Summer Television Review

Last week I wrote about the TV that I am looking forward to this fall. As I was writing that post, however, I started to think about this past summer and the great shows that were on for the summer season. Typically, summer TV is fluffy and heavy on reality TV and melodramatic mini series. This year, however, I found myself glued to two series in particular and was surprised by the high quality of these shows.  Mr. Robot and Playing House were both on USA but were wildly different in tone and content. 

Playing House on its second season shifted from a 10 –episode run to an 8-episode run and premiered later in the summer. Promoted heavily on Video On Demand, the story is about two best friends who move in together to raise the baby of Maggie (Lennon Parham) after she discovers her husband has been carrying on an internet affair. Maggie’s best friend from childhood, Emma (Jessica St. Clair), gives up her high powered international job to move back to her small hometown and has to learn how to interact with people she thought she left behind. The show mostly centers on encounters with Emma’s old love interest Mark — played by the hilarious Keegan Michael Key — Maggie’s younger brother Zach who has a childhood crush (Silicon Valley’s Zach Woods) and estranged mother Gwen (Jane Kaczmarek). The beauty of Playing House is how it manages to balance being wholesome, sweet and still a little edgy while being consistently hilarious. The show’s second season was full of incredible comedy cameos such as the Sklar brothers, Kyle Bornheimer,  The League’s Jason Mantzoukas, SNL’s Bobby Moynihan, Jack McBrayer and so many more!

Playing House is consistently funny and usually hits just the right notes. If you’re a comedy nerd like me, you will find yourself eagerly anticipating the next cameo or watching the actors riff off each other with unscripted dialogue that showcases true brilliance.  While not every episode of Playing House will be “laugh out loud” funny, every episode is enjoyable and surprising, what’s better than that?

Mr. Robot exemplifies why Comic Con is ALWAYS a good investment. I found out about this show during a mini panel at the Nerdist Conival and admittedly was most excited by the free t-shirt that was given out. However, I was aware that I needed to watch it as soon as it premiered. What a great decision, this show is absolutely incredible. Unfortunately, it’s also one of those television shows that you can’t truly explain without giving away important details that are better learned during the course of the show. What I can say is that the show centers around Elliot, a hacker with anxiety issues who has big plans to change the world. That’s it! That’s all I can say, get off my back!

Though I cannot give too many details in regards to the context of the show I can say that Mr. Robot is a consistently amazing thriller. At the end of each episode, I was left enthralled, confused and eager to find out what it all meant and what would happen next. Sometimes immediately rewatching the episode to see if there was a clue I missed or an important piece of dialogue I overlooked. Each episode was riveting and never without important, eye-opening social commentary. It’s very rare for a show to entertain and teach without being preachy and pretentious Mr. Robot managed to do both. The cast is amazingly talented, the writing believable and brilliant and the visuals stunning.

While I quickly abandoned the latest season of Game of Thrones and lamented about the end of Orphan Black and the long wait for the new season, the discovery of Mr. Robot was hands down the most exciting thing to happen to me this summer – damn, my life is sad! Unfortunately, now I’m stuck waiting or the next season of Orphan Black AND Mr. Robot.

I know I’m not making any bold statements by saying that we are currently living in the golden age of television. It’s been written about numerous times and the proof is in the content. However, we have reached an entirely new level of blessed when what used to be thought of as TV’s throwaway season is now offering up content of the caliber of these two shows. USA has mostly been defined by it’s formulaic, though quality programming, and reliance on Law & Order: SVU reruns – this venture into bold experimental programming and distribution has paid off in a large way and I, for one, am just thankful to have been able to consume this content.

While I still remain excited for the start of fall TV, I must admit that a piece of me is wishing that the summer would never end.