by Jason Howard Kelly
Ah, summer! That wonderful time of year when the flowers bloom, the sun is shining, and everyone is enjoying the beautiful weather and the fresh air outside…
You know, if you’re into that kind of thing…
But for those of us who still need something to watch while we’re irresponsibly staying up until 2 AM the options are slightly limited. Summer is notoriously known as “TV’s offseason”, with most of the popular fall shows taking a break whilst the airways are dominated by baseball, golf and, at least for this year, the Summer Olympics.
Never fear, my fellow screen-addicted degenerates, there are still some quality shows to get hooked on this summer, you just have to know where to look. As long as you have cable and a Netflix account (which you absolutely should because it’s 2016, you heathen) then you’ll be able to watch these shows hassle-free.
1.) Stranger Things – Netflix Original Series
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What do you get when you cast Winona Ryder as a hard-working but somewhat maniacal mother, Matthew Modine as a creepy scientist, and 3 nerdy kids as your main protagonists? Answer: you get a compelling and heartfelt show about heroes and villains, trust and betrayal, and the power or friendship.
Oh, and aliens. Big time aliens.
The show, based in 1980s rural Indiana, kicks off with the disappearance of Will Byers, the son of Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder). It’s pretty clear that Will has been abducted by aliens or something else paranormal, but only the audience gets to see that part of it. Joyce Byers seeks the help of the town sheriff, Jim Hopper (David Harbour) and the search begins to find Will Byers. However, this search becomes complicated when Joyce believes that Will is attempting to communicate with her through the lights in her home. Sound weird enough yet? Don’t worry, it gets weirder.
While Joyce Byers covers her home in Christmas lights attempting to communicate with Will one of Will’s friends, Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), encounters something equally as strange. A young girl escapes from the facility where Matthew Modine is conducting his experiments. She doesn’t know her real name and has very little understanding of the English dialect. She simply goes by what her test subject number was: Eleven. She indicates to Mike that she might know where Will was taken, because she believes he was taken by the same people who were experimenting on her. Mike and his two other friends, Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and “Toothless” Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), follow Eleven’s lead to try and find their friend.
The show is an exciting adventure with plenty of twists and turns that keep the viewers guessing the whole way through. The acting is incredibly strong, especially from the young kids. Trust me, “Toothless” Dustin is going to become one of your favorite characters on TV. There is a reason why this show is getting so much buzz — it lives up to the hype.
Number of episodes: 8
Episode run time: 45-55 minutes
Unsung hero of the show: David Harbour
2.) Tyrant – FX
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Here is a another show that, unfortunately, too many people don’t know about. This can mostly be attributed to its difficult time slot (10 PM on Wednesdays). Not only does the show have a later start time, but at a 75-minute clip this show is also wrapping up after many working people have decided to go to bed.
Should that be the case then get yourself a DVR because you’re going to want to record this show. Now in its third season, Tyrant has established itself as a fascinating political drama that takes its audience outside of the U.S. and into a completely different culture and political scene. The acting performances on this show are only overshadowed by the tremendous writing and scripting.
Barry Al-Fayeed (Adam Rayner) travels to his home country of Abbudin with his American family to attend his nephew’s wedding. However, a chaotic turn of events result in his brother, Jamal (Ashraf Barhom), seizing control of the presidency of Abbudin. Knowing that his brother is unstable and, perhaps, unfit to lead Barry decides to keep himself and his family in Abbudin to assist his brother. From there the show catapults its audience into a turbulent political and cultural atmosphere that will have every viewer questioning their own morals and values along the way.
Still not convinced? Well, the creators of this show are Gideon Raff, Howard Gordon, and Craig Wright, who were executive producers for Homeland, 24, and Lost, respectively. If you loved those shows then it’s safe to say that you will love Tyrant.
Number of seasons: 3 (currently on season 3)
Episode run time: 60-75 minutes (50-55 without commercials)Unsung hero of the show: Melia Kreiling
3.) Scream: The TV Series – MTV
Image courtesy of http://www.mtv.com
I saved the best for last. Forget everything you think you know about MTV programming. This is not on the same level as “Teen Mom” or “16 and Pregnant” or “Teens Doing Stupid Things and Parents Being All Like, ‘Oh my God!'”… Okay, I made that last one up, but you get my point.
This show is a wonderfully scripted and true-to-form tribute to the original Scream movie series. Just like the movies, this show keeps the audience guessing after each and every episode. Think you know who the killer is? Well, you probably don’t. The Scream franchise has always been about one thing: misdirection. The Scream TV Series does a masterful job of misdirecting the audience throughout the entire season.
The cast is also incredibly strong as well. Willa Fitzgerald plays the role of Emma Duvall, who is the primary target of the killer’s game of wild goose chases and harassment. Accompanying Emma are her close friends, Audrey Jensen (Bex-Taylor Klaus) and Noah Foster (Jon Karna). The dynamic between the characters on this show is refreshingly realistic and relatable. The show takes place in your average American high school complete with cliques, social outcasts, and teachers with questionable morals.
Perhaps the strongest part of this show, however, is something that MTV specializes in: the soundtrack. The music on this show will make you feel an incredibly wide range of emotions. Some tracks will make you sad, and some will make you happy. Some tracks, as I found, will even make you feel nostalgic for your small-town high school days. The music will remind you of hanging out with your friends after school, or maybe the butterflies you felt in your stomach when you saw your crush in the hallways between classes. It might sound cheesy, but only an incredibly strong soundtrack can make you feel that way, and that’s what this show achieves.
Scream: The TV Series is now in its second season, and the show has not lost any momentum whatsoever. I have to tip my cap to MTV for resurrecting the Scream franchise and doing it justice with this TV series. Also, an extra tip of my cap to the minds behind the soundtrack to this show. Thank you for bringing me back to my youth and putting a smile on my face.
Number of seasons: 2 (currently in second season)
Episode run time: 45 minutes
Unsung hero of the show: John Karna