Summer 2020 TV Preview: 50 (!!!) Shows to Watch, From ‘Hamilton’ to an ‘Office’ Reunion
Two new streamers, series starring Matthew Rhys and Steve Carell, an Elmo talk show, the “Queer Eye” return, and “Hamilton”: 50 series and specials hoping to spice up your summer.
“Going outside” was always overrated, right?
It’s been a running joke these last few years that the tidal wave of new, great summer TV—once the scorched earth doldrums of reruns and one-off special events—has made an appealing case for hunkering down on the couch instead of seeking fun in the sun. Who needs a tan, anyway?
This year, however, it’s no joke. While the situation is different state by state and, of course, evolving, we’re all going to be stuck at home, whether or not it’s because we’re just that excited to see what Peacock, the new streaming service, has to offer. The world is in differing stages of shutdown. We’re in quarantine. And, thankfully, summer is no longer TV’s No Man’s Land. There’s a hell of a lot of stuff to watch.
Two major new streaming services are coming, with HBO Max getting about a six-week start on Peacock in its ploy for your subscription cash. Both are bringing massive catalogs of past movies and TV series—in the ruthless streaming wars, HBO Max boasts Friends, while Peacock is armed with The Office—but will also launch with big plays at original content. And that’s in addition to the dozens of new and returning shows coming from the channels and streamers to which you already subscribe.
Week by week, the future of TV programming is changing. Premiere dates are shifting later to ensure that networks have enough content to stretch across however long production shutdowns may last. Other premiere dates are moving up earlier, with platforms hoping to capitalize on captive audiences desperate for content. And new “at home” shows filmed during quarantine, predominantly reality TV, are announced on a seeming daily basis. I can only imagine that’s going to continue.
That said, we’ve perused the hundreds—quite literally—of shows, both new and returning, linear and streaming, coming to make your summer quarantine more enjoyable. From the return of critical favorites like Ramy and Search Party, to splashy new series starring Matthew Rhys (Perry Mason) and Ethan Hawke (The Good Lord Bird), and the streaming debut of a little phenomenon called Hamilton, here’s our roundup of a mere 50—yes, 50—summer TV series worth checking out.
Hannah Gadsby: Douglas
May 26 on Netflix
The new comedy special from Hannah Gadsby comes two years after Nanette opened up a Pandora’s box of taboo topics in comedy: sexuality, depression, gender identity, toxic masculinity, trauma, humiliation, and what comedy even is anymore. Douglas reckons with the world which Nanette wrought, this time with Gadsby presiding over the debate as a bonafide comedy superstar.
World of Dance
May 26 on NBC
No, J. Lo isn’t breaking quarantine in order to judge a dance competition. The series wrapped production in March before the Hollywood shutdown. While these network TV talent competitions are starting to become indecipherable from each other, this one does boast some truly jaw-dropping talent. Plus, again: J. Lo.
May 27 on HBO Max
Finally, there is a reality competition series set in the world of ballroom and voguing. A controversy surrounding the hiring of The Good Place star Jameela Jamil as emcee-turned-judge spotlighted long-standing issues when it comes to LGBTQ industry representation and how certain subgroups of that acronym are treated within the community. But if you can brush that aside, you’ll witness some serious ballroom talent. 10s across the board.
May 27 on HBO Max
The romantic dramedy series is the big scripted program that HBO Max is leaning on to launch the original content-portion of its new streaming service. It stars Anna Kendrick as a millennial fumbling through love and life—hey, some titles are refreshingly literal—in New York City. Her name is Darby Carter. (Seriously.) Each episode chronicles a relationship she has on her way to happily ever after. There is a very specific audience that will enjoy it. You know whether that is you, and you know if you should instead run away screaming.
The Not Too Late Show With Elmo
May 27 on HBO Max
Who is this kid-friendly satire of the adults-only late-night talk show genre for? Attempting to figure that out is reason alone to watch.
On the Record
May 27 on HBO Max
On the Record, which chronicles the pattern of sexual assault allegations made against music mogul Russell Simmons, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival amid controversy when Oprah Winfrey pulled her backing, calling the documentary’s credibility into question. But the powerful, determined, horrifying accounts of Simmons’ accusers overshadow any off-screen production melee.
