Hank Stuever’s guide to summer TV

Hank Stuever
TV critic June 7, 2013

Summer’s here, and the time is right for . . .? Remaining absolutely still, as always. There’s plenty of television to choose from, but that whole notion of summer being the most provocative and experimental TV season is losing its luster. ¶Looking at this summer’s lineup is a little like arriving at your favorite vacation spot and noticing that the shave-ice shack burned down over the winter. (No “Louie,” for example — he’s on a creative hiatus — and, in fact, there isn’t a single comedy that looks creatively alluring.) The new crop of reality shows instead feel like those old, toasted copies of Us Weekly you find in a rental cabin, but you page through them anyhow. Documentaries (especially from HBO and PBS’s “POV” series) remain the soothing balm, like Noxzema on a sunburn. In any event, most of us are just here so we can get a good spot for the real fireworks: “Breaking Bad” starts its last season Aug. 11. ¶Here's my annual quick-hit guide to what looks interesting. I’ve put a star next to my recommendations.

SUNDAY, SUNDAY

Hank Stuever has been The Post's TV critic since 2009. He joined the paper in 1999 as a writer for the Style section, where he has covered an array of popular (and unpopular) culture across the nation. View Archive

The Killing

The show’s stars look just as shocked as you are that this moody, elongated crime series is back for another season. Last week’s engaging and corrective return episode set Linden and Holder (the superb Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman) off on a grisly new serial-killer case, in which a death-row inmate (rejoice, pirates — it’s Peter Saaaaarrrrrsgaaaaard) might not be the one responsible for beheading his wife. I’m half-happy the show is back and hope it doesn’t violate parole. Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC

Dexter

It’s the beginning of the end for the vigilante serial killer, whose carefully saran-wrapped life started to crumble last season when his sister, Deb, not only learned his dark secret, but also became his accomplice. As the eighth season and final 12 episodes get underway, Deb appears to fall apart, and the question remains: Will Dexter make it out alive? June 30, Showtime

★Ray Donovan

This new drama from “Southland” creator Ann Biderman stars Liev Schreiber as a tough-guy fixer/cleanup/PR miracle man in Hollywood who must now deal with his menacing father (Jon Voight), who’s just been released from prison. The pilot episode is taut and flawless. I want more. June 30, Showtime

★The Bridge

V ery loosely based on a Swedish/Danish crime series about two detectives of different nationalities pursuing a serial killer on either side of a shared border. (In our version, it takes place along Mexican border, obvs.) July 10, FX

The Newsroom

After last summer’s (deserved!) critical drubbing, Aaron Sorkin’s cable news drama is back with the sorta-promise of a cure for its characters’ explosive logorrhea. (That insipidly pompous “desert” promo for the series that HBO aired last Sunday doesn’t bode well for what’s ahead, however.) I couldn’t be more skeptical, but it is my sworn duty to keep an open mind for two or three episodes. Besides, I’m curious if “The Newsroom” can be saved. July 14, HBO

The White Queen

A florid sudsing of the “War of the Roses” power grab in pre-Tudor England, courtesy of Philippa Gregory’s historical novels. The first two episodes prove that the catchall “it’s complicated” has been with us a long, long time. And there seems to be plenty of fabric softener in this version of the 15th century — even the laundry looks sexy. Aug. 10, Starz

★Breaking Bad

Well, Walter, how does your story end? It feels like the whole world finally caught up on the back episodes of the best TV show around, so we’re ready to do this, yo. Aug. 11, AMC.

(Followed by “Talking Bad,” a new weekly talk show/episode dissection for obsessive fans, a la “Talking Dead.”)

TEMPTING TRASH

Blood and Oil

I’m completely Alaska’d out, so I’m glad to see Discovery turn its attentive knack for chronicling the lives of gritty get-richers to the current oil boom in the lower 48. Here we meet the members of the argumentative (and camera-craving) Cutter clan in Ohio, who are trying to stave off bigger oil companies and keep their family-run operation in the black. June 18, Discovery

Mistresses

ABC’s vacuous summer steamer follows the travails of four women (including Alyssa Milano and “Lost’s” Yunjin Kim) who seem determined to keep aghast advice columnists in business. It’s one lust-filled bad decision after another. Interesting that not a one of them is technically a mistress, but don’t nitpick it too much; just let it fog up your windows. Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC

