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Love is in the air—unless that’s something else slowly choking the life out of you.

February is the month of Valentine’s Day, so what else is there to recommend but romantic(ish) comedies? There aren’t a hell of a lot of streaming series to connect with World Cancer Day or Chinese New Year, and we all know how damned touchy Presidents Day is anymore. (It’s also my birthday month, so feel free to send presents and cash c/o this newspaper.)

TV rom-coms have been around as long as Westerns, cop shows and a certain Sunday-night news program that runs for 60 minutes. (What’s it called again?) Consequently, there’s as much shit as there are spoils, but television has noticeably stepped up its game in the 2000s, producing more quality love-adjacent shows than all previous centuries combined. Just try and find a decent TV series from the 1800s; I’ll wait right here.

Here are eight love-adjacent comedies—there are way more, but I have as much faith in your attention span as I do my own—currently available in the streamatorium that are worth a cuddle:

You’re the Worst (Seasons 1-3 on Hulu): It’s sequential suicide to begin with The Greatest Comedy of All Time, but screw it: Here’s You’re the Worst! Chris Geere and Aya Cash play a pair of self-absorbed Los Angelinos who are profane, chain-smoking cartoon characters—in the best possible sense. Despite their exaggerated flaws and penchants for terrible, terrible choices, Geere’s pompous British novelist, Jimmy, and Cash’s semi-competent music PR agent, Gretchen, are smart, charming and, from the second they meet, obviously meant for each other. They could carry the show on their own, but YTW subtly expands into a full ensemble of characters who become instantly indispensable, most notably fantastic freaks Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and Edgar (Desmin Borges). You’re the Worst is a dark, cynical, bitingly funny love story—but not necessarily a romantic comedy: Rom-coms don’t typically involve bathtub cocaine and spitting on vaginas.

Love (Seasons 1-2 on Netflix): You’re the Worst’s introverted cousin, Judd Apatow’s Love, is a love-it-or-hate-it affair, drawing wildly mixed reviews from both real people and TV critics (who, it should be noted, are not real people). Apatow has been making films for so long that we’ve forgotten his early TV shows (Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared) wherein teens and 20-somethings relationshipped awkwardly. Love is an older, certainly-not-wiser closer of an unofficial Apatow trilogy, as well as a brutal/hilarious portrayal of modern dating. Aimless radio-station programmer Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) spends most of her time stoned, partying or obliviously falling out of relationships. When she meets up with recently dumped Gus (Paul Rust), it’s ... something at first sight. Love can be frustrating and messy (just like love!), but it’s also oddly addictive.

The End of the F***ing World (Season 1 on Netflix): Their censorship, not mine. Imagine a sweeter, British, teenage Natural Born Killers. Then purge it, because The End of the F***ing World ain’t that, or anything else you’ve ever seen. High school outcast James (Alex Lawther) has an urge to graduate from slaughtering animals to his first human kill; budding wild-child sociopath Alyssa (Jessica Barden) is desperate for a new non-conformist companion; a co-dependent young kinda-romance is born. Soon, the odd couple find themselves on a road trip/minor crime spree set to an exquisite soundtrack with no viable happy ending in sight (hence the eight-episode series’ title). As unpredictable as it is endearing, TEOTFW is a dark rom-com that plays like a four-hour movie with a definitive conclusion. (Read: A second season would just be psycho.)

Married (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Judy Greer, Nat Faxon, Jenny Slate, Brett Gelman, Regina Hall, John Hodgman, Michaela Watkins—2014-15 FX series Married starred an alt-comedy dream team, so of course it was cancelled. Greer and Faxon play Russ and Lina Bowman, a long-married couple whose three daughters drain them of any impulse for Sexy Time—one of them, anyway, though Russ’ wife-“sanctioned” quest for a mistress only lands him a puppy. Married walks the line between sweet and caustic more smoothly as it progresses (Lina and Russ come into better focus as real people by the second episode, partially in contrast to their waaay damaged friends), and portrays long-term couplehood better than most any comedy seen before on TV. Watkins went on to headline Hulu’s excellent Casual, another contender for this list.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Seasons 1-2 on Netflix): There’s nothing else like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on TV—which is barely on TV itself, according to its sub-basement broadcast ratings. The musical-dramedy was originally developed for Showtime, but wound up on The CW, where you have to imagine your own profanity and nudity (though the show pushes network censorship boundaries relentlessly). The setup: Successful-but-lonely New York City lawyer Rebecca (Rachel Bloom, a former “YouTube star” with actual talent) impulsively moves to California to pursue/stalk her high-school sweetheart. True to its title, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend doesn’t gloss over Rebecca’s mental issues, which grow more apparent and oh-shit-we’re-really-going-there as the series progresses—fortunately, there are plenty of musical uppers to balance out the dramatic downers.

Looking (Seasons 1-2 on HBO Go): Showtime’s Queer as Folk did all of the groundbreaking, taboo-shattering and whatever other-ings well some 15 years ago, but there hadn’t been a high-profile American drama centered strictly around gay men since. Looking wasn’t the new QAF, and it certainly wasn’t high-profile nor the gay answer to Girls and Sex and the City, as it was wrongly hyped; it was something new, different and already out-and-proud. The series followed the lives of San Franciscan Patrick (Jonathan Groff) and his circle of friends, none of whom rang false or over-the-top “TV gay,” just real people with real stories, romances and problems (and too many social-media accounts). Looking only lasted 18 episodes over 2014-15, concluding with a wrap-up movie in 2016—but hey, if Will and Grace can make a comeback …

Billy and Billie (Season 1 on DirecTV): From noted comedy auteur Neil LaBute (!) came the story of two New York step-siblings (Adam Brody and Lisa Joyce) succumbing to lust and falling in love—even in the obscure media environs of DirecTV’s Audience network, Billy and Billie was pretty much doomed from the start. But damned if Brody and Joyce didn’t give it their all with killer performances in this surprisingly engaging dramedy, which lasted all of 11 episodes and now only lives in DirecTV’s on-demand dungeon, lacking resolution. (The final episode was titled “Incesticide”—Nirvana references aside, did LaBute really expect Season 2?) If you’ll tolerate incest in your Game of Thrones and your PornHub (just admit it), Billy and Billie is a charming, occasionally heart-rending, alternative—and, come on, they’re only steps.

