As awful and eff’dup as Ray (Liev Schreiber) and the Donovan clan are, they still won over viewers last summer.

Welcome to Sweden, Working the Engels (Thursday, July 10, NBC), series debuts: Comedy Welcome to Sweden is based on creator/star Greg Poehler (younger bro to Amy) and his real-life experience of moving around the world with his Swedish girlfriend (played here by Josephine Bornebusch); the show premiered in that country months ago. It’s only on NBC because of Amy (who guests in the premiere episode); Welcome to Sweden has a subtle, sweet, indie-flick vibe that would probably play better on cable—unlike Working the Engels, which drives home its few laughs with a sledgehammer. Oh, and that’s Canadian filler.

Hemlock Grove (Friday, July 11, Netflix), season premiere: The Only TV Column That Matters™ asked a question upon the debut of this supernatural soap opera last year, and I’ll ask it again: Why is anyone surprised that terrible things happen in a town called Hemlock Grove? Season 1 didn’t sit well with critics, who largely dismissed the style-over-sense creep-theatrics of executive producer/occasional director Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) when they should have just embraced the chaos and marveled at star Famke Janssen’s endless array of white outfits. (Seriously, they’re stunning.)

Ray Donovan, Masters of Sex (Sunday, July 13, Showtime), season premieres: As awful and eff’dup as Ray (Liev Schreiber) and the Donovan clan are, they still won over viewers last summer—even paired with the turrible final season of Dexter. (Let us never speak of that again.) This season, Hollywood “fixer” Ray and ex-con dad Mickey (Jon Voight, still stealing the show) face some new heat from a FBI bureau chief (Hank Azaria) and a journalist (Vinessa Shaw), who are both very interested in the Boston mobster Mickey plugged last season. Meanwhile, in the Season 2 premiere of Masters of Sex, Dr. Masters (Michael Sheen) and “Dr.” Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) deal with being fired and labeled a ho, respectively.

The Strain (Sunday, July 13, FX) series debut: If you’re thinking, “Not another vampire show,” don’t worry—The Strain is definitely not another vampire show. The Guillermo del Toro/Chuck Hogan series (based on their book trilogy of the same name) kicks off with a slow-burn premiere episode as an international flight full of “dead” passengers and crew lands in New York City; it’s up to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agents Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Martinez (Mia Maestro) to decipher how and why. The “how” is in freight: an ancient, vampiric monster let loose during the flight. The “why” is a conspiracy to turn Earth into Planet Vampire, with NYC as ground zero. According to sources (i.e., friends of mine who actually read), the series follows the source material faithfully, and the pilot sets up what should be, in a summer filled with apocalyptic TV epics, a genuinely scary experience. Suck it, True Blood.

Matador (Tuesday, July 15, El Rey), series debut: El Rey network el jefe Robert Rodriguez pulled off an impressive TV series remake/expansion of his From Dusk Till Dawn film earlier this year, but Matador seems like even more of a stretch: Tony “Matador” Bravo (Gabriel Luna) is a beloved soccer star who enjoys a jet-setting playboy lifestyle off the field—but it’s all a cover for his work as a CIA agent; his fame affords him access to criminal power players, but it’s also an increasing liability (unless he’s on a mission in the U.S. of A., where “soccer star” fame is equal to “badminton idol”). It may sound like a gag, but Matador is slick and action-packed, which we could all use after a month of the World Cup.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR JULY 15!

Labyrinth

Two women, one in Medieval times (Jessica Brown Findlay) and one in the present day (Vanessa Kirby), search for the Holy Grail in the Canadian/CW miniseries event—and there’s neither a Muppet nor a David Bowie in sight. (Lionsgate)

Orphan Black: Season 2

In the spectacular second season, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) fights to protect her daughter from pro-clone Rachel (also Maslany), endangering the other clones (all Maslany). And yet more clones are introduced—guess who plays ’em? (Warner Bros./BBC)

Sx_Tape

From the producers of Paranormal Activity comes something different—ha! It’s more “found footage” horror cheese, this time about a dude filming sexy times with his annoying girlfriend in a—wait for it—insane asylum. Yes, really. (Well Go USA)

Rio 2

Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and the kiddies hit the Amazon and run across new wacky characters (voiced by Rita Moreno, Bruno Mars and Kristin Chenoweth). Child critics rave, “Loud colorful blobs and doodie jokes!” (Fox)

Under the Skin

An alien in human skin (Scarlett Johansson) seduces and kills a succession of lonely men in director Jonathan Glazer’s meditation on humanity and the utter futility of resisting Scarlett Johansson, even in a bowl wig. (Lionsgate)

More New DVD Releases (July 15)

Bethlehem, Black Dynamite: Season 1, A Day Late and a Dollar Short, The Face of Love, The Junior Spy Agency, The Last Days, The M Word, A Night in Old Mexico, Open Grave, The Surrogate, Torment, Toxin.

Bill Frost

Bill Frost has been a journalist and TV reviewer since the 4:3-aspect-ratio ’90s. His pulse-pounding prose has been featured in The Salt Lake Tribune, Inlander, Las Vegas Weekly, Salt Lake City Weekly...

2 replies on “True TV: ‘Ray Donovan’ and ‘Hemlock Grove’ Return—but ‘The Strain’ Is the Summer’s Real Scare”

  1. Hemlock Grove is addicting. Its so beautiful. Favorite new show after Rectify. Can’t get enough of these gothic shows. Ray Donovan started good, but got predictable, and the Strain is just not for me.

  2. I think I just can’t get behind a show trying to revert vampires to being creepy monsters. I know that movie purists love that sort of thing, but literature first type people like me not so much. I prefer the True Blood take on the vampire. At least thats why i think I didn’t like it. Maybe its just a bore.

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