Editor’s note: This is the debut of a new column, Bill Frost’s “True TV,” aka The Only TV Column That Matters™. Most weeks, he’ll offer his opinions on what shows you should not miss during the upcoming week—and which shows you should skip in favor of a book. (However, this week, he’s doing a summer-roundup thing. Hey, it’s almost August. It’s slow.)
He’ll also offer a weekly roundup of newly released DVDs, to complement Bob Grimm’s regular DVD/home-video reviews. So … here we go. Enjoy!
The 10 summer shows you should be keeping/catching up on:
Under the Dome
Mondays (CBS): One of the best Stephen King adaptations to date—and they even worked in a reference to The Simpsons Movie. Under the Dome has shown a few signs of padding the story to fill 13 episodes (teen romance—phttt, who needs it?), but the tension ratchets up just enough every week to keep the hooks in. (Almost) all is forgiven, Rachelle Lefevre.
Orange Is the New Black
Streaming (Netflix): Like Netflix’s previous Big Event, Arrested Development, prison dramedy Orange Is the New Black gets better with each episode, rolling out surprising back-stories for the characters surrounding “yuppie white girl” inmate Piper (a fantastic Taylor Schilling). Anyone who thought showrunner Jenji Kohan was a one-trick Weeds pony can suck it. (For an opposing view, check out Bob Grimm’s review of the show.)
Sundays (Showtime): In contrast to his hilarious, almost-unrecognizable cameo in Larry David’s upcoming HBO movie Clear History, Ray Donovan is Liev Schreiber’s defining Intense Mofo role. Hollywood “fixer” Ray has more issues than Variety, and his family (including an equally intense Jon Voight) is a nightmare—which, of course, makes for great TV.
Thursdays (FX): If you gave up on Wilfred during last year’s weird ’n’ dark Season 2, don’t bother coming back—it’s still weird ’n’ dark. Ryan (Elijah Wood) is more convinced than ever that he’s crazy, and it’s less clear than ever whether his talking-dog frenemy Wilfred (Jason Gann) is there to pull him back from, or push him over, the edge. Hence, funny!
Wednesdays (FX): After a rote pilot episode with a The Killing aftertaste, Tex-Mex-border crime drama The Bridge slipped into a groove and started earning its FX keep. Stars Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir bring new twists to their odd-couple cop dynamic every week, and Annabeth Gish’s side-plot is finally making tense sense. Always trust in FX.
Sundays (HBO): It took a season and change, but The Only TV Column That Matters™ is now convinced that Olivia Munn is worthy of her news-geek-dream-girl role of financial reporter Sloan Sabbith. If only the rest of The Newsroom women owned it like she does. On all other fronts, Aaron Sorkin’s liberal-media porn dramedy is sharper than ever.
Fridays (Starz): Yeah, I get it—you’re never going to subscribe to Starz, so quit going on about shows like Spartacus, Boss and Magic City, right? Whatever. Like the first two, Magic City isn’t quite on par with the HBO and Showtime series it aspires to be, but as a period (1950s Miami) potboiler, it’s as gorgeous and addictive as anything on cable.
Wednesdays (NBC): One of the few shows in NBC’s throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks Summer of Filler campaign that actually works, Camp is a funny and sweet diversion that not only makes Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under) likable; it also also pulls off a decent Glee/Parenthood tone-meld with only a few glitches. (Teen romance—phttt, who needs it?)
Mondays (NBC): NBC could have done better—hell, the network could have done any—rollout work on keeping Siberia’s secret (it’s a fake reality-survival show … clarification: more fake than usual), but it’s still stoopid fun watching to see who’s going to die next. (Bear Grylls, take note.) The biggest mystery: What was Carolina (Joyce Giraud) thinking wearing six feet of hair into the wilderness?
Nikki and Sara Live
Tuesdays (MTV): Sometimes MTV gets it right: Not only did they give comics/podcasters Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer their own show last year; they also picked it up for a second season—now shut up about the music videos already. Nikki and Sara Live is essentially a junior Daily Show for those who don’t want to look at old, gray hosts. (Sorry, Jon Stewart—come back soon.)
DVD-RELEASE ROUNDUP FOR AUG. 6!
On her 25th birthday, Amelia (Electra Avellan) realizes that she’s now too old to become a famous actress: “In Hollywood, 25 is the new dead.” Also starring Danny Trejo, Jennifer Tilly, Margaret Cho and other spry youngsters. (Breaking Glass)
The Best of Fridays
The cult 1980-1982 late-night sketch series, finally on DVD! Well, some of it. It features players Michael Richards and Larry David (with hair!); performances by Devo, The Clash and Kiss; and a fight with Andy Kaufman. (Shout! Factory)
Community: The Complete Fourth Season
The season without showrunner Dan Harmon—hey, it’s not that bad. There’s the sci-fi convention thing, the Halloween thing, the Thanksgiving thing, the Christmas thing, the puppet thing, the graduation thing … OK, it was pretty bad. (Sony)
When a memory-wiped drone repairman (Tom Cruise) on Future Eff’dup Earth rescues a mysterious-but-familiar woman (Olga Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft … not much happens, but it looks really cool. That’s enough, right? (Universal)
Strike Back: Season 2
Cinemax’s live-action Team America returns for a second season with a new boss (Rhona Mitra), new bad guys (terrorists with nuclear triggers) and ridiculous new levels of violence, nudity, yelling and explosions. So, awesome TV. (HBO)
More New DVD Releases (Aug. 6)
The Borgias: The Third Season, Duck Dynasty: Season 3, Jim Norton: Please Be Offended, Magic Magic, Mud, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, On the Road, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Sapphires, Smash: Season 2, To the Wonder, West of Memphis, Zombie Massacre.