You Me Her (Seasons 1-2 on DirecTV): Since Audience found no audience for Billy and Billie, the next logical rom-comedic step was a three-way: You Me Her, an indie-flick-esque dramedy they promoted as “TV’s first polyromantic comedy,” starring Greg Poehler and Rachel Blanchard as a bored suburban Portland married couple who inadvertently end up hiring/sleeping with/falling for the same young female escort (Priscilla Faia). Naturally, they decide to bring her on full-time and make their marriage a threesome, because, Portland. It’s all funnier, and sweeter, than it sounds, and certainly not without drama and hurt feels. (Someone was bound to eventually be third-wheeled, and it’s not who you’d predict.) You Me Her returns for a third, and likely final, season in March 2018, after which I demand Audience’s next rom-com be about furries.

Bill Frost talks about television on the TV Tan podcast (BillFrost.tv) and tweets about it at @Bill_Frost.

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Too many people told me that I “just have to” watch Ozark (streaming, Netflix), another summer series that got by me because there are Too Many Shows. Ozark must be good, since Netflix has renewed it for a second season, right? I blame Netflix’s idiotic, downright Trumpian “Very Good/Very Bad” ratings system. The Jason Bateman crime drama (he also directed half of Ozark’s episodes) mostly lives up to its Southern-Fried Breaking Bad hype, leaning more heavily on action than creating any characters to give a shit about. This makes for a quick binge—smart, because the plot (a nonsensical money-laundering operation in a Missouri tourist trap) shouldn’t be overthought. “Very Meh.”

Meanwhile, The Guest Book (Thursdays, TBS) is halfway through its debut season, and you’ve probably never even heard of it. Creator/producer Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl) has created a sorta-anthology comedy about a rental cabin in a small mountain town that features a rotating cast of out-there characters and a Coen Brothers-lite zeal for interconnected storylines. Each episode stands alone well enough, but The Guest Book will ultimately work best as a 10-part whole on whatever streaming service it eventually winds up on—at which time, I’ll be asked, “Have you seen this new show on Netflix? It’s sooo funny and weird! Love it!” Bonus: Indie-folk duo HoneyHoney closes each episode, Twin Peaks-style.

Speaking of Twin Peaks (two-hour season finale, Sunday, Sept. 3, Showtime) … yeah, so that happened. The Return, Showtime’s 18-episode series revival, has been more for fans of David Lynch in general than Twin Peaks-specific devotees—a careening WTF? ride with many fantastic performances (Naomi Watts! David Duchovny!), brain-imploding visuals (the atomic nightmare collage of Episode 8), and tear-jerking farewells (R.I.P. “Log Lady” Catherine Coulson). But what does it all mean? Maybe the finale will reveal all, or not. Best to just consider Twin Peaks a summer diversion that at least drew some eyeballs back to the original series, and set up a Wally Brando spinoff. (Let’s make this happen!)

You know who could really use Dr. Jacoby’s golden shit shovel? CBS. In a garbage fall 2017 network TV forecast, the Eye Network will be churning out the rankest trash of them all—which makes their CBS Fall Preview (Monday, Sept. 4, CBS) a gotta-watch trainwreck: “What could be a worse idea than Young Sheldon? Hold our beer! Besides that forgone conclusion, we have SEAL Team and S.W.A.T., which are the same show—and Red State ’Merica will looove ’em! Also, there’s Wisdom of the Crowd, yet another tech-billionaire-solves-crime procedural! And don’t forget new sitcoms Me, Myself and I and 9JKL—at least not before we cancel them and plug in Big Bang Theory reruns! Only … CBS!”

I’ll continue to argue that Season 1, Murder House, is still the best of the series, but American Horror Story: Cult (Season 7 premiere Tuesday, Sept. 5, FX) looks promising as hell. Cult begins on Election Night 2016, with Trumpy the Clown’s victory shattering leftie Ally (Sarah Paulson) and delighting loony Kai (Evan Peters)—but it’s not about politics. Showrunner Ryan Murphy says this season is about paranoia and “the euphoria and the fear” of the nation (which is current politics, but whatever). Several regular AHS players are returning for Cult, joined by newcomers like Billie Lourd, Alison Pill, Lena Dunham (!) and Billy Eichner (!!). This might finally be the one to top Murder House … thanks, Trump?

When we left You’re the Worst (Season 4 premiere Wednesday, Sept. 6, FXX), Jimmy (Chis Geere) had just proposed to Gretchen (Aya Cash) … and then abandoned her on a hilltop. Jimmy’s cold feet haven’t warmed up at the outset of Season 4; Gretchen’s bitterness hasn’t cooled off; and hangers-on Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and Edgar (Desmin Borges) have no idea how to function in a post-GretchJim world. Don’t be sad: As funny as they were as self-absorbed/-destructive bang-buds reluctantly falling in love, Gretchen and Jimmy are even more darkly hilarious as toxic exes who’ll inevitably get back together—if Gretchen’s revenge schemes don’t kill him first. Hulu Seasons 1-3 now, if not sooner.

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No, not all of the great shows are here; 2016 served up too much quality TV to contain in this space, while not all of the great shows rise to the level of year-end best lists. (Too many other critical lists are surrendering space to Stranger Things; just sayin’.)

These 16 shows are binge-worthy alternatives to holiday family time—Merry Xmas!

Westworld (HBO): This Westworld was smarter, sleeker and more terrifying than its 1973 origin flick, but it also imbued the Wild West park’s androids with a tragic “humanity.” (Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton for all of the awards.) It also reminded us that actual flesh-and-blood humans are just the worst.

Veep (HBO): Now more than ever, huh? Vice president-turned-president-turned-footnote Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) suffered an exhausting political beating months before the rest of us did in 2016, but at least hers was funny (and slightly more F-bomb-heavy). Forget IdiocracyVeep is our republic’s true guide.

BoJack Horseman (Netflix): Animated series BoJack Horseman has always been about the aggressive shallowness of Hollywood and celebrity, but Season 3 went deeper and darker (and more experimental, including a dialogue-free underwater episode) than ever before. It’s also funny as hell. OK, it’s everything as hell.

