Summer TV shows have changed tremendously over the years. It was nothing but reruns for viewers two generations ago. Decades later, broadcasters got smart and started offering fun summer fare to keep viewers tuned in and entertained. Nowadays there’s an effort to introduce ratings-grabbing scripted dramas before the fall season sneaks up on us.
CBS’ ratings sensation Under the Dome is a great example of giving the summer viewers a show with meat on its bones, rather than a puff pastry. Not surprising the Stephen King story has been renewed for a second season, but fans will be happy to hear there will be some crucial answers by the end of the Dome’s initial 13-episode run.
A historic miniseries The White Queen debuted this summer on the Starz premium channel. It is a lush and riveting 15th Century period drama, when the battle for the throne was a high-stakes game that women played too.
The White Queen is the true story of three women – Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville. In their quest for power they scheme and seduce. The year is 1464, before the Tudor dynasty ruled the country, and war is raging throughout England over who is the rightful king.
It is a bitter dispute between the House of York and the House of Lancaster. York’s handsome Edward IV (Max Irons) is crowned King of England with the help of the master manipulator, Lord Warwick “The Kingmaker.” But when Edward falls in love with a beautiful Lancastrian commoner, Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), Warwick’s plans come crashing down. A bloody struggle ensues to grab the crown. Janet McTeer, James Frain and Amanda Hale also star in this true “game of thrones” that made history.
Another gripping new series is Broadchurch seen on BBC America. The British mystery stars David Tennant (Doctor Who) and Olivia Colman who investigate the murder of a boy. Everyone in the tight-knit seaside town is racked with grief, yet they all look suspicious. The exception is the boy’s mother played by Jodie Whittaker, who has the most heart-wrenching scenes, yet she says, “There’s humor and other wonderful moments. You need some relief.” The eight-hour series is a great a great whodunit.
Broadchurch is a great addition to the BBC America schedule, which has also given us Orphan Black, Copper, Luther, and the long running (50 years!) Doctor Who series. They also presented the fifth not-to-be-missed final season of the U.K. hit Being Human, the intriguing drama about three freaky roommates– a vampire, werewolf and ghost. But if you missed it, Being Human Season Five is now out on DVD, and it’s fantastic for fantasy lovers.
Over to the TV critic’s cable network darling, AMC has just premiered the gritty new crime drama Low Winter Sun. The setting is Detroit with all its problems, and it begins with the murder of a corrupt cop by a fellow detective. The line between cops and criminals is blurred as deception and revenge rear their ugly heads.
What makes this show exceptional is the lead actor Mark Strong, a U.K. import who starred in the British series that inspired this show. Strong made the transition to the Americanized version and is believable as a Detroit native. He even defends the troubled city saying, “The first thing I came up against was people’s perceptions of Detroit. Everybody said, ‘Don’t go there. It’s an awful place, and there’s nothing there for you.’ The opposite is true. It’s a pretty fascinating place because it has everything, and they welcomed us with open arms.”
Regarding the return of the Old West era drama Hell on Wheels, AMC president Charlie Collier says, “A new episode of ‘Hell on Wheels’ on Saturday night after a full day of western classics and fan favorites is going to be like the saddle on top of the horse. This is a programmer’s dream – to have a genre specific, 14-hour lead-in to one of your highest rated originals series. We are so excited about this opportunity to entertain AMC’s audience in a new way.”
Hell on Wheels producer-showrunner John Wirth says the new season “will be a Western about work, the building of the railroad, the binding of the nation after the Civil War, and the rehabilitation of the men who lived and fought their way through those exploits. This season we’re placing Cullen Bohannon at the center of the show, and taking him away from the revenge motive which propelled him into the series.”
Wirth praises AMC and notes they have “raised the bar for television dramas, they’ve set the gold standard. There’s nothing else like this on television.” With AMC shows such as Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Killing, and The Walking Dead, that’s great dramatic programming all year long. #