We’ve hit the halfway point of the year, which means meat of questionable origin cooked on the BBQ, national celebrations…and criminals? A trio of July shows are about to make waves and they all involve people doing bad things!
Let’s check ’em out…Summer TV may be a little lighter than our traditional Fall/Winter coverage, but there’s at least one heavy hitter returning, a show that could be FX’s next big thing and a new female-driven vehicle from a showrunner with a fair amount of cred.
Remember back when Dexter began and few believed that the guy who played dysfunctional gay son David Fisher on HBO’s Six Feet Under could convincingly play a serial killer? Fast forward eight seasons and it seems more difficult to believe that Michael C. Hall was ever anyone but Dexter. The titular character of Showtime’s massive hit show has become a cultural icon and the show is more or less responsible for carving out the channel’s piece of the cable TV pie.
With S8, Dexter‘s reign is about to come to a close – on its own terms. Whatever your impressions of the show in the middle stretch (most fans agree that the fifth and sixth seasons – before the show announced its intended end date – are the series’ worst), it’s hard to argue that the show didn’t bounce back last season. Bringing Dexter’s sister, Deborah (Jennifer Carpenter) in on Dex’s secret was a long overdue masterstroke and while not all of S7 was a success (killing Ray Stevenson’s Isaak early on still feels like a misstep), the show is seemingly back on course heading into its last twelve episodes.
Now, days before the final season unspools, the question remains whether Dexter can deliver an emotionally satisfying end for America’s favourite serial killer. Will the secondary plots – always the weakest elements of the series – deflect from the more engaging relationship drama between the Morgan siblings? Will new character Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) prove to be a friend or foe? And what will become of Dexter at the end of the series: dead, imprisoned, or on the run?
We can’t wait to find out. And something tells us a record number of viewers can’t either.
Returns: Sunday, June 30 at 9pm EST on Showtime (Reviews every Monday/Tuesday). Check out the (spoilery) trailer here
The Bridge S1
Among the major cable networks, it can be easy to forget about FX. HBO, AMC and Showtime all have massive commercial and critical hits in Game Of Thrones/True Blood, Mad Men/Breaking Bad and Dexter (respectively). FX, on the other hand, has the critical kudos, but not necessarily the viewers. Shows like Justified, American Horror Story, Louie and, most recently, The Americans, have critics salivating, but the numbers remain tiny in comparison to FX’s cable siblings.
It’s unlikely that The Bridge will do much to amend that fact, but by all indications it will continue to bolster the channel’s reputation for delivering quality programming. The new series is an adaptation of a Danish/Sweden co-production about a killer operating on both sides of an international border. In the US version, the border in question is the US/Mexico border, which should prompt all kinds of interesting storylines and discussions about not only jurisdiction, but illegal immigrants (still a very touchy subject for many). The series features German actress Diane Kruger (Troy, National Treasure series) as the US side of the equation, though I’m more excited to see acclaimed Mexican actor Demián Bichir (nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars for his role in A Better Life and featured in later seasons of Showtime’s Weeds) in a role that should bring him much greater exposure.
Whether or not The Bridge can continue FX’s streak or if it will flounder like the first season of the last American adaptation of a Swedish show (The Killing) remains to be seen. For now, it’s must-see July TV.
Debuts: Wednesday, July 10 at 10pm EST on FX (Reviews every Thursday). Check out the trailer here
Orange Is The New Black S1
Netflix continues to flip the bird at the traditional television model with the debut of their latest series, Orange Is The New Black. As always, the entire series – all 13 episodes – will debut at once, just like House of Cards, Hemlock Grove and, most recently, Arrested Development (click here for our coverage of AD). The difference with Orange is that it is the internet wunderkind’s first dramedy (it is also based on real events, documented in the bestselling memoir of the same name).
The series centers around a privileged woman, Piper Chapman (Taylor Hillings), who is sent to prison for a year. While in the slammer, Piper is challenged to change her perspectives and opinions in order to adapt to her new life behind bars.
Since women-in-prison is synonymous to candy for us, there was no chance we wouldn’t check this out. The inclusion of comedy in this subgenre is certainly new, however. Traditionally this subject is the purview of hard hitting drama (ex: the excellent UK drama Bad Girls) or schlocky grindhouse/exploitation a la Big Bird Cage, Chained Heat or Black Mama, White Mama.
There’s also a prestige factor due to the presence of series creator Jenji Kohan, the woman behind Showtime’s Weeds. That series was one of the most enjoyable dramedies on TV…for its first three seasons at least (yes, we’re among the people who feel the show lost something integral following the move out of Agrestic). Kohan has a history of delving into contemporary women’s issues in an insightful and engaging fashion. Netflix certainly thinks she’s struck gold: they’ve already ordered a second season in advance of the show’s debut, which is certainly a vote of confidence.
It remains to be seen if Kohan can avoid some of the narrative trappings that befell Weeds in its later years, but if it’s half as enjoyable as those early years, Orange Is The New Black could well become a summer favourite.
Debuts: All 13 episodes will be available on Netflix on Thursday, July 11 (Reviews every Friday). Check out the trailer here
Those are our new debuts for July, in addition to ongoing coverage of True Blood, Teen Wolf, Under The Dome and Continuum. What are you watching?