Lady Dynamite (Netflix): Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite was a meta-comedy that did for bipolar disorder what BoJack Horseman did for depression and Jessica Jones did for PTSD: It made entertaining, thoughtful art out of the usually “too heavy” to talk about. Both way surreal and way real … sounds good, feels right.

Quarry (Cinemax): This overlooked, 1972-set crime-noir series is grittily crafted down to the most minute details, spun with jarring twists, and anchored by Logan Marshall-Green’s intense, mercurial performance as a reluctant hit man. It’s the Memphis-barbecued second season of True Detective you really wanted.

Better Call Saul (AMC): The debut of Better Call Saul was a fantastic surprise that expanded upon Breaking Bad, building its own pre-Heisenberg world. From hilarious to heartbreaking, Season 2 further transformed small-time Albuquerque lawyer Slippin’ Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) into future legal shark Saul Goodman.

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC): Behind Saul, Halt and Catch Fire is AMC’s best drama, even if it doesn’t generate Walking Dead numbers. The ’80s-set computer-revolution saga moved to Silicon Valley in Season 3, amping the startup fireworks between Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishé, who overshadowed even Lee Pace (!).

Mr. Robot (USA): Elliot (Rami Malek) and hacker group fsociety brought down E(vil) Corp at conclusion of Season 1, but it just caused more problems than it solved. Mr. Robot 2.0 was less buzzy, and trickier to follow, but it gave Elliot’s circle (especially Carly Chaikin and Portia Doubleday) space to shine.

Goliath (Amazon Prime): David E. Kelley and Billy Bob Thornton streamed a classic Los Angeles legal-noir drama that overcame a middling plot with killer performances from Maria Bello, Molly Parker, Nina Arianda, Tania Raymonde, William Hurt and, of course, Thornton himself. Binge with a stiff drink—or eight.

Atlanta (FX): Donald Glover’s Atlanta wasn’t what anyone expected. Something far more than a comedy (though there are hilarious moments) or a drama (ditto, heavy moments), it unfolded like an indie flick in no hurry to get any Big Moments, and depicted the flat-broke-and-black experience with unflinching detail.

Better Things (FX): One of the rawest comedic TV portrayals of single motherhood ever, Pamela Adlon’s Better Things swung from sweet to sad to snarky with an assured precision that her creative partner, Louis C.K., never quite nailed with Louie. Subtle jabs at Hollywood’s treatment of women are just a bonus.

You’re the Worst (FXX): The Only Anti-Rom-Com That Matters got back on track after some downer detours last year—which isn’t to say You’re the Worst didn’t take chances in Season 3. Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) may never work out, but it’s sweet (and profanely hilarious) to watch them fail.

Shameless (Showtime): Emmy Rossum, who’s played Shameless’ surrogate Gallagher mom Fiona for seven seasons now, recently got a pay bump to at least equal co-star William H. Macy’s salary. Coincidentally, she also turned in her best, most heartbreaking work this year. ’Merica isn’t Modern Family; it’s Shameless.

The Good Place (NBC): Kristen Bell and Ted Danson are an unbeatable comic combo, and fears that afterlife sitcom The Good Place would be too weird for broadcast TV were apparently unfounded: It’s a (relative) NBC hit and, even better, the Jesus people are mightily offended by this inclusive version of “Heaven.”

Wynonna Earp (Syfy): If you were somewhat disappointed with Syfy’s recent zero-fun heroine epic Van Helsing—I know I was was—look back a little further in 2016 for Wynonna Earp, a Buffy the Gunslinger supernatural series that star Melanie Scrofano tore up with quippy glee. Also: hot Doc Holliday!

Not Safe With Nikki Glaser (Comedy Central): Nikki Glaser’s Not Safe was a sex-and-relationships talk show that combined intelligence, real information and filthy comedy that more than lived up to the show’s title. So, of course, Comedy Central canceled it after 20 episodes to make room for more Tosh.0. For shame.

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The Strain (Sunday, Aug. 28, FX), season premiere: The most disconcerting part of the Season 3 opener of The Strain, FX’s scariest series (sorry, American Horror Story)? Setrakian (David Bradley) reminding us that it’s only been 23—23!—days since the Euro-vampires landed in New York City. Dr. Eph (Corey Stoll) is boozing through the pain of his girlfriend’s death and his son’s kidnapping by his now-vamp wife, and his bio-weapon is losing its lethality against “the munchers”—all of this stress could explain why his hair won’t grow back. The locals believe they’re still “New York Strong,” but even the military, which has essentially given up on saving the city, is outmatched. (It does make for some great Call of Duty: Vamp Town action sequences, though.) New Yorkers are on their own to fight The Strain … but what’s a little vampire takeover after beating back a Sharknado?

2016 MTV Video Music Awards (Sunday, Aug. 28, MTV), special: In a twist this year for the MTV Video Music Awards, the Best “Rock” Video nominees—All Time Low, Coldplay (!), Fall Out Boy ft. Demi Lovato (!!), Panic! At the Disco and Twenty One Pilots—are nearly out-rocked by the Best Electronic Video Nominees—and I can’t even tell you who they are, because they all look and sound identical! Is there really a difference between Calvin Harris, Mike Posner and The Chainsmokers besides hoodie textures? And why is there a Best Collaboration Video category when practically every video in every category has a “Ft.” guest? (I’m guessing “Ft.” means “Featuring,” though it could just as well stand for “Filler twits.”) And why is elderly lady Britney Spears performing? And where’s my channel-clicker? I’ve gotta watch five hours of MTV Classic now.

You’re the Worst (Wednesday, Aug. 31, FXX), season premiere: TV’s funniest comedy took a decidedly unfunny turn last season to deal with the clinical depression of Gretchen (Aya Cash), and still managed to wring some laughs out of a downer detour. In Season 3, You’re the Worst gets back on track with not only Gretchen and Jimmy (Chris Geere) in a relationship (and hating it, and loving it, and being confounded by it), but also a pairing of Edgar (Desmin Borges) and Dorothy (Collette Wolfe) and, to a weirder extent, Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and Paul (Allan McLeod). History dictates, however, that at least one, if not all, of these couplings will devolve into a hot mess—and it’s going to be glorious (and, thanks to creator Stephen Falk’s masterful writing, painfully real). Seasons 1 and 2 of The Only Anti-Rom-Com That Matters are on Hulu; get on it now.

