Daily Lists, TV

The 15 Geeky Coolest-Looking TV Shows Airing this Summer (and Whether They’re Worth Watching)



Back in the old days, summer was a TV wasteland of reruns, but that is no longer the case. I don’t know when that changed (haven’t had much time for watching the boob tube in the past few years), but there seems to be a fuller-force version of said change in the air for this year.

Please note that with one exception, I haven’t seen any of these shows yet. It’s also not a guarantee that I’ll be watching each and every show recommended due to time constraints. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of what to watch this summer.

#15. Defiance Season 2

Votan colonies on earth happened because of what now? There’s a lotta crazy stuff packed into this trailer and the concept for the show.

Premiering: June 19th
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

From what I can gather it’s 2046. A few decades ago aliens showed up on earth and things did not go well for humans. Apparently we freaked out and opened fire on them then it all went to crap from there. St.Louis has been destroyed, partially rebuilt and renamed Defiance. There are now a bunch of aliens of different races that are collectively called Votans. Some kind of alien techno super science went haywire and the planet has been terraformed to a great extent but without any control behind it, so nature’s all gone wonky.

Also there’s a tie-in MMO video game that goes along with it that is apparently free to play online.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

I dunno. There are a lot of ideas I like in the concepts. There’d be 12 eps to catch up on, which might take a week or two to get out of the way and move onto the new season. That’s a lot of time that could be spent on other shows or other things. I’m intrigued by the concept of transmedia, but looking at the Steam Store I see that game isn’t available for Mac which is a bad mark against it already. This is a total maybe. I might start watching the show one of these years, but this summer probably won’t be when I do.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:
Apparently a windows machine if you wanna play the MMO game.

If it’s just for the TV show I’d recommend a plate of Toasted Ravioli and some Gooey Pumpkin Butter Cake and some Falstaff Beer to wash it down.

#14. The Leftovers

That looks like some uplifting fun right there! HBO’s upcoming unintentional comedy about people left behind after the rapture looks like two hoots, a holler and a yo what up?!

Premiering: June 29th
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

A whole buncha people have disappeared all of a sudden. The ones who were “Left Below” have tried to adjust to the new state of the world, but there are these creepy douches dressed in white who wanna keep harshing their buzzes. It’s looking to be a tense and violent series from author Tom Perrotta and show runner Damon Lindelof of LOST fame… which is gonna draw waaaay too many jokes about recycled religious premises.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

Well, are you up for a tense drama that tries to seriously explore a powerful pop-cultural religious concept from a point of view that is probably a far cry from the guys who wrote those Left Behind books? Then this should be up your alley. If not…

Do you want some damned good comedy fodder that will help you find a good image meme or youtube video to create? Then this should be up your alley.

This trailer has an air of pretentious self importance about it that gives me the vibe that it’s going to be trying waaay too hard to be a “serious business” exploration of a well-trodden concept, but I’m still curious to check it out at some point.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:

A copy of at least the first three Preacher graphic novels by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon so you can wonder what might have been if HBO hadn’t passed on Mark Steven Johnson’s pitched series, some tacos, and finally a jug of Kool Aid to wash it all down.

#13. Face Off Season 7

Under a rock, guys. That’s apparently where I’ve been as far as the TV landscape goes since there’s a reality show about sci-fi makeup artists that’s entering its 7th season and I’m just now becoming aware of it. This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard and I only heard about it while doing research for this article.

Premiering: July 22nd
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

A bunch of make up artists compete in sci-fi competitions to make the coolest movie make up they can for a chance to get cool prizes. It’s like Project Runway, but something I want to watch!

Y’all remember when the first X-Men movie came out right? One of my big beefs with the movie was the way Mystique looked. The whole “buck-e nekkid” thing seemed like cheap titillation and the scales were… just plain not what I pictured for her. Even with all that in the mix, I had mad respect for whatever team of make up artists were responsible for putting her look together. By the time X-Men 2 rolled around I was full on digging it. Seeing a bunch of people going for a career like that sounds like a blast.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

I’ll be watching a few episodes at least, that’s for sure. If you dig make up effects and don’t have a passionate hate for reality TV as a concept it seems like something go for. If nothing else, I’ll be watch the first episode or two, figure out which contestant I’m rooting for and read updates about how they’re doing on the show.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:

A copy of Interviews With B Science Fiction And Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup, some Candy Lipstick and a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

#12. The Quest

Remixing The Amazing Race style competition show with Lord of the Rings style fantasy? Damn. That’s some cool shit yo.

