This August, TV ventures through The Swamp, Lovecraft Country, and the Lower Decks of Star Trek

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue; Lovecraft Country; Star Trek: Lower Decks
RuPaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue; Lovecraft Country; Star Trek: Lower Decks
Graphic: Natalie Peeples, Photo: Courtesy of VH1, Elizabeth Morris/HBO, Image: Courtesy of CBS Interactive

It’s ostensibly summer, but there are no road trips or family vacations on the horizon (and if you are bundling your family members into your car, Clark Griswold-style, godspeed/please reconsider.) Instead, as the temperatures continue to rise, we’ll once again be parked in front of our screens, living vicariously through animated space explorers (albeit those stuck in the lower decks), a dopey football coach, and a bevy of former RuPaul’s Drag Race competitors who are kicking up their heels in a new docuseries. August is actually packed with unscripted offerings, including a Go-Go’s documentary, a six-part exploration of ICE, and a look at the disingenuous politicians who claim they’re taking on career politicians. As for one of the most anticipated premieres, we can’t say that Lovecraft Country looks inviting, exactly—but the reunion between Underground co-creator Misha Green and Underground lead Jurnee Smollett seems pretty damn irresistible.

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The Go-Go’s (Showtime): premieres August 1

The Go-Go’s (Showtime): premieres August 1

Documentarian Alison Ellwood seems determined to chronicle the entirety of the California music scene; on the heels of History Of The Eagles and Laurel Canyon comes The Go-Go’s, a brutally frank history of the first all-girl rock band to have a No. 1 album writing their own songs and playing their own instruments. Despite all those fun, candy-colored MTV videos, The Go-Go’s’ true story featured a lot of conflict between the band members—and a lot of drugs—as the band ascended from Los Angeles punk clubs to arena rock. All five Go-Go’s (Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine, Jane Wiedlin) unflinchingly come clean about the less-proud moments of their pasts, and to discuss the tie that still binds them together all these years later. A must for fans, The Go-Go’s may also win the band a few new ones, as it’s impossible not to be impressed by the band’s dogged—and groundbreaking—determination to succeed in the predominantly male rock world. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Immigration Nation (Netflix): premieres August 3

Immigration Nation (Netflix): premieres August 3

“This isn’t a one-off, this is the new normal.” With each passing day and executive order, these words from ICE spokesman Bryan Cox about the zero-tolerance policies and escalating raids against undocumented immigrants in the United States seem indisputable. Cox is one of a dozen or so ICE officials and agents who feature prominently in Netflix’s Immigration Nation (though he seems to be the only one who hasn’t had his last name redacted). This six-part docuseries from filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau (who previously collaborated on Aida’s Secrets and A Lucky Man) ventures into ICE offices and immigration detention facilities, outlining the byzantine structure of this suddenly booming government agency and embarking on search for humanity. To avoid getting bogged down by the lack of accountability, Schwarz and Clusiau spend just as much time with the people caught up in this bureaucracy: the migrants who set out for the United States in search of a haven or an opportunity. [Danette Chavez]

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Sam Jay: 3 In The Morning (Netflix): premieres August 4

Sam Jay: 3 In The Morning (Netflix): premieres August 4

Saturday Night Live writer Sam Jay sets her sights on the stage with Sam Jay: 3 In The Morning. A two-time Emmy nominee, Jay’s bracing humor delves into relationships, queerness, and race, all with her signature candor. She’s previously done stand-up on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Netflix’s The Comedy Lineup, but 3 In The Morning is her first hour-long comedy special, and she uses the opportunity to, among other things, mock would-be alpha males who don’t know how to act around masculine-of-center women. In the first trailer for 3 In The Morning, Jay revisits the bygone custom of “packing” for “vacation,” as sure a sign as any that the special was filmed before the pandemic (specifically, at the The Masquerade in Atlanta, Georgia). [Danette Chavez]

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The Swamp (HBO): premieres August 4