Marcella (Streaming, Netflix), new series: Yeah, it debuted back in July—don’t make me play the There’s Too Many Shows card! Marcella, a British series that’s made its way stateside via Netflix, comes from producer/writer/director Hans Rosenfeldt (FX’s late, great The Bridge), with Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies; the late, not-great American Odyssey) in the title role as a troubled London detective back on the case of a suddenly active-again serial killer. If the setup sounds a bit “been-there,” consider some of Marcella’s troubles: Her husband (Nicholas Pinnock) has just left her for a younger woman at his legal firm; said woman is among the killer’s latest victims; Marcella suffers from rage blackouts after which she occasionally awakens covered in blood. Is she a murderer? Or, at the very least, sane-ish? The answers don’t necessarily come, but Friel is fantastic, and Marcella is cooler than any new cop show arriving this fall on ’Merican TV.

Aquarius (Saturdays, NBC), the final episodes: This is how it ends, not with a bang but a Saturday-night burn-off. After being bumped from the NBC schedule for more than a month due to political conventions, the Summer Olympics and Season 2 ratings that have sunk lower than a 4 a.m. infomercial for a Charles Manson box set (“Charlie Don’t Surf: The Complete Manson Masterworks! Order now!”), Aquarius is (un)officially over. The final six episodes of David Duchovny’s historical-ish ’60s cop romp will be blown out two-a-night for the next three Saturdays, and thanks to the show’s delusional five-season plan, there’s likely no wrap-up here, and we’ll never find out if the LAPD ever caught Manson, damn it …

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Dear Mexican: I’ve been following a show called You’re The Worst since it started showing on FX in 2014. Among other things, it features a character named Edgar Quintero, an awkward and troubled Iraq War veteran who happens to be Mexican American. I think this must be the only such character regularly featured in series television these days.

My only issue with the character is that, though he is well-handled, the actor who plays him is obviously from the Eastern U.S. Non-Mexican-American actors have been playing Mexican-American characters, sometimes quite well, for decades. In this case, Desmin Borges has a Puerto Rican background. I don’t consider that a problem in and of itself. But I have a big problem if they talk like they are from New York or Chicago.

The language of those of us out West, Latino and otherwise, is different, and we rarely see this acknowledged on television or in movies. Nonetheless, I love the show, and he is certainly my favorite character.

I wanted to know if you had an opinion about this character and his portrayal.

Television Reconquista

Dear Gabacho: You’ve gotta get your Borges background right. He’s part-Puerto Rican, born in Chicago, raised in Houston, lives in NYC, and works on a show based in Los Angeles—as jumbled of a cultural history as that of any Mexican.

You’re the Worst is funny, and Borges’ character is great in that he’s just a guy—not a Mexican, not a Puerto Rican playing a Mexican, but a guy who happens to be Mexican. I can’t state how revolutionary that is, in an industry that still writes Mexican men as little better than cholos and narcos. And while it’d be cool if a Chicano from City Terrace played Edgar Quintero and made him talk like a Chicano from City Terrace, it sure is better than Douglas Fairbanks playing Zorro—or, hell, Hillary Clinton pretending to be an abuela.

Dear Mexican: Why can’t second- and third-generation Mexicans just chill? The reason I ask is because lately, there have been more cholos infiltrating the Colorado River, and although there’s plenty of room for them, they always get all stabby or start fights. I've been going there for years and love it, because everyone’s pretty much drunk and happy … except for the cholos.

What’s up with that? Could it be that the Indian in them gets crazy with hard liquor? Or is that just with American Indians?

La Coconut

Dear Pocha: Cholos fight because they’re cholos, just like bros fight at Lake Havasu because they’re bros. You can’t hate a cholo or bro for fighting any more than you can hate Donald Trump for being dumb—it’s who they are. The problem, of course, is when said cholos or bros or Trump fuck it up for everyone else.

The solution? Place them all on a houseboat and let them sort it out—someone green-light THAT show!

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

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The Late Show With Stephen Colbert (Tuesday, Sept. 8, CBS), series debut: No one’s probably more excited about the long-awaited arrival of new Late Show host Stephen Colbert than James Corden, who’s been working The Late Late Show for more than three months without a proper lead-in—just reruns of CBS dramas (and no comedian should be forced to follow the unintentional hilarity of CSI: Cyber). As for Colbert, the Late Show Stephen Colbert will be the real Stephen Colbert, not the hyper-arch “Stephen Colbert” of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report … follow? Night One’s guests are no great shakes (reliable charmer George Clooney and GOP snoozer Jeb Bush), but don’t worry: Trump can’t stay away for long.

Drunk History (Tuesdays, Comedy Central), new season: The most educational program on television (sorry, PBS) is back for a third season of wasted comedians narrating elaborate re-enactments of Great Moments in History. Tonight, in “Miami,” actor Clark Gable (played by Josh Hartnett) joins the World War II Air Force; Griselda Blanco (Maya Rudolph) takes over the local cocaine trade; and Ponce de Leon (Johnny Knoxville!) battles for Puerto Rico. See? You’ve learned something already.

The Awesomes (Tuesday, Sept. 8, Hulu), season premiere: Hulu’s original content ranges from expectedly average (Quick Draw, Deadbeat, The Hotwives) to surprisingly good (Difficult People, the rescued-from-Fox Mindy Project); animated superhero comedy The Awesomes falls somewhere in the middle. Producer Seth Meyers voices Dr. “Prock” Awesome, the son of retired superhero Mr. Awesome, who reluctantly turned the super-team brand over to his (mostly) power-free kid. Prock’s assembled replacement squad of reject superheroes (voiced by Taran Killam, Kenan Thompson and Rashida Jones, among others) isn’t exactly The Avengers, hence, comedy. It’s more hit than miss, and who can resist a supervillian team called P.R.I.C.K.S. (“Primates Really Into Crime and Killing Sprees”)?

