July’s TV premieres open up a Brave New World (and a new streaming service)

Clockwise from left: Close Enough (Image: HBO Max), Little Voice (Photo: Apple TV+), Cursed (Photo: Netflix), Unsolved Mysteries (Photo: Netflix), Muppets Now (Photo: Disney+)
Clockwise from left: Close Enough (Image: HBO Max), Little Voice (Photo: Apple TV+), Cursed (Photo: Netflix), Unsolved Mysteries (Photo: Netflix), Muppets Now (Photo: Disney+)
Graphic: Jimmy Hasse

These days, we can’t talk about TV schedules without mentioning the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on new and existing productions, so consider this the obligatory comment. But you’ll be glad to learn that the TV drought hasn’t begun yet—July still has plenty of exciting new offerings, including an Unsolved Mysteries revival, a promising new Muppets show, a sultry Southern drama from Katori Hall, Netflix’s new twist on Arthurian legend, as well as the launch of Peacock and the arrival of a Brave New World.

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Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix): Premieres July 1

For several seasons in the late ’80s/early ’90s, curious viewers dutifully tuned into Unsolved Mysteries, as Untouchables star Robert Stack guided them through a weekly mystifying true-life tale about UFOs, ghosts, psychics, and cold-crime cases. Concluding that Stack’s trench coat was too iconic to fill, Netflix is offering a new hostless reboot of the classic series, from Cosgrove/Meurer Productions, the creators of the original docuseries, and 21 Laps Entertainment, the producers of Stranger Things. The first six episodes drop on July 1—including episodes on the 1969 UFO sighting in the Berkshires, Massachusetts, and Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, the French fugitive suspected of killing his wife and four kids (this new series also boasts an international bent)—with six more to follow in season one. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Warrior Nun (Netflix): Premieres July 2

A new fantasy-horror series from Netflix, Warrior Nun will look awfully familiar to fans of a certain Joss Whedon-helmed program. A young woman wakes up in a morgue to discover she has strange new powers that will end up being put to use in an ancient battle of good versus evil. The show—which may as well have called itself Buffy The Undead Catholic Monster Slayer (seriously, she’s even referred to as the chosen one)—is adapted from the manga by showrunner Simon Barry (Continuum), and centers around Ava (Alba Baptista), who comes back to life with a mysterious artifact emblazoned upon her back—one which grants her the ability to find creatures hell-bent on subjugating the earth. Luckily, she has an entire cadre of sister-warriors and nun mentors helping her out along the way—an ancient order to which she now belongs, though they aren’t terribly thrilled to have a non-believer joining the team. We’ll reserve judgment until we can see if the show nails its half-serious tone. [Alex McLevy]

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The Baby-Sitters Club (Netflix): Premieres July 3

Your favorite enterprising tweens are back, landlines and all, in Netflix’s adaptation of The Baby-Sitters Club. But don’t let the light-up phone fool you: This latest reimagining of Ann M. Martin’s poignant book series is full of refreshing updates, including an inclusive cast made up of Sophie Grace (as Kristy), Malia Baker (as Mary Anne), Momona Tamada (as Claudia), Shay Rudolph (as Stacey), and Xochitl Gomez (as Dawn). What remains the same is the resourceful and empathetic spirit of the books, as well as Stacey’s ability to be very dramatic even while enjoying a day at the beach. [Danette Chavez]

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Ju-On: Origins (Netflix): Premieres July 3

After more than a dozen films across two continents, the meowing ghost boy from Ju-On: The Grudge is old enough to go to college by now. And so Netflix Japan is attempting to revive the cursed franchise in a way that’s both time-honored and new: a prequel TV series. The project marks Netflix Japan’s first horror original and takes place in a world where the Ju-On movies exist, but were inspired by real events, rather like the 2016 reboot of Blair Witch. The series explores both those events and their present repercussions, and a trailer for the series promises lots of creepy atmosphere, some good jump scares, and, yes, a bloody, meowing baby that may or may not be corporeal in origin. [Katie Rife]

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Close Enough (HBO Max): Premieres July 9

J.G. Quintel’s Cartoon Network series Regular Show would have essentially been a weirdo slacker comedy if its main characters had been humans instead of a blue jay and a raccoon, and now he’s leaning further into that vibe for his new animated show, Close Enough on HBO Max. The series is about a thirtysomething married couple living in Los Angeles with their 5-year-old daughter and a pair of divorced roommates, and it looks like Quintel hasn’t lost any of that flair for weirdness in the transition from talking animals to talking humans. For example, the trailer HBO Max released has a little rampaging pony, a mostly naked clown, some definitely naked warriors of some kind, and… a big group of animals with strangely human features, kind of like a more horrifying version of the other show. Again, it’s nice and weird. Close Enough stars Quintel himself, Gabrielle Walsh, Jason Mantzoukas, Jessica DiCicco, and Kimiko Glenn. [Sam Barsanti]

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Expecting Amy (HBO Max): Premieres July 9

Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra boldly went where very few stand-up specials had gone before: deep into the joys and labors of expectant parenthood. With Expecting Amy, a three-part docuseries, Amy Schumer prepares to provide just as intimate a look at her own journey into new motherhood, though it’ll be tough for anyone to match the nerve and raunch of Wong’s special. Behind closed doors, Schumer displays both anxiety and awe at the thought of her expanding family, even as she teases her husband, Chris Fischer, and seeks advice from her dad. Her signature candor fuels her time on the road, sharing her thoughts on pregnancy and impending parenthood with her fans. [Danette Chavez]

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Little Voice (Apple TV+): Premieres July 10

