I know, I know. I'm a hypocrite and a sellout. I promised last week that I would be putting together an insightful spotlight or review, even having name dropped Paprika as a potential subject, but I was so swept up in my own excitement over the release of the most recent Black Mirror trailer and the fast-approaching release dates for a slew of beloved series, that I simply couldn't resist writing this article. Maybe next week I'll get back on track, but for now, let's dive into a few shows that you simply must watch this coming summer.
At the beginning of the list we've got Luther, a British series you may or may have heard of and you will likely scroll by just to get to the show's that you do recognize and probably saw in the thumbnail.
Returning to American television on June 2nd for its fifth season, this critically acclaimed BBC police thriller has gotten far less attention in the American media than it deserves. Starring heartthrob Idris Elba as the titular detective, this dark and unironically gritty crime and investigation series follows violent DCI John Luther as he sinks deeper and deeper into his work's obsessive grip. His fascination with the similarly violent and equally brilliant serial killers grows after he gives chase.
Having won awards left and right, from a Golden Globe to NAACP recognition to eleven Emmys, this series is one of the few police dramas running today that hammers in that classic police procedural tone of brutality, darkness, violence, and obsession with pinpoint accuracy. This series is by far the heaviest and most brutal of any on the list, but it's also objectively one of the best and easily the most underappreciated.
Though this is hardly a show that one will need to watch in order to remain relevant, unlike some of the other shows going down the line, this project is one that is highly deserving of your attention and that will reward its viewers in ways greater than mere pop cultural relevance.
Preacher Promotional Poster
Next, we have Preacher, the wild AMC supernatural thriller that is nearing its end and that, like Luther, you will probably scroll right past.
Based on the DC comic of the same name, this twisted, insane, and deliciously violent series follows the supernatural journey of Jesse Custer, a young, crusty, foul-mouthed, tobacco and whiskey-loving preacher following in his father's footsteps who, accidentally infused with the destructive celestial power of a Nephilim, goes on a manic and delightfully gory journey of self-discovery and perverted spirituality with his equally deranged allies.
One of the reasons this series is so beloved, not only by the vast majority of its viewership and critics but by me personally, is that, with much the same charm as Park Chan-wook's Oldboy, this series ventures into the fantastic realm of human psychology by going utterly insane, playing on the spectacular violence of human anxiety and embracing the essential "weirdness" of being human.
Though not necessarily friendly to every happy-go-lucky viewer that may cross its path, this series is undeniably a blast to watch and one of the only shows of its kind to be found running on television today. I can't promise that you'll be joking among a wide community of fans, but the love for this unhinged series certainly runs deep.
It's fourth and final season will premiere on August 4th, 2019, giving us plenty of time to catch up on AMC's highly rated supernatural black comedy horror adventure in all of its insane, gory glory.
3. Big Little Lies
Big Little Lies: Season 2 Promotional Still
Onto Big Little Lies. Chances are better than you've actually heard of this one over Luther and Preacher, but even if you haven't I implore you to give this section a look before you blast down the list.
Coming back to HBO and Hulu for its second season on June 9th, this critically acclaimed breakout series, based on the Liane Moriarty novel of the same name, truly represents the platinum era of television. Huge names, including Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Zoë Kravitz, and Laura Dern, headline this star-studded series and provide truly spectacular, cinematic performances that elevate conventional standards for television in the same way that, say, Game of Thrones, another HBO brainchild, also once did in its heyday.
The show centers on the slightly absurdist but also deliciously conniving lives of a group of seemingly well-to-do women among the affluent beach town of Monterey, following along as these catty and brilliantly underhanded women undercut and compete with one another in everything from their children's recreational sports performances to violence and eventually murder. Summarily, the show is not only sizzling but also immensely gratifying, especially for anyone who has lived in a suburban or similarly affluent community and can recognize the particular kind of one-upping and petty revenge that this series revels in. Personally, I cannot wait to see what other schemes and devious plans these subversive characters are able to devise in this new season, and I encourage everyone to start watching this series while there is still relatively little of the show that they will have to catch up on to keep up to date.
2. Black Mirror
Black Mirror: Season 5 Trailer Still
I hope at the very least that you recognize this one! True, maybe it's not obvious in the thumbnail, but you've probably got some love for Black Mirror and may not have even known that it was renewing for the summer.
Yes, the cherished mind-bending sci-fi thriller has returned for a highly anticipated fifth season! Originally a British anthology series about the dangers of technology and the darkness of humanity led astray, this acclaimed series was picked up by Netflix and has since been given nothing short of a royal treatment in terms of the increases in its production value, casting availability, cultural reach, and every other luxury that Netflix can use to dote on one of its most coveted shows.