Cake Boss (Tuesday, Sept. 8, TLC), season premiere: Six years ago, I declared Cake Boss an unwatchable knockoff of reality classic Ace of Cakes and questioned the “Learning” component of The Learning Channel. Now we all know that TLC stands for Toddlers, Lunatics and Cake (thanks, Natasha Leggero); Ace of Cakes is long gone; and Cake Boss is now entering Season 7 (!). This inexplicable survivor of the Guido Reality Wave (Remember when this nation was rapt with Jersey Shore? We’re far more sophisticated now!) is just as obnoxiously stoopid and overtly scripted as it was in 2009, so let’s hear it for consistency!

The League (Wednesday, Sept. 9, FXX), season premiere: Meanwhile, adding insult to idiocy, The League is ending after Season 7! The series has had a great run, however—hell, it’s survived an NFL near-lockout and a move to FXX, two hits that would have killed a lesser fantasy football comedy (if there were another fantasy football comedy, anyway). The League is more about the fine art of trash talk and friendly-occasionally-turning-nasty rivalry than football stats, and the cast (Mark Duplass, Stephen Rannazzisi, Nick Kroll, Jon Lajoie, Paul Scheer and Katie Aselton) has ratcheted both up to ridiculous new levels every year. (Last season ended with a beach house in flames and a ghost Adam Brody—OK, now what?) Don’t let the sportsball angle deter you; catch up on The League before the quarterback throws the final homerun hard in the paint.

You’re the Worst (Wednesday, Sept. 9, FXX), season premiere: The most buzzed-about new comedy of 2014 began as a decadent raunch-com about a pair of narcissistic Los Angelinos (Chris Geere and Aya Cash) who fell in love in spite of themselves, and ended on the sweet/sour note of them (ack!) moving in together. You’re the Worst, from casting to writing, was so sharply perfect that Season 2 seems like an impossible dream. Fortunately, the first couple of episodes show no sign of waning. Unlike Jimmy (Geere) and Gretchen (Cash), who are so terrified of becoming a “boring couple” that they’re partying 24/7 at near-lethal levels. (If you’ve ever fantasized about hijacking a Google Car, prepare to squee.) You know what? Forget everything else I’ve written (like you already haven’t): You’re the Worst is the only show you need to watch.

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You’re the Worst (FX): Like the equally surprising Broad City, You’re the Worst shattered preconceptions of the “edgy” cable comedy with smarts, heart, bracing moments of relationship realism (and outright debauchery), and a fearless cast led by relative unknowns Chris Geere and Aya Cash. No worries that the Toxic Twosome and gang are moving to FXX this year … right?

The Bridge (FX): Apparently, FX can only sustain so many quality dramas: The Bridge was canceled after a low Season 2 turnout, and those who did show up were treated to a Tex-Mex stew that was a little overcooked—yet it was still better than most crime dramas.

The Strain (FX): Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampires-bent-on-world-domination tale transitioned from novel to TV series with only a few bumps and a whole lotta scares (not counting Corey Stoll’s hairpiece), and reclaimed bloodsuckers from the glam universes of Twilight and True Blood.

Ray Donovan (Showtime): His sketchy character’s name is the title, and star Liev Schreiber did his damndest to take the show back from father figure Jon Voight in Season 2, mostly succeeding while taking on a twisted new FBI antagonist (Hank Azaria, killing it).

Masters of Sex (Showtime): There’s no power couple on television as compelling and confounding as Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), and they’re barely “together,” in any sense. Was anything easy in the ’50s? Besides Virginia? (Rim shot.)

Welcome to Sweden (NBC): This Swedish import turned up on NBC’s summer schedule seemingly by accident, a subdued and charmingly awkward comedy that should have no place on an American network—and yet it worked fantastically. Watch for Welcome to Sweden when it “accidentally” comes around again.

Garfunkel and Oates (IFC): Musical-comedy duo Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci are no Flight of the Conchords—they’re better, at least when it comes to song quantity and lack of indecipherable New Zealand accents. For Garfunkel and Oates, TMI means both Too Much Information and Touching Musical Interludes.

Outlander (Starz): Starz finally acknowledged that women watch TV—and then told them they’d have to wait six months for the second half of their new favorite Scottish bodice-ripper. Spartacus never would have stood for this.

The Knick (Cinemax): In yet another instance of indie-film directors realizing that television is where it’s at, Steven Soderbergh directed this 10-part oddity about a doped-up doc (Clive Owen) at the precipice of modern medicine—he’s House 1900, with a premium-cable license to shock.

Doctor Who (BBC America): Peter Capaldi. That is all.

Bojack Horseman (Netflix): A former sitcom star man-horse (voiced by Will Arnett) and his slacker roommate/squatter (Aaron Paul) get turnt up and knocked down in Hollywood. It’s Californication: The Cartoon.

Sons of Anarchy (FX): The seventh and final season of Hamlet on Harleys was overwrought, overindulgent and over-the-top—and you expected, what? For all his faults, showrunner Kurt Sutter is still a passionate storyteller, and the finale of Sons of Anarchy was a fittingly chaotic closer that tied up (almost) all of the loose ends. Time to retire the patch and the musical montage.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox): It’s not the Andy Samberg Show; it’s one of the best ensemble comedies on TV, something Fox is nailing better than anyone these days. Witness …

New Girl (Fox): By no logic should New Girl be this good in Season 4, but Zooey Deschanel and crew have become a fuzzy juggernaut of funny that still manages to surprise every week, putting one-note sitcoms like The Bang Theory and, well, every other half-hour on CBS to shame.

Gotham (Fox): Batman without Batman? Yeah, it’s working.

The Blacklist (NBC): James Spader’s “Red” Reddington is one of the best villain-heroes (villo?) ever, and Season 2 of The Blacklist has found his FBI foil Lizzy (Megan Boone, finally free of the wig) stepping up her game, if not her crazy. And kudos for selling Pee-Wee Herman (!) as an underworld “fixer.”

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC): Season 2 has introduced real danger and consequences for the agents, as well as Marvel-flick-worthy action and effects. Stop asking, “When’s Iron Man gonna show up?” and just get onboard, already.