Premiering: July 31st
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

A show where people can be in a simulated fantasy world and see how good a job they’d do being heroes against the dark forces of evil. High tech stuff like animatronics, realtime motion capture (which is apparently a process that now exists for practical use), projections and more give the 12 contestants a chance to feel fully immersed in a Tolkeinesque world called Everealm.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

I’m rather miffed that I can’t watch it already. If you have any love for The Society for Creative Anachronism or similar groups like AMPT Guard, and the hype is lived up to, then this is a show you’ll love. It’s also the kind of show that makes me wish I were in better shape and could be a contestant.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:

Lembas Bread, a glass of Arbor Gold, a copy of The Travels of Jain Farstrider and a crushing sense of disappointment that you can’t actually have any of these things for real.

11. Penn and Teller Fool Us

Bit’ve of confusion went through my head when digging up info on this. At first I thought “Oh dang, is there gonna be a US version with all new episodes?” Nope. Turns out it’s the British show being aired in the US.

Premiering: July 30th
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

Penn Jillette and his partner Teller are judges on a show where magicians perform a magic trick and see if the famous duo can figure out how they did it or not. If Penn and Teller’s guesses are wrong or they’re just plain baffled and can’t explain how the trick was done, the victorious performer is given an opening slot on the duo’s Las Vegas show.

This is not a new show. It was first aired in the UK back in 2011. So TR readers who live over there have possibly seen this show already. In fact many people here in USAlund have likely seen a lot of the series highlights on the youtubes because those clips have been quite popular. The CW will be airing the original 8 episodes of the first – and so far only – season. If enough people will watch, the CW will hopefully greenlight a second season.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

Yes. Absolutely yes. If you like stage magic (and who doesn’t) this a great presentation of if. The only thing cooler than seeing a professional magician do a trick that fools the audience is seeing one do a trick so good other magicians can’t figure it out either. Seeing Penn and Teller breaking down the mechanics of a magic trick and then finding out if they’re right or not is just an absolute joy.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:

A deck of cards, some red fingernail polish (but only for your left ring finger),a plate of mashed potatoes and a can of lager.

#10. Under The Dome Season 2

Soooo… here’s a bit’ve a confession. Seeing commercials about this show makes me feel a wee bit guilty. A dear friend of mine gave me a copy of the book for my birthday back in August 2010 and I still haven’t read much past the first dozen pages or less. That’s because it was still too soon after my Stephen King binge of 2004, when I was trying to catch up on all the books and short stories connected to The Dark Tower Saga before reading the final volume. Reading The Dark Tower books 5, 6 and 7 plus a trunk load of other stuff by King within the span of about a year warped me and burnt me out on King’s work for the foreseeable future. Someday I’ll be ready to read more of his stuff again. But today is not that day.

Premiering: June 30th
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

A town in Maine is suddenly enclosed by a gigantic clear dome and has to deal with this frightening new world. The second season looks to be upping the stakes with new and weird qualities emerging from the dome (which may be alive) and an announcement that “Two Shall Surely Die”.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

Yeah. It’s got Dean Norris in it so how bad could it be? Seems like a fun sci-fi show that will eventually end up in my collection of DVDs or Blu-ray. The idea of a tense survival situation in a confined space on that scale offers a lot of potential for interesting plot development. It’s got 13 episodes in the first season so it’s not too hard to get caught up in time to be ready for season 2.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:

A snow globe, a home made dome shaped cake and a some kind of iced drink with one of those dome shaped lids to complete the theme.

#9. Gravity Falls Season 2

No trailer, no firm date set, not a lot to go on. This here is a show that more than a few of my friends have been telling me I should watch and if the above clip is representative of the typical fare of the series I can see why..

Premiering: Sometime during Summer 2014
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

A pair of young fraternal twins named Dipper and Mabel travel from their hometown of Piedmont, California to Gravity, Falls Oregon for a summer vacation. Once settled in to the home of their Great Uncle or ‘Grunkle’ Stan, the kids start to find some weird things going on. It seems that the local legends and ghost stories of Gravity Falls may have more truth to them than meets the eye as the kids start getting drawn into weird and goofy adventures of a paranormal nature.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

Yeah. All the buzz I been hearing about this indicates that it’s got “off the rail awesomeness” built into it. The town of Gravity Falls is an amalgam of parts of the state that creator Alex Hirsch visited while working for Laika Studios in 2006. A turn off sign for “Boring Oregon” caught his eye and he’s described the show as what he’d imagine that town might be like, or perhaps what the opposite of it might be. It also draws inspiration from the Oregon Vortex.

