(Image credit: Paramount+)
Caryn James picks out the biggest offerings – from Taylor Sheridan’s spy thriller Special Ops: Lioness, with Zoe Saldana and Nicole Kidman, to the comebacks of classic series Futurama and Justified.
1. The Horror of Dolores Roach
Is Dolores horrified or is she the horror? Maybe both in this dramedy, the latest to jump on the trend of podcasts turned into television series. Justina Machado (One Day at a Time) is the title character, recently released after a 16-year-prison stint, who returns to her now-gentrifying New York City neighbourhood. Her shady old friend gives her a place to stay and a massage table, but if you’ve ever heard a murder podcast you’ll know that her new life won’t go smoothly and her nickname of Magic Hands will only get her so far. If the title weren’t clue enough, the series is produced by the horror masters at Blumhouse, and is being described as “Sweeney Todd-inspired”. Yum?
The Horror of Dolores Roach premieres on 7 July on Prime Video
2. The Afterparty
Season 2 of the slyly comic whodunnit series brings back Tiffany Haddish and Sam Richardson as detectives who can’t seem to agree on anything, with a new cast of murder suspects and a new crime. The format, a delight for movie lovers, is the same: each episode is told from a different character’s point of view, in a different cinematic style, this time ranging from noir to 19th-Century costume drama, and apparently including a take on Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. When a bridegroom is killed – worst wedding ever – everyone at the ceremony is a suspect, including the bride, her family and their friends, played by John Cho, Paul Walter Hauser, Ken Jeong, Elizabeth Perkins and Zach Woods.
The Afterparty premieres on 12 July on AppleTV+
3. Full Circle
Steven Soderbergh never takes a breath. He has tended to direct at least one film or streaming series a year recently, from 2019’s underrated High Flying Bird to this year’s best forgotten Magic Mike’s Last Dance. Some of his strongest work has been in television drama, notably The Knick, and his latest is a crime series full of promise, suspense and first-rate actors, including Claire Danes, Timothy Olyphant, Zazie Beetz and Jharrel Jerome. Danes and Olyphant play a couple who receive a call that their son has been kidnapped, and Beetz investigates, turning up family secrets involving crime, cash and the country of Guyana.
Full Circle premieres on 13 July on Max
4. Survival of The Thickest
The very funny comic actress and stand-up Michelle Buteau is familiar as the what’s-her-name best friend in films including Always Be My Maybe and Marry Me with Jennifer Lopez, and as part of the ensemble on BET’s First Wives Club. She gets the starring role here in a series she has created, loosely based on her book of comic essays, also called Survival Of The Thickest. Her fictional character, Mavis Beaumont, leaves her cheating partner when she finds him with another woman. Single at age 38, she tries to restart her romantic life and jumpstart her career. She may not make the best choices, however, as is evident in the fact that she is a fashion-challenged stylist.
Survival of The Thickest premieres on 13 July on Netflix
5. Justified: City Primeval
Proving the theory that nothing on television has to stay dead forever, the beloved 2010-15 crime series Justified, based on Elmore Leonard’s stories about US Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens, has been rebooted with new locations. Timothy Olyphant (pictured) is the constant as Givens, who has the same swagger and same Western hat as in the original series. Now Givens has moved from Kentucky to Florida, and is taking his feisty 15-year-old daughter (Olyphant’s real daughter, Vivian Olyphant) to camp when some thugs get in their way. Raylan and daughter end up in Detroit, where he has to track down a killer known as the Oklahoma Wildman. Inspired by Leonard’s 1980 novel City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit, the new location adds urban grit to Givens; Western dynamic, a smart way to reinvigorate a familiar show.
Justified: City Primeval premieres 18 July on FX and 19 July on Hulu
6. Praise Petey
After so many serious exposés of cults, the time seems right for an animated comedy on the subject. Anna Drezen, a former head writer on Saturday Night Live, has created this series, which puts an absurdist spin on the old fish-out-of-water and woman-starting-over stories. Petey, voiced by Schitt’s Creek star Annie Murphy, is a cosmopolitan New Yorker who takes over her father’s small-town cult after her city life falls apart. John Cho is the voice of cult member and possible romantic interest Bandit, who was raised in the organisation. Stephen Root, so chilling and ruthless as hitman handler Monroe Fuches in the later seasons of Barry, is Petey’s father, and Christine Baranski is her sophisticated, non-cult-following mother.