Black-ish (ABC): Anthony Anderson’s TV resume (Law and Order, Treme, The Shield) didn’t indicate that he could head up a family comedy, but new sitcom Black-ish—I know, dumb title—is more consistently funny than Modern Family is now, thanks to strong assists from Tracee Ellis Ross and, yes, Laurence Fishburne.

The Flash (The CW): The sunny answer to Arrow (seriously—is it never daytime over there?) is the most comic-booky of all DC Comics adaptations, and the most fun.

Jane the Virgin (The CW): Usually, “Golden Globe-nominated” means nothing—but Jane the Virgin is the first CW show to ever score a nom! That’s also the first time I’ve ever used the term “nom.” Firsts all around, here.

The Walking Dead (AMC): Team Rick is on the road, finding new places to explore and more people (zombie or not) to kill—less talk and more rock makes for a more entertaining apocalypse; hopefully, they won’t slow down when Season 5 resumes in February 2015.

Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways (HBO): Idiotic Foo-hater rhetoric notwithstanding, Dave Grohl’s Great American Music Roadtrip uncovered gems even the most hardcore music geek wouldn’t be aware of. Real people playing real instruments writing real songs—embrace it while you still can.

American Horror Story: Freak Show (FX): The best elements of three previous seasons came together on No. 4, Freak Show, along with more gorgeous cinematography, more sympathetic characters and more Jessica Lange than expected. The early loss of Twisty the Clown seemed like a misstep, but the rest of this season has been perfect.

Benched (USA): With no hype besides airing after the craptastic Chrisley Knows Best, new comedy Benched, about a former corporate attorney (Happy Endings’ Eliza Coupe) slumming it in the public defender’s office, managed to crank out 12 hilarious episodes this winter—and no one even noticed.

The Birthday Boys (IFC): The sketch-comedy troupe relied more on themselves than producer Bob Odenkirk (who was presumably busy making Better Call Saul) in Season 2; the result was a hysterical collection of bits with callbacks and intertwining gags galore. (Fast-food spoof “How Do You Freshy?” is an instant classic.) It ain’t Mr. Show, but it’s as close as anyone’s come in years.

The Comeback (HBO): The first season nine years ago was merely uncomfortable; The Comeback’s out-of-the-blue comeback was borderline torturous—in the funniest possible way. Lisa Kudrow’s depiction of fame-junkie desperation is so masterful, you have to wonder why anybody’s even paying attention to Jennifer Aniston.

Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (Bravo): Bravo’s first foray into (overtly) scripted programming is not only not terrible; it’s actually pretty great. How the hell did this happen?

Mike Tyson Mysteries (Adult Swim): Whatever drugs were responsible for the creation of this … thank you.

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The Summer of Too Much TV is nearly over and, besides Sharknado 2: The Second One and True Blood: The Finally Final Season, nothing has made much of a splash in ’Merica’s above-ground pool.

Even hyper-hyped new series like FX’s The Strain and TNT’s The Last Ship can barely keep up with the Kardashians’ ratings, even when the networks apply their convoluted “Live + 7” formulas (the audience watching the show as it airs is multiplied over seven days by DVR procrastinators, divided by a show’s hashtagged tweets and added to projected thought patterns of potential viewers squared by unicorn farts).

As far as The Only TV Column that Matters™ is concerned, the biggest disappointment of the summer is AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, the ’80s period piece about the dawn of the personal-computer boom that premiered with a sizzling pilot episode and decent ratings, only to get stuck in its own “We’re building computers! / No, we’re building dreams!” loop as star Lee Pace dismissed it on talk shows with hosts who only wanted to hear about his raccoon movie, anyway.

Despite the huge True Blood lead-in, HBO’s depresso-drama The Leftovers doesn’t exactly have viewers—wait for it—enraptured (thanks, I’ll be here all week … unless I suddenly disappear without a trace).

In addition to The Strain, FX has the second bizarro season of The Bridge this summer, as well as alleged new comedy Partners (unless the network has finally realized, “Wait, we put what on Monday nights?!”) and genuine new comedies Married and You’re the Worst (which get funnier every week—I hate the “You just have to stick with it” defense as much as you do, but I’m using my power of attorney), and a wacky little farce called Tyrant. For those unfamiliar—which the ratings indicate is all of you—Tyrant is about a murderous, psychopathic rapist of a Middle-Eastern dictator who somehow still hasn’t won the hearts of FX viewers. What does he need, a Harley and a SAMCRO patch?

And what the hell is going on with Extant? Viewers are fleeing CBS’ “event” series faster than Halle Berry can go through shapeless Target sweaters, either because it borrowed too many sci-fi themes to keep track of, or because it’s making less damned sense every week, or because, well, shapeless Target sweaters. The interest level in her alien baby and her Small Wonder A.I. son is now on par with “Hey, are those hicks and that Twilight chick still trapped Under the Dome?”

CBS also has a summer drama about sexy lawyers—no, really. It’s called Reckless, and it’s on Sunday nights. After Unforgettable. I’m not making these up!

Also swishing under the TV radar is The Quest, ABC’s Survivor-meets-LARPing reality-competition show that premiered to a resounding “Meh, verily” and still hasn’t attracted the fantasy crowd as well as, oh, fantasy, does. It’s like soccer: You might spend hours watching children play it out of parental obligation, but watching overpaid adults do it requires a special kind of dementia.

Were you aware that The CW aired shows called Famous in 12, Backpackers and Seed this summer? More than once? True. One was about TMZ trying to spin fame out of nothing; one was about a pair of bros backpacking across Europe; and one was about a sperm donor—none of which clicked with the network’s audience like previous summers’ programming, a screensaver of a CW logo bouncing from corner to corner two hours a night.

But they still attracted more eyeballs than Miley Cyrus: The Bangerz Tour, a July NBC concert special that now has a verified viewership of four frustrated housewives, since all them have filed “indecency” complaints with the Federal Communications Commission. So Miley simulated a BJ on Abraham Lincoln—what have you done for your country lately?


DVD ROUNDUP FOR AUG. 19!

