The Best Film, TV and DVDs for Summer

Summer will have some rainy days, as well as some lazy days where you just don’t feel like leaving the house. In our “Watch” segment, PopMatters writers offer their favorite picks for those kind of summer days. These are the TV shows and films they’re queuing up on the DVD player, along with a few suggestions for upcoming metroplex fun and a few new shows.


Adventureland (Greg Mottola, 2009)

Take Dazed and Confused, drop most of the drug references and move everything to an amusement park during the end of the ’80s and you have this modern classic from writer/director Greg Mottola. Unlike his previous raunchy sex comedy, Superbad, this filmmaker follows his aimless muse through a series of scenarios meant to show the less than focused feeling generated by the rise of Reaganism and the resulting decade of Greed. Our college kids — lonely, lost, and, and lacking ambition — spend their days running rides and resetting metal milk bottles, their nights acknowledging that, even after four years of education, they understand less about the world than they did before. Alienation has never felt so fresh and alive as it does here. Bill Gibron


The Adventures of Pete and Pete: Seasons One and Two (1993–1996)

Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete was the kind of quirky, children’s programming the network was known for in the ’90s. Following the antics of the Wrigley brothers, Big Pete and Little Pete, the series was a blend of the absurd and the mundane. Small things such as a snippet of a song being heard on the radio could become the focus of an episode. At the same time, Artie, Little Pete’s personal superhero, made regular appearances and was as integral to the show as any of the little details. By bringing in such disparate elements – the everydayness of life and outrageous characters and situations, the series succeeded in creating something wholly unique. It’s a perfect summertime show for adults to enjoy with children, given its carefree eccentricity and overall looseness, plus you get a lot of great cameos and recurring cast members (Michael Stipe, Iggy Pop, Steve Buscemi,), and music to boot. Sadly, only the first two out of three seasons are currently available on DVD, but they’re worth seeking out. J.M. Suarez


Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000)

It’s the greatest summer job ever — getting hired on by Rolling Stone to follow your favorite band around and write about it. This is indeed what happens to 15-year-old William Miller in Cameron Crowe’s autobiographic ode to teen rebellion and rock ‘n’ roll. The set-up, which sees our naïve young hero heading out with the electrifying — if often outrageous and inconsiderate — fictional group, Stillwater, plays as a combination of recall and revisionism. Crowe did indeed work as a journalist while still in high school, but the various life lessons he learned while on the road had to be toned down (a bit) to make the MPAA, and the studio, happy. Still, who wouldn’t want a backstage pass and a soundtrack like this for their coming of age years? Bill Gibron


American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973)

“You can’t stay 17 forever.” The day this truth hits you is a dark, cold one. It’s the end of your innocence. George Lucas may’ve made some others films about walking carpets and talking slugs, but American Graffiti is the film that really packs the heat. It’s tale is as bittersweet and poignant as fading August sunsets. It’s the last ray of sunshine for a bunch of starry-eyed 1962 dorks before diving off that high wire into adulthood’s inevitable, elasticated-waistband decline. Sounds like a grim, staring-out-of-rainy-windows Bergman-style downer, right? Hell no, this is the night before responsibility ‘n’ regrets, this is life exploding with a bang not a whimper. You, dear viewer, can relive those glory days spent pimping your first ride, failing to hypnotise the storeclerk into serving you liquor (“I lost my ID…i n a flood”), escapin’ whoop-ass from the local greasers and most importantly, trying desperately to trackdown that blonde. And the soundtrack! Jeez, only the No. 1 songs from Heaven — Buddy Holly, Del Shannon, Fats Domino, the Platters — all spun by the personification of no surrender rebellion, the lycanthropic lothario that is DJ Wolfman Jack. American Graffiti toasts the Holy Grail of eternal youth; those magical, hopeful summers at their very warmest. Come feel the glow. Matt James


Breaking Bad (2008-present)

