The Great Summer TV Cram: 9 Shows to Catch Up On Before the Heat Hits

Have you noticed that all of a sudden there isn't much new TV to watch? Welcome to summer, home of reality TV and game shows! But even though we're just days away from a downpour of mostly crummy TV, we're also just weeks away from a scattered shower of really good TV! Plus, we're headed into a long weekend (in the U.S. at least)—so now's the perfect time to dig into (or start re-watching) the previous seasons of summer's best shows. Catch up now so you can talk about 'em with us once they return!



Alphas

Season 2 premieres Monday, July 23 at 10pm on SyFy

Commitment: A measly weekend's worth of 11 one-hour episodes! Piece of cake.

Why You Should Catch Up Now: We aren't exactly living in a golden age of science-fiction television, but Alphas is one of those gems in the dirt (or whatever the saying is) that will restore your faith in the genre. The show is a refined version of the very scattered Heroes, with some X-Men and few procedural elements mixed in. WAIT DON'T GO! Trust me, it works. And what makes it really work are the well-written characters—particularly the autistic cyber-rider Gary, who's played to perfection by Ryan Cartwright. Though things start off pretty standard and there are a few bumps (the cult episode is especially stinky), Season 1 really takes the show in a fantastic direction by the time it gets to the finale.

Cheat Sheet: There's a dip in the middle, so if you can't watch the whole season go ahead and skip Episodes 5, 6, 7, and 8... though Episode 6, "Bill and Gary's Excellent Adventure" is a great buddy episode. And if you're absolutely crunched for time, "Pilot," "Rosetta," "The Unusual Suspects," and the must-see finale "Original Sin" will suffice. —Tim Surette



Awkward.

Season 2 premieres Thursday, June 28 at 10:30pm on MTV

Commitment: A dozen very marathon-able half-hour episodes.

Why You Should Catch Up Now: For one thing, you should watch this likeable high-school comedy so MTV will quit making shows about babies having babies and Guidos suffering Tennis Elbow from too much fist-pumping. But you should also watch it because Awkward. is actually super smart and witty and exactly the type of programming MTV should invest in. It's a bit on the raunchy side in a good way, and while the characters are recognizable as high-school-series archetypes, they're also uniquely their own. Plus OMG Jenna and Jake or Jenna and Matty!?!?!

Cheat Sheet: Start with the pilot and you won't be able to resist watching the whole thing. And with all the high-school drama that goes on, missing an episode will make you, like, so out of touch. —Tim



Breaking Bad

Season 5 premieres Sunday, July 15 at 10pm on AMC

Commitment: Lots, 46 hour-long episodes across four seasons. But totally worth it.

Why You Should Catch Up Now: In case you haven't heard, Breaking Bad is the best show on television right now. The series is a triple threat of television talent: It arguably has the best writing, cinematography, and acting of any drama ever and consistently finds new ways to outdo itself. This is the final season (well, the first half of the 16-episode finale season) coming up, and there's still plenty to tell in the final chapter of Walter White.

Cheat Sheet: Are you kidding me? You won't want to miss a single episode. —Tim



Episodes

Season 2 premieres Sunday, July 1 at 10:30pm on Showtime

Commitment: A single, 7-episode season... of half-hour episodes. That's less time than it takes to watch two full episodes of The Bachelor!

Why You Should Catch Up Now: Even if you watched part or all of Season 1, you've likely forgotten the particulars, seeing as Episodes concluded its debut season in February of 2011. When the show was first announced, most hardcore TV fans couldn't wait to see its super-meta story brought to life: Episodes follows a husband-wife producer team from England whose award-winning television show is butchered in the process of adapting it for American audiences (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig star as the British couple, and Matt LeBlanc plays himself as the star of the American version of the show). And even though it was critically "meh" at the start, it really got better and way more fun by the end. Stick with it through the early episodes, and I promise you'll see things start to gel.

Cheat Sheet: If you really feel like you have to skip around, you probably shouldn't bother, because there are only seven episodes and half the fun is watching the show build to its big finish. But if you simply must cheat, watch "Episode One," "Episode Six," and "Episode Seven" (which will only save you two hours, so really just watch the whole thing). —Jen Trolio



Falling Skies

Season 2 premieres Sunday, June 17 at 9pm on TNT

Commitment: 10 episodes! But some of those episodes are really not good.

