It’s not just the temperatures that are heating up. Once a vast wasteland of reruns and failed pilots, summer has become one of TV’s most sizzling seasons in recent years. And 2015 will be no different, with new helpings of old favorites like the serial thriller Hannibal (returning to NBC on Thursday, June 4 at 10 pm) and Showtime’s double drama dish Ray Donovan (with Katie Holmes and Ian McShane joining the cast) and Masters of Sex coming back on July 12. Here are 12 more must-watch shows.
AQUARIUS (May 28; NBC)
Before David Duchovny reboots Agent Fox Mulder for the new X-Files miniseries airing on Fox early next year, he’s flashing back to the ‘60s as a rule-busting LAPD cop tracking Charles Manson (Game of Thrones’ Gethin Anthony) in this spooky drama. NBC’s breaking a few rules of its own, releasing all 13 episodes online on May 28 for binge-viewers who just can’t wait to consume one episode a week, the old-fashioned way.
SENSE8 (June 5; Netflix)
It’s a meeting of the sci-fi minds as the Wachowskis team up with J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5) for this trippy drama about eight strangers from around the world who find themselves psychically linked after a tragic death. The cast encompasses such genre mainstays as Lost’s Naveen Andrews, Blade Runner’s Daryl Hannah, Stargate SG-1’s Brian J. Smith, and Joe Pantoliano, who previously worked with the Wachowskis on a little movie called The Matrix.
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (June 12; Netflix)
As we return for a third term at Litchfield women’s prison, Piper (Taylor Schilling) finds herself incarcerated once again with on-again, off-again love interest Alex (Laura Prepon, who’s back to being a regular after recurring in Season 2). Piper’s former fiancé Larry is no longer in the picture (Jason Biggs left the show), and new faces include Blair Brown and Mary Steenburgen. Other stream-worthy shows from Netflix include Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (July 17), a sequel to the 2001 cult fave with original stars Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper as well as Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Chris Pine and more.
THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB (June 18; ABC)
Cross Desperate Housewives with ABC’s too-quickly-grounded Pan Am and you’ll get this sexy soap about seven women married to America’s first outer-space travelers. The cast includes such out-of-this-world starlets as Once Upon a Time’s Joanna Garcia Swisher, Chuck’s Yvonne Strahovski and Banshee’s Odette Annable. ABC also offers The Whispers (June 1), based on Ray Bradbury’s story of aliens who force kids to turn against their parents, executive-produced by a guy who knows a thing or two about E.T.’s, Steven Spielberg.
COMPLICATIONS (June 18; USA)
USA ventures into tougher medical territory than Royal Pains (which returns for a seventh season on June 2) with this dark drama about a surgeon (Jason O'Mara, who’s overdue for a hit after Vegas, Life on Mars, Terra Nova, etc.) who saves a child’s life and puts his own in danger as a result. The cable network also serves up Mr. Robot (June 24), a psychological thriller about computer hackers starring Need for Speed’s Rami Malek and — speaking of guys who are overdue for hits — Christian Slater.
TRUE DETECTIVE (June 21; HBO)
Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle is nowhere to be seen — then again, time is a flat circle, so anything’s possible. The crime anthology’s second installment brings together a quartet of movie stars in need of a small-screen renaissance: Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch and Rachel McAdams (as California law-enforcement officers) and Vince Vaughn (as the bad guy they’re trying to bring down). The pay cabler will use creator Nic Pizzolato’s buzz magnet to launch two new comedy series on the same night: Ballers (see below) and The Brink, a political satire with Jack Black and Tim Robbins.
BALLERS (June 21; HBO)
Former Canadian Football League player Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson returns to TV as a retired pro footballer who teams up with a sleazy financial adviser (Hot Tub Time Machine’s Rob Corddry) in an attempt to stay in the game. If this sitcom feels like a sports-world version of Entourage, that’s no coincidence, as it’s exec-produced by two veterans of that show, Stephen Levinson and Mark Wahlberg. No word on whether Marky Mark will do a cameo yet, but watch for producer-director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), who also appears on the show.
ANOTHER PERIOD (June 23; Comedy Central)
Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome co-created and star in this costume comedy that simultaneously spoofs Downton Abbey and Keeping Up with the Kardashians. They’re recruited many of their pals to join them, including The State co-founders Michael Ian Black, Thomas Lennon and David Wain as well as an actress not known for comedy (but certainly well-suited for a bodice-ripper), Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks.
ZOO (June 30; CBS)
Another Mad Men alum, James Wolk (aka Bob Benson), headlines this adaptation of bestselling author James Patterson’s tale of animals run amok. The Eye Network will also bring back two other scripted summer shows for new runs: fellow novelist Stephen King’s Under the Dome (June 25) and the back-from-space chiller Extant (July 1) with a new supporting cast — including Grey’s Anatomy vet Jeffrey Dean Morgan and CSI: NY refugee Melina Kanakaredes — surrounding Halle Berry.
SEX&DRUGS&ROCK&ROLL (July 16; FX)
Rescue Me’s Denis Leary returns to FX as another character in need of salvation: Johnny Rock, a recovering addict trying to get his old band, the Heathens, back together after a 25-year hiatus. A couple of other FX veterans, John Corbett (of the gambling dramedy Lucky) and Robert Kelly (Louie’s no-account brother) co-star.
TUT (July 19; Spike)
No, it’s not based on the Steve Martin song. Instead, Sir Ben Kingsley — no stranger to biopics from his Gandhi days — stars as an adviser to the legendary Egyptian ruler in a sweeping three-night miniseries. (We’re still hoping Steve sings the opening theme song.)
PUBLIC MORALS (August 25; TNT)
A kind of East Coast companion to Aquarius, this crime saga follows the NYPD’s Vice Squad in 1967. Writer/producer Ed Burns stars as a hard-boiled cop, with professional Noo Yawker Michael Rapaport as his partner and Timothy Hutton, cast against type as a gangster. TNT also rolls out a new Jennifer Beals-Matthew Modine supernatural mystery Proof (June 16), plus a full lineup of returning series, including Major Crimes and Murder in the First (June 8), Rizzoli & Isles (June 16), The Last Ship (June 21), and the final season of Falling Skies (June 28).
Currently Senior Articles Editor for Closer Weekly, Bruce Fretts wrote TV Guide Magazine‘s wildly popular “Cheers & Jeers” column for 10 years. His work has also been published in Entertainment Weekly, the New York Times, Vulture.com, Fast Company, and The Mid.com. You can follow him on Twitter @brucefretts.*