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Summer TV preview: 'Roots,' 'Preacher' and other must-watch new shows and returning hits

In the History Channel's new adaptation of 'Roots,' Malachi Kirby portrays Kunta Kinte and E'myri Lee Crutchfield plays Young Kizzy.  [Night 2
Photo by Steve Dietl]

In the History Channel's new adaptation of 'Roots,' Malachi Kirby portrays Kunta Kinte and E'myri Lee Crutchfield plays Young Kizzy. [Night 2 Photo by Steve Dietl]

Ah, summer. A time for sweating through your clothes, sunburns, trying to find a decent spot on the beach amid hordes of tourists and avoiding all that mess by staying home to binge-watch TV. Fall and winter are typically known as the seasons for anticipated premieres and the return of beloved shows, but summer is quickly making a name for itself with hit new thrillers and continuing seasons of last year's favorites. As unofficial TV experts and certified bingers, we've compiled a list of must-watch newbies and returning hits to keep an eye out for during some of the hottest months of the year. Premiere times are subject to change as networks still are preparing schedules. Air-conditioning and frosty beach cocktail not included.

Six not to miss

PREACHER (AMC, MAY 22, 10 p.m.)

For those missing the grit and gore from HBO's True Blood, AMC's sepia-toned Western Preacher fills the void with violence, vampires, religious extremism and Southern values. It chronicles the adventures and antics of small-town preacher Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), his ex-girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga) and newest best mate Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun). Called "Preacher" by everyone, Custer isn't the typical man of God. He smokes, drinks heavily, curses and can brawl like a professional MMA fighter. Custer not only has to deal with saving a small town from itself, he also has gained a mysterious ability that both terrifies and thrills him. While Custer struggles to keep the promise he made to his father, Tulip tries to pull him back to her and a life of crime, and Cassidy probes him to flex his new godly power. Preacher is shaping up to be a refreshing yet disturbing take on the stereotypical Western. Did we mention he's a hot preacher? Weird, right?

 

ROOTS (History, miniseries, May 30, 9 p.m.)

This reboot of the 1977 miniseries based on Alex Haley's novel is not like a typical slavery documentary you'd watch in high school history class. Roots, a four-night series with movie-length episodes, follows the familiar story of Kunta Kinte, played by newbie Malachi Kirby. It chronicles his early life in Africa, a brutal journey to America, his transition from warrior to slave and the legacy he leaves to his descendants. The hugely successful original Roots was an epic slavery drama watched by 100 million viewers that showed characters with humanity, depth and personality. This adaptation doesn't tread any new water, but it's a story another generation can absorb. And much like the first version, expect to see lots of new and recognizable black actors: Laurence Fishburne, Mekhi Phifer, Anika Noni Rose, Forest Whitaker, Carlacia Grant and, yes, rapper T.I., just to name a few.

 

BRAINDEAD (CBS, June 13, 10 p.m.)

The Good Wife creators and executive producers Robert and Michelle King call their new project a "mix of genre-pulp and highbrow politics: The Strain crossed with The West Wing." We're in. This 13-episode comic-thriller follows Laurel (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a young Capitol Hill staffer with an amusing political family. She unfortunately learns that bugs are eating the brains of government officials. (Honestly, this show couldn't have come at a better time in U.S. political history.) It's up to Laurel and her pals to figure out what's attacking Washington, D.C. Law and Order: SVU's Danny Pino, with a hilariously bad haircut, plays her brother, and Aaron Tveit (Les Misérables, Grease: Live!) plays another sexy Hill staffer and probable love interest. And the most delightful casting: Tony Shalhoub as Sen. Red Wheatus.

ANIMAL KINGDOM (TNT, June 14, 9 p.m.)

We scoffed at the description of Animal Kingdom at first, writing it off as a Sons of Anarchy spinoff. But it's so much more. The newest "Little J" Josh Cody (Finn Cole) is not so gently welcomed into his grandmother's home when his mother dies of a heroin overdose. Constantly surrounded by his shirtless, alpha male-type uncles, J soon learns his relatives are really an organized crime family governed by grandmother "Smurf" (played by the oh-so-mesmerizing Ellen Barkin), who has an almost incestuous relationship with her "baby boys." Each uncle fills a certain role — the baby, the hot head, the damaged one, the one with a family to lose — and J is forced to find his niche in this new life of crime. The story is based on the highly acclaimed Australian film of the same name, which was inspired by a Melbourne crime family.

 

WRECKED (TBS, June 14, 10 p.m.)

TBS tries to mend the discouraged Lost-shaped holes in our hearts and serves up some great parodies of our favorite Losties. The premise is essentially the same: A diverse group of lucky people crash land on an island and try to live without the luxuries of the modern world. Rising stars with vaguely familiar faces play those survivors, including amusing versions of Jack and Locke. TBS is on a roll with inventive comedies and parodies. Rashida Jones' Angie Tribeca (the second season premieres June 6) and Jason Jones' The Detour have both been strong recently.

 

ROADIES (Showtime, June 26, 10 p.m.)

Recent Cameron Crowe projects fell flat (let's all forget We Bought a Zoo and Aloha, shall we?), but his new television series shows real promise. And probably because it follows subjects he has visited before: the uncool and warmhearted characters behind the music. (Almost Famous will always be one of our favorite movies.) Luke Wilson and Carla Gugino lead a cast of a quirky family of backstage workers on tour with a hit arena band. Golden God J.J. Abrams also executive-produces this project, so sign us up for some melodies and melodrama.