While AMC shows like Mad Men and The Walking Dead have taken their fair share of the spotlight, AMC’s most complex and un-nerving show makes it’s long-awaited return. You’ve got plenty of time to catch up on the first three seasons of Breaking Bad before a resolution to last season’s cliffhanger/jaw-dropper is finally given. Bryan Cranston continues to unravel into further criminal depths as Walter H. White, the high school chemistry teacher cancer patient-turned-meth-production overlord. Walter’s gradual and self-justified descent into the underworld invokes a subtle throwback to predecessors as vast as The Godfather and Scarface, while Jesse Pinkman (played brilliantly by Aaron Paul) persists in his emotional implosion as Walther’s unwilling sidekick. The writing on this show progressively mesmerizes with it’s shades of moral ambiguity and uninhibited character studies and devotees to this show are awaiting some long-awaited answers to the unresolved questions of Season Three. Josh Antonuccio


Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)

A confident, if impetuous detective sits patiently at the top of a sloping cliff, overlooking the Los Angeles coastline as the day’s light drops into evening. He waits, lighting cigarette after cigarette, totally unaware that he has already stumbled into a hornet’s nest of corruption. The beauty of what he sees (and we see) perfectly conceals the brutal ugliness of what is really going on: unwittingly, Jack Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is about to lift up a rock and behold the guts and machinery of what gets sold as the American Dream. It’s hot and dry; indeed, the backdrop of the story is a severe drought that is wreaking havoc on local farmers. Over the course of a few scorching days, cars overheat, people drown in dry riverbeds, and a great deal of blood, sweat and tears indelibly compensate for the rain that won’t fall and the relief that never comes. Sean Murphy


CSI Miami (2002-present)

CSI Miami is part of the ridiculously successful CSI franchise created by television mastermind Jerry Bruckheimer. But while CSI takes place at night and its moody cousin CSI New York seems to always film in the middle of winter, there’s no question that CSI Miami is a summer show. The near-blinding light filters and characteristic beach shots are a dead giveaway. Watching the inimitable redhead Horatio Cane in his custom Ray Bans pose with his arms akimbo while his staff scuttle around him in the sweltering heat is enough to make anyone thirsty. CSI Miami is now in its ninth season, and if there’s anything to be learned from the show, it’s this: the sprawling Miami swamps are a great place to get rid of a body. Sally Fink

Do the Right Thing and more…

Cowboys & Aliens (Jon Favreau, 2011)

We’ve all seen this trailer and laughed at it. An 1800s Arizona cowboy town getting attacked by aliens is, in absolute honesty, a ridiculous plot. But within that absurdity lies the exact reason to see it. Based on a graphic novel of the same title, Cowboys & Aliens has the opportunity to live up to the classic old western, combining it with the modern edge of special effects and that-would-never-happen-in-real-life events. It will be tough to win over today’s cynical movie-goers, but with Jon Favreau (Ironman) directing Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, and some of the screen’s best and most sought after talent, (Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Keith Carradine), it may be worth giving it the benefit of the doubt. Jonathan Kosakow


Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)

Like a whiff of marijuana smoke from a distant rock concert (or VW van), Richard Linklater’s coming of age comedy, set during the last day of school in the Bicentennial year of 1976, reeks of Me Decade dope and endless teenage dreams. Everything about this amazing period piece is right on point: the clothes, the music, the laconic “what me worry” attitude, and the rising sense that such lazy hazy days were quickly drawing to a close. While following the rituals of his own high school days and tapping into the universal sentiment of adolescent abandonment and freedom, Linklater crafted a classic of bong hits, bell bottoms, and breaking loose. Bill Gibron


Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)

I’m not sure if any film has ever captured the feeling of heat better than Spike Lee’s landmark 1989 movie. From the brightly colored paint on the streets to the children playing in the water hydrant, Brooklyn in the heart of summer comes to glorious life. Lee’s film achieves a perfect marriage of setting and theme, since the external heat reflects the simmering internal feelings of racial conflict within the characters. Famously, these emotions boil to the surface in one of the most provocative works about race in recent memory. Jacob Adams

