The old adage goes: Summer television is the Nick Lachey of programming — it doesn’t usually have a whole lot going on, and what it does offer is more entertainment than art. You could be forgiven for tuning out the thin veneer of diversion that covers the small screen three months a year — every year before 2015, that is. Because unlike most summer hiatuses, this summer offered plenty of inventive and addictive television. Here are some of the best shows from summer 2015 to binge-watch before midterm season:
The following sentence is not a lie: Lifetime produced one of the most modern, sharply focused shows of 2015. “UnREAL” is ostensibly a behind-the-scenes look at life on the set of a “The Bachelor”-type competition series. Called “Everlasting,” the show-within-a-show is just as schmaltzy and sinister as its inspiration. But “UnREAL” isn’t just a soap opera with a spine. Rachel and Quinn, two producers responsible for keeping ratings high and necklines low, are faced with issues of morality, mental illness and feminism. Plus, this being Lifetime, there’s plenty of sex, drugs and dramatic music cues.
The second season of Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman” is darker, funnier and cleverer than the first one, if that’s possible. Washed-up ’80s sitcom star BoJack, having gotten what he really wanted in the first season finale (a starring role in a Secretariat biopic), finds himself increasingly unable to cope with the anxieties of life. The resulting 12 episodes make for one of the most nuanced accounts of depression to air on television in recent memory. That sounds like a bummer — and it often is — but “BoJack” is still chock full of zany pop culture references and plenty of animal puns.
“Show Me a Hero”
“Show Me a Hero” is a sleek, sure HBO miniseries about one of the knottiest political issues of the modern era. Oscar Isaac stars as Nick Wasicsko, the young mayor of Yonkers, New York, faced with implementing a public housing project in the late 1980s. Municipal government is not a glamorous business, but the David Simon-directed miniseries manages to draw quite a bit of intrigue and intensity from the lives of its ordinary subjects. The six-part series focuses not only on Wacsisko’s bureaucratic nightmare but also on a sizable cast of Yonkers residents — those who live in public housing, those who oppose it and those who are paid by the city to find a compromise.
“Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp”
Everything old is new again, at least according to the tidal wave of reboots currently threatening to drown us all. But every so often old titles prove themselves worthy of a second look. Fourteen years after the release of “Wet Hot American Summer,” David Wain and Michael Showalter reimagined their little summer-camp comedy as a Netflix miniseries. Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper direct a musical about the death penalty. Paul Rudd smolders his way through every episode. H. Jon Benjamin reprises his role as a talking can of vegetables. It’s summer perfection.
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