From a certain angle, summer can still look like television’s silly season — the next few months will bring us Shark Week, a new “Sharknado” and CBS’ “Zoo,” perhaps the silliest drama to win renewal from a major network in recent memory.
But the reality is that summer has become as serious as any other quadrant of the TV calendar, and this year it feels particularly weighty. Here are 15 new and returning shows to watch out for between now and September, including a major documentary series about the O.J. Simpson case, two of this year’s Peabody Award winners (“UnREAL” and “Mr. Robot”) and new shows from the people behind “The Good Wife” and “The Walking Dead.”
“Outcast” (Cinemax, Friday, June 3): Having achieved ratings domination with zombies in “The Walking Dead,” writer/producer Robert Kirkman goes for a moodier, more suggestive brand of horror in this series about a West Virginia town plagued by demonic possessions. Patrick Fugit (“Almost Famous”) stars.
“UnREAL” (Lifetime, June 6): Last summer’s breakout among new series (along with “Mr. Robot” on USA) returns, trying to achieve the same balance between the pitch-perfect satire of a “Bachelor”-style reality dating show and an “All About Eve” women’s-story melodrama. A new season of the show within the show, “Everlasting,” features B.J. Britt (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”)
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“O.J.: Made in America” (ABC and ESPN, June 11): This 7½-hour documentary will be one of the major television events of the summer. In his review in The New York Times, A. O. Scott wrote that this examination of events before, during and after the O. J. Simpson murder trial “has the grandeur and authority of the best long-form nonfiction.”
“BrainDead” (CBS, June 13): For their next act, Michelle and Robert King, creators of “The Good Wife,” have written and produced a political-comedy-thriller-horror-science-fiction hybrid in which a new congressional staff member (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) discovers that things are even worse in Washington than we thought. Tony Shalhoub co-stars as a Republican senator who may be an alien zombie, which sounds promising.
“Cilla” (AcornTV, June 13): Sheridan Smith, the dominant British actress of the moment (who recently suspended her critically acclaimed performance in the London revival of “Funny Girl,” citing exhaustion) plays the ’60s British pop star Cilla Black in this three-part mini-series. Black, whose first hit was a Dionne Warwick cover, was recently in the news: Her portrayal by Lady Gaga in a planned Warwick biopic was announced by Warwick and quickly denied by Lady Gaga.
“Animal Kingdom” (TNT, June 14): Jonathan Lisco, an executive producer of “Southland” and “Halt and Catch Fire,” developed this series based on the 2010 Australian movie of the same title about a violent criminal family. Ellen Barkin plays the matriarch role that brought Jacki Weaver an Oscar nomination in the original. John Wells, of “The West Wing,” “ER” and “Shameless,” directed the pilot.
“Raised by Wolves” (AcornTV, June 20): This highly praised autobiographical British comedy series written by sisters Caitlin and Caroline Moran comes to America on the Acorn streaming service. Rebekah Staton of “Pulling” and “Spy” plays a harried but unfailingly resilient mother of six who home-schools, forages for tea on the village green (to stretch the food budget) and, when confronted by a daughter’s first period, says, “Right, let’s do some parenting, then.”
“Queen of the South” (USA, June 23): This English-language remake of the popular telenovela “La Reina del Sur,” about a young Mexican woman who becomes a drug lord, looks like it will be more “Narcos” than “Jane the Virgin” or “Ugly Betty.” Alice Braga will play the central role assayed in the original by Kate del Castillo, now known for her role as the fixer in the infamous El Chapo-Sean Penn interview.
“Marcella” (Netflix, July 1): Anna Friel stars in this British crime drama as a disgraced detective who returns to the force after her husband walks out on her and the serial killer she didn’t catch appears to be killing again. The character, who exhibits symptoms of neurological impairment, sounds like an English cousin of Saga Noren of the influential Scandinavian series “The Bridge.” It stands to reason, since Hans Rosenblatt, the primary writer of “Marcella,” created “The Bridge.” (Coincidentally, the British remake of “The Bridge,” called “The Tunnel,” will be shown on PBS beginning on June 19.)
“The Night Of” (HBO, July 10): James Gandolfini was supposed to play the low-rent lawyer who takes on an apparently hopeless cause in this eight-part miniseries. Now it stars John Turturro. Riz Ahmed of “Nightcrawler” plays a Pakistani-American cabbie’s son accused of murder (a role played by Ben Whishaw in the British series on which “The Night Of” is based). An examination of a single case from arrest to investigation to incarceration to trial, it will draw comparisons to John Ridley’s “American Crime” on ABC, but it’s set in New York rather than California and favors the poetic over the sociological, perhaps because novelist Richard Price collaborated on the scripts with Steven Zaillian (who directed seven episodes).
“Mr. Robot” (USA, July 13): Last summer’s most buzzy new series — a downbeat coming-of-age story elaborately welded to a downbeat techno-thriller — returns for its second season and adds Grace Gummer as an FBI agent investigating the hack that has brought down the world’s financial systems.
“Doc & Darryl” (ESPN, July 14): The former New York Mets Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry look back on what was and what could have been. This film in ESPN’s “30 for 30” series reunites two New York sports heroes, but its real distinction lies behind the camera: It was directed by comedy godfather Judd Apatow, in collaboration with nonfiction filmmaker Michael Bonfiglio (“You Don’t Know Bo”).
“The Get Down” (Netflix, Aug. 12): New York of the 1970s gets the Baz Luhrmann treatment, which means — based on past experience and the trailer Netflix has released for the 13-episode first season — that there will be a lot to look at and listen to and no pressing need to think about any of it. But working with television veteran Shawn Ryan, creator of “The Shield,” might temper Luhrmann’s tendency to put sentiment and flash ahead of story and character. A largely unknown cast play the young romantics caught up in the heyday of disco, rap and punk, with assistance from Jimmy Smits and Giancarlo Esposito as elder statesmen of the Bronx.
“The Strain” (FX, Aug. 28): As Season 2 ended, fearless vampire killer Nora electrocuted herself. That would appear to remove Mia Maestro from the cast of this smart and entertaining horror series, but we can still enjoy the performances of Corey Stoll as the heroic epidemiologist, Eph; David Bradley as the lethal pawnbroker, Setrakian; and Kevin Durand as the noble exterminator, Fet.
“Shut Eye” (Hulu, Aug. 31): Jeffrey Donovan of “Burn Notice,” who resurfaced on TV with a supporting role in Season 2 of “Fargo,” goes back to being the star, in this comic noir about a failed magician who resorts to being a storefront psychic.