The Swamp (HBO): premieres August 4

Of all the slogans from Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign that seemed like bizarre lies from an alternate universe where everyone is stupid, “drain the swamp” was certainly… one of them. The idea was that Trump was a regular guy (he’s not) who isn’t beholden to lobbyists or corporate interests (he is, and worse), so electing him and candidates like him would help purge Washington of corrupt career politicians who are just in it for money (ha ha ha). HBO’s The Swamp, which comes from Get Me Roger Stone’s Daniel DiMauro and Morgan Pehme, is about three Republican Congressmen (Thomas Massie, Ken Buck, and Matt Gaetz) who have tried to follow through on Trump’s “drain the swamp” promise even as Trump himself seems more interested in filling the swamp with more sludge and toxic gas. Beyond those three, though, The Swamp frames itself as an inside look into how politics really works—so it’s like a Schoolhouse Rock segment where nobody sings and everyone is evil. [Sam Barsanti]

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6 / 19

Coroner (CBC): premieres August 5 on The CW

Coroner (CBC): premieres August 5 on The CW

An import that recently wrapped its second season on Canadian national broadcaster CBC, Coroner is a procedural that benefits from being just different enough. The case-of-the-week format is familiar, as is the main character’s psychic link with the recently deceased citizens she encounters on the job. But this time around, protagonist Dr. Jenny Cooper (Serinda Swan) isn’t a detective; she’s a coroner. And her fascination with death is both professional and personal, given the death of her husband shortly before the events of the series premiere. Then there’s the fact that Coroner takes place in Toronto, an urban setting that—to American audiences, at least—should be entertainingly divergent, but not totally foreign. [Katie Rife]

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Star Trek: The Lower Decks (CBS All Access): premieres August 6

Star Trek: The Lower Decks (CBS All Access): premieres August 6

Fresh off the success of Solar Opposites, his new Hulu show with co-creator Justin Roiland, Rick And Morty writer Mike McMahan sets his holodeck sights on a far more venerable institution: the universe of Star Trek. Exploring the world of the support crew servicing the USS Cerritos (“one of Starfleet’s least-important ships”), this new animated comedy tracks the day-to-day lives of the low-level employees working to keep things running many levels below the bridge and its elite leadership. It’s unusual to see the official Star Trek canon opened up to a loose-limbed comedy (and an animated one at that), but there have always been comic entries in nearly every iteration of the franchise. Hopefully, McMahan’s longtime immersion in heady sci-fi conceits on his previous shows will help keep the Cerritos flying straight, though given the pedigree of the universe he’s playing in, don’t expect the depths of scatological humor (or R-rated language) so lavishly applied to his other series. [Alex McLevy]

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8 / 19

Hitmen (Peacock): premieres August 6

Hitmen (Peacock): premieres August 6

It would be easy to describe Peacock’s streaming import Hitmen as “Mel and Sue from The Great British Bake-Off kill people for laughs,” but that’s only because that’s exactly what it is: Comedians Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, playing both into, and off of, their goofball personas in pursuit of some very dark comedy. Created by Joe Markham and Joe Parham—both fresh off Cartoon Network’s The Amazing World Of Gumball, of all things—the series sees Perkins and Giedroyc play Fran and Jamie, two long-time pals who spend their days goofing off, cracking very Mel & Sue-type jokes, and, yes, killing a whole bunch of people in the process. [William Hughes]

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9 / 19

On The Trail: Inside The 2020 Primaries (HBO Max): premieres August 6

On The Trail: Inside The 2020 Primaries (HBO Max): premieres August 6

In case you’d somehow missed it or managed to block all mention of it, this is a presidential election year, which means we can expect to be bombarded with ads, infographics, polls, and of course, primary coverage. HBO Max and CNN Films have teamed up for On The Trail: Inside The 2020 Primaries, a documentary centering on 10 women journalists at CNN as they try to help us make sense of the 2020 presidential campaign. Directors Katie Hinman (an executive producer of special programming at CNN) and Toby Oppenheimer (a producer on Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown) follow veteran and first-time political reporters, including Dana Bash and Annie Grayer, as they wade through the campaign, beginning with the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses in 2019. On The Trail is actually one of four unscripted projects that CNN Films is developing for HBO Max; here’s hoping any forthcoming documentaries aren’t filmed in some post-apocalyptic world. [Danette Chavez]

