John Turturro stars in “The Night Of,” an eight-part HBO miniseries premiering July 10.
The sweltering heat we once pined for has now become somewhat of a nuisance. Thank goodness for a handful of refreshing programming to keep us cool and entertained this month. From hilarious returning comedies like Hulu’s Difficult People to the dark new HBO miniseries The Night Of, July has several options for maximum viewing enjoyment.
The Great British Baking Show
PBS, returns July 1
I am someone who loves eating but gets no pleasure whatsoever from preparing the meal, and, with the exception of a few seasons of Top Chef, I’m generally not drawn to television’s various cooking competitions and food shows. However, The Great British Baking Show is simply delightful. With each challenge, the contestants are instructed to bake a delectable dessert, making everything from pies to cakes to pastries, all at a high difficulty level. English rose and “Queen of Cakes” Mary Berry, a woman equal parts tough and pleasant, is the 81-year-old heart of the weekly show. Along with fellow judge Paul Hollywood, a British artisan baker, and presenters Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, The Great British Baking Show gives us the pursuit of perfection we long for in the televised cooking era. And to those who say they could never be fascinated by a baking program, wait until the contestants are making cream puffs, someone doesn’t manage time well and everything goes to shit. Everyone needs to start sampling this delicious British import.
The Night Of
HBO, premieres July 10
The Night Of has a bittersweet taste even before its official debut. The miniseries was a passion project and starring vehicle for James Gandolfini before the Sopranos actor died suddenly in 2013. Robert De Niro was briefly attached as a replacement, but a scheduling conflict led instead to John Turturro (Barton Fink) stepping into the co-lead role of a New York City lawyer who represents a young man accused of murder. Even after the loss of Gandolfini, who receives a posthumous executive producer credit, the eight-parter boasts some major behind-the-scenes influence, including director Steven Zaillian and writer Richard Price, the respective writers of Schindler’s List and The Color of Money among many other credits. The Night Of seems like typical HBO fare in many ways, and it may bring back some of the missing edge and darkness that the network’s old dramas became famous for. The first episode is streaming now on HBO Go and HBO Now.
Hulu, returns July 12
One of my absolute favorite comedies last year returns for a second season. Difficult People is a cocktail of hilariously mean humor in which series creator Julie Klausner stars alongside Billy Eichner as exaggerated versions of themselves. Billy and Julie are actors and writers living in New York City trying to secure the fame and fortune they are certain they have earned. While this snarky show may not be for everyone, it’s special because of how well it caters to its audience. I love Difficult People’s scathing rhetoric and its talented supporting cast and guest stars, and if you too love theater, comedy and throwing merciless shade on others, this show is for you.
USA, returns July 13
Mr. Robot was one of the indisputable hits of last summer, and it genuinely lived up to the hype. The drama stars Rami Malek as Elliot, a computer security engineer with a penchant for hacking. Elliot is frequently plagued by anxiety, depression and even some paranoia that causes him to question what’s real and what’s not. This series will have you hooked almost immediately. One of Mr. Robot’s strengths is its ability to integrate technology with millennial life staples such as student loans, mental illness and insecurities. Christian Slater has a great turn in the title role, but Malek is the breakout star. He plays Elliot with the perfect balance of awkwardness, fear and fierce intelligence. In short, creator Sam Esmail did a great job with the first season, and I’m hoping the second is just as wonderful.
USA, returns July 13
Suits has become a little convoluted and far-fetched in recent years, but it hasn’t stop me from watching the legal drama. At the end of its fifth season, things came to a screeching halt when everyone found out Mike’s secret — he has no law degree. When it became public knowledge, the law firm’s employees hightailed it out of there with every file and document in hand. While the development feels frustrating to some extent, I have high hopes for a “rebuilding from the ground up” kind of season.
Doc & Darryl
ESPN, premieres July 14
I always look forward to new installments of the 30 for 30 series — and on the heels of last month’s masterpiece O.J.: Made in America, I’m especially excited for this upcoming episode. Doc & Darryl is directed by Judd Apatow and focuses on former New York Mets players Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. While they enthralled Mets and general baseball fans alike in the 1980s, the teammates eventually fell into a downward spiral from drug abuse and injuries. This documentary chronicles the rise and fall of these two men and addresses what could have been.