Being set in the state I live in is definitely a plus that puts it high up on my “get around to list” but life’s too long to worry about when I sit down to watch it. I might just start up with the second season which as of this writing has not been given a firmer date than Summer of 2014. Hopefully Comic-Con will bring more answers if they haven’t come by then.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:

A copy of The Big Book of Weird, some Sasquatch Beef Jerkey and a 711 Slurpee.

#8. The Last Ship

Oh Yeah! Some Michael Bay action goin’ on. And he’s only producing instead of directing, which I know is also the case with that turtle movie coming up the pike. Speaking of the turtle movie, does anyone else think it’s lamentable that director Jonathan Liebesman will get very little recognition for that movie? No matter how good or bad it is, a lot of people who like or dislike it will think it was directed by Bay who will get all the praise/blame which is kinda whack. Anyway…

Premiering: June 22nd
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

A naval vessel that’s been on radio silence for 4 Months in Antarctica is coming to the end of their “so classified even the CO doesn’t know what the science team are doing” mission only to find out that during their time time away from home, 80% of the global population has died from a viral pandemic and the lead scientist is in charge of making a vaccine which other nations are in pursuit of with a vehemence. The clock is ticking and the race is on to save the world!

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

If you like action TV with a realistically plausible sci-fi concept then yeah I think so. If that genre isn’t your aisle at the tea shop then give it a pass. I know that the name of Michael Bay might put some people off, but I really have don’t have that big a problem with his non-nerd property adapted works.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:

A copy of a book on viral biology so you can look for technical errors on the show or be impress by how much they get right, box of MREs so you can eat what military guys eat, and a frozen margarita.

#7. Legends

Anyone wanna get the obvious joke out of the way here? Shall we skip it altogether? We all know what people are gonna be suggesting because of who the actor playing the protagonist is. No matter what happens during the first season, those jokes are gonna wear thin rather quick. Otherwise, this looks pretty cool.

Premiering: August 13th
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

Sean Bean is an FBI agent who has changes made to his personality and memories in order to blend in so well undercover that he isn’t found out. When a stranger points out the obvious question of “How do you know if any of your memories are real or that you’re not being played by your own agency?” things start to go down the rabbit hole of espionage, domestic spying and paranoia. The premise for the show seems like an over used engine put into the hands of a gifted mechanic. Some worn out genres can jump to life when you have the right guys behind the wheel, which seems to be the case here.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

Yeah. It’s gonna get a lot of comparison’s to Person of Interest and The Bourne Identity but so what? If it rocks, it rocks. If it sucks, it sucks. There’s enough room for another “The government can’t be trusted and you don’t know the real truth yet.” show on the airwaves.

My only minor quip is the title of the series, which sounds rather generic. I’m not gonna hold it against the producers that they made the series and called it this instead of letting another studio use the name for a TV successor to Legend with Tim Curry, but I don’t mind if anyone else does.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:

A books from the Disinformation Series, a polaroid camera, newspapers to cut up, scissors to cut the paper, card stock posters, yarn and thumb tacks for making a cool conspiracy map, an energy bar and a cup of coffee so you can simulate the amount of energy a paranoid person feels.

#6. Manhattan

Realizing what they had done both for, and to the world by creating the atomic bomb and having to live with it is worse thing than any fate I can imagine for the scientists at Los Alamos. This series looks to be going for capturing the in-the-moment heartache in a way that conveys what life was like at the time for those individuals.

Premiering: July 27th
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

Scientists are working on a project in the 1940s that requires absolute secrecy from their loved ones, some of whom are living with them on a base in New Mexico. They are expected to lie to their families about what they’re doing, which is designing a weapon that if it works will not only change the course of World War II, but alter the very fabric of the human condition in an irrevocable way.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

If you like historically based movies and TV shows then this looks like a good one to check out. The subject matter and the history behind it almost certainly means that it’s gonna be a dark and depressing ride with a downer ending, but that’s what a story about the creation of nuclear weapons should be.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:

A copy of Fallout: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szillard and the political science of the atomic bomb, a plate of cooked mushrooms and an IPA to toast the end of the pre-nuclear world.

#5 Extant

“You were on The Seraphim Station for 13 months” says Sam Barton (played by Camryn Manheim) to her patient… because that’s something Halle Berry’s character needs to be told? Did she lose track of time? Oh wait, her character was all alone and somehow got knocked up during the solo mission? Okay, maybe she does need to be told very basic things to help her figure out what the hell’s going on.