Somewhere between Apple being a company that makes hip computers and Apple trying to brand itself as a company that makes streaming TV, we had Apple as the company that sells you digital music. Rarely before have the music and TV eras of Apple seemed as perfectly aligned as they are in Little Voice, a musical drama from J.J. Abrams, Sara Bareilles, and Jessie Nelson. Billed as a coming-of-age drama and a “love letter to the diverse musicality of New York,” the show is about an aspiring singer trying to find her voice and “fulfill her dreams while navigating rejection, love, and complicated family issues.” It stars Brittany O’Grady from Star, plus Sean Teale, Colton Ryan, and Chuck Cooper, but the biggest hook is probably that it features new original music from Bareilles. That’s certainly the case in the trailer Apple released, which is as much a music video for Bareilles’ song “Little Voice” as it is a preview of this TV show. [Sam Barsanti]

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P-Valley (Starz): Premieres July 12

It would be easy to offer Hustlers and The Players Club as points of reference for this new Starz series, but P-Valley comes with a much more direct predecessor: Katori Hall’s insightful play, Pussy Valley, which she’s adapted for the small screen. Set in the Mississippi Delta, P-Valley stars Brandee Evans as Mercedes, the strip club star who’s asked to mentor—or perhaps just influence—the newly arrived Autumn (Elarica Johnson). As Uncle Clifford, Nicco Annan is a boss and a mother to this group of dancers. With her play and her TV series, Hall challenges a long history of hypersexualizing Black women, while creating a “space for their voices to shine,” capturing just how nuanced and complicated they are. P-Valley also boasts an all-women lineup of directors, including award-winning music video director Karena Evans, Kimberly Peirce, Millicent Shelton, Tamra Davis, Geeta V. Patel, Tasha Smith, Sydney Freeland, and Barbara Brown. [Danette Chavez]

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Peacock launch: July 15

We’ll have more on Peacock’s programming slate and library offerings in the coming days, but for now, it’s safe to say that David Wiener’s adaptation of Brave New World represents the most intriguing of the new service’s original series. Along with Grant Morrison and Owen Harris, Wiener has reimagined Aldous Huxley’s seminal dystopian novel for a time when the connection between oppressive systems and violence is starker than ever. The sci-fi drama, which stars Jessica Brown Findlay, Alden Ehrenreich, and Harry Lloyd, was originally set to begin production at Syfy before making its way to the USA Network and, finally, Peacock. But it remains to be seen if this Brave New World will prove as immersive an experience as the novel’s feelies. [Danette Chavez]

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Cursed (Netflix): Premieres July 17

The classic Arthurian mythos gets a reworking in Cursed, the adaptation of Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler’s brutalist graphic novel, which provides a new origin story of sorts for Nimue, a.k.a. the tragic Lady Of The Lake. The series reimagines the hero, played by Katherine Langford (best known for being the most compelling part of 13 Reasons Why), as a young woman who, after losing her mother to the rampaging Red Paladins, joins up with an equally youthful Arthur on a mission to locate Merlin and deliver a famed sword of power. Nimue is a member of the Fey, a humanlike race of fairies that possess magic abilities, and the trailer suggests there’s going to be plenty of tweaks to the familiar King Arthur legends—especially when it comes to the intense violence, which is not terribly unexpected, as it’s coming from source material Frank Miller is involved in, and he’s executive-producing the show alongside Wheeler. [Alex McLevy]

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Frayed (HBO Max): Premieres July 30

Created by, written by, and starring Australian comic Sarah Kendall, this six-episode U.K./Aussie import explores the classic fish-out-of-water-even-though-she-was-born-in-said-water dynamic, as Kendall’s posh Sammy Cooper is forced to move back to her down-market Australian home after her husband suddenly dies. Matt Passmore and Kerry Armstrong co-star as just two of the people Sammy thoroughly pissed off before bailing on the whole Southern Hemisphere, and who she now has to reconcile with in order to keep her and her kids afloat. [William Hughes]

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Muppets Now (Disney+): Premieres July 31

Like so many jewel thieves, Ebenezer Scrooges, and fried frog leg restaurateur’s over the years, Disney has struggled mightily with how to handle The Muppets. Trying to hammer Jim Henson’s anarchic creations into a sitcom format proved semi-disastrous for ABC, and so Disney+ is now (or Now) taking Kermit et al. back to something closer to their roots, offering up a 10-minute talk show/cooking show/game show hybrid to fans of the streaming service. Playing to the puppeteer’s talent for off-the-cuff—but on-the-hand—comedy that’s made the Muppets talk show circuit favorites for decades, the new series will feature interviews and back-and-forths with RuPaul, Seth Rogen, Aubrey Plaza, and more. [William Hughes]

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Illustration for article titled July’s TV premieres open up a iBrave New World /i(and a new streaming service)
Photo: Netflix

Returning

Hanna, season two (July 3); The Alienist: Angel Of Darkness (July 19); The Umbrella Academy, season two (July 31);

30 Rock reunion special (NBC, July 16): The cast of 30 Rock reuniting to announce NBC lineups brings to mind that time the stars of Saved By The Bell got zapped inside a TV set to introduce the new 1989 NBC Saturday morning cartoons. But Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan, et al. are set to become the next in the seemingly never-ending series of quarantine TV cast reunions with this special, heralding their old NBCUniversal homeland with promo reels of NBC, Telemundo, USA Network, Syfy, E!, Bravo, new streaming service Peacock, etc. Reportedly the 30 Rock stars will be portraying their old characters during the hour-long, remote upfront special, but with all those new shows to push, looks like our updates on the modern-day lives of Liz Lemon and Jenna Maroney may be unfortunately minimal. But the thought of Tracy Jordan rattling off prepared promotional text for a Syfy preview leads us to believe the result is bound to be either hilarious or incredibly cringe-inducing. Possibly both. [Gwen Ihnat]

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