Why You Should Catch Up Now: TNT's Steven Spielberg-produced alien-invasion drama didn't have the best debut season, but have you seen the new promos?! They look awesome! This could be a case of fool us once, shame on Steven Spielberg, fool us twice, shame on us and shame on Steven Spielberg. Even though there wasn't a character to love in Season 1 except for rebel Pope, Falling Skies does feature Americans blowing up space foreigners in a post alien-invasion world, plus there's a decent amount of hate-watching that makes the show enjoyable. Sometimes it's actually pretty good! But really, Season 1 ended on a high note and we're hoping that momentum carries over into Season 2.

Cheat Sheet: The pilot's probably worth watching, but nothing else in the first half of Season 1 is worth your time. Jump to Episode 6 and finish out the season while preparing to be partially blown-away by the finale. —Tim



Louie

Season 3 premieres Thursday, June 28 at 10:30pm on FX

Commitment: A pair of 13-episode seasons, but since each episode is only 30 minutes long, that's like only one 13-episode season!

Why You Should Catch Up Now: Don't you want to be cool? All the cool kids watch Louie, arguably TV's best indie-style comedy about a balding, middle-aged man in New York City. There's a hell of a lot of genius that goes into each episode, combining a ton of uncomfortable situations with observational anti-comedy to create a show that even the likes cable TV hasn't seen. It's like the jazz of comedy, with Louis C.K. sacrificing budget for complete control of the show's gorgeous shots and unique point of view. Often heart-warming, occasionally introspective, and sometimes so funny your underwear will fly off your body, Louie is television for those who are sick of regular television.

Cheat Sheet: There's zero continuity in the series, so hop in and out at will. But after you check out a few episodes, make sure to watch Season 2's "Duckling," one of the best hours of television in recent years. —Tim



Teen Wolf

Season 2 premieres Sunday, June 3 at 11pm after the MTV Movie Awards

Commitment: A single, 12-episode season. (It's on Netflix Instant!)

Why You Should Catch Up Now: Your enjoyment of MTV's surprisingly watchable and well-made series depends on your tolerance for supernatural teen dramas, because make no mistake: This is a show for young people. It's better—and much scarier—than the Twilight series and easier to follow than The Vampire Diaries (which is basically The Wire of The CW). But the best thing about Teen Wolf is how well it doles it its mysteries, twists, and cliffhangers. The cable-standard 12-episode first season never feels padded but instead remains focused on the exploration of how awkward it can be to get bitten by a werewolf, occasionally transform into a monster, and then fall in love with a girl from an ancient line of werewolf hunters. Teen Wolf is also a great show if you enjoy A LOT of male objectification (equal opportunity!). But the show's thrills aren't purely of the titillation kind; Teen Wolf also boasts some of the funniest dialogue on cable as best friend and comic relief Stiles (future superstar Dylan O'Brien) steals pretty much any scene he's in. Honestly, as far as these kinds of things go (gritty TV remakes of corny '80s movies) Teen Wolf is a lot better than it had any right to be. (Not to mention that we'll be photo-recapping Season 2.)

Cheat Sheet: Actually, MTV is doing the cheating for you. This week the network began airing a highlights episode called Teen Wolf: Origins, which distills the Season 1 plotline into one manageable hour. I still recommends marathoning the full season, though. Preferably in the middle of the night while on cough syrup. It's that kind of show. —Price Peterson



True Blood

Season 5 premieres Sunday, June 10 at 9pm on HBO

Commitment: Four epic, 12-episode seasons.

Why You Should Catch Up Now: True Blood's fifth season will be the last one run by show-wizard Alan Ball, who created the series and gave it it’s je ne sais quoi (that’s French for tight abs + Southern flavor). Let’s face it, it's not only the best show going during the summertime but one of the best things on all of TV ever and the fact that this is the last arc under Ball’s direction may mean that Season 5 is either the final season or where it will narratively peak. The zeitgeist-y triangle of two dueling supernatural creatures and the human woman they love found its origins in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels, and Sookie (the lovely Anna Paquin) not only has the two hottest vampires from any franchise lapping at her neck, but a wide range of other creatures (including Joe Manganiello as a super foxy werewolf) on her dance card. (Plus her main man Bill is her husband in real life and they met on the show, so you can watch them fall in love in real time, if you're in to that kind of thing.) If you haven’t yet experienced the magical Southern Gothic + graphic yet awesome sex + compelling social commentary embedded in the cozy yet recognizably gritty town of Bon Temps then I honestly feel sorry for you. And I envy that you get to watch it all for the first time!