The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

Molly Woods is an astronaut that was on a 13 month solo mission. Which at least one Topless Robot reader has pointed out the unlikelihood of in one of the weekend threads that Luke leaves around for everyone. A space station is not a place where you want one person all alone doing a mission; it just isn’t. It doesn’t matter if you have Halle Berry in your space program and she really, really wants to do a solo mission. You need to have another person on hand in case something happens and she’s asleep, or pooping or slips in zero gravity and knocks herself out.

When she gets back to earth, Molly gets the news that she’s pregnant. Which is of course weird because no one else ever came onboard the Seraphim Station during her mission… or did they? She seems to have had a weird dream and “accidentally” deleted footage from the recording logs when that whole thing happened.

Then there’s her husband’s robot/android son played by Pierce Gagnon, a young actor who has become a go-to “creepy and totally evil kid” who was most memorable as a future brutal crime lord in Looper. So the chances are he’ll be evil as hell. And it also seems likely that Molly’s husband will continue the grand tradition of a “creepy and totally evil kid” having at least one adult around who refuses to believe that the kid is evil and creepy until it’s too late.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

This is either gonna be one of the top shows of the summer season or a train-wreck beautiful disaster. I don’t see it being mediocre. I’ll be watching and I hope some of you guys do too. By the way, I’m calling out a prediction here, but with Halle Berry’s character having been impregnated on the Seraphim Station it seems rather obvious that the show will go for the whole aliens = angels type of angle at some point. There’s a drinking game to be made out of spotting the heavy handed metaphors and clues that all of the characters miss for no good reason… perhaps it shouldn’t be a drinking game involving alcohol though so as to prevent blackouts and deaths.

Luke has his own thoughts about the show which are worth taking a glance at.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:

A copy of Chariot of the Gods? so you can count how many “religion was created by space people” reference pop up, a Teddy Ruxpin Doll that can feel better by realizing that he’s less creepy than the characters Pierce Gagnon plays and a bottle of Mountain Dew Pitch Black so that you can simulate the awful sensation of drinking the void of outer space.

#4. Dominion

Religious horror in a modern setting? I’m diggin it. Branched off of that Paul Bettany flick with the gun toting angels gettin’ all kookoo crazy? Hells yeah!

Premiering: June 19th
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

You may or may not recall the 2010 movie Legion since it fell under the radar for a lot of people, but it’s a damn good ride. It’s about a bunch of angels attacking a small diner in the midwest, and this show picks up 25 years later. The world is stuck in the apocalypse and things are heating up. Angels have over run the earth, but a rogue element of of the winged folk are siding with humanity who are losing in their efforts to continue surviving. Tom Wisdom is Michael (taking over the role from Paul Bettany) who leads the rogue angels and Carl Buekes is Gabriel (replacing Kevin Durant) who is in charge of the guys that want to wipe us out.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

Dude, I am down like a clown in the ground for this. Religious sci-fi/horror stuff has always been a big draw when it’s done in an interesting way. I loved the way that Legion approached the subject matter and the show looks good enough to give it a try for a couple of episodes.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:

A copy of Legion on DVD if you haven’t seen it, a slice of angel’s food cake and a glass of wine.

#3. Crossbones


Trailer embeddable? Nope, that’s why you get this fly pic of Big Ol’ Johnny Malka-P (p is for pirate). Go watch the trailer if you’re so inclined… that is unless you’re watching the show already. It premiered on May 30th and has 8 more episodes left to air.

Premiering: Already Airing
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

During the Golden Age of Piracy, a ship that’s carrying some mechanical Wonder-McGuffin is boarded by sea dogs and Physician/Mystery-Man Thomas Lowe is gonna do everything he can to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. After blowing it to bits with a rifle and burning some crucial notes, he gets captured and taken to an older, non-traditional looking Blackbeard (i.e. no beard of long black hair, but rather a white goatee) played by John “He could’ve been the Vulture in Spider-Man 4 if Sony had played ball with Raimi” Malkovich. Edward “Black Beard” Teach wants the device and it’s secrets, and Thomas Lowe is willing to withstand torture and launch an attempt to murder histories greatest pirate to keep it’s secrets safe.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

Oh yeah. The buzz I’ve been hearing about this show from just the first episode has it on my get around to list. Golden Age Piracy is a great setting for a good adventure or mystery story when things go right and again, John Freaking Malkovich is in it!