May 29 on Apple TV+
An animated musical sitcom from the creator of Bob’s Burgers featuring the voice talents of Kristen Bell, Tituss Burgess, Daveed Diggs, Josh Gad, Kathryn Hahn, and Stanley Tucci. Sounds pretty delightful.
May 29 on Hulu
The first season of Ramy was astounding, a look at a Muslim-American millennial’s attempt to navigate his religion, cultural identity, and own sexual and spiritual desires and views. The series heralded the arrival of a brilliant new auteur and actor in creator-star Ramy Youssef, and critics and award shows took note. Season two sweetens things with the addition of two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali to the cast.
May 29 on Netflix
The credits list alone in a murderer’s row of comedy greatness: Steve Carell, John Malkovich, Lisa Kudrow, Jane Lynch, and the late Fred Willard in a new series that re-teams Carell with The Office creator Greg Daniels. The tag line is pretty tantalizing, too. “The people tasked with creating a sixth branch of the armed services: The Space Force.”
May 31 on AMC
In 2001, a married couple in England attempted to cheat their way to the grand prize of one million pounds on the British version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The sensational true story missed the headlines stateside (the year 2001 brought some bigger news over here), but the new AMC miniseries should rectify that, as Oh My God I Love Them MVPs Sian Clifford (Fleabag), Matthew Macfadyen (Succession), and Michael Sheen (so many things) all star.
Below Deck: Mediterranean
June 1 on Bravo
Bravo is bringing us blue-sky escapism just when we need it the most. The Mediterranean installment of the Below Deck franchise has reliably brought exactly the right amount of silliness, soapy drama, and boozy distraction—and, last season, an unintentionally iconic catchphrase with “June June Hannah.” This season, a historic female-led crew is in charge as the luxury yacht becomes your quarantine TV passport.
Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story
June 2 on USA
Prestige TV and trashy soap proved a pairing far healthier than the relationship it was depicting when the Dirty John podcast got the scripted TV treatment on Bravo last year, with Connie Britton and Eric Bana starring. Season two moves to a new network—USA—with two new stars (Amanda Peet and Christian Slater) and a new, murderous scandal.
June 2 on Netflix
There are people who are going to be sad that this show is ending, to which we say to each their own. The final season begins June 2.
June 4 on Food Network
We don’t care to reveal just how many hours of quarantine we’ve spent mindlessly watching the Food Network. Summer Rush adds some new flavor to that programming, a rare foray into docu-soap territory that chronicles the Foy family as they juggle running their three restaurants during the pressure-packed high season in Lake George, New York.
13 Reasons Why
June 5 on Netflix
Netflix’s most problematic, massively popular teen drama series—Suicide! Rape! School shootings!—wraps up its hotly debated run with a fourth and final season. We’ll always have the rage strokes.
RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars
June 5 on VH1
Is there such a thing as too much Drag Race? That is evidently of no concern to VH1, which at one point this spring was airing three-and-a-half hours of RuPaul’s Drag Race programming, including episodes of Untucked and RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race. Having successfully evaded bedsores during those weekly marathons, fans will be rewarded with a fifth edition of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars, kicking off a week after season’s 12 finale.
June 5 on Netflix
As if we weren’t already crying enough during quarantine, the Fab Five returns in June with 10 new episodes.
We Are Freestyle Love Supreme
June 5 on Hulu
The Summer of Lin-Manuel Miranda gets a soft launch with this documentary on the 15-year journey the hip-hop improv group he co-founded took from beatboxing on the streets of New York to a splashy Broadway run last year. Consider it the warm up to the big show, with Hamilton coming to Disney+ a month later.
Yvonne Orji: Momma, I Made It!
June 6 on HBO
Orji gives one of the best supporting performances on TV as Issa’s best friend Molly on Insecure. But in this one-hour comedy special, it’s her story that takes center stage as she recounts what it was like to navigate her Nigerian-American identity, walking “the fine line between cursing people out and putting curses on them.”
I May Destroy You
June 7 on HBO
If you’re cool, you already know and love Michaela Coel, who created and wrote the British comedy series Chewing Gum. Her new series I May Destroy You on HBO, Coel tackles issues like sexual consent, liberation, and exploitation, which is not, like, fun ha-ha material, sure. But it’s frank and provocative nonetheless.