Cheat Sheet: I would not advise cheating because the world builds on itself not just in content but in tone—so obviously you will miss the experience if you jump around (and you WANT more hours in this world, trust me). Plus Season 5 promises to return to several storylines from previous seasons. However I can tell you that in Season 4, if you see Jason strapped to a bed with several homely women taking turns sitting on him, feel free to fast-forward. — Lily Sparks



Wilfred

Season 2 premieres Thursday, June 28 at 10:30pm on FX

Commitment: Just 13 half-hour episodes!

Why You Should Catch Up Now: When Wilfred debuted, it was just "that goofy show starring the guy from The Lord of the Rings as a weirdo named Ryan who imagines that his neighbor's dog Wilfred is a pot-smoking man in a dog suit." Simple, stupid fun, right? But then the show got GREAT toward the end of the season as it took a turn down a dark path and became a mind-bending examination of Frodo's psyche, man! Wilfred ended up being much more than a comedy and delivered one of the best cliffhangers of last summer.

Cheat Sheet: The relationship between Ryan and Wilfred is incredibly important to the series, and it builds throughout the first three-quarters of the season. But if you're absolutely impatient and super busy, at least check out the last three episodes.


Which returning summer shows are you most excited about? What should we be catching up on that's not on this list?

Comments (185)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Thanks for the detailed recs!



I'm already all over True Blood (cracktastic vamp pr0n FTW!), Alphas (solid, fun, well done sci-fi), and Breaking Bad (just extraordinarily good in every way), and Episodes is just a really well-done parody.



I can't watch Louis because of the constant buzzing of jazz in the background - it sets my teeth on edge, like nails on a chalkboard, which is sad, because I love his comedy.

Wilfred just didn't work for me.



I don't think I'll be catching up on Falling Skies, unless it gets really good, but I'm definitely checking out Awkward and Teen Wolf :)
Reply
Flag
none to all the above
Reply
Flag
How come you don't mention suits?
Reply
Flag
Excellent. Did a marathon of Awkward last night, thoroughly enjoyed it.
Reply
Flag
Breaking bad, definitely.....none of the others on the list seem worth it.
Reply
Flag
Louie, Awkward., and Wilfred are worth checking out. Louie is brilliant.
Reply
Flag
I love pretty much all of these shows appart from a couple ,can't wait till they return !!
Reply
Flag
Haven,Alphas, Rizzoli&Isles,Leverage, The Closer.. this is my dream team:)
Reply
Flag
Suits, White Collar,Franklin & Bash, leverage
Reply
Flag
HAVEN. Simply cannot wait for Haven to be back. Also looking forward for these shows to return - Alphas, Covert Affairs, Franklin and Bash, Falling Skies, and my guilty pleasure Drop Dead Diva
Reply
Flag
Yeah! I can't wait!

I'll be watching everything but Louie. I haven't seen Episodes yet, but I'm starting season 1 to give it a chance.
Reply
Flag
Leverage, Awkward, Alphas, PLL, Jane by design
Reply
Flag
Breaking Bad, awkward., Wilfred, Alphas, The Closer, Suits, Covert Affairs, White Collar, Burn Notice, Hell on Wheels, Necessary Roughness, Franklin & Bash, Rizzoli & Isles, Futurama, Rookie Blue. I'll watch Falling Skies, but if it's not immensely better than the disappointing season 1, I'll bail out.



I'll give the following new shows a try: Longmire (A&E/Katee Sackhoff!), Saving Hope (NBC/Erica Durance!), Inside Men (BBCA), Major Crimes (TNT/The Closer spinoff).
Reply
Flag
Weeds anyone? I know the past few seasons have been rather lackluster, but the season finale of the last season was pretty shocking nonetheless...
Reply
Flag
Really looking forward to Wilfred coming back. Man is that show funny as hell, and the ending definitely came out of left field. Can't wait for season 2 to start!
Reply
Flag
I'm excited for Breaking Bad, True Blood, Alphas, and Awkward. I caught up with Awkward about 2 months ago and I fell in love with it very fast.
Reply
Flag
None of the above, Pretty Little Liars!
Reply
Flag
SUITS- It has witty dialogue that's fast paced, fun, and leads to some of the best quotable quotes on tv. It's a legal show but it can hold the attention of those who aren't big on legal shows. It has the bromance...for those who love bromances and USA does bromance so well! Harvey Specter is awesome! He's cocky but compassionate and you cannot not like him. Donna is by far one of the best supporting roles on tv..she's a straight up scene stealer. Louis Litt is a lovably pathetic advesary. And Gina Torres...I needn't say more.