Spike Lee’s incendiary screed on racism and reality plays out during the hottest day ever in the already broiling Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. The main narrative sees a local pizza parlor targeted for its lack of diversity. The subplots and text then circle around the story, adding the kind of sweltering socio-political heat that no amount of sun can manufacture. It’s no surprise that things eventually explode, a resulting riot doing more to offset things than right or reset them. It stands as solid proof that not all summers are the setting for nods to nostalgia or works of wistful solace. Bill Gibron


Drive Angry on Blu-ray (Patrick Lussier, 2011)

What screams summer fun more than Nic Cage driving a muscle car out of hell to rescue his kidnapped granddaughter from satanic worshipers? Ok, so it’s not the lightest of material, but it isn’t exactly heavy, either. It’s pure popcorn entertainment that should have been released during these wild summer months instead of when it was, during dark, cold February. Maybe then it would have made more than one-fifth its cost back at the box office. Cage stars as Milton and, despite a somewhat lackadaisical performance, manages to remain menacing and hand out a few fun one-liners. Even better is the smokin’ hot Amber Heard as his illogical sidekick. Even more surprising is the two never take the time to hook up. Instead, the duo keeps on kicking butt for 90-plus minutes. So pop some corn, grab a beer out of the cooler, and rustle up some friends. They’ll thank you after the first slow-mo shootout. Trust me. Ben Travers


Empire Records (Allan Moyle, 1995)

“Damn the Man! Save the Empire!” A certified cult classic now but a small-scale critical and box-office disappointment upon release, Empire Records offers the kind of sweet and innocently angsty coming of age tale that speaks to every pop culture lover who ever worked at a record store, video store, or movie theater during high school summers. A relic of the ’90s featuring early career performances from Renee Zellweger, Liv Tyler, and Robin Tunney, Empire Records functions like a giddier The Breakfast Club for Generation Y, bringing together differential souls on “Rex Manning Day” the summer before their post-high school lives begin. With the young record store employees uncertain of their futures, they band together to save the future of their place of work, and the livelihood of their employer, Joe (Anthony LaPaglia). Pat and twee and all too memorable and fun, you’ll have Maxwell Caufield’s “Say No More, Mon Amour” in your head for weeks. Michelle Welch


The Eurovision Song Contest

You can keep your Idols, and all things Simon Cowell, for millions, there’s only one music show worth watching: The Eurovision Song Contest. This is a television event which for me, at least, marked the countdown to childhood summers in a northern English town. Cheerfully ignoring any artistic pretentions, The Eurovision Song Contest is a camp behemoth that devours musical styles whole, taking in nu-metal, pseudo-middle eastern drumming in strange hats and operatic wailing in nonsensical English. In recent years, The Eurovision Song Contest lost its footing as a music contest, attracting more interest for political hissy fits amid happy-clappy songs about love and understanding. Easy to forget, then, that The Eurovision Song Contest once launched bone-fide international acts, like ABBA and Celine Dion. UK commentary taken over by former stand-up Graham Norton (replacing Terry Wogan), remains traditionally xenophobic and endows the contest with the seriousness it deserves — or makes it an ironic guilty pleasure, beloved of slacking undergrads everywhere. Maysa Hattab


Frankie & Annette MGM Movie Legends Collection (1963-1967)

In an odd way, the beach movies of the early ’60s were a way of selling juvenile rebellion to a new post-delinquent demographic. Good wholesome fun replaced gangs and glorified rumbles, and nobody did it cleaner (or whiter) than Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. With America already in the grip of the warm California sun, thanks to surf culture and its accompanying Brian Wilson penned soundtrack, the producers at American International Pictures hit paydirt. This collection captures some of their best — Beach Blanket Bingo, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, and Muscle Beach Party, along with five others — and shows that, along with all the lame jokes and Central Casting stereotypes, there was a lot of happiness and heart. Bill Gibron

