Apart from a few worthwhile returning series (Preacher, Animal Kingdom, Orange Is the New Black), June is looking to be a pretty quiet month for new TV. David Lynch will dole out an hour of unmitigated, intoxicating strangeness with Twin Peaks on Showtime every Sunday night, and Silicon Valley and Veep represent an otherwise surprisingly low-key HBO lineup (the network has been stockpiling all your HBO Now subscription fees for the return of Game of Thrones in mid-July). Beyond those shows, June looks to be a good time for catching up on all the TV from 2017 that you missed. There’s been a lot of it.
The Leftovers (HBO) is the craziest, most ambitious show of the year so far—and considering it’s sharing 2017 with Twin Peaks, The Young Pope, and American Gods, that’s quite an achievement. More significantly, it’s the most heartfelt, with each installment aiming for raw nerves and complicated emotions. The show’s final episode airs this Sunday, June 4, and wraps up a superb third season, after a rocky first season and a transcendent second. It’s still anything but a comfortable watch: The Leftovers interrogates our nature to impose narrative onto the confusion of our lives, exposing our hunger for meaning—and god—in the face of painful loss. We all delude ourselves to some degree, and some of us get completely sucked into the stories we tell ourselves. That The Leftovers chides this propensity while remaining utterly compassionate is a real feat.
The aforementioned American Gods (Starz), however, can’t get out from under the weight of its own big ideas. Despite some early promise, the remaining episodes in its first season are ponderous and clunky and bad. Not even Gillian Anderson doing Ziggy Stardust can save it (she’s not great in this, to be perfectly honest). American Gods is the Westworld of 2017—a splashy, gorgeous, ultimately un-fun show with nothing meaningful to say about the topics of humanity and mythology that it purports to tackle.
The third season of Better Call Saul (AMC), meanwhile, has the most richly drawn characters on TV. Even the smallest supporting role has depth, nuance, and humor, and the lead actors—Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks, and Michael McKean—are nothing short of breathtaking. By dispensing with the limitations of genre fiction, Better Call Saul is now officially better than Breaking Bad—it’s a master class in character development.
Unfortunately, critical darling The Americans (FX) seems stuck in a holding pattern. Just as the show should be building to next year’s final season, Soviet spies-turned-American parents Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (played by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) are caught in the same loop they’ve been in since the series found its groove a few seasons back. The show, subdued as it is, deserves credit for its realistic depiction of the Cold War during the 1980s, but that level of accuracy doesn’t require this much screen time.
The third season of Fargo (FX) has been construed by some as a letdown after its excellent second season—but its detractors are clearly missing the hilarious pleasures of David Thewlis and Michael Stuhlbarg facing off as two of the worst people in the world. Meanwhile, Comedy Central’s overlooked Detroiters is the best pure laugh-generator to air this year, following two small-time ad men—real-life pals Sam Richardson (Veep) and Tim Robinson (Saturday Night Live)—as they film terrible low-budget commercials for Detroit’s small businesses. The creators’ deep affection for the city is transmitted in every frame of this goofy, dumb, wonderful show.
Some other things to go back and check out: Feud: Bette and Joan (FX) had some slow stretches, but its final episodes contained an astonishing performance by Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford; Catastrophe (Amazon) got dark in season three, even as it remained an absolutely hysterical portrait of marriage and parenthood under duress; and FOX’s The Mick and Brooklyn 99 were the only network sitcoms worth watching this spring. And somehow The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) continues to grow better with each episode, pivoting from existential despair to suspenseful adventure story without betraying its premise or characters.
Apart from Game of Thrones—or, probably, because of it—the upcoming summer TV schedule looks pretty quiet. Like last year’s breakout hit, Stranger Things, the two most intriguing shows mine the 1980s for ideas: John Singleton’s Snowfall (FX, July 5) dramatizes the rise of the crack epidemic, and GLOW (Netflix, June 23) explores the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling league. Of course, the most inescapable thing on our televisions will continue to be the awful reality show that is Washington, DC. While dramatic TV creators are currently scrambling to confront our political nightmare, the time constraints of production mean we’ll be able to escape into nostalgia for at least one more season.