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Spidey (Andrew Garfield) swings back into action to battle Electro (Jamie Foxx) and protect his girlfriend Gwen (Emma Stone). He’s successful on at least one front—oh, don’t spoiler-whine; that comic came out, like, 40 years ago. (Sony)

Fading Gigolo

Fioravante (John Turturro, who also directs) becomes a professional man ’ho to help out his broke pal Murray (Woody Allen), who in turn acts as his manager/pimp. The best Jewish-themed porno flick since Kosher Salamis. (Millennium)

Gilligan’s Planet: The Complete Series

This cartoon actually happened in 1982: Gilligan and the castaways (the original voice cast, minus Ginger) build a rocket to get off the island, only to  overshoot and land on another planet. Saturday mornings were weird back then. (Warner Archive; released July 22)

A Good Man

An obese former special-ops agent (Steven Seagal) who goes off the grid and becomes an apartment manager is forced back into action when Russian mobsters threaten his tenants. Hey, tubby’s gotta eat, and dead tenants don’t pay rent. (Lionsgate)

Live Nude Girls

After inheriting his uncle’s Hollywood strip club, Shane (Mike Hatton) discovers that the joint is a dump run by a drunk (Dave Foley) and crazy strippers (Bree Olson, Asa Akira and Tera Patrick). Not really seeing a problem here. (Screen Media)

More New DVD/VOD Releases (Aug. 19)

Boardwalk Empire: Season 4, A Brony Tale, The Good Wife: Season 5, Jarhead 2: Field of Fire, The Millers: Season 1, The Mindy Project: Season 2, Once Upon a Time: Season 3, Only Lovers Left Alive, Parenthood: Season 5, Parks & Recreation: Season 6, Revolution: Season 2, Rosemary’s Baby.

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Married (Thursday, July 17, FX): Judy Greer, Nat Faxon, Jenny Slate, Brett Gelman, Regina Hall, John Hodgman, Michaela Watkins—any one of the players of Married are funny enough to headline their own series; thankfully, they’ve been assembled for a grown-up cable comedy instead of being wasted separately on more network filler (as they all have been before). Greer and Faxon are Russ and Lina Bowman, a long-married couple whose three daughters drain them of any impulse for Sexy Time—one of them, anyway, though Russ’ wife-“sanctioned” quest for a mistress only lands him a puppy. Married walks the line between sweet and caustic more smoothly as it progresses (Lina and Russ come into focus as real people by the second episode, partially in contrast to their really damaged friends). This could be the most authentic relationship portrayal in years.

You’re the Worst (Thursday, July 17, FX), series debut: On the other end of the authenticity scale, in You’re the Worst, Chris Geere and Aya Cash play a pair of self-absorbed Los Angelinos who are essentially profane, chain-smoking cartoon characters—again, thank god for cable. Despite their exaggerated flaws and penchants for bad choices, Geere’s Brit novelist and Cash’s music-PR agent (yes, they just keep getting worse) are smart, charming and, from the second they meet, obviously meant for each other. The characters (and actors) click so well, in fact, that it’s easy to overlook the surrounding L.A. entertainment-biz clichés and near-Showtime levels of sex and drugs that pretty much scream, “Hey, look at all this decadence! Huh? Huh?” You’re the Worst is a dark, cynical, bitingly funny love story, but it’s still just a love story—not a romantic comedy. Rom-coms don’t involve bathtub cocaine and spitting on genitalia. Just sayin.’

Rush (Thursday, July 17, USA), series debut: The usually sunny-fluffy USA Network has had success going off-brand with new comedies (Playing House, Sirens); but new dramas, not so much (unless you count Graceland as a “hit,” which no one outside of USA PR does). The net’s latest attempt to snag some of that gritty FX cred starts with Rush, about “renegade” L.A. doctor William Rush (Tom Ellis), who patches up Hollywood’s celebrity elite and criminal underbelly off the books for hefty fees that, in turn, support his own bad-boy lifestyle. Ellis is charismatic and believable in the role, but, as usual, USA won’t commit to the grit, leaving Rush as just a glossy knockoff of Royal Pains and Ray Donovan.

Satisfaction (Thursday, July 17, USA), series debut: At least Rush has some ambition; Satisfaction is barely an idea. A well-off-if-bored suburban couple (Matt Passmore and Stephanie Szostak) embarks on sexy, dangerous encounters outside of their marriage, because, unlike most well-off-if-bored suburban couples, they didn’t think to just re-up their Cinemax package.

The Lottery (Sunday, July 20, Lifetime), series debut: TV is doing its damndest to kill off the human race this summer; Lifetime’s The Lottery is just going about it more subtly. In 2025, it’s been five years since any woman on the planet has given birth—those of us averse to children call this “heaven,” while scientists refer to it as a “global fertility crisis.” When one of those scientists, Dr. Alison Lennon (Marley Shelton), finally manages to fertilize 100 embryos, the guv’ment hijacks her project and declares a national lottery to determine who will carry them to term and forestall extinction. The Lottery is frothy sci-fi-lite that would have made an intriguing movie-of-the-week, but a 10-episode series? That’s crazier than Extant.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR JULY 22!

All Cheerleaders Die

When a party with their high-school football team goes awry, a group of cheerleaders return deader, hotter and hungry for revenge (but mostly just human flesh). It’s Bring It On meets Heathers meets The Walking Dead meets Redbox porn. (Image)

Dom Hemingway

Out after 12 years in prison, playboy safecracker Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) plans to collect for protecting his boss (Demian Bichir), reunite with his estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke) and kill time until Sherlock Holmes 3. (Fox)

Heaven Is for Real

Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly and Connor Corum star in the true-ish story of a young boy who comes back from a near-death experience with vivid afterlife visions that irrefutably prove that only extremely white Christian Republicans get into Heaven.(Sony)

Sunset Strip

Slash, Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper, Keanu Reeves, Courtney Love, Hugh Hefner and others detail the history of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip in the flashy documentary that somehow gives equal billing to Jane’s Addiction and the Pussycat Dolls. (Blu-ray release; MVD)

Transcendence

Speaking of Johnny Depp: When a scientist (Depp) researching artificial intelligence is killed by an extremist anti-tech group, his wife (Rebecca Hall) uploads his consciousness to the Internet, like Max Headroom never even happened. (Warner Bros.)