Praise Petey premieres 21 July on Freeform
7. Special Ops: Lioness
Far from the ranches of Yellowstone and 1923, prolific showrunner Taylor Sheridan takes on the CIA in his latest series, set in the world of counterterrorism. The title refers to his fictionalised version of a CIA programme. Zoe Saldana stars as Joe, the head of a team (like Carrie in Homeland). She sends an agent, Cruz Manuelos (Laysla De Oliveira) undercover to get close to the daughter of a suspected terrorist, so the CIA can, as Joe says in the trailer, “kill the target”. Nicole Kidman has a supporting role as a CIA supervisor, and Morgan Freeman is the US Secretary of State. Intrigue and suspense should drive the plots, but Sheridan-watchers will be looking for the subtext too. Sheridan has always said his shows have no political slant, while many commentators see a conservative streak. It will be fascinating to see what the series might say about US policy and terrorism.
Special Ops: Lioness premieres 23 July on Paramount+
After 10 years away, the long-running animated sci-fi satire returns with new stories and the same off-the-wall characters. In the original, Fry (Billy West) was cryogenically frozen in 1999, only to thaw out in the year 3000, where he met the love of his life, Cyclops Leela (Katy Sagal), and the robot Bender (John DiMaggio), among other eccentrics. The new episodes pick up 23 years later, with an updated spin on social trends. A newsreader reports on a recently discovered virus, Explovid-23, which can be tested for with a gigantic cotton swab up your nose. A banner at an outdoor event says “Back-to-Normal Fest 2021”, with 2021 crossed out and 3023 hand-written in. The series was created by Matt Groening of Simpsons fame – and a family resemblance can be seen in the character’s wide-jawed faces, and humour that is both skewering and silly.
Futurama premieres 24 July on Hulu
9. Dark Winds
One of television’s best under-the-radar series returns for a second season, with Zahn McClarnon (Reservation Dogs and Fargo) as Lt. Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Police. Based on Tony Hillerman’s crime novels set in the US South West during the 1970s, the first season revealed that Joe’s son had been killed in a suspicious oil drilling explosion. The new series has him tracking the man he suspects of causing the tragedy. Joining him is Sgt Bernadette Manuelito (Jessica Matten) and his former partner Jim Chee (Kiowa Gordon), now a private detective. McClarnon makes Leaphorn an iconic figure, a Native American update on the Western hero, tough, wise and not necessarily beyond taking revenge. Dark Winds’ executive producers include Robert Redford and George RR Martin, but it stands on its own as taut, atmospheric and deeply humane, with the texture of life on the reservation and the vast desert landscape vital parts of the show.
Dark Winds premieres 27 July on AMC+ and 30 July on AMC
10. Twisted Metal
Following recent HBO hit The Last of Us, here comes another video-game adaptation set in a post-apocalyptic world. Anthony Mackie, best known as Falcon (and soon to be Captain America) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is at the centre of this action comedy inspired by the PlayStation title, a demolition derby with lethal weapons. Mackie plays John Doe, who has amnesia, and agrees to deliver a mysterious package. He loads his gun, gets in his beat-up car and races off across the US. Stephanie Beatriz plays a car thief named Quiet, Thomas Haden Church is the villainous highway patrolman Agent Stone, while Sweet Tooth, a demented killer clown, is played physically by the wrestler Joe Seanoa (Samoa Joe) with Will Arnett’s voice. The game has been around since 1995, with various further instalments appearing over the years, so the series has a built-in fan base.
Twisted Metal premieres 27 July on Peacock
11. Good Omens
This odd-couple comic fantasy, based on the novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, continues for another season, with Michael Sheen as the fussy angel Aziraphale and David Tennant as the brash, anything-goes demon Crowley. Last time they saved the world from the Antichrist. This time their comfy London life is interrupted when they team up to get the angel Gabriel out of trouble after he vanishes from heaven and pops up at Aziraphale’s bookshop. Jon Hamm returns as the often befuddled Gabriel, who Gaiman has called “everyone’s worst boss”. For all its religious and spiritual allusions, Good Omens is the most light-hearted of all the Gaiman adaptations (Netflix’s The Sandman and Amazon Prime’s American Gods among them), which makes it the most fun.
Good Omens premieres July 28 on Prime Video
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