Honey Do

This TLC show sends a crew of handsome(ish) handymen to the homes of long-suffering wives who cannot get their layabout husbands to complete even the simplest tasks — replacing old toilet seats, fixing dimmer switches, etc. The first thing the handymen check off the list? Their shirts. June 17, TLC

Devious Maids

Speaking of sex and housework. . . . Here, a “devious maid” doesn’t refer to the kind who uses up an entire container of citrus-scented Clorox Wipes in a single day. This drama (produced by Eva Longoria) is about home-wrecking housekeepers who are preoccupied with other kinds of deviousness and diva-ish-ness: sex, schemes, shenanigans. Meanwhile, that vaulted foyer chandelier ain’t dusting itself, ladies. June 23, Lifetime

Below Deck

Believe it or not, Bravo has come up with a reality show that isn’t about real housewives or real-estate agents. It’s about the crew of a luxury yacht, working to meet their high-end clients’ every need while screaming and crying in the galley. Everyone looks miserable in the process, even the rich. Viewers, let’s use our collective mental powers to summon a sandbar. July 1, Bravo

Summer Camp

This one is for all you people who will not shut up about your summer-camp memories. Sixteen grown-ups are sent back to a lovely lakeside camp where they compete for what’s left of their former glory. July 11, USA

★Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

Reality TV’s easiest target returns for another delightful season of your critical rejection and snooty predictions of the cultural apocalypse. Which can only mean that I must once more play the contrarian and root for the Honey Boo Boo child, Alana Thompson, her mother, June, and the rest of the tribe. Because I redneck-ognize their savvy. July 17, TLC

TRUE BLUE

★Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

Even if you know the basic outlines of the trials and travails of the Russian punk-rock activist group called Pussy Riot, you will still be floored by this beautifully methodical examination of the culture clash behind the headlines. At the very least, you’ll run crying with relief into the soothing arms of our First Amendment. June 10, HBO

★Intervention

The cancellation of A&E’s superb addiction/recovery series has affected me in the following ways. . . . “Intervention” was one of reality TV’s most noble efforts (which is why I’m grouping it with actual documentaries and not with Honey Boo Boo), and it will be missed. Until then, it’s once more into the bleach for five more episodes, as we bottom out for the last time. (Five steps, you’re over.) June 13, A&E

Love, Marilyn

A look through Marilyn Monroe’s diaries, notebooks, letters, poems and other written ephemera, tenderly read by celebs. Plus rare footage and other archival material; directed by Liz Garbus (“There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane”). June 17, HBO

★Homegoings

This fascinating and sensitive “POV” doc explores the world of undertakers and funerals in black communities. June 24, PBS (Check listings or watch at www.PBS.org/pov.)

Annie: It’s the Hard-Knock Life, From Script to Stage

In a new approach to the usual “behind-the-scenes” doc, this film follows the blocking, choreography and fine-tuning of a single number from the Broadway revival of everyone’s favorite sunshiney Depression-era orphan musical. Guess which number? (No, not “Tomorrow.”) June 28, PBS

Gasland Part II

Provocumentarian Josh Fox (“Gasland”) returns to the raging debate over hydraulic fracturing for natural gas — a.k.a. “fracking.” July 8, HBO

Americans in Bed

Ten couples, young and old, give interviews from their beds about sex, relationships, intimacy and how it all works — and how it sometimes doesn’t. Aug. 12, HBO

AT RANDOM

Futurama

I’m as guilty as you for being a fair-weather friend to “Futurama,” which had a great and resilient run. Let’s let bygones be bygones and enjoy one last bender with Bender, et al., before the animated series rockets away for good. June 19, Comedy Central

Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda

The famed tightroper walks a wide portion of the Grand Canyon, 1,500 feet high without a net or a harness, on live TV. June 23, Discovery

American Ninja Warrior

Will this be the year that an American with adequate upper-body strength and parkour reflexes finally conquers Mount Midoriyama? Fingers crossed — and abs clenched! June 30, G4; July 1, NBC

★Orange Is the New Black

Jenji Kohan, the skewed genius behind Showtime’s hit “Weeds,” streams her entire new series, about a Brooklyn socialite (Taylor Schilling) who must do time in a federal women’s prison. Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir. July 11, Netflix

Clear History

A well-disguised Larry David stars in Greg Mottolla’s comedy film about an embittered start-up guy who mistakenly walks away from a fortune. Warning: We hear that the film is almost entirely improvised. Co-stars Jon Hamm, Bill Hader, Kate Hudson and more. Aug. 10, HBO

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