crossbones, NBC’s whale of a tale about Blackbeard the Pirate. And to be honest, that’s all that most people even need to know to be convinced to tune in. The appeal should actually be a bit more nuanced than that, though. It’s based on a journalist’s account of what “really happened” when Blackbeard sailed to the Bahamian island of New Providence in 1715. It’s from the creator of the excellent BBC cop thriller Luther, too. But, mostly, it’s John Malkovich as a pirate.

James Minchin III/AMC

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

Premieres June 1


With Breaking Bad over and Mad Men headed out the door, there has been some handwringing among critics and TV fans that AMC’s reign of television drama could be coming to an end. Halt and Catch Fire should steady those hands. Set in the 1980s “Silicon Prairie” after the debut of IBM’s first personal computer, Halt and Catch Fire follows a former IBM employee and his new company as they set out to develop a rival PC. (A period drama about a hungry dreamer in the business world—sound familiar?) The pilot got a rousing response at SXSW, hinting that AMC isn’t quite ready to break its lease as the home of TV’s critical darlings.

Edward Chen/TNT

Murder in the First (TNT)

Premieres June 9


Murder in the First dissects a single murder case over an entire season, an intriguing premise, especially as it’s from creator Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue, L.A. Law). The one-case-per-season conceit has been a controversial one of late. True Detective knocked it out of the park; The Killing incited the rage of a million Twitter-ers when it bait-and-switched and failed to close the case. Here’s hoping Murder in the First, which stars Taye Diggs, adheres closer to the former than the latter.

Paul Schiraldi/HBO

The Leftovers (HBO)

Premieres June 15


The Leftovers explores a provocative, if incredibly eerie, question: What happens if the Rapture comes and you’re left behind? When a portion of the world’s population disappears without a trace, “the leftovers” are stranded in emotional and existential turmoil, grappling with the aftermath. It’s based on the book by Tom Perrotta, who wrote Election, and produced by Damon Lindeloff, the mastermind behind Lost—a teaming that suggests only good things, provided this whole endeavor doesn’t end with the discovery that everyone was dead all along.

Burning Bright Productions

Almost Royal (BBC America)

Premieres June 21


Almost Royal is BBC America’s first original comedy series. That’s a big deal! It’s like Borat meets Little Britain, following two (fictional) British aristocrats descended from the Royal Family who embark on an unofficial tour of the United States and interact awkwardly with the American common folk. The fictional royals are played by actors, but the Americans they meet—they’re real.

Steven Neaves © BBC 2013

The Musketeers (BBC America)

Premieres June 22


Yet another take on Alexandre Dumas’s classic Three Musketeers novel? Sure! Why not—especially if the BBC, with its near-perfect traffic record of lavish and engrossing historical dramas, is involved. This particular iteration gives Dumas’s 17th-century Paris setting a more Old West feel, promising a fresh take (or as fresh as one can be, at this point) on the titular trio of heroes. The Musketeers already aired in the BBC, where it was the biggest new drama launch since the smash Call the Midwife, and BBC America already gave it a second-season renewal before it even premiered. So, en garde…and all that.

Eric McCandless/ABC Family

Mystery Girls (ABC Family)

Premieres June 25


Former ‘90s TV co-stars Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling play former ‘90s TV co-stars who are forced to reunite to solve real-life crimes. It sounds positively vapid and shamelessly indulgent. Sign us up yesterday. Where has this series been all our lives?

Bob D'Amico/ABC, via Getty

Girl Meets World (Disney)

Premieres June 27


The average age of the Disney Channel is going to spike a few decades come June, when twenty- and thirtysomethings who came of age alongside Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence while watching the vintage TGIF staple Boy Meets World flock to the kids’ channel to watch the launch of its spinoff, Girl Meets World. The initial appeal of the new series, premiering 14 years after the original (which ran from 1993-2000) aired its last episode, is the reunion of the show’s cast (Ben Savage, Danielle Fishel, and William Daniels as Mr. Feeny are all back, with other original cast members making cameos), but the show’s success will rest on the spunky-ness of young Riley Matthews (Rowan Blanchard). The spinoff’s narrative will be told through the eyes of Riley, Cory, and Topanga’s oldest daughter. Yep, Cory and Topanga are happily married with a family of their own. We’re old.

