Game of Thrones has finished, winter’s over, and summer’s here. Welcome to the sunlit uplands of other, different TV shows: ones which aren’t set in a perpetual dung age, or shamelessly chasing an offensive stereotype of the 18-25 audience, or completely give up the ghost when the showrunners get a plum job in the film industry. God, I’m looking forward to it already.
1. Perpetual Grace, LTD | June 2
For those who mainly knew Jimmi Simpson as a member of the foul McPoyle clan in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, the biggest shock reveal when he turned up in Westworld was that he was playing a normal, functioning person. You can’t really blame Simpson for wanting to move on from the role of a greasy, incest-prone milk-drinker, and Perpetual Grace, LTD sees him moving further down the path of serious dramatic roles.
Perpetual Grace, LTD is billed as a ‘modern noir’, but given the sepia-toned Westernesque promotional material, the closest comparison would probably be the work of the Coen brothers. In a suitably Coen-style development, Simpson’s character has a plan to con a priest (played by no less a figure than Sir Ben Kingsley), only to find that the guy has a scheme of his own in the works.
It’s produced by Steven Conrad and Bruce Terris, creator and oftentimes writer respectively of Amazon’s well-regarded dramedy series Patriot.
2. Black Mirror: Season 5 | June 5
Proof, if proof need be, that there are worse timelines than the one our world’s blundered down, Charlie Brooker’s techno-fear anthology Black Mirror is back again. For this outing they’re dialling back the season to a mere three episodes, but this is no bad thing. The first two seasons, from before Netflix got their grubby fingers on the show, were three episodes a piece, and they remain the high-water mark it’s been chasing after ever since.
Black Mirror’s also now a big enough mainstream title that it can attract some fairly heavy-hitting stars. In this case, they’ve got Andrew Scott (Sherlock), Anthony Mackie (Avengers: Endgame), and Miley Cyrus, who’s mainly a singer rather than an actor but at that level everything starts to blur together. Aptly, Cyrus plays a pop star whose “charmed existence isn’t quite as rosy as it appears”, in a weird flashback to her Hannah Montana days.
There’s been some titbits released about the plotlines, and about the specific kinds of technology that are succumbing to human folly this time around. Scott’s playing an Uber driver who accidentally kidnaps a client, while Mackie appears to have his relationship with his girlfriend go sour after scrolling through a dating app, suggesting a plot reminiscent of season one’s ‘The Entire History Of You’.
3. City On A Hill | June 16
Crime drama’s an overcrowded marketplace, isn’t it? Granted it may not be the peak period, when every channel boasted John Actor as a tough, uncompromising detective who drank by his own rules and had twenty-four hours or it was his badge, but it’s still a top-heavy genre. What would seem to set City On A Hill apart is this: it’s another chapter in Ben Affleck’s ongoing love affair with the city of Boston, and it’s got Tom Fontana, creator of Homicide: Life On The Street and Oz, as showrunner.
This one sees Kevin Bacon (always a hooter) as a corrupt FBI agent teaming up with Aldis Hodge’s District Attorney to investigate a family of armoured car robbers. This fairly conventional beginning turns into a sprawling indictment of Boston’s whole rotten system. Hodge has described the project as a return “to the good ol’ cops and robbers” – and it does all sound remarkably Great Depression-era, even though it’s set in the 1990s.
Fontana, for his part, has commented “I don’t believe in good guys and bad guys…even Oz was not a show about bad guys, it was a show about human beings. And this is also a show about human beings”, a promising suggestion that he’ll be bringing the same kind of nuance his work is known for to City On A Hill.
4. Grand Hotel | June 17
This is the latest of several adaptations of the Spanish series Gran Hotel, including versions in Italian and Arabic. The original’s been available on both Netflix and Hulu with English subtitles for a while now (as has the Egyptian version), so in retrospect this seems overdue. It’s produced by Eva Longoria, who since her success on Desperate Housewives has been making a fair crack of things behind the camera – notably, producing 2014’s against-type John Wick.
Whereas the original Gran Hotel was set in 1905 and carried a distinctly Downton Abbey vibe, this remake is set in contemporary Miami. This isn’t to say, though, that the upstairs-downstairs dynamic will be at all diluted. After all, Miami was an ‘80s boomtown, built on the cocaine industry and its inherent contrast between high finance and street crime. The main difference is that nobody says ‘milady’ any more.
5. Years And Years | June 24
I’ve praised Russell T. Davies before as Britain’s undisputed master of gay media, and between Queer As Folk, A Very English Scandal, and the man’s own personal preferences it’s obvious where his interests lie. However, the one that really made his name in the mainstream was the Doctor Who revival (also irrevocably camp, but then it always was). Now, Davies returns to the world of speculative fiction with Years And Years, which follows a family into the steadily grimmer future.
(A nice follow-up after having Black Mirror earlier in the month, then.)
Coming at this pivotal point in British history, with Brexit far from settled and now a leadership crisis, the concept has the feel of a deadly-serious version of Armando Iannucci’s series Time Trumpet. That programme, however, had more of a documentary feel, and more importantly was wide-ranging, having any number of famous talking heads, whereas Years And Years will have this bad future filtered through the lens of a single family. A more intimate approach to the future, essentially.