Leverage- modern day robin hoods with varying personalities that somehow work together! I mean...they're awesome and hilarious. It's like a dysfunctional crime commiting/crime fighting pseudo family.



Teen Wolf- It is NOT a TEEN show! I only say this so I don't feel guilty about watching it! It's surprisingly good though. I tried not liking it but I can't. The lead is a bit weak but the other characters make up for it. Stiles is a scene stealer and the eye candy is a plus too.



Covert Affairs- Auggie Anderson. It's kind of cheesy and sort of out there but Auggie Anderson is like the coolest blind guy on television. The awesomer half of a great dynamic duo.



White Collar- Why Matt Bomer, of course! I mean there are a million reasons why this show is great but Matt Bomer pretty much is sufficient enough I think.



Rookie Blue- I know they hate the comparasion but it really is like Grey's Anatomy with cops.



Drop Dead Diva- it's quirky, cute and fun.



More+
Reply
Flag
drop dead diva!! is an awesome show!!
Reply
Flag
I might watch episodes and I might watch Alphas. The rest I've either already seen and don;t need to catch up on or I have no intention of ever watching them. The most obvious example is Louie, it eludes me as to why people like Louis CK as a person much less as a comedian, his brand of comedy is everything that's wrong with america.
Reply
Flag
You mean if it wasn't for that pesky non-sexist, non-homophobic, non-fratboy humour, America would be totally fine?
Reply
Flag
Hmm, if you don't like his standup one might argue you are whats wrong with america!
Reply
Flag
I like Louis CK's stand-up, but I don't get the appeal of the show. I really don't like the embarrassing situations humor though.
Reply
Flag
Franklin and Bash and Rookie Blue
Reply
Flag
I' just started to watch Teen Wolf and I can easily say I'm pleasently surprised. Fun show! Not sure about Wilfred, but I guess I'll watch the second season too. I watched the first two episodes of season 2 of Episodes and I am loving this season so hard too. Brilliant show! TB is still fun I guess...



Breaking Bad, Awkward and Louie are all on my watch list!
Reply
Flag
I know isn't it shocking? When I first seen they were remaking Teen Wolf I literally rolled my eyes and went on a rant about lacking new material and creativity and remaking stuff blah, blah, blah. But my friend talked me into watching it with her so she could have someone to discuss it with and it was actually good. Shocked the hell out of me.
Reply
Flag
The cast is good and they really look like teenagers! That is a huge bonus too!
Reply
Flag
Also watching Pretty Little Liars. I can't wait to see the aftermath of the Season 2 Finale! :)
Reply
Flag
Breaking Bad
Reply
Flag
Where is "Pretty Little Liars"?????
Reply
Flag
Also The Listener season 3 starts May 30th on CTV - definately worth catching up on, it's such an underrated show, but hey, we got this far, let's make it to season 4!
Reply
Flag
Ah, thank you. I was wondering when season 3 was going to start but couldn't find it on the CTV page about a week ago. Glad to see they announced a date -- it's a pretty good show.
Reply
Flag
ALPHAS!!!!!!!!!!
Reply
Flag
Still debating on a "new" series to watch. Breaking Bad has been on that list forever. Veronica Mars, Damages, Fringe, Teen Wolf and others. I'll go back to Buffy for now.



And I love Wilfred.
Reply
Flag
Watch Alphas. Aside from being a great show all around, it has the finest, most organic dialogue between the main characters. It really is amazing. You can just sit back and watch these characters talk to each other and be totally invested in their lives and their work. It may be under appreciated (or over looked) for some viewers, but its what makes this show shine.
Reply
Flag
Finest and most organic dialogue between characters? Alphas? I don't deny the show is quality...but I think those accolades are better attributed to Breaking Bad. Oh whatever, watch both...
Reply
Flag
My top 5:

1. Breaking Bad

2. Breaking Bad

3. Breaking Bad

4. Breaking Bad

5. Breaking Bad
Reply
Flag
I'm confused about the people who didn't like season 4 of True Blood. I thought it was the best season since the first.
Reply
Flag
If you are confused about why exactly werepanthers were in Season 4, why was Jason locked up in the inbred Waco for half the season, why he was raped by little girls, and why all of that was for nothing because he never turned into a freakin werepanther anyway, than you may come to understand why some people didn't like Season 4. That's just one example.