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:
A toy on a string, , some sugary snacks, and a bottle of liquor.

#2. Doctor Who Season 8

I don’t really have to convince you on this, right? You’re either into the show, not into or maybe on the fence. I’ll admit that it felt like a chore to watch a lot of Doctor Who when first getting into it these past few years, because I had friends getting insistent that I watch the show. The sense of obligation to watch it sometimes out weighed the joy of watching… until I caught up to and surpassed some of those friends.

Premiering: Sometime in August
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now… and also have inexplicably not been told the premise by one of your nerdy friends):

An alien who can regenerate a new body if he’s mortally wounded travels around the universe through space and time in a ship that changes shape to match it’s surrounding unless it’s broken (which it is) and gets stuck on a single setting like say….. a police call box. He sometimes takes on companions that hang with him and form romantic and/or platonic bonds. He’s known throughout all existence as “The Doctor.”

This season will start with Peter Capaldi stepping into the role as the 12th, 13th or 14th incarnation of The Doctor (there are at least two iterations [The Valeyard and The War Doctor] whose validity and/or place in the counting and/or continuity is hard to pin down) replacing Matt Smith who was the 11th Doctor.

Madcap time-travel fun with a penchant for dark drama that should definitely be watched.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:

Yes. Yes it is. There’s no use belaboring the point here. If you haven’t already watched it, I think you should give it a try. If you’re daunted by the 7 seasons worth of episodes of the revived series, I say jump into the season 8 premiere and see what you think of it. The introduction of a new version of The Doctor is generally a good jumping on point for new viewers.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:

A quirky fashion accessory like a really long scarf or a funny hat, a Vodka Screwdriver with a little bit of soda from the fast food chain Sonic, and a big plate of fish sticks (which are apparently called fish fingers in the UK) with custard for the dipping sauce.

#1. The Strain

Obligatory jabs about “This is a vampire thing that isn’t like Twilight!” are oozing all over the net whenever I read an article about Guillermo del Toro’s awesome project that started as a TV pitch, got turned into a novel and then a series of graphic novels and is now getting turned into a TV series. It is an unjust comparison, because it’s not just a “vampires are gritty and bad ass again” affair. This goes way beyond the kind of vamp movies people have been lamenting the lack of since Stephenie Meyer came onto the scene.

Premiers: July 13th
The Premise (in case you can’t watch videos right now):

The tag line of the graphic novels is “In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country. In two months – the world.” and I tend to wonder if that’s a hint at the final outcome of the story.

A CDC team investigates the mystery of a Boeing 777 landing at JFK international and going dark. Everyone on board is found to be dead and that’s only the beginning of problems for Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team of investigating scientists from the CDC. Del Toro treats vampirism like a mutating and evolving virus that has just hit a natural selection boost of amazing proportions. The vampires on this show are genetic freak shows that have serpentine tongues of death and it gives a fresh jolt of visual newness to fans of contemporary dakr gritty vampire stuff like 30 Days of Night or Daybreakers. The story rules walk a fine line between supernatural and scientific and manage to blend the best of both styles.

Also one of the lead characters is played by David Bradley, who you likely know best as Argus Filch or Walder Frey. He’s not the first or even the second guy I would have picked if asked who should play the character of Holocaust Survivor turned pawn shop broker/vampire hunter Abraham Setrakian when I was reading the comics, but he fits so well I’m feel like a goofball for not having thought of him.

Is it recommended as watch-worthy?:


Seriously though, I can think of no good reason for a person who visits a site like TR to not at least check out the first episode. The comics are some great stuff and the trailer indicates that the show is on track to being just as good.

What should you have on hand to enhance the enjoyment of this show?:

A bit of garlic bread, a rare bloody steak, a wooden stake and a cup of tea.

Final thoughts.

So there you have it, folks. 15 shows on the airwaves and cable lines this summer one of which has already started airing. Many of them involving mysteries and puzzles and codes. Some of these shows are actiony, some of them are sciencey, some of them are magicy, some are reality shows. Many on the list combine multiple elements into a blended stew of TV nifticity. I’m sure I’ve missed some that are worth noting so let me know in the comments which ones should’ve been on the list.

Previously by Greggory Basore on Topless Robot:

8 Unanswered Questions Left by X-Men: Days of Future Past (and the Odds They’ll Be Addressed)

5 Lessons Hollywood Should Learn from The LEGO Movie (and 5 Ways They’ll Probably Miss the Point)

TR’s 10 Best Comics Read in 2013

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