The fifth season premieres on June 5th, a fast approaching date, and with this go-around, the series will only be releasing three episodes, as opposed to its usual five. However, while fans may be disappointed with this admittedly short run after being spoiled by past seasons of the show and its ingenious Bandersnatch, the interactive movie addition to the Black Mirror universe, the shrinkage in the episode count seems to be a choice made for the benefit of the episodes' quality and star power. Pushing any bias I may have towards the show aside, as I am a longtime viewer, I can say with relative objectivity that the new episodes look very good, a major improvement from the mixed bag of the last season with its stunning "Black Museum" on one end and its lukewarm to insipid "Metalhead" on the other.
While at the worst of times the show can be a droning and exhausting echo chamber of nihilistic and fatalistic ranting on the horrors of technology, like some kind of paranoid grandfather prattling to the youth of today about phones being evil and Instagram a machination of Satan, at the best of times the series can be spectacularly innovative, insightful, engaging, and simply fun as it forays into twisted versions of humanity that could arise if we should fall along the tightrope walk into the future. Luckily, the new trailer for the fifth season seems to lean heavily towards the better end of this spectrum, and this is without even mentioning the fantastic line-up of celebrities they have slated to appear in the new season.
Miley Cyrus, aka Hannah Montana and pop culture's apple pie sweetheart gone sour, makes a comeback to the acting scene. There's also Anthony Mackie, aka the MCU's Falcon. Then there's an entire slew of actors and actresses ranging from high notoriety to rising acclaim: Topher Grace, aka the dork from That Seventies Show and Venom from Toby Maguire's Spider-Man 3. Andrew Scott, aka Moriarty from Sherlock. Madison Davenport, aka Kate of Dusk Till Dawn: The Series. Chinese-Canadian actor Ludi Lin, aka The Black Ranger from the 2017 Power Rangers remake aka Murk from the DCEU's Aquaman aka one of the fastest rising young actors today and a soon to be a star.
Of all the shows on this list, Black Mirror is by far the easiest to catch up to in preparation for the new season. The short length of each season notwithstanding, the series also invites new viewers through its format as an anthology. None of the stories of each episode deeply interconnect, though they are all centered around a common theme of humanity gone wrong through technology. Therefore, in preparation for the upcoming premiere, I highly encourage potential viewers to skip around, pick up the feeling and mood of the show, and delight in the return of this evocative and thought-provoking international passion project.
1. Stranger Things
Stranger Things Season 3 Trailer Still
Here we go. The one we've all been waiting for.
Was there ever a doubt that this would be in the number one slot? I mean, it was in the thumbnail for God's sake. Furthermore, despite my intense love of Japanese and Korean cinema, as is evidenced by my previous articles, anyone who knows me even in passing is well aware of my raging hard-on for this fantastic Spielberg and '80s resplendent Netflix original series.
True, the show is hardly consistent in its quality. The difference between seasons one and two, for example, is like comparing Coca-Cola to Kirkland Cola, a marvelous original concept versus its downgraded reproduction. However, while the young series has had rises, dips, and dives in its quality of storytelling, creativity, and tracing of character arcs, the upcoming third season is, if nothing else, an apparent resurgence and refinement of the initial brilliance of the first season. The creators have had nearly two years to write and produce this highly anticipated chapter in the Stranger Things universe, and it's July 4th premiere is so anxiously awaited by fans all across the globe that Netflix will surely crash a few hours into the holiday. God bless America.
If you haven't seen the show, at the very least you likely recognize some of its iconographies, such as the beloved Eleven with her shaved head and bloody nose or goofy Dustin with his mop of curly hair, baseball cap, and endearing dental condition. The show's reach is far too great and far too global for anyone ostensibly reading this article not to recognize at least some of its conventions. That being said, while you may have been able to coast by this far without knowing much about the show, remaining unbothered and oblivious to the show's incredible reach in everything from the resurgence of '80s fashion to the reaffirmation of Spielberg-esque cinematic techniques and homages to simple memes, that is all about to change.
Just as Stranger Things practically commanded the entire season of autumn for 2017, the summer of 2019 belongs to its third season. Pop culture worldwide will be flooded with updates on the worldbuilding, rants on the impending deaths of beloved characters, new merchandise and paraphernalia, and dozens of Vine compilations about the show. There is no escaping Chapter 3, and if you want to enjoy that explosive wave of excitement and insight, you'll have to catch up as quickly as possible.
All joking aside, this is not an exaggeration. Fight me. I dare you. But make no mistake, when July finally arrives and you look up into the sky, waiting for the telltale rain of fireworks only to be met by silence or the cheering of voices from inside closed doors, just know that I was the one who tried to warn you.