Dale Robinette/CBS

Extant (CBS)

Premieres July 9


Halle Berry is an astronaut who spends more than a year on a solo mission on a space station, but returns…pregnant (!?). How does this happen? Did George Clooney aimlessly float by and win her over with jokes about New Orleans? (Wrong movie?) In any case—if Extant’s trailer is an indication—things get creepy and mysterious fast: Maybe Berry wasn’t alone after all, maybe she’s hiding something, maybe the government is on to her. Steven Spielberg executive-produced, and CBS gave it a straight-to-series order, all of which should indicate that Extant is here to stay.

Linus Hallsenius/NBC

Welcome to Sweden (NBC)

Premieres July 10


Because one charming Poehler wasn’t enough, NBC is introducing us to another this summer. Greg Poehler, brother to Amy, stars in this comedy—which was originally made for Swedish TV—about a celebrity lawyer named Bruce who throws caution (and Americana) to the wind in order to move to Sweden to be with his girlfriend. It’s an American-fish-out-of-water comedy about Bruce’s adjustment to Swedish life, with amusing cameos by the likes of Will Ferrell, Aubrey Plaza, and Poehler herself as former clients of Bruce’s unhappy with sojourn across the pond.

Walter McBride/Getty

Working the Engels (NBC)

Premieres July 10


Working the Engels seems delivered to us comedy nerds by stork (or maybe by rubber chicken?) by the comedy gods. A sitcom that’s already airing in Canada, it marks the first time a U.S. and Canadian broadcaster have teamed up for a series. It stars SCTV icon Andrea Martin as widow trying to keep her husband’s law firm and her family afloat after his death. Martin’s fellow SCTV alums (think of SCTV as Canada’s version of Saturday Night Live…sort of) Eugene Levy and Martin Short have guest-starring roles (though Martin is a huge comedy draw in and of herself). Doesn’t sound half bad, eh?

Michael Gibson/FX

The Strain (FX)

Premieres July 13


For some, “Guillermo del Toro horror series” is the only thing they need to hear to be sold on The Strain. The visionary director is adapting his own vampire horror novel trilogy, which he wrote with Chuck Hogan, about the mystery that arises when a plane lands at JFK airport with 200 corpses and just four survivors, and the vampire vs. Centers for Disease Control war that starts. (Who knew that the prospect of a fangers vs. CDC scientists war would be so tantalizing?) House of Cards’ brilliant Corey Stoll, Sean Astin, and Regina King all star.


The Quest (ABC)

Premieres July 31


Boiled down, The Quest is basically The Amazing Race meets The Lord of the Rings. In other words, it has the potential to be ridiculous. Or ridiculously fun. Twelve contestants endure a series of challenges—developed with the help of the LOTR filmmakers who helped bring Middle Earth to life, natch—that each involve some sort of magical or mystical creature. The goal: to find the One True Hero of a fictional fantasy land. This might be the nerdiest reality series ever, in the best way.

Tim P. Whitby/Getty

The Knick (Cinemax)

Premieres August 8


The idea of Steven Soderbergh doing anything on cable TV is exciting—uh, did you see the ode to ostentation that was Behind the Candelabra?—so the announcement that he’d team with Cinemax instantly piqued our interested. The Knick is a period miniseries set at a New York City hospital at the turn of the century. “We live in a time of endless possibility,” says Clive Owen (reason to watch number 2!), who plays Dr. John Thackery, in the trailer. “More has been learned about the treatment of the human body in the last five years than was learned in the previous 500. That is where we’ll start unlocking the mystery.” So basically, combine a fascinating historical premise and Cinemax’s penchant for gore and raunch, and you have The Knick.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Legends (TNT)

Legends comes from the creator of Homeland and stars one of Game of Thrones’ original leads, a formula that that reads like candy to fans of prestige TV. It’s a spy thriller centered on an undercover FBI agent played by Sean Bean (GOT’s Ned Stark). Undercover undersells it, actually, as Bean’s agent can actually physically transform into different people with distinct personas. Cooooool. Game of Thrones fans should be pleased to know that there’s every indication that Sean Bean’s character will survive the season with his head still attached to his body.