The Night Of (Sunday, July 10, HBO), series debut: One review has already beaten me to the punch in tagging HBO’s new crime miniseries The Night Of as “the longest, bleakest Law and Order episode ever,” but I’ll press on. Novelist/screenwriter Richard Price (Clockers, The Wire) and writer/filmmaker Steve Zaillian (A Civil Action) spend eight episodes chronicling eight bad, bad days in the life of Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed), a New York City college student who thinks he’s lucked into the Manhattan party of the year—until he wakes up covered in blood next to a girl who’s been stabbed to death. Much tense and ssslllooowww drama unfolds from there, with none-too-subtle call-outs to an overtaxed justice system, the constant state of surveillance in which we live, racial profiling and, of course, The Wire (Michael Kenneth Williams!). More so than True Detective, The Night Of is an intricately produced downer of an art flick for crime nerds—but it still Law and Orders so hard that you half expect Ice-T and Richard Belzer to cross in the background.
Running Wild With Bear Grylls (Monday, July 11, NBC), season premiere: The biggest surprise about Season 3 of “famed adventurer” Bear Grylls’ (not to be confused with “famed insurance adjuster” Bear Grylls) celebrities-in-wilderness-peril-but-not-really reality show? Actual celebrities: Courteney Cox! Vanessa Hudgens! Nick Jonas! Lindsey Vonn! That’s more bonafide stars than have been featured on 45 seasons of Dancing With the “Stars,” if not the Sharknado franchise. First up on tonight’s season premiere is Julianne Hough, a perfectly lovely dancer/singer who nonetheless deserves to be thrown off African cliffs and waterfalls, and threatened by elephants and snakes, because of the painful “acting” she’s inflicted upon the ’Merican public. (Ever seen Rock of Ages? Safe Haven? Grease: Live? She’s getting off easy here.)
Maya and Marty (Tuesday, July 12, NBC), season finale: When Maya and Marty first premiered, I told you that the stars and the setup instilled “more confidence than the network’s previous variety-show attempt, Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris.” If I strangled your toddler to death and then used the corpse to beat your grandmother into a coma while blasting some Florida Georgia Line jams from my Confederate-flag-and-TruckNutz-adorned Dodge Ram, I’d still feel more obligated to apologize for kinda-recommending Maya and Marty. Whereas Best Time Ever at least tried some new tricks (“new” meaning “stolen from James Corden and Jimmy Fallon”), M&M is just an undead collection of rejected Saturday Night Live sketches for Maya Rudolph and Martin Short to shamble though like The Walking Dead gang smeared in zombie guts, desperately trying to avoid attention. Again, sorry (to you too, NPH).
Difficult People (Tuesday, July 12, Hulu), season premiere: It defies all logic that Billy Eichner would be tolerable in larger “acting” doses than he was in brief Parks and Recreation bursts (his Billy on the Street series doesn’t count—he’s meant to be insufferable there), but Difficult People works, hilariously. Along with co-star Julie Klausner, Eichner makes the daily kinda-grind of being self-absorbed New Yorkers who hate everyone but each other sing like an off-Broadway musical about frustration, contempt and loathing that their characters would love to see, but getting to that part of town would be too much of a bother—because who cares, anyway? Eichner and Klausner are great here, but it’s James Urbaniak (The Venture Bros.) who steals the show. Don’t miss another season of Difficult People.
Mr. Robot (Wednesday, July 13, USA), season premiere: So that was a hell of a first season few expected from USA and Mr. Robot, a show I initially dismissed as just “Fight Club meets The Matrix in a Dilbert strip.” As Mr. Robot progressed over last summer, it became clear that this was game-changer for not only a previously sleepy network, but basic-cable-as-prestige-TV as a whole (and it’s also the first Christian Slater series to not be canceled on arrival, so that’s something). Elliot (Rami Malek) and hacker group fSociety finally brought down E(vil) Corp at conclusion of Season 1, but did it solve anything? Is the 99 Percent any better off? (No.) Is Elliot still nuts? (Yes.) Could Season 2 actually be darker than the first? (Going by the initial episodes, oh hell yes.). Mr. Robot is also getting its own live after-show, Hacking Robot—not hosted by Chris Hardwick, BTW.