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Pan Y Circo (Amazon Prime Video): premieres August 7

Pan Y Circo (Amazon Prime Video): premieres August 7

We’d call Pan Y Circo the next best thing to breaking bread with our family and friends, but this Amazon Original is so clearly an upgrade to our own quarantine dinners and company (we only say this after five months) that we cannot in good faith make that comparison. In this series that’s part travelogue, part Zoom conference, Diego Luna hosts politicians (including Juan Manuel Santos, the former president of Colombia), actors (like his compa, Gael García Bernal), and activists like Odilia Romero of the Bi-National Front of Indigenous Organizations over exquisite meals prepared by renowned Mexican chefs. In addition to great food, each of Pan Y Circo’s seven episodes will feature discussion of such weighty topics as abortion, gender violence, migration, and climate change. Earlier this year, Luna and García Bernal helped us stave off cabin fever with Ambulante En Casa, a digital version of their itinerant documentary film festival, Ambulante. [Danette Chavez]

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We Hunt Together (Showtime): premieres August 9

We Hunt Together (Showtime): premieres August 9

Another cops-and-criminals series import from across the pond, We Hunt Together tries to offer a fresh spin on the old “mismatched partners solve crimes” formula. A six-episode psychological thriller, the show follows a pair of troubled detectives (Babou Ceesay and Torchwood’s Eve Myles) as they track a pair of Bonnie and Clyde-like serial killers (Hermione Corfield and Dipo Ola) who “use emotional and sexual manipulation to hunt their victims.” Early reviews have been mostly positive, suggesting an intriguing cat-and-mouse game between the respective odd couples of cops and killers, though it also sounds like the dialogue and aesthetic are heavily stylized. While the show looks to tread some similar territory as The Fall and other crime shows that interweave sex and violence in dark but fecund ways, hopefully writer Gaby Hull—who also penned last year’s soapy and engaging university-set miniseries Cheat—can find the right balance between procedural thrills and character-study dramatics. [Alex McLevy]

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The Other One (BBC One): premieres August 10 on Acorn TV

The Other One (BBC One): premieres August 10 on Acorn TV

If you feel like you’ve had your fill of quirky-sad shows about fucked-up families, well, we urge you to reconsider long enough to check out BBC One’s The Other One. The two families at the center of this dramedy aren’t blended so much as jammed together when Tess (Rebecca Front) and her daughter Cathy (Ellie White) learn that Colin, their late husband and father, respectively, had a long-term relationship with Marilyn (Siobhan Finneran). There’s more: Cathy has a half-sister named Cat (Lauren Socha), who’s her opposite in virtually every respect. Their grief brings them together more than any fleeting common ground, though they’re both admittedly big fans of Soda Streams. Series creator Holly Walsh previously worked with Sharon Horgan, Graham Linehan, and Helen Linehan to present a decidedly deglamorized vision of motherhood in Motherland; with The Other One, she still shows plenty of compassion for the matriarchs while carving out a loving space for two sisters to find each other and themselves. [Danette Chavez]

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Ted Lasso (Apple TV+): premieres August 14

Ted Lasso (Apple TV+): premieres August 14

You might not remember Jason Sudeikis’ Ted Lasso character, who debuted in a series of NBC Sports ads a few years ago, but luckily the premise of this Apple TV+ adaptation is pretty straightforward: Sudeikis’ Lasso is an American college football coach who gets a job coaching a professional football team in England (that’s football with your feet, a.k.a. “soccer”) despite not knowing anything about soccer or England. Rather than simply a goofy fish-out-of-water comedy, Ted Lasso—which is also executive produced by Scrubs’ Bill Lawrence—looks like it’s going for a slightly more thoughtful story about an overly confident man humbly learning about new cultures and points of view as well as a long-standing institution accepting that the old way of doing things isn’t always the best way. That being said, it is also a goofy fish-out-of-water comedy, with jokes about tasting tea for the first time, not knowing what Wales is, and forgetting that you can tie in soccer. [Sam Barsanti]

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Lovecraft Country (HBO): premieres August 16

