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19 Jul 2017

True TV: 'Descendants 2' Continues the Tween Dream; 'Insecure' Is a Peak TV Gem

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Descendants was about impossibly pretty teens who happened to be the offspring of Disney villains being liberated from the Isle of the Lost. In Descendants 2, one of the rainbow-haired kids (Dove Cameron) gets sick of being “good” and returns to the Isle. Descendants was about impossibly pretty teens who happened to be the offspring of Disney villains being liberated from the Isle of the Lost. In Descendants 2, one of the rainbow-haired kids (Dove Cameron) gets sick of being “good” and returns to the Isle.

There were sooo many questions at the end of 2015’s Descendants that Descendants 2 (movie, Friday, July 21, Disney) was inevitable … probably. Not being 12, I have no idea. Anyway: Descendants was about impossibly pretty teens who happened to be the offspring of Disney villains being liberated from the Isle of the Lost (aka Bad People Island) and given a chance to live straight in the United States of Auradon (aka Queen Belle and King Beast’s Socialist Utopia). In Descendants 2, one of the rainbow-haired kids (Dove Cameron) gets sick of being “good” and returns to the Isle of the Lost, only to find her old friends resentful for being left behind and/or left out of the Disney merchandising. Also: Singing!

Of all shows, TBS’ Wrecked summed up Ballers (Season 3 premiere Sunday, July 23, HBO) best recently: “Game of Thrones? The best thing on HBO is Ballers! Who doesn’t want to see The Rock as a ripped financial adviser?” Can’t argue with that—how else could this make it to a third season? Sure, the comic interplay between ex-NFL star Spencer (Dwayne Johnson) and his sports-management partner, Joe (Rob Corddry), remains on point, but whenever the camera’s off them—which is far too often—there’s no one else here to give a shit about, just the spoiled athletes and billionaire owners of Sportsball Entourage. At least Steve Guttenberg (!) shows up this season as a Las Vegas casino mogul.

It makes little sense for Insecure (Season 2 premiere Sunday, July 23, HBO) to be paired up with Ballers on Sunday nights: The fact that a pricey, testosterone-jacked sausage fest leads into a low-key indie-flick-esque comedy about an awkward young black woman (Issa Rae) defies logic—but at least it’ll enjoy a larger audience then Sarah Jessica Parker’s downer Divorce delivered in its debut season. Rae’s web-series-turned-TV-comedy is as organic and unpretentious as shows loosely based on their creators get—like Master of None without the high-art diversions, or Atlanta from a less-broke, female perspective. Insecure is utterly unique even in the Peak TV era—check it out, ballers.

When a San Francisco news producer and mom (Paula Patton) suddenly finds herself experiencing a murder-filled week all over again, will she do what it takes to decrease the body count—even if it means making “the ultimate sacrifice”? (Yeah, the mention of “mom” telegraphed what that sacrifice might be from a mile away.) Somewhere Between (series debut Monday, July 24, ABC) is a serial-killer crime drama with a supernatural-ish twist, ripped off from a Korean series and Americanized, replete with the standard-issue block-of-wood husband figure (J.R. Bourne) and sexy-scruffy ex-cop (Devon Sawa) Male Figures. This might make for a decent future binge, but it’s nothing re-live week-to-week.

On the other hand, Midnight, Texas (series debut Monday, July 24, NBC), a fizzy-and-busy fantasy thriller from True Blood-inspiring novelist Charlaine Harris, has Appointment TV potential. Bernado (Francois Arnaud), a psychic on the lam, hides out in the small town of Midnight, a “safe haven for supernaturals” that “sits on the veil between the living and hell,” and befriends the colorful locals, including the usual vampires, witches, werewolves and, most terrifying of all, writers. Midnight, Texas plays like a PG-rated mashup of True Blood and Preacher that takes itself more seriously than it should, but it’s also the most imaginative show any broadcast network is offering up this summer.

Speaking of weird shit going down in small towns, what’s up with People of Earth (Season 2 premiere Monday, July 24, TBS)? Beacon, N.Y., is still in the midst of an oddly casual alien invasion, and the local support group of abductees, or “experiencers,” including journalist Ozzie (Wyatt Cenac), is still trying to make sense of it all. Weird, droll and empathetic all at once, People of Earth is the most complex of TBS’ new wave of original comedies—bring up Search Party, and I will cut you—and the Season 2 arrival of Nasim Pedrad (New Girl, Scream Queens) as an FBI investigator should sweeten the mix even more. The best gag of all: an alien-invasion comedy set in a town called Beacon. Ha!

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