More New DVD Releases (July 22)

The Angriest Man In Brooklyn, Blue Ruin, Border Break, Cell 213, Gangster, GMO OMG, Haunted Trailer, Hoser, The Human Race, Made in America, Make Your Move, Pawnz, The Perfect House, Red Wing, Sabotage, Sector 4: Extraction, Wahlburgers: Season 1.

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Television used to take a break in the summertime—but that was back in the dark ages, Grandpa. Today, networks are more aggressive than ever about establishing the fabled 52-week programming schedule, so the real winner is you!

Here’s what you should be watching while it’s hot:

JUNE

Following the Season 2 premiere of 2013’s hit alien-western Defiance, it’s the debut of Dominion (right), a new supernatural drama about rogue angels bent on possessing mankind in the—wait for it—post-apocalyptic future. It’s based on the 2010 flick Legion, so the fact that Dominion doesn’t completely suck is a … miracle. (Syfy; Thursday, June 19)

Quiet breakout series Rectify, about a former death-row inmate trying to fit back into his small Georgia home town, returns for a 10-episode second season. The gorgeously hypnotic Southern Gothic doles out details slower than molasses, but it earns every last drop of its critical mass—binge Season 1 on Netflix for proof. (Sundance; Thursday, June 19)

Before the Season 4 premiere of alien-invasion epic Falling Skies, new series The Last Ship tackles an enemy of a different kind: Producer Michael Bay. Actually, it’s a pandemic that kills 80 percent (!) of the planet’s population, and only the crew of a surviving Navy ship is positioned to find a cure for the remaining 20. It’s like Battleship, but with more plot. (TNT; Sunday, June 22)

It’s about five years late, but the seventh and final season of True Blood is upon us—and after you begin saying your goodbyes to (everybody whisper it together now) Sookie and the Bon Temps fang-gang, say hello to the un-Raptured souls of The Leftovers, about a group of confused suburbanites stuck behind on Earth. It’s like This Is the End, but with less weed. (HBO; True Blood: Sunday, June 22; The Leftovers: Sunday, June 29)

If it weren’t already canceled, it would be easy to accuse FX of inhumanely putting down loveable mutt Wilfred by moving Season 4 to FXX, the euthanasia lab of cable. On the upside, we may finally get some answers as to why Wilfred appears to Ryan as an Australian asshole in a dog suit … but probably not. (FXX; Wednesday, June 25)

Also premiering in June: Halt and Catch Fire (AMC; Sunday, June 1); Longmire (A&E; Monday, June 2); Mistresses (ABC; Monday, June 2); Orange Is the New Black (Netflix; Friday, June 6); Power (Starz; Saturday, June 7); Rookie Blue (ABC; Thursday, June 19); Teen Wolf (MTV; Monday, June 23); Tyrant (FX; Tuesday, June 24); Covert Affairs (USA; Tuesday, June 24); Big Brother (CBS; Wednesday, June 25); Girl Meets World (Disney; Friday, June 27); Under the Dome (CBS; Monday, June 30).

JULY

Halle Berry gets knocked-up in space! That’s all the summation you need for Extant, CBS’ next stab at a Summer Event Thriller after the network got a little too cocky last year with the success of Under the Dome. How did this female astronaut become pregnant during her year alone in space? What’s growing inside her? Who came up with the lousy title Extant? Expect answers … maybe during the summer of 2015, if the ratings blow up. (CBS; Wednesday, July 9)

Now that Dexter is over, and Homeland has jumped (hung?) the shark, Showtime’s new flagship dramas Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex both return for their respective second seasons. A gritty crime/family drama about a troubled “fixer” for the Hollywood elite and a period soap about pioneering 1950s sex researchers Masters and Johnson may seem like an odd combo, but they’re the network’s best series in years. (Showtime; Sunday, July 13)

Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s book trilogy The Strain becomes a TV series, brought to you, coincidentally, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. When an ancient disease strain begins turning the world’s population into vampires—and not those pretty Twilight/Vampire Diaries bloodsuckers, either—it’s up to a Centers for Disease Control doc and a ragtag group of New Yorkers to save humanity. Apparently, it’s the Summer of the Apocalypse. (FX; Sunday, July 13)

Would you believe a soccer star by day who’s an international spy by night? That’s Matador. If the balls-out TV re-imagining of From Dusk Till Dawn has taught us anything, it’s to trust Robert Rodriguez and the El Rey network. (El Rey; Tuesday, July 15)

Harried-marrieds comedies have been done to death—but one starring Judy Greer, Nat Faxon, Jenny Slate and Bret Gelman? That’s a killer cast who’d be canceled in five minutes on a broadcast network; fortunately, the new Married is on cable, and it’s far funnier and more heartfelt then the generic title suggests. Fellow debuting comedy You’re the Worst, about two toxic singles who enter into couple-hood, wins the name game. (FX; Thursday, July 17)

Also premiering in July: Witches of East End (Lifetime; Sunday, July 6); Finding Carter (MTV; Tuesday, July 8); The Bridge (FX; Wednesday, July 9); Hemlock Grove (Netflix; Friday, July 11); Satisfaction (USA; Thursday, July 17); Rush (USA; Thursday, July 17); Sharknado 2: The Second One (Syfy; Wednesday, July 30).

AUGUST

You can’t kill The Killing: After being canceled by AMC, like, a dozen times, the crime drama returns for a fourth and final season on Netflix … but is it really the last? There’s still Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime and Yahoo! TV, right? (Netflix; Friday, Aug. 1)

A married World War II nurse is mysteriously transported from 1945 to 1743, where’s she’s “forced” (just go with it) to wed a dashing Scottish warrior. Outlander (below), based on a best-selling book series, is equal parts romance, sci-fi, history and utter ridiculousness. Hence, it’ll be a huge hit—at least by 10th-tier premium-cable standards. (Starz; Saturday, Aug. 9)

Also premiering in August: Masters of Illusion (The CW; Friday, Aug. 1); Legends (TNT; Wednesday, Aug. 13); Franklin and Bash (TNT; Wednesday, Aug. 13); Dallas (TNT; Monday, Aug. 18); Breathless (PBS; Sunday, Aug. 24); MTV Video Music Awards (MTV; Sunday, Aug. 24); Emmy Awards (NBC; Monday, Aug. 25).

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