Summer television used to be a wasteland, nothing but reruns and a handful of originals that weren’t worthy of airing during the fall, winter, or spring. But thanks largely to the ambitious and inventive offerings on cable, the TV landscape has transformed into a bountiful programming paradise.
This year, not only do we have originals available to us every night of the week, but we also have viewing options: If you don’t like the reality show on Bravo, there’s probably a first-run drama playing on TNT or USA. Here are 10 promising new series and a couple of original movies that will help make this a standout summer.
— Under the Dome
This 13-episode miniseries is based on Stephen King’s 2009 best seller, in which the small Maine town of Chester’s Mill is suddenly and inexplicably sealed off from the rest of the world by an enormous invisible barrier of unknown origin. The town’s inhabitants first must deal with surviving the initial panic situation that costs lives. Then begins a search for answers about the dome: where it came from and when/if it will go away. Cast includes Mike Vogel (Bates Motel), Rachelle Lefevre (Twilight), and Dean Norris (Breaking Bad). Produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television. Premieres 10 p.m. June 24 on CBS.
FBI rookie Mike Warren graduates at the top of his class, anticipating a routine D.C. desk job, but winds up doing undercover work in sunny Southern California. Headquarters is a beachfront mansion known as Graceland (so named because authorities confiscated it from a drug lord obsessed with Elvis). Undercover agents from the FBI, DEA and U.S. Customs live together here under one roof. It’s a stylishly filmed series in which gritty crime occurs against an idyllic backdrop. Cast includes Daniel Sunjata (“Rescue Me”), Aaron Tveit (“Les Misérables”) and Vanessa Ferlito (“CSI: NY”). Premieres 10 p.m. Thursday, June 6, on USA.
This oddball comedy was a ratings-challenged cult favorite that ran for three seasons on Fox (2003-06). Ever since, devoted fans have been begging creator Michael Hurwitz for more misadventures of the delusionally dysfunctional Bluth family. Now they’ve got their wish in the form of 15 episodes. The original cast (Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Will Arnett, Tony Hale, David Cross, Portia de Rossi and Alia Shawkat) is intact for a fourth season on the Netflix streaming-video service. All 15 episodes available beginning Sunday, May 26, on Netflix.
This edgy crime drama follows two police detectives, one American, one Mexican, as they pursue a serial killer working on both sides of the El Paso-Juarez border. Their fragile partnership is complicated by the rampant corruption and apathy of Mexican authorities and the violence of powerful borderland drug cartels. The series is based on a Danish-Swedish drama of the same name. Cast includes Diane Kruger (“National Treasure”), Demian Bichir (“The Heat”), Annabeth Gish (“The X-Files”), Ted Levine (“Monk”) and Matthew Lillard (“The Descendants”). Premieres Wednesday, July 10, on FX (time TBA).
This darkly comic drama, the first new TV project from writer-producer Marc Cherry since he wrapped “Desperate Housewives,” focuses on a close-knit group of five Beverly Hills maids who aspire to more than toiling away for rich and famous families. The murder of a fellow maid launches an investigation that yields sordid secrets by the core. Cast includes Ana Ortiz (“Ugly Betty”), Dania Ramirez (“Entourage”), Judy Reyes (“Scrubs”), Roselyn Sanchez (“Without a Trace”), Edy Ganem (“Livin’ Loud”) and Susan Lucci (“All My Children”). Eva Longoria is also an executive producer. Premieres 10 p.m. Sunday, June 23, on Lifetime.
—“The Haves and the Have Nots” and “Love Thy Neighbor”
Tyler Perry, the most prolific writer-director-producer in show business, brings not one series but two to the Oprah Winfrey Network. “The Haves and the Have Nots” is an “Upstairs, Downstairs”-style soap set in Savannah, Ga., with a politically powerful family leading a scandalous life. Cast includes John Schneider (“The Dukes of Hazzard”) and Renee Lawless (“Wicked”). “Love Thy Neighbor” is a sitcom set in a family restaurant that serves good food, big laughs and life lessons. “The Haves and the Have Nots” premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 28, and “Love Thy Neighbor” premieres at 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 29, on OWN.
—“Primeval: New World”
This 13-episode adventure series is a spinoff of the dinosaurs-among-us show that was a hit in the U.K. (and in the States on BBC America). Evan Cross is a billionaire techno genius, haunted by personal tragedy, who has dedicated his life to investigating space-time anomalies and protecting the public from the dangerous prehistoric and futuristic beasties swept into our world. He has assembled a team of experts to help. Very important detail: The dinosaur effects are top-notch. Cast includes Niall Matter (“Eureka”), Sara Canning (“The Vampire Diaries”) and Danny Rahim (“EastEnders”). Premieres 10 p.m. Saturday, June 8, on Syfy.
This series, starring Andie MacDowell, is TV’s version of a warm blanket and fuzzy slippers. It’s built for comfort. MacDowell plays Olivia Lockhart, a beloved bicycling judge in a small town where everyone knows each other, and the problems that people face are never beyond repair. Olivia has a handsome suitor in the form of Jack Griffith (Dylan Neal), the new editor at the Cedar Cove Chronicle. It’s based on a bestselling book by Debbie Macomber, whose previous collaborations with Hallmark Channel yielded three hit Christmas movies. Premieres 8 p.m. Saturday, July 20, on Hallmark Channel.
—“King & Maxwell”
This private-eye drama teams Jon Tenney with Rebecca Romijn as author David Baldacci’s mismatched Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. They aren’t your typical private investigators. They’re former Secret Service agents whose skills and connections give them a leg up on conventional law enforcement. They clash over everything, from her garbage-filled car to his preference for wine over beer, but they make a fine team. Michael O’Keefe (“Michael Clayton”) and Chris Butler (“The Good Wife”) co-star as FBI Agents Rigby and Carter, rivals who dislike King and Maxwell’s style. Premieres 10 p.m. Monday, June 10, on TNT.
—“Ring of Fire” and “Behind the Candelabra”
These two original movies focus on famous music icons of yesteryear. “Ring of Fire” stars Jewel as legendary country artist June Carter Cash, spanning her rise to childhood fame as a member of The Carter Family, the first family of country music, to her oft-turbulent yet enduring marriage to Johnny Cash. “Behind the Candelabra,” starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, chronicles the behind-the-scenes relationship between Liberace and his live-in lover, Scott Thorson. “Ring of Fire” premieres at 8 p.m. Monday, May 27, on Lifetime. “Behind the Candelabra” premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday, May 26, on HBO.