The 2015-16 broadcast season officially ended on Wednesday, but if you think that you can just prop up your feet for the next three months as you empty out your DVR and catch up on shows you've missed since September, it's time for a reality check. In the era of Peak TV, there are no longer any quiet periods for TV, as the networks and streaming services are going to keep the pipeline overstuffed all summer along.
While networks used to go on autopilot from June to August, those days are long gone. This summer's TV options will be just as relentless and plentiful as last year's, where some of 2015's best series debuted, including Mr. Robot and UnReal. Both of those shows will be back for their sophomore seasons, as well as other returning favorites and some impressive newbies. As usual, the options are overwhelming between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but whatever you do, make sure you save time for these 12 new and returning shows—which represent the absolute best of what TV has to offer this summer—in order of their debuts:
Roots (History, May 30)
Don't make the mistake of dismissing this as yet another needless Hollywood remake of a beloved movie or series. The 1977 slave saga miniseries, based on Alex Haley's 1976 novel, drew one of the largest TV audiences of all time, with 100 million viewers tuning in for the final episode. But History's four-night, eight-hour retelling is even more powerful, emotional and resonant than the original. Brutal and searing, it can often be difficult to watch, yet at the same time you can't take your eyes off a cast that includes Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Anika Noni Rose, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and the miniseries' standout: Malachi Kirby, who plays Kunta Kinte, the enslaved Mandinka warrior. The Roots could be the most superb program History has ever produced (it will also air on A&E and Lifetime), and caps the strongest TV season in memory for miniseries, which also includes Fargo, The People v. O.J. Simpson and American Crime. Good luck, Emmy voters!
Maya & Marty (NBC, May 31)
The industry hasn't quite been sure what to do with Maya Rudolph since she left Saturday Night Live in 2008, but NBC was on the right track when it gave Rudolph her own variety special (The Maya Rudolph Show) in 2014. The program cried out for a longer run, and after striking out last fall with Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick, NBC has wisely given Rudolph a second shot, pairing her with another SNL alum who is a perfect fit for the variety format: Martin Short. Continuing the SNL lovefest, Lorne Michaels is executive producing, and Kenan Thompson co-stars. Combining sketches and musical performances, Maya & Marty should be a potent summer cocktail, and even if it's ultimately more miss than hit, both performers should be eminently watchable.
UnReal (Lifetime, June 6)
The biggest risks often result in the biggest rewards, as Lifetime discovered last summer with its dark, behind the scenes look at the making of a Bachelor-like dating competition series, which ended up as one of 2015's best new shows. UnReal hasn't lost any momentum in Season 2, which looks to be even wilder as it follows a new season of Everlasting, featuring the show's first African-American suitor, a football star looking to rehab his image. Showrunners Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro have crafted a scenario that feels both familiar and completely fresh, and watching frenemy producers Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn (Constance Zimmer) ping-pong between joining forces and backstabbing is going to be one of the summer's greatest pleasures.
Angie Tribeca (TBS, June 6)
For years, TBS' now-former "very funny" slogan seemed like it should have a question mark after it, until TBS chief Kevin Reilly shook up the network and introduced—whoda thunk it?—comedy series that were actually funny. Leading the charge was Angie Tribeca, a wacky detective show spoof a la Police Squad/Naked Gun and Sledge Hammer, which is back for round two, just four months after its first season debuted in January. The new episodes are just as silly and ridiculous as Season 1's lineup—and that's a very good thing.
Casual (Hulu, June 7)
The best of Hulu's original series (aside from The Mindy Project, which originated at Fox)—and the first show to get Hulu a Golden Globe nomination—Casual is back for another round of angst and dysfunction in the lives of a divorced single mom (Michaela Watkins) living with her brother (Tommy Dewey) and her daughter (Tara Lynne Barr). Hulu's shows haven't matched Netflix's and Amazon's in the buzz department, which has caused Casual to slip through the cracks a bit, but this one is well worth catching up on.
O.J.: Made in America (ESPN and ABC, June 11)
What show in its right mind would want to revisit the O.J. Simpson saga so soon after FX's brilliant The People v. O.J. Simpson miniseries this spring? Only one that delivers the goods, which this five-part, 10-hour documentary—it premieres on ABC, and subsequent episodes air on ESPN on June 14, 15, 17 and 18—most certainly does. O.J.: Made in America tells Simpson's entire story, from football legend to Hollywood entertainer to his murder trial to post-acquittal pariah, but more importantly, places it in the context of the country's often-explosive racial tensions. It's a stunning portrait of a superstar's rise and fall, and our society's culpability in every twist of his story. Thought-provoking and engrossing, it pulls off something I would have thought impossible: It surpasses the FX miniseries that preceded it.