Friday Night Lights and more…

Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)

Not enough football in the summer? NBC’s critical darling and perpetual underdog, Friday Night Lights, will get you through until August. Don’t care about football one way or the other? Sign yourself up for Panthers football, too. You won’t regret it. Now that Friday Night Lights has officially ended its five season run, the summer offers the perfect time to catch up with one of the best televised dramas of all time. Yes, it’s about football in a small Texas town, but it’s also about so much more than that. Ultimately, Friday Night Lights gives us the strongest depiction around of people doing their best when the world gets them down. You’ll cry, you’ll laugh, you’ll get on your feet to cheer (and not just at the two-or-three minutes of football per episode). This is feel good television you don’t have to feel guilty about watching. Clear eyes, full hearts. Corey Beasley


Green Lantern (Martin Campbell, 2011)

Yes, I’m recommending the Green Lantern set for release on 17 June and no, I haven’t seen it yet. I have a few key reasons for faith, though, in the $150 million production responsible for recreating my favorite superhero on the big screen. The first is Martin Campbell. The man behind Goldeneye and Casino Royale obviously knows how to take a big budget and produce entertaining, unrelenting action. Not only does it look like he’s taking the material seriously, but someone wisely decided to incorporate the Green Lantern oath into the climax of the commercials. It’s a great speech, and it should spark interest and please fans simultaneously. Finally, it’s about damn time Ryan Reynolds got his shot at a franchise. The actor has been consistently funny for longer than I can remember. It’s his time and, considering his profound love for comic books, I think he’ll take full advantage. Here’s looking forward to some original summer fun. Go Green! Ben Travers


Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)

Honestly, you can’t have a list devoted to summer entertainment and not include the film that literally invented the May to August blockbuster. An untried Steven Spielberg, star of a couple low budget films and a few acclaimed Universal TV series, was given the task of bringing Peter Benchley’s soon to be popular shark-based bestseller to the screen — and everything went wrong. The weather was horrible (filming started in the chilly fall on Martha’s Vineyard, off the New England coast), the casting was complicated and most importantly, the prefabricated fish refused to work. So Spielberg had no choice but to let his directorial skills do the scaring. It worked, turning this cinematic novice into the king of popcorn entertainment. Bill Gibron


John From Cincinnati (2007)

I live in Wisconsin, far from the California shoreline, and have never even come close to surfing, but John From Cincinnati, about a family of washed-out surfers visited by a possible angel-alien, is not only my favorite summer television show, but my favorite show of any season. Created by David Milch (Deadwood, NYPD Blue) JFC is unlike any TV you’ll ever see. Its antic characters, obscure monologues and swift shifts from the prosaic to the metaphysical threaten to alienate the most committed fan and may have contributed to the show’s barely-single-season demise. I think Milch anticipated cancellation and so did whatever he wanted, delivering a crazy, hermetic, philosophical mystery series that is both rewarding and perplexing. The cast includes intriguing amateurs, many of Deadwood’s strongest character actors, and more familiar faces, most especially Ed O’Neill, who gives one of the best performances ever. I mean it. Watch him and weep. Guy Crucianelli


Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (2005-2010)

Kathy Griffin’s celebreality show aired six summer seasons (2005-2010) and is now on DVD, offering a tasty poolside cocktail of Hollywood satire mixed with guilty pleasure celeb worship. Smart and campy, Griffin ridiculed entertainment industry excesses, whether learning Paris Hilton’s paparazzi poses, tweaking Ryan Seacrest, or critiquing Oprah worship. Scathing enough to get banned from talk shows, Griffin insisted she loved the culture she bashed. Slamming Hollywood’s narcissism, she nevertheless celebrated artists who inspired her such as Betty White, Cher and yes, even Carol Channing (whom she stalked). Her show was a platform for her social activism. Her televised pap smear was a crazed PSA for women’s health and a send-up of celebrity “charity work” self-promotion. Griffin added personal-life reality plotlines, including her then-hubby’s embezzlement, her father’s death, and her buoyant love for 90-year-old mother Maggie. Turning the sharp commentary on herself, Griffin revealed a watchful sympathy underneath the snarky wit. Leigh H. Edwards