June 8 on Spectrum
An offshoot of the Bad Boys franchise with Jessica Alba and Gabrielle Union as the leads, LA’s Finest landed on Spectrum Originals last year with shockingly little buzz. Still, it was renewed for a second season airing this summer and will get a push this fall when Fox, starved for content amidst the shutdown, will air episodes on broadcast for the first time. More like LA’s Fine Enough, I Guess.
June 10 on Netflix
Suffice it to say that healthcare workers are on our minds a lot these days. Netflix is hoping that you might follow up your nightly 7 pm claps of gratitude with a binge of the new docuseries chronicling the work of four doctors in the famous New York City hospital.
The Bold Type
June 11 on Freeform
Is lavishing in the lives of a group of young women working at a glossy print women’s magazine in New York an exercise in diversion or masochism at a time when media companies all over the city are slashing jobs and laying off journalists? You be the judge when the second half of The Bold Type’s fourth season returns this summer.
One Day at a Time Animated Special
June 16 on Pop
The months since the coronavirus shutdown began has seen Hollywood pivot in surprising, clever ways to continue to produce new content. My favorite, and perhaps the most ambitious, is the creative team of One Day at a Time mounting an animated special featuring the series’ crack cast—Rita Moreno!—as well as guests Gloria Estefan and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Summer of Lin!
June 16 on MTV
My parents groaned when my generation became obsessed with a show as degenerative as Jersey Shore. And now we groan as the kids tune into Siesta Key. Call it the Reality TV Circle of Life.
June 19 on Hulu
This spinoff of the groundbreaking gay teen rom-com Love, Simon was originally developed for Disney+ before it moved over to Hulu when the House of Mouse decided its themes of sexual exploration weren’t suitable for the family-friendly app. So chew on that garbage, and then cleanse yourself with a journey into the very charming Love, Simon universe with Love, Victor.
June 19 on Netflix
Season one of The Politician: Very expensive, not very good. But there’s a catch!!! The season’s final episode, which debuted characters played by Judith Light and Bette Midler and a juicy local politics scandal storyline, was legitimately sensational. We wanted to see more of that show. Well, now we can!
Sherman’s Showcase: Black History Month Spectacular
June 19 on IFC and AMC
The one-hour special of the critically acclaimed sketch series airs, perfectly, on Juneteenth. Guys, Sherman’s Showcase is so good. Check it out.
Taste the Nation With Padma Lakshmi
June 19 on Hulu
The Top Chef host and judge travels to indigenous and immigrant communities across the country, cooking with families to gather a sense of what “American food” means today. As is tradition when Lakshmi is hosting a series spotlighting excellent culinary creations, I, who cannot cook, will watch while eating an entire sleeve of Ritz crackers.
June 21 on Showtime
The Chi has had a rocky run on Showtime. That had nothing to do with its quality, but with allegations of misconduct made against lead Jason Mitchell that eventually led to the actor being fired. Hoping for a fresh start in season three, Lena Waithe, who created the series, joins in a recurring role as a mayoral candidate.
June 21 on AMC
The title is pronounced “Nosferatu.” Zachary Quinto stars. His character feeds on the souls of children and deposits them in Christmasland, a twisted Christmas village in his imagination. And that is all the relevant information on NOS4A2.
June 21 on HBO
Matthew Rhys!!!!!! That’s the big selling point in this remake of the classic TV mystery drama that starred Raymond Burr as the titular private detective. Then again, the supporting cast HBO gathered around the Emmy-winning The Americans alum is a pretty legitimate selling point, too: John Lithgow, Tatiana Maslany, Shea Whigham, Stephen Root, Nate Corddry, Lili Taylor, Robert Patrick, and Juliet Rylance.
June 21 on Paramount
Call your dad and tell him that the new season of Yellowstone launches June 21.
June 25 on HBO Max
The journey to season three has been quite the odyssey for the cult favorite comedy noir. The blessedly peculiar series—part millennial satire, part thriller, a bit like a deadpan Scooby Doo—originally aired on TBS, shot its third season two years ago and, after what seemed like eons of fans wondering what the hell is going on, was finally announced to shift to HBO Max last year...and with a renewal for season four. Anyway, none of that really matters. This show is good and you should watch it!
The Twilight Zone
June 25 on CBS All Access
For the first season of this reboot trip to the fifth dimension, Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us, Key & Peele) served as executive producer. This time around, he’s also writing an episode, and has assembled a veritable Mad Libs cast to fill out the anthology: Jenna Elfman, Billy Porter, Topher Grace, Tony Hale, Morena Baccarin, Damon Wayans Jr., Christopher Meloni, Joel McHale, and Sky Ferreira.
Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2
June 26 on Disney+
The behind-the-scenes making-of documentary launches on June 26, and airs three times a day, every day after that in the homes of anyone with a small child across the country.
June 28 on Showtime
The Showtime dark comedy, set in ’80s Wall Street, should be one of the most talked about comedies on TV, with its ace cast—Don Cheadle, Regina Hall, Andrew Rannells, Casey Wilson, Rob Corddry—and a strong start to its second season, which took a hiatus due to the pandemic shutdown. It returns June 28, which is ample time to catch up and start spreading the word.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
June 28 on HBO
Liz Garbus directs this six-part docuseries on the hunt for the Golden State Killer, inspired by the late crime writer Michelle McNamara’s book. If you’re a fan of true-crime series, this is going to be a good one.
July 3 on Disney+
In a much appreciated act of quarantine charity, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Disney have shifted the filmed version of the original cast performing Hamilton on Broadway from its planned theatrical release in October 2021 up more than a year to a streaming launch on Disney+ this Independence Day weekend. Soon, we’ll all be in the (living) room where it happens.
July 3 on Amazon
A coming-of-age drama about a teenage girl, but make her an assassin? Amazon’s TV adaptation of the 2011 film starring Saoirse Ronan heads into season two.
Tough as Nails
July 8 on CBS
CBS has sidelined the new season of The Amazing Race, saving it for when things might get desperate as content completed prior to the pandemic shutdown starts to dry up. But the network is not about to deprive fans of their Phil Keoghan fix in these trying times! The Amazing Race star takes on new hosting duties in Tough as Nails, a competition series featuring everyday Americans whose physically demanding daily jobs are responsible for their reality-TV-worthy strength.
July 9 on HBO Max
Amy Schumer’s stand-up special Growing, which she taped while pregnant with her son, Gene, offered frank talk about the reality of weathering a difficult pregnancy while maintaining her career and stand-up schedule. The docuseries Expecting Amy takes the camera behind-the-scenes, following her from the moment she found out she was pregnant through childbirth.
Brave New World
July 15 on Peacock
Yep, yet another new streaming service is launching this summer. Peacock, with its massive library of shows and movies, is also hoping to woo customers with original programming led by its marquee offering, Brave New World, a splashy and expensive adaptation of the Aldous Huxley classic novel that stars, in the ultimate passionate fandom mashup, Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), and Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd).
July 15 on Peacock
Take the global hit British thriller The Bodyguard, insert some fake news-era politics, and you have The Capture, which hopes to be the next U.K.-to-U.S. obsession.
July 15 on Peacock
Who knows at this point when the exhaustively talked-about Friends reunion is going to take place, but David Schwimmer will be on TV screens this summer regardless, thanks to Intelligence, a workplace comedy series set at the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters in which Schwimmer plays an American interloper. I haven’t yet seen this show, so instead I’m fantasizing fan fiction about Ross back in London having an emotional affair with Emily.
July 24 on HBO
The Duplass’ anthology series—each episode is a standalone story set in the same motel room, with different guests—has quietly been one of the weirdest and, as such, most fascinating things on TV. To be clear, that is an endorsement.
August 1 on Showtime
Vacation, all I ever wanted. Quarantine, not gonna get one. At least there’s this documentary on the Go-Go’s to get you through!
The Good Lord Bird
August 9 on Showtime
Ballsy, audacious, Ethan Hawkish: The Good Lord Bird is based on James McBride’s buzzy, National Book Award-winning novel about a slave who unites with abolitionist John Brown.
August 30 on Showtime
For 20 years, Richard Scott Smith ran a con tricking women in the Midwest into falling in love and marrying him, before running away with their hearts—and their life savings. The four-part docuseries talks to the women, Smith’s family, and hits the road on a hunt to find the bastard.
The Real Housewives of Potomac
Summer TBD on Bravo
The breakout gem of the Real Housewives franchise delayed its premiere in order to space out Bravo’s new content amidst the shutdown. Which is the thing where, like, times are rough and I need this wildly entertaining show injected into my veins NOW, but also, had the end of summer rolled around and Bravo ran out of content to serve us, I wouldn’t know how to process the darkness.