Queen of the South (Thursday, June 23, USA), series debut: USA continues to get somewhat browner—this is a baby step for the not-quite-whitest network on cable. (That’d be Glenn Beck’s The Blaze.) In the net’s new Queen of the South, Teresa Mendoza (Alice Braga) flees to America from Mexico when her drug-dealer boyfriend is murdered, and then plots her bloody revenge upon the cartel that killed him. Queen of the South is flashier and pricier than the Telemundo series, La Reina Del Sur, from which it was lifted, but the grit and pain remain, and Teresa’s transformation from grieving victim to vengeful badass would make Walter White tip his fedora. The initial episodes occasionally feel rushed and jam-packed, as if this production is attempting to squeeze the original’s 63 hours of action and drama into 10, but Braga carries it effortlessly (and sometimes terrifyingly). Now let’s see if USA’s audience is ready for a Scarface/Blow/Narcos mashup fronted by a Latina.
Adventures in Babysitting (Friday, June 24, Disney), movie: The Disney Channel’s 100th “original” movie is a remake of a 1987 classic that cannot be improved upon, an iconic era film that launched the careers of Elizabeth Shue and Ron Canada (yes, The Strain’s Ron Canada!), and featured a surprisingly legit blues soundtrack. Wasn’t molesting the corpse of Uncle Buck over on ABC enough for you, Mickey? This version is Adventures in Babysitting in name only, altering the storyline nearly beyond recognition and extracting any sense of danger in favor of cranking out a cheapo Disney flick indistinguishable from the previous 99. But, hey, if we’re doing this, let’s do it: How about Blue Velvet 2016, starring Selena Gomez as the “older” femme fatale? Natural Born Killers with Austin and Ally? Dog With a Blog as Cujo!
Ray Donovan (Sunday, June 26, Showtime), season premiere: After a nasty brush with the Armenian mafia, a failed attempt at NFL ownership, and getting caught between the overacting of Ian McShane and the underacting of Katie Holmes last season, Ray (Liev Schreiber) finds himself at a personal and professional crossroads in Season 4—you know, just like in Seasons 2 and 3. Ray Donovan doesn’t stray from its troubled-Hollywood-fixer-to-the-rich-and-famous formula, but Schreiber—and Jon Voight, and Paula Malcomson, and the show’s uncredited true star, Schreiber’s immaculate facial stubble—are so damned good, it matters not. This season’s secondary subplot to the Donovan family drama involves a human-trafficking ring with ties to a pro boxer. (Dog fighting and spousal abuse are so passé.) But, really, it’s all about “What’s Mickey (Voight) up to in Nevada?”
Roadies (Sunday, June 26, Showtime), series debut: It’s Almost Famous: Backstage! Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino, Imogen Poots and cameo bands galore star in Cameron Crowe’s ode to the hard-knock life behind the rock ’n’ roll fantasy. Unlike HBO’s dark, retro Vinyl, Roadies is set in current times and more comedic (because, Cameron Crowe). Wilson and Gugino play well off one another as longtime road colleagues who are obviously in love, which is part of the problem: This is more rom-com than rock show, while the rock side is rife with music-biz-movie clichés by the semi-truckload. (“It’s about the music, man!” declarations, rock-star eccentricities, fake British accents, old road dogs dispensing tour wisdom, unhinged groupies, rampant band namedropping, the inevitable wheezing Bob Dylan “classic,” etc.) Roadies has nine more episodes to prove itself as more than an unfinished Crowe movie from the ’90s, but the pilot is an underwhelming opening act.
Dead of Summer (Tuesday, June 28, Freeform), series debut: Pretty 20-somethings in a 1980 summer-camp slasher flick that’s a weekly series! There’s a killer on the loose at Camp Stillwater, and if these kids can’t keep it in their pants, they’re all dead … so, yeah, they’re all pretty much dead. But, Dead of Summer isn’t just a straight-up Friday the 13th riff; there’s a supernatural element as well, with “demons” from characters’ pasts “literally manifesting themselves” (the showrunners’ words, because that’s how showrunners talk). Also, DoS is meant to be a multi-season anthology series, à la American Horror Story, with new characters and time-periods every year, which sets it apart from the rest of Freeform programming in terms of sheer ambition. Or suicidal delusion.