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There was a time when TV went on summer vacation, and viewers were confined to reruns. No longer: Now, TV doesn't take a break when the weather gets hot. Jeffrey Brown talks to Sonia Saraiya of Variety and Eric Deggans of NPR about the binge-worthy shows they’ll be watching.
Finally tonight: There was a time when summer TV was largely confined to reruns. But that has changed dramatically in the world of streaming video.
And, in fact, a new summer season is under way.
Jeffrey Brown has a look.
The summer season has changed so much, that it's now when some of the best-known shows debut new episodes.
High on that list, the fantasy series "Game of Thrones," which run the Emmy for best drama and is back on HBO. "Orange Is the New Black" will air new episodes on Netflix. NBC returns with its surprise comedy hit "The Carmichael Show."
And there are plenty of new options such as "Claws," a Southern crime drama with a comic edge that comes to TNT, a show about the founding of the first women's wrestling federation called "GLOW" on Netflix, and a Showtime drama about struggling comics in the 1970s called "I'm Dying Up Here."
Two TV critics, I hope they're not dying where we are talking to them, from all of television. They're going to help us sort through the season, Eric Deggans of NPR and Sonia Saraiya of "Variety."
Thanks, both, for joining us.
I don't know how you keep up with this, but help us out here.
First of all, Eric, summer season, does it actually mean anything? Is there any rhyme or reason anymore?
ERIC DEGGANS, National Public Radio:
Well, you know, TV is a business that loves habits.
And so, for the broadcasters especially, there is a summer season. I think it's less so for the cable nets, and it's even less so for the streamers like Netflix, which seem to churn out a new series just about every week.
But there is a sense that the TV season is slowing down a little bit, and we're seeing shows that are less than marquee shows debuting during the next few months.
So, Sonia, let me start with you with one of the new ones coming — I mean, one of the old ones coming back, a successful one, is Aziz Ansari's "Master of None."
Let's take — first, let's take a quick look at a clip.
ALESSANDRA MASTRONARDI, Actress:
This is really good.
AZIZ ANSARI, Actor:
I told you. Aren't you glad you expanded your culinary horizons beyond Italian?
Yes, I am. You're right. What else should I try when I'm in New York?
No, nobody likes curry.
I said I don't like curry food. I didn't say I don't like curry people.
All right, I was kidding earlier, but the phrase curry people, definitely racist.
I'm not racist.
You can't say curry person. I'm not a curry person. I'm not defined by the flavors my people enjoy.
Sonia, I saw you both actually smiling watching or even listening to that.
Sonia, tell us why you like that show.
SONIA SARAIYA, Variety:
You know, "Master of None" is — it's such a delicate little, beautiful show. Its a half-hour, but it's so cinematic.
There is — actually, the second season references Italian cinema a lot. You know, it's Aziz Ansari more or less playing himself, you know, trying to understand his life and figure out the world.
And, you know, a big thing that motivates him, as you can sort of tell, that's kind of a date that he is on in that clip, and, you know, figuring out his love life is a big part of it.
But at the end of the first season, he decided he wanted to go to Italy and learn how to make pasta because that was something that he wanted to do in his life. The second season is about him broadening his horizons even more. It is like a lovely little vacation, that show.
Eric, I'm going to have you tell us about "House of Cards," because, indeed, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are back as Frank and Claire Underwood.
Let's look at a little clip of that.
ROBIN WRIGHT, Actress:
Why did you ask him to leave?
KEVIN SPACEY, Actor:
Because I just wanted to look in your eyes one more time before we do this.
Francis, we're doing this.
He can't save us. He invented term limits.
Eric, they are still doing it. They are still plotting. It goes on and on.
And, you know, I know am so people have grown tired of "House of Cards." And I think, if you are one of those people, you are not going to necessarily like the new season.
But the new season does have a lot of political machinations that I think are sort of the heart of the show's appeal. And it also really deals with the tension and the partnership between these two very singular characters, Frank Underwood by Kevin Spacey and Claire Underwood played by Robin Wright.
Let's look ahead at some new programs that you are looking forward to.
Sonia, start us off, start us off. What are a couple of things you really want to let us know about?
Well, there is this crazy little show called "Claws" on TNT that is debuting next week, I think. And it stars Niecy Nash as a manicurist who kind of also dabbles in some mob activity, and it takes place in Manatee County in Florida.
And just everything about it is so different. It is so different from most other stuff you would find on TV. The nails are amazing, obviously. The fashion, the style is just so much fun. And you get to see these women who are painting nails also launder money and maybe commit a few murders here and there.
There is something a little bit silly and a little bit fun about it too. But it also really takes a look at some of the real issues that affect people in places that don't often make it to your TV screen. So, I'm really looking forward to see how that goes too.
Well, you mentioned at the start of this segment "GLOW," the Netflix series about the — well, the gorgeous ladies of wrestling is what I think.
It is about the start of a female wrestling league. And it is really the start about these sort of lovable losers and their attempts to sort of find themselves while they build this very fledgling operation, which is a female-centered wrestling league in the mid-'80s.
And it is a show that kind of sneaks up on you. And, you know, Marc Maron is great as the sort of B-movie director who decides to try and find another career by starting this wrestling league.
And I would compare it a little more favorably to another show that you mentioned called "I'm Dying Up Here," a Showtime series about young comics working out of a legendary comic nightclub in Los Angeles. It is fictionalized, but it also has real people in it. It is based on a book that is actually about very real comics like David Letterman and Jay Leno and how they started in Los Angeles.
And because the show has a hard time walking that line between fictional characters that it takes liberties with and real characters, like Johnny Carson and Richard Pryor, who also show up, I think the show isn't quite as impactful as it could be.
But it is also a show about lovable losers trying to find themselves and make it in an industry that is really very difficult, which is Hollywood in the late 1970s, early '80s.
All right, one bonus, real quick for me, if you would, some show that you love, but you don't think has gotten enough attention, Eric?
It's not in new episodes yet. It will come back. It is a show called "Throwing Shade" on TV Land. It is a late-night talk show with a feminist and a gay man talking about the day's news, two points of view that are woefully underrepresented in the late-night scheme.
I thought it was brilliant when it was on. And it should come back to new episodes relatively soon.
I am going to go with "The Carmichael Show."
It is an NBC sitcom that is coming into its third season. It is this little show that has been running on the summer. And I feel like, every season, it comes up with even more topics and even more humor than — to tackle in this, like, fascinating way that — I just think everyone should be watching this show.
Sonia Saraiya of Variety, Eric Deggans of NPR, thank you both very much.
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