Four summer TV shows worth stepping out of the sun for

Highlights from television’s quirkiest programming season

Stars of summer TV shows.
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Photo illustration by Josh Granovsky

The notion of summer seems to confuse television makers worldwide. Networks have to keep producing shows—it’s still their job—but they’re also mindful of people taking a much needed break from their screens to soak up the sun.

The remedy to this television programming conundrum? Experimentation.

Summer TV has become notorious for functioning as a content wasteland. Networks will use the season to air shows they couldn’t find room to premiere during the year, or try their hand at quirkier programming, and air something with as low of a budget as possible. I mean, with everyone outside and with the stakes lower than ever, it’s worth a shot.

There are some bright spots, however, amidst a summer schedule that is mostly game shows made for channel surfing. Here are four of the most promising summer TV shows you can watch during tanning breaks.

GLOW, Jun. 29

Nothing screams “summer” like female wrestling leagues in the ‘80s, or at least that’s what Netflix hopes you’ll think with the second season of their beloved comedy. 

GLOW follows a group of actresses-turned-wrestlers trying to sculpt an entertainment empire out of dramatic fights, flashy costumes and massive hairstyles. The show’s first season—an easily-bingeable 10 half-hour episodes—was fairly well received last year, highlighting the promise of the show’s cast and narrative. 

Based on early reviews from GLOW’s sophomore outing, it appears that promise has been realized.

With this upcoming season set to delve deeper into the complications of sexism, female friendships and father-daughter relationships, all while remaining a comedy, GLOW is likely to be the watercooler show of the summer. Start catching up now to get ahead of the curve.

Sharp Objects, Jul. 8

HBO’s Sharp Objects combines so many TV buzzwords it’s almost difficult to mention all of them. Gillian Flynn adaptation! Director of Big Little Lies! Amy Adams! Those three elements alone are enough to garner an Emmy nomination.

Amy Adams stars in this eight-episode miniseries as a crime reporter who, after being discharged from a psychiatric hospital, is sent to investigate a murder in her hometown. In classic cable-miniseries fashion, the murder spirals into a mind-bending mystery with Adams’ character at the centre and, just my guess, will probably feature plenty of shots where she looks wistfully out a window. 

Seems like a winning formula to me.

Trial and Error: Lady, Killer, Jul. 19

No show flew further under the radar last year than Trial and Error. The true-crime parody hilariously spoofs documentaries like Making of a Murderer while providing genuine shocks through the twists of its own fictional murder case. The show also features one of the strongest comedy ensembles on television, mirroring the small-town sensibilities Parks and Recreation last perfected.

The NBC comedy’s second season wipes the first season’s slate clean and focuses on an entirely new murder trial, so you can definitely jump in cold. Kristin Chenoweth stars in the 13-episode season as an eccentric heiress whose husband is found dead and stuffed in a suitcase in the trunk of her car. 

With a premise as insane as this one, Trial and Error’s only options are to implode or amaze. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Making It, Jul. 31

Remember that point I mentioned about networks using the summer to try out quirkier fare? Welcome to Making It.

Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman host this summer competition show in which eight ‘Makers’ from across the United States are brought together to test their craftsmanship. Each episode revolves around a central theme relating to popular DIY trends and challenges the contestants to think as far outside the box as possible.

A crafting reality show that basically asks its viewers to turn off their screens and create something is definitely a gamble for a TV show. But I trust Offerman’s woodworking expertise, Poehler’s upbeat enthusiasm and their shared humour will guide this show into breezy television territory.

If these four shows don’t do it for you, you can always stick to classic summer fare like America’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance and your vacationing friend’s Instagram stories. 

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