The Best Film, TV and DVDs for Summer

by PopMatters Staff

1 July 2011


Woodstock and more...

Spaced (1999-2001) / Shawn of the Dead (2004) / Hot Fuzz (2007) / Paul (2011)

No one understands cinematic nostalgia and hilarious homages better that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (and their directing partner in crime, Edgar Wright). These British bad boys, responsible for a terrific TV show as well as three sensational comedies, can’t help but mesh their meek geek memories of summer movies past with their penchant for well-spun candy floss irony. This is especially true of Shawn and Fuzz, two films that find the majority of their humor and heft in deconstructing the past three decades of popcorn entertainment. Someday, audiences will go back to these revisions as the real thing. Until then, we have the pleasure of playing them alongside their inspirations for a surefire blockbuster compare and contrast. Bill Gibron

Torchwood: Miracle Day (Starz, 8 July 2011)

The first two seasons of the Doctor Who spinoff (“Torchwood” is an anagram of “Doctor Who”) were good but nothing special, but the miniseries Children of Earth was not merely good, but some of the finest sci-fi of the 21st century. Moving from BBC Wales to the Starz cable network for its next installment, the ten-part Miracle Day takes place primarily in the United States and has as recurring guest stars Lauren Ambrose and Bill Pullman. Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) return to stop the latest alien plot to conquer Earth. One of if not the most tragic heroes TV has ever seen, the immortal Captain Jack (he can die, but can’t stay dead) is apparently ready to return to Earth after the sacrifices he had to endure in Children of Earth drove him to wander the galaxy. With apologies to Falling Skies, this is the summer sci-fi to go out of your way for. It begins 8 July on Starz. Robert Moore

Trailer Park Boys (2001-2009)

Canadian television program Trailer Park Boys—pitched by show creator Mike Clattenburg as COPS from the criminals’ perspective—ran for seven seasons on Showcase before coming to an end in 2008. In recent years, thanks to satellite television, the Internet and DVD, the show’s following has grown from cult status to international fandom. This summer provides an ideal opportunity to relive or catch up with the Boys, as the show is now streaming on Netflix and newly released in a “Complete Collection” on DVD. For the good-hearted criminals of Sunnyvale Trailer Park, every season of Trailer Park Boys is a vacation from jail and a chance to try one last scheme. Although the lawless adventures of Ricky, Julian and Bubbles provide a lot of laughter, the universal appeal of Trailer Park Boys comes from the bonds of community and family that form the heart of the series. Thomas Britt

Summer is the perfect time to catch up on great shows you may have missed. Like the Canadian independent comedy series Trailer Park Boys. The funniest show this side of Arrested Development, TPB follows the misadventures of one of the strangest group of characters ever on TV, including Julian, muscular and never to be seen without a mixed drink in his hand; Ricky, who really is as stupid as he says he isn’t and aspires to be more responsible by getting serious about growing dope; Lucy, the father of Ricky’s daughter Trinity, the latter going onto the patch at age six to help her curb her smoking; the delightfully idiotic twosome Cory and Trevor, the faux white rapper J-Roc; and the alcoholic park manager Jim Lahey and his forever shirtless assistant Randy. And then there is Bubbles, who wears coke bottle glasses, is obsessed with kittys, land acts as the shows moral compass. The series begins to fade somewhat in Season Six, but for a few seasons it was one of the funniest shows in the history of TV. Robert Moore

True Blood (2008 - present)

For those sweltering Sunday nights when the scent of barbecue is in the air and a tantalizing peak at a bit of bra strap is made possible by a torso-clinging halter top, there is True Blood, a series that happily doesn’t take itself seriously enough for viewers to take it too seriously. It’s a show whose merits are perhaps only intelligible to those who have surrendered to the low-grade fever of summer, when skin seems to melt like butter and minds tend to glaze over. True Blood‘s Southern-fried bloodsuckers and nympho nymph Anna Paquin in the backwoods of Bon Temps make it the perfect adult soap opera and anti-Twilight, heightening the hyper-sexualized appeal of vampirism while preserving the contextual duality of the man vs. the monster. Amidst its carnal entertainments of blood, sex, and other supernatural mayhem is a message about the inner monster within us all, and the consequences of falling victim to the allure and temptations of evil. Michelle Welch

Summer has always been a time to revel in all the trashy entertainment we deny ourselves during the colder months and nothing is trashier or more entertaining than True Blood. HBO took the bestselling novels, added some more sex, a few more storylines and the delicious Alexander Skarsgard and what they had was a monster hit. Yes, it’s about vampires and werewolves and a bunch of even crazier stuff that I won’t spoil for you here, but it’s also addicting beyond belief. I would recommend obtaining the first three seasons, cranking the air conditioning and marathoning through. Repeat until you see snow on the ground. Devin Mainville

Web Therapy (Showtime, starting July 19)

Lisa Kudrow is back on TV. That should be all you need to hear to tune in on 19 July when the former Friends star expands her five-minute web series to a half-hour sitcom on pay cable’s best channel for original programming. Kudrow plays Fiona Wallace, a therapist more concerned with her own issues than her patients’. So much so in fact, she consults via webcam for five minutes or less. The short clips made for the web were side-splitting (and still available at, so it seems like the full-blown series should be a lock for best summer comedy. At best, it could become a perfect companion piece for Matt LeBlanc’s hit Episodes, which just wrapped up its successful first season on Showtime. At worst, it will still be better than Matthew Perry’s Mr. Sunshine. Ben Travers

Woodstock (1970) / Monterey Pop (1968) / Gimme Shelter (1970)

The beginning, middle, and end of the Summer of Love, all wrapped up in three amazing documentaries. For many, the ‘60s was about rebellion and rejecting the Establishment. For others, the counterculture couldn’t hold a candle to the music. From the farms of upstate New York to a minor motor speedway in California, the hippie movement saw its light shine, and dim significantly, in the span of two tumultuous years. In this triptych of masterful movies, we see the promise, the problems, and the prophetic end to what many thought was a dream finally achieved. Instead, this particular sonic season saw hedonism replace heroics, with the death of a fan offering the final nail in the communal coffin.  Bill Gibron

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