Reply
Flag
Awkward and Alphas are definitely worth catching up on! Those two were in my Top 10 tv shows last year! I also follow True Blood (season 4 was kinda awful, but Eric was freaking awesome and hilarious), Falling Skies and Teen Wolf during the summer.
Reply
Flag
Still haven't seen the entirety of the first episode of Alphas, couldn't get through it, just so bland.



A show with a guy dressed in a dog costume? Didn't even considered watching the trailer for that show.
Reply
Flag
Alphas, great call!



Louie, love this show. There is light continuity between Louie and Pamela, that relationship has an arc that should be followed, just not a traditional one.



I can't speak to the end of Wilfred, I stayed with it about 5 episodes before dropping it from too much meanness and repetition.
Reply
Flag
Staff
It's worth getting back in on!
Reply
Flag
Just finished the first two episodes of Teen Wolf and I love it! Can't wait for Price's photo recaps this season.
Reply
Flag
Breaking Bad!
Reply
Flag
Out of these shows, I've seen Breaking Bad, Wilfred, Louie, Falling Skies, Episodes, and Alphas.And I've checked out and decided not to watch the others. I might try to watch Teen Wolf again in the near future, but I did not really enjoy the first episode.



What I'm doing now is pretty much watching what I missed this season. Last week I got through The Secret Circle, and now I've started Awake, then Revenge, then Once Upon a Time, then Person of Interest. After that I might try out Nikita, Mad Men, Warehouse 13, and Eureka. All depending on how much time I have. If I somehow have time after that, I'm going to finish Robot Chicken, Sealab 2021, Terriers, and a couple of other shows I have lying around.
Reply
Flag
This is embarassing, but Teen Wolf is what I'm looking forward to most.

I don't know, it's a lot of fun, plus, Dylan O'Brien is awesome
Reply
Flag
If that's "embarrassing," then there are, like, 45 of us here who are going to be embarrassed together all summer!
Reply
Flag
Watching:

- Breaking Bad

- Louie

- Awkward

- Wilfred

- Alphas

- Falling Skies

- Boss

- Hell on Wheels

- Pretty Little Liars

- Weeds

- The Newsroom

Maybe Dallas



Will try to catch up on: (Most of these might not be done this summer or this year. Some of the shorter shows I'll be able to watch on a weekend :))

- Deadwood

- Arrested Development

- Enlightened

- Supernatural

- Six Feet Under

- Friday Night Lights

- Spartacus

- The Good Wife

- Lost

- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes

- Young Justice
Reply
Flag
You should add Battlestar Galactica to that list. Its one of the best *completed* series ever made.
Reply
Flag
Oh yeah. I'll be watching that as well. (was somewhere around season 2 but I might just rewatch season 2 all over)
Reply
Flag
I came pretty late to the epicness of TV shows. So...forgive me if I haven't watched those shows^ :) (started watching TV again around 2007-2008 and slowly built my collection. Now I have a huge schedules of shows to watch.)
Reply
Flag
Same here I started really watching TV like 2009 when I was like 15 ( Grey's Anatomy's fault) and I've started watching so many other shows. plus catching up on shows and marathoning them are the best, just finished supernatural
Reply
Flag
Me too. I never knew how much a tv show could grab me, until I watched the first 4 seasons of Lost within 2 months and also The OC (not guilty pleasure, just pleasure(at least the first 2 seasons)).



That started it all for me: Twin Peaks, Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Six Feet Under, Dexter,...
Reply
Flag
Staff
Breaking Bad, Breaking Bad and Breaking Bad. Preferably in HD (blu-ray), 50' TV and excellent surround sound. Great visuals, acting and music. Cannot stop greatness.
Reply
Flag
Yes.
Reply
Flag
I love Alphas and Awkward, and Teen Wolf and Wilfred are pretty good. I stopped watching True Blood but it has its moments mostly those that revolve around Eric or Alcide!
Reply
Flag
I definitely need to check out Alphas also will watch Breaking Bad, Falling Skies, Teen Wolf, True Blood and Wilfred
Reply
Flag
I think I'll catch up on my reading.
Reply
Flag
None of these interest me :(
Reply
Flag
cant wait for teen wolf 2

and I m not a teen

this show really took me by suprise last season

I was hooked and could not wait for the next episode
Reply
Flag
Episodes and Teen Wolf :D
Reply
Flag
warehouse 13 starts soon too.
Reply
Flag
Warehouse 13 starts on Mon., July 23, or so the "TV Schedules" app. says, the same day that Alphas returns. Haven is Fri., Sep. 21.
Reply
Flag
You covered my main summer shows, "Alphas", "Awkward." (!!!!!!!!), "Alphas", "