Lovecraft Country (HBO): premieres August 16

When asked to describe HBO’s forthcoming Lovecraft Country during their Comic-Con@Home panel, cast members Jurnee Smollett and Courtney B. Vance described the highly anticipated drama as a story about family, and how the atrocities and sentiments of Jim Crow America are still present today. Adapted from Matt Ruff’s highly regarded 2016 horror novel, the 10-episode series centers on Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) who teams up with his friend Leticia (Smollett) and his uncle George (Vance) to search for his missing father, Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams). The group enters a region teeming with both cultural horrors and monsters seemingly ripped from an H.P. Lovecraft tale. Executive producers Misha Green (who developed the series) and Jordan Peele cemented their status as paragons of creative Black expression with Underground and Get Out, respectively. A sci-fi wonder in the hands of such an ideal team-up should prove to be a resonant event. [Shannon Miller]

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15 / 19

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue (VH1): premieres August 21

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Vegas Revue (VH1): premieres August 21

Now that the Drag Race franchise has spin-offs on five continents, what worlds are left for RuPaul to conquer? Why, Las Vegas, of course! Vegas has played host to glamorous female illusionists since Mama Ru was a cage dancer in NYC, and now that RuPaul’s Drag Race Live! is an established property on the strip, a TV version couldn’t be far behind. Vegas Revue is not a competition show, however, but a docuseries following six Drag Race alums—Yvie Oddly, Asia O’Hara, Derrick Barry, Kameron Michaels, Naomi Smalls, and Vanessa “Vanjie” Mateo—as they pull back the glittery, sequin-covered curtain to reveal what actually goes into creating such an elaborate live production. That they also love to talk shit is just a bonus. [Katie Rife]

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Hoops (Netflix): premieres August 21

Hoops (Netflix): premieres August 21

Jake Johnson has a knack for finding the heart in any down-on-his-luck, dirtbag-ish character. Netflix’s upcoming adult animated comedy Hoops just might situate Ben Hopkins, a foul-mouthed coach of a high school basketball team, among the likes of New Girl’s Nick Miller and Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse’s downtrodden Peter Parker. Then again, it could very well go in the opposite direction this time around: Netflix’s brief synopsis of the Ben Hoffman-created series describes the fledgling mentor as a hothead who aims to turn his struggling young team into champions in order to live vicariously through them. Will his journey toward late-blooming relevance reveal a man with a heart of gold or someone who is just fundamentally miserable? Either way, a short teaser and a stacked cast of comedic favorites hints at a potentially riotous cringefest and a solid addition to Netflix’s growing library of adult animation. [Shannon Miller]

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Phineas And Ferb: The Movie: Candace Against The Universe (Disney+): premieres August 28

Phineas And Ferb: The Movie: Candace Against The Universe (Disney+): premieres August 28

It’s been five long years since Phineas And Ferb wrapped, seemingly concluding the boys’ determination to have the greatest summer ever. But a new Disney production finally puts the pair’s long-put-upon older sister, Candace (Ashley Tisdale) in the spotlight. In this new long-form feature, Candace gets abducted by aliens and sent to another planet. Phineas and Ferb naturally head off to rescue her, but since the utopian planet has no brothers who concoct elaborate schemes that her parents never recognize, does Candace even want to leave? (Judging from the movie title, and her rants against the boys in the already-released Brady Bunch knockoff song “Such A Beautiful Day,” we’re guessing not.) Fans will be relieved to learn that almost the entire original voice cast is back on board, like show creators Dan Povenmire (the peerless Dr. Doofenshmirtz) and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh (Major Monogram), Vincent Martella (Phineas), Caroline Rhea (the kids’ mom, Linda), and Dee Bradley Baker (secret agent Perry the Platypus); new additions include Ali Wong, Wayne Brady, and Thomas Middleditch. David Errigo Jr. replaces Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Ferb, but he never says much anyway. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Returning

Returning

Tom Ellis stars as Lucifer Morningstar in Lucifer
Tom Ellis stars as Lucifer Morningstar in Lucifer
Photo: John P. Fleenor (Netflix

Infinity Train, season three, now on HBO Max (8/13); Lucifer season five, part 1 (8/21)

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