Remember when summer TV was all about reruns? With streaming giants like Netflix, Apple TV+ and HBO Max in the mix, those doldrums are a thing of the past. Along with backyard cookouts and beach days, mark your calendar for these 18 top-flight premieres, from a new season of Only Murders in the Building to the final season of Better Call Saul to a prequel to Game of Thrones.
Stranger Things (Netflix, Part 1, May 27; Part 2, July 1)
After three years, Netflix’s most important show returns, changing its sci-fi fantasy tone from Steven-Spielberg-meets-Stephen King to a more Nightmare on Elm Street vibe. Star Winona Ryder, 50, her career revived by the show, has said the young actors playing 1980s kids nailed it. “I was their age when the show takes place. These kids are just magic.”
Watch it: Stranger Things on Netflix
Pistol (Hulu, May 31)
Even if you think the Sex Pistols sucked — arguably part of the point of punk rock — the saga of their rise from brats with no future to culture-shuddering artists we remember makes for terrific drama. The limited series is based on guitarist Steve Jones’ memoir Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol.
Watch it: Pistol on Hulu
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This Is Going to Hurt (AMC+, June 2)
Just as Michael Crichton spun his grueling medical-school experience into ER, Britain’s Dr. Adam Kay turns his memoir into a dramatic portrait of a gynecology/obstetrics ward where 100-hour workweeks are possible — barely.
Watch it: This Is Going to Hurt on AMC+
Borgen: Power & Glory (Netflix, June 2)
Sidse Babett Knudsen, 53, brilliantly portrayed Denmark’s first female prime minister on this smart three-season hit. Nine years later, the show returns, with her as a foreign minister coping with Russia, China and America’s struggle for power after a big oil discovery in Denmark’s constituent country Greenland.
Watch it: Borgen: Power & Glory on Netflix
Hustle (Netflix, June 10)
Queen Latifah, 52, plays the wife of Adam Sandler, 55, a down-on-his-luck NBA scout who tries to revive his career with a talented amateur he discovers in Spain (actual Boston Celtic Juancho Hernangomez). Robert Duvall, 91, has a supporting role, and since Le Bron James coproduced the film, it’s apt to be authentic.
Watch it: Hustle on Netflix
Becoming Elizabeth (Starz, June 12)
Sure, we’re gaga about the British royals, but is there anything about the first Queen Elizabeth’s story that hasn’t already been told to death? How about the days when Elizabeth Tudor (Alicia von Rittberg) was a teenage orphan aggressively courted (and maybe abused) by much older Thomas Seymour after Henry VIII’s death triggered a power struggle?
Watch it: Becoming Elizabeth on Starz
Father of the Bride (HBO Max, June 16)
Andy Garcia, 66, and Gloria Estefan, 64, star in a remake of the 1950 Spencer Tracy comedy classic (remade in 1991 with Steve Martin) about a dad coping with his daughter’s marriage. But this time, Garcia told ET, it’s about “a big, sprawling Cuban American family” meeting a clan from Mexico City. “It’s a convergence of those two cultures and how they deal with one another.”
Watch it: Father of the Bride on HBO Max
The Old Man (FX, June 16)
In his first lead TV role, Jeff Bridges, 72, plays a CIA agent who went off the grid after Russia’s 1980s Afghanistan invasion and now is sought by his old partner (John Lithgow, 76). “Our chickens have come home to roost — the consequences of our earlier behavior,” says Bridges, who’s glad to be back at work after almost an almost two-year battle with cancer and COVID. “I feel terrific!”
Watch it: The Old Man on FX
Jerry & Marge Go Large (Paramount+, June 17)
Annette Bening and Bryan Cranston star in the improbable yet fact-based tale of a retired guy who uses a loophole in the Massachusetts lottery to win millions and revive their little Michigan town.
Watch it: Jerry & Marge Go Large on Paramount+
Loot (Apple TV+, June 24)
A month before she turns 50, SNL icon Maya Rudolph plays a billionaire in a midlife crisis after her husband’s infidelity, so she decides to do the unthinkable: start thinking about others, not herself.
Watch it: Loot on Apple TV+
Only Murders in the Building (Hulu, June 28)
In the second season of the unexpected hit mystery/comedy, now that they’re suspects in the death of the landlord of their fancy Manhattan building, the true-crime podcasters (Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez) hunt the actual killer, while plagued by another podcast all about them.
Watch it: Only Murders in the Building on Hulu
Black Bird (Apple TV+, July 8)
Thriller writer Dennis Lehane’s series follows a cop’s son, a high school football star busted for drug dealing who cuts a deal with the FBI to befriend an alleged serial killer in prison and coax him to confess — unless he’s just faking.
Watch it: Black Bird on Apple TV+
Better Call Saul (AMC, AMC+, July 11)
Don’t miss the final episodes of the epic about slick-but-not-really-evil lawyer Jimmy McGill’s metamorphosis into Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman. Bob Odenkirk, 59, Giancarlo Esposito, 64, and Jonathan Banks, 75, are increasingly fantastic, but the real news is the moral spiral of Saul’s wife/sidekick Kim (skyrocketing star Rhea Seehorn, 50).
Watch it: Better Call Saul on AMC+
Reservation Dogs (Hulu, Aug. 3)
Besides Hacks, one of TV’s few 2021 debuts with a perfect 100% Rotten Tomatoes score is this coming-of-age show about Native American teens plotting to escape Oklahoma. Lakota actor Zahn McClarnon, 55, who gave gravitas to Longmire’s Officer Mathias, Fargo’s Hanzee Dent and Westworld’s Akecheta, is more comic as Officer Big, who dogs the Dogs.
Watch it: Reservation Dogs on FX and Hulu
House of the Dragon (HBO, Aug. 21)
What were the families up to about 170 years before the time of Game of Thrones? Having a civil war and playing bloody musical chairs to land first on the Iron Throne. Can the prequel match the original?
Watch it: House of the Dragon on HBO
The Patient (Hulu, Aug. 30)
Steve Carell, 59, plays a psychotherapist whose psycho patient (Domhnall Gleeson) demands that he cure him of his serial-killing habit. But will he talk about his mother?
Watch it: The Patient on Hulu
Tim Appelo covers entertainment and is the film and TV critic for AARP. Previously, he was the entertainment editor at Amazon, video critic at Entertainment Weekly, and a critic and writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, The Village Voice and LA Weekly.