LA Story (Mick Jackson, 1991)

Steve Martin’s made more ambitious movies, and he’s certainly made more successful ones, but this 1991 love letter to Los Angeles, which Martin wrote, is one of his most consistently enjoyable and certainly most underrated. Martin is bumbling weatherman Harris K. Telemacher, who tries to escape his existential LA funk by wooing British journalist Sara McDowel (the wonderful Victoria Tennant), but not before getting through an unlikely relationship with Sarah Jessica Parker’s lovably ditzy SanDeE* (that’s how she spells it — hey this is LA!). Hijinks aplenty ensue, and Hollywood culture gets a good pre-Curb Your Enthusiasm skewering, but the film’s tone is as sunny as the palm tree-lined locations. Martin’s stream of great one-liners never lets up, and there’s as much genuine feeling here as you could expect from a film whose plot turns on a magical road sign. With a great supporting cast including Richard E. Grant, Marilu Henner, and Patrick Stewart, LA Story goes down like a refreshing yet satisfyingly strong mojito. John Bergstrom


The League (2009-present)

Does It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia seem a little too, um, loud to you? If you dig the quickfire, deadpan humor of that show but get sick of ALL THE YELLING (seriously, calm down, you guys), check FX’s cult favorite, The League. It, too, revolves around a group of friends backbiting and backsliding into adolescence, but it does so with just a bit more character and little more likeability for the dudes (and lady) themselves. (Well, maybe not for Ruxin.) Cue up Season One, sit back, and belly-laugh your way through Season Two and the summer, while you’re at it. Corey Beasley

Miami Vice and more…

Lost (2004-2010)

“We have to go back!” Indeed, we do. It’s been a little over a year and it is time to get Lost again. A year after it gracefully and soulfully bowed off of the air, it’s still amazing how good the series as a whole actually was, and that’s the best way to watch it: in it’s entirety. You can purchase it on DVD and Blu-Ray (thank you, Buena Vista) or stream it (thank you, Netflix), but you’ve got to watch it in healthy chunks until you’ve reached the end. It’s not a waste of time; it’s still that good and no TV show not called The Simpsons has ever demanded as much repeat viewing as Lost. Try and find all the hints and easter eggs you missed the first time around. or try to guess which episode was the first one written after the showrunners had gotten ABC to agree to end the show in 2010. My guess? “Expose”. Nikki and Paulo are killed in a merciless fashion and then the show takes off and doesn’t look back until it’s “Through the Looking Glass”. Gregg Lipkin


Miami Vice (1984-1990)

It’s been five years since Michael Mann’s Miami Vice failed to become a blockbuster summer hit, and the movie’s detractors are all too ready to list the reasons why it underwhelmed. Chief among them is the perceived frustration of audiences’ expectations for a slick and stylish update on the ’80s television series. Yet in reality, Miami Vice offers every thrill one could want in a summer film: sports cars, go-fast boats, races, chases, shootouts, beautiful scenery, tough guys and gorgeous women. Mann’s insistence on going deep into his locations and creating high stakes for Crockett and Tubbs elevates the material beyond simple escapism and enhances the film’s examination of life undercover. The complex plot of Miami Vice — part police drama, part film noir, part forbidden romance — demands revisiting. In celebration of the film’s fifth anniversary, watch Miami Vice on Blu-ray to fully appreciate how Mann and director of photography Dion Beebe immerse us in the daring lives of detectives living on the edge between crime and justice. Thomas Britt


