Summer television used to be all about reruns. If you weren’t addling your brain after day camp on the Brady Bunch (“Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”), you were slouching in a darkened apartment memorizing gags from Seinfeld.
Now, though, there are some fantastic original shows that are keeping us inside when we should be amusing ourselves out-of-doors. Proving that the best part of adulthood may be the discretion to ignore your mom’s advice, even when you know she’s right.
Here are our picks from sci-fi, to crime and drama, including some frothy summer pleasures.
A few even offer free previews on iTunes, so you can dip your toe in before diving in to binge watch.
What’s on your list?
Halt and Catch Fire
In what may be the best new geek drama of the season, Halt and Catch Fire features a pair of mismatched genius underdogs who are under the gun to reverse engineer an IBM PC, way back in the 80s. In case you're wondering, there's less sex and more smart women than Mad Men, but it's still entertaining. Nostalgics will love the references to tech past -- Coleco, Pong, Sony Walkman -- accompanied by an excellent electronica soundtrack.
I Wanna Marry Harry
A regular bloke named Matt who rides to work on a borrowed bike fools 12 American gals into thinking he's Prince Harry. "I think he must be in royalty," one gushes. All are insta-duped and so scary dumb you don't feel sorry for them. Matt realizes that keeping a dozen Yankees entertained is daunting. Ever the gentleman, he calls them "vivacious," then adds "American girls don't have inside voices, apparently" while looking absolutely terrified. And, lied to or not, these would-be prince catchers spent two months in a castle abroad. More than a clever social experiment, I Wanna Marry Harry is a self-esteem boost for viewers.
Brainiac bad girl Catherine Black has a big problem: she's bipolar and, as she purrs suggestively from a ginger fringe and circles of kohl eyeliner, "non-compliant" with her meds. She's an important neuroscientist who can't seem to decide whether she's Dr Jekyll or Ms. Party Pants, cracking difficult cases then going off the rails to freeform jazz music and sleeping with strangers. Black Box is too campy (and glib about mental illness) to recommend for anything more than a summer fling, but we'll go along for the ride.
Murder in the First
Two cops carrying some serious emotional baggage navigate the streets of San Francisco investigating a murder where all the signs point to an bratty wunderkind entrepreneur. Murder in the First is guilty of some mainstream TV peccadillos -- a tech conference called "tech con" and detectives who live in improbable millionaire digs but carry cheap flip phones -- fortunately the story is intriguing and stretches over the series making it perfect for staycation viewing. Also it's not every show where you get app dating, juice cleanses, code stealing and murder all woven in.
Dominion is pretty much the Touched By An Angel of your worst nightmares. Based on the film Legion, it's set in a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas where humans live in cyber gated communities to keep out the winged riff-raff. The plot rotates around a rebellious soldier, his spunky princess and then gets so complicated your cylinders will fire all summer long trying to keep up. Inexplicably, some evil angels are half-nude babes and everyone gets naked in communal showers.
The ghosts of sitcoms past haunt this chick detective kitsch fest starring Jenny Garth and Tori Spelling of 90210 fame. In Mystery Girls, Spelling roars along inhabiting her most unflattering tabloid caricature and Garth tries to shoulder the plot which includes faked death, TMZ, sex tapes and hairbrained schemes to find the baddies. Meta-tastic!
Just when you thought you'd never set sail with a pirate yarn again, John Malcovich as Blackbeard will shanghai your TV set with Crossbones. There's plenty of swashbuckling action, a sexy female pirate (Tracy Ifeachor from Doctor Who) and enough underpinning of medicine and navigational tech to keep you hooked. An unrecognizable OTT Julian Sands adds to the fun.