 

Quick takes

Lady Dynamite (Netflix, now available): If you don't know Maria Bamford, you've probably heard her voice. The perky voice actor (CatDog, Adventure Time) is also a seasoned stand-up comedian and has done several Web series. Bamford is open about her bipolar disorder, and channels that in her Netflix mockumentary playing a fictionalized version of herself. Other familiar funny faces join her, including Ana Gasteyer and Ed Begley Jr.

Maya and Marty in Manhattan (NBC, May 31, 10 p.m.): We had so much hope for Maya Rudolph's NBC variety show a couple of years ago, but it didn't make it beyond the lackluster first episode. This time around, NBC adds another Saturday Night Live alum: Martin Short. It'll be live, and done in the same spirit: Expect topical comedy sketches and celebrity and musical guest visits. Current SNL cast member Kenan Thompson will be making frequent appearances.

Outcast (Cinemax, June 3, 10 p.m.): From the creator of everyone's favorite zombie show, The Walking Dead, Outcast follows a young man (played by Patrick Fugit) plagued by demonic possession in his search for answers. This thriller adds another name to a long list of shows based on hit comic book series.

Feed the Beast (AMC, June 5, 10 p.m.): Starring David Schwimmer and Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe), Feed the Beast is about two troublesome best friends on the brink of losing everything. Then they think, "Hey, why not open a restaurant?" in their hometown of Brooklyn in an effort to fulfill a lifelong dream and just maybe fix their issues. More Schwimmer on TV? We'll take it.

Ride with Norman Reedus (AMC, June 12, 10 p.m.): This unscripted series starring The Walking Dead favorite is basically an hour of Norman Reedus traveling the country with different riding companions, visiting biker hot spots and celebrating the culture. Bikers, this show is for you, and also for those of you who have been waiting for a whole hour of Reedus and his arms riding bikes.

Queen of the South (USA, June 21, 10 p.m.): This new dark drama is based on a popular Telemundo telenovela of the same name, La Reina del Sur, which was first a novel. Alice Braga plays a young Mexican woman who tries to take down a drug dealer after her criminal boyfriend is murdered. Queen won't carry the same buzz as USA's breakout from last summer, Mr. Robot, but don't ignore this female-led show.

Dead of Summer (Freeform, June 28, 9 p.m.): From the creators of ABC's Once Upon a Time comes a family slasher set in a mysterious Midwestern camp in the 1980s. Summer fun turns frightening as everyone learns of Camp Clearwater's ancient mythology and supernatural happenings. Once Upon a Time alums Elizabeth Mitchell and Elizabeth Lail star, as well as Robin Williams' daughter Zelda.

The Night Of (HBO, July 10, 9 p.m.): Sounding like a cross between True Detective and Law and Order, The Night Of explores the intricacies of a New York City murder case with both cultural and political elements. It details the police investigation, the legal proceedings, the city's criminal justice system and even gives viewers a look into the hellhole of Rikers Island, where accused await trial.

Vice Principals (HBO, July 17, 10:30 p.m.): Danny McBride returns to HBO in another dark comedy that tells the story and struggle between two vice principals who are vying for the top spot in the high school they almost run. Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight) also stars. Riz Ahmed and John Turturro star.

 

Second thrills

We'll definitely be tuning in to these buzz-worthy shows that delightfully grabbed everyone's attention last summer. But will they have the same intrigue?

Wayward Pines (Fox, May 25, 9 p.m.): In the second season we never thought would happen, the town of Wayward Pines, Idaho, recovers from a devastating breach and numerous deaths with new leaders, new life and new discoveries about the mutant human creatures that haunt the woods outside the sleepy town. Matt Dillon will not be joining us for another round. Instead, the handsome Jason Patric stars as Dr. Theo Yedlin.

Bloodline (Netflix, May 27): Bloodline's second season takes viewers back to the Florida Keys and to the family with more than enough drama to go around. The Rayburn family reels from loss and the stress of covering up a murder.

Unreal (Lifetime, June 6, 10 p.m.): Last summer, lovers and haters of the Bachelor franchise fell for Lifetime's fictionalized drama behind a similar reality show. Each episode gave us twisty story lines and juicy hookups that wisely commented on gender politics. This next season takes on race when Everlasting execs cast a black bachelor, played by B.J. Britt.

Difficult People (Hulu, July 12): Irreverent comedians Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner are the rudest people you'll ever love. They play awfully funny and kind of fictional versions of themselves: opinionated best friends living in New York City. Laden with so many pop culture references, Difficult People's nasty shtick isn't for everyone. But the first season connected with a devoted audience, and thankfully our favorite duo will be back to keep us cringing and laughing.

Mr. Robot (USA, July 13, 10 p.m.): We named this the best new show of 2015. To say we're excited about the return of Rami Malek as paranoid computer hacker Elliot Alderson is an understatement. Not many details about the second season have been released, but that's to be expected. However, we raised our eyebrows at two casting announcements for recurring characters: Craig Robinson (Darryl in The Office) and hip-hop artist Joey Bada$$. USA adds to the anticipatipation with a fantastic Web campaign at whoismrrobot.com.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at ctatham@tampabay.com. Follow @chelseatatham. Contact Brittany Volk at bvolk@tampabay.com. Follow @bevolk.

Summer TV preview: 'Roots,' 'Preacher' and other must-watch new shows and returning hits 05/19/16 [Last modified: Thursday, May 19, 2016 2:03pm]
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