Remember the days when summer TV was nothing more than a rerun graveyard (or are we dating ourselves)? Those days are long gone (thank the sun gods), and networks have finally wised up and realized what movie studios have known for a long, long time: ‘Tis the season for soaking up vitamin D and doing outdoorsy things, but we all need to retreat into the AC for a quality entertainment break. Networks and providers are trotting out better programming than ever for summer 2014, but it’s not all worthy of your precious attention — or DVR space. We sorted through the pack to find the best summer TV picks, so you can have your fun in the sun and keep these on-tap for a rainy day.
I Wanna Marry “Harry” (Season 1)
This show is billed as “Reality meets romance with a little twist.” No, a “little twist” is — spoiler alert! — Bruce Willis being dead at the end of The Sixth Sense. This is just cruel and unusual “women are so gullible and obsessed with fairy-tale romances; let’s exploit that on reality TV!” punishment that shouldn’t still be happening in 2014. (Note: We will watch at least one episode...for posterity.)
Premieres Tuesday, May 20, at 9 p.m. on FOX.
Under the Dome (Season 2)
Will Barbie be spared the town’s bloodlust and avoid being sacrificed to appease the Dome? Is Julia really the monarch those crazy kids said would be crowned? Or, will the residents of Chester’s Mill band together and go after the fake monarch on I Wanna Marry “Harry,” thus sparing poor Barbie’s life and introducing the world’s first cross-network, scripted-meets-reality, summertime television extravaganza even Stephen King himself couldn’t have concocted?
Premieres Monday, May 30, at 10 p.m. on CBS.
Halt and Catch Fire (Season 1)
If you can’t remember the name of this show, you’re not alone. Still, this thriller-drama has some major things going for it: Not only is it on AMC, the network that brought us Mad Men and Breaking Bad, it stars Pushing Daisies’ Lee Pace. It's a period piece (again, it has Mad Men muscle in its corner) that follows a group of engineers as they the race to develop a computer to rival IBM’s PC monopoly in the '80s. So, don’t press control alt delete just yet.
Premieres Sunday, June 1, at 10 p.m. on AMC (or watch the first episode online right here).
Orange Is The New Black (Season 2)
Get locked up in a Litchfield binge-watch when all of season 2 hits Netflix on Friday, June 6. Hopefully, the truancy officer won’t come around when we all call in sick.
Premieres Friday, June 6, on Netflix.
Chasing Life (Season 1)
Just when everything in 24-year-old April’s life is gelling like a perfect rom-com plot (dream journalism job: check; dream boyfriend: check; family finally getting along despite rebellious teenage sister and grieving, widowed mother: check), she’s diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Premieres Tuesday, June 10, at 9 p.m. on ABC Family.
True Blood (Season 7)
It’s the final season of TB, so laissez les Bons Temps rouler! Well, if not good times, hopefully not the end of times. Only you can save Bon Temps from the evil Hep-V vampire, Sookie Stackhouse.
Premieres Sunday, June 22, at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Girl Meets World (Season 1)
The much-discussed spin-off of Boy Meets World follows Cory and Topanga’s daughter, Riley, as she navigates her way through adolescence. You probably won’t keep watching this one, but tune in to at least one episode for TGIF nostalgia — and to see the overly polished products Disney Channel is churning out these days.
Premieres Friday, June 27, at 9:45 p.m. on Disney Channel.
The Leftovers (Season 1)
Based on a novel by Tom Perrotta and coproduced by Lost’s Damon Lindelof, this series follows a town in the wake of a Rapture-like event that leaves Mapleton’s “leftover” residents struggling to reconcile the loss of over 100 loved ones. You’ll hear no complaints from us about Justin Theroux in that uniform.
Premieres Sunday, June 29, at 10 p.m. on HBO.
Extant (Season 1)
This Steven Spielberg-produced sci-fi drama stars Halle Berry as an astronaut struggling to readjust to life at home with her husband and son following a year alone in outer space. Per the official plot summary, her experiences in space and at home “lead to events that will ultimately change the course of human history.” Judging by the trailer, however, that’s a vague way of saying “ALIEN BABY ALERT.”
Premieres Wednesday, July 9, at 9 p.m. on CBS.
Welcome to Sweden (Season 1)
Greg Poehler (yes, Amy’s brother) moved all the way to Sweden for the woman he loves, and now his culture shock is being immortalized in a semi-autobiographical sitcom the siblings cocreated, coproduced, and cowrote. Expect many sauna- and gravlax-based hijinks, plus appearances from Amy, Aubrey Plaza, Will Ferrell, and Gene Simmons.
Premieres Thursday, July 10, at 9 p.m. on NBC.
Masters of Sex (Season 2)
Season 1 wrapped up with a straight-outta-The Notebook declaration of love in the rain, but will Dr. Masters’ last-ditch effort to win back more practical, level-headed Virginia actually work? Plus, Keke Palmer joins the cast as the Masters’ new nanny.
Premieres Sunday, July 13, at 10 p.m. on Showtime.
The Hotwives of Orlando (Season 1)
From the whip-smart satirists behind Children’s Hospital, NTSF:SD::SUV, and Burning Love comes this spot-on skewering of every Real Housewives franchise you didn’t know was missing from your life.
The Strain (Season 1)
Worried you won’t have anywhere to get your vampire fix now that True Blood is ending? FX has your back. Oscar-nominee Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) adapts his own vampire novel trilogy into a high-concept thriller about a mysterious viral outbreak that sends a group of New Yorkers into battle for the fate of humanity.
Premieres Sunday, July 13, at 10 p.m. on FX.
Sharknado 2: The Second One (Sequel)
The horrifying aquatic predator/weather phenomenon returns to wreak havoc on the Big Apple. Our fate is in the hands of Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, so maybe brace for impact.
Premieres Wednesday, July 30, on Syfy.
The Killing (Season 4)
After meeting its own demise twice on AMC, the perma-grim, Seattle-based series gets revived by Netflix for a fourth and final season with six episodes.
Premieres Friday, August 1, on Netflix.