The Monkees (1966-1968)

Watching The Monkees always makes me think of summer. Maybe it’s because most networks only seem to add it to their schedules at this time of year, or because the series is set in Hollywood’s vision of a stereotypically sunny California, where it only rains nearby haunted houses. Depending on the episode, our four rock stars (who want a small, devoted following, not worldwide fame) might deal with bumbling spies or the devil himself, but they can always sing their way out of trouble. Zany musical interludes of classic hits like “Daydream Believer”, “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” are like music videos for the 1960’s. Look closely and you’ll catch celebrity cameos ranging from Frank Zappa to Batman’s Julie Newmar. In other words, it’s the perfect balance between those complicated plot-driven dramas and the brain dead reality shows that networks usually fill their summer schedules with. Jessy Krupa


Movies in the Download Mode

You probably hear your friends say it all the time and you may have uttered the sentence yourself: Streaming films and TV shows on Netflix is loads of fun. It’s also perfect for nutters such as myself who like to eat up single weekends watching the lesser works of Roger Corman (Yikes!), or all movies starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd (there seems to be more of them every time I turn around), and tracking down the dark corners of the Werner Herzog catalogue. Of course, you don’t need Netflix; you can consult your local DVD vender or another online streaming service. The point is, you need to eat up massive amounts of time focused on a single task that will leave you feeling equal measures of shame and accomplishment. Myself? I’m working through the first three seasons of Damages, the legal drama starring Glenn Close. The first season is, as they say, epic. I can’t wait to see if and when the show jumps the shark. Jedd Beaudoin


Red Dwarf: The Complete Series (DVD: 2006)

What good are the warm days of summer without the cold confines of space? From Star Wars to Star Trek, May through August is a perfect time for a visit to and through the cosmos. So why not laugh along the interstellar overdrive with this amazing British TV series. Still going strong after nearly 23 years (though, like most UK creations, they have taken long hiatuses in between productions) the show has become a source of much enjoyment — and debate — among confirmed fans (known as “Smegheads”). From the often less than successful special effects to the oddball storylines and continuity, it’s like a pantomime puzzle box layered with slapstick and satire. It may not always make sense, but it will always make you laugh. Bill Gibron


Scooby Doo Where Are You?: The Complete Series (DVD: 2010)

It may not be built around a summer theme, and the show itself is an often creaky bit of whodunit hooey, but there is something so ripe and reverent about this late ’60s success that it’s hard not to think of a sunny Saturday morning without it. Just look at the Mystery Machine and its occupants: Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and the amazing dog known as Scooby Doo. They just scream carefree days when kids can go on adventures and solve local crimes, all while battling the supposed forces of the supernatural in the process. With its kicky pop theme songs, endless culture callbacks, and continuing popularity, this quintet will surely be ‘meddling’ well beyond this millennium. Bill Gibron


Six Feet Under (2001-2005)

I’m not sure a blackly comedic family drama set in a funeral home is everyone’s idea of shiny happy summer fun, but for me, nothing goes better with those oppressively humid, languorously inert summer days than contemplating my own mortality along with the Fisher clan. HBO’s brilliant Six Feet Under might not seem obviously evocative of summer, but remember — it debuted in the summer of 2001, wrapped up in the summer of 2005, and its three other seasons had at least a toe in the summer broadcast season. I don’t believe this to be coincidental: couple its broadcast schedule with the show’s setting in the perpetual, endless summer of Los Angeles, and the contrast between the fecundity of life we associate with summer, and the show’s relentless portrayal of the absurdity, abruptness, and absoluteness of death is thrown that much more into relief under the glare of the blinding southern California sun. And yet, in the end, Six Feet Under circles back around on itself to be one of the most life affirming, humane shows ever to air, one that reminds us that we must enjoy every teeming second — every simple thing in life — while we can. You know, things like spending the fleeting summer months on marathon sessions watching great TV on DVD. Jake Meaney

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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