BrainDead (CBS, June 13)
CBS has an awful track record when it comes to its high-profile summer series over the last several years: The riveting premiere sucks you in, then each subsequent episode lets you down. But what Under the Dome, Extant and Zoo didn't have was Robert and Michelle King, the creators of The Good Wife. They're behind this new comic-thriller about a Capitol Hill staffer (Elizabeth Winstead) who finds out that the government is no longer functioning, and that bugs are feasting on the brains of Congress members and Hill staffers. (Could this show be more perfectly timed?) If anyone can break CBS' abysmal summer streak, it's them.
Animal Kingdom (TNT, June 14)
We've already seen the fruits of Kevin Reilly's TBS overhaul, but this summer he'll finally unveil his vision for TNT, taking that network in a decidedly grittier direction than the likes of Rizzoli & Isles and Major Crimes. His first drama out of the gate is Animal Kingdom, based on the 2010 Australian film about the matriarch of a crime family (Ellen Barkin), who pulls the strings of her four grown sons (including Scott Speedman and Shawn Hatosy) while taking in the grandson she hasn't seen in over a decade (Finn Cole). In the early episodes, the show is still a work in progress, but one thing is immediately clear: This is a bravura turn from Barkin, in a role that earned Jacki Weaver an Oscar nomination. She is a force of nature, and reason enough to take a chance on the show.
Orange is the New Black (Netflix, June 17)
Just three years ago, Orange is the New Black had much of the summer buzz to itself, and while the women's prison drama has had to make way for other heavy hitters, it still is an essential summer watch. Season 3 was a bit more uneven than the first two, but the drama looks to bounce back with a season that builds on the twist introduced at the end of last year: an influx of new inmates that will upend the status quo at Litchfield Penitentiary.
Queen of the South (USA, June 21)
Audiences seems to have overdosed on the white male antihero genre, but not networks, which keep coming back for more, like HBO's Vinyl and AMC's upcoming Feed the Beast. That's why it's a refreshing change of pace to see USA's new drama flip the script by focusing on a Mexican woman (Alice Braga) who is on the run from her now-dead boyfriend's drug cartel and will eventually run her own after she seeks shelter in the U.S. Based on the best selling novel La Reina Del Sur, Queen of the South isn't Mr. Robot—then again, what is?—but it continues USA's promising evolution from generic "blue skies" procedurals into far more interesting and absorbing fare.
Mr. Robot (USA, July 13)
Speaking of Mr. Robot, the best new show of 2015 will pick up where it left off, with the aftermath of the chaos that Rami Malek and Christian Slater unleashed last season. Creator Sam Esmail will try to top himself in Season 2 by directing all 10 episodes. Part of the brilliantly subversive drama's brilliance is how Esmail manages to navigate the tightrope each week—the show feels like it could unravel at any moment—but he hasn't let viewers down yet. Judging by the trailer (below), we're in for another unnerving, exhilarating ride.
BoJack Horseman (July 22, Netflix)
A funny, yet poignant and thoughtful series about a depressed horse who is trying to recapture his glory days as the star of a '90s sitcom, BoJack Horseman is the kind of show that could only air on Netflix. Yes, it's a satire of Hollywood, but it goes so much deeper than that, plumbing the depths of Bojack's psyche and depression. Few shows can balance that absurd humor and gravitas, but BoJack pulls it off. And best of all: Character actress Margo Martindale (one of BoJack's highlights, voiced by the Justified and Americans actress) will return for more mayhem.
Bonus pick: You're the Worst (FXX, Aug. 31)
This is a bit of a cheat, as the show will mostly air this fall, but FXX is sneaking in its Season 3 premiere at the very end of the summer, so it's worth a mention here. Last season's unexpected turn into the clinical depression of Aya Cash's Gretchen Cutler, which threatened her romance with Chris Geere's Jimmy Shive-Overly, was a rewarding surprise, yet the show never lost its comic edge. (It landed a spot on my top 10 TV shows of 2015 list.) And after the conclusion of the Season 2 final, which gave us TV's best nonverbal scene of 2015, I can't wait to see what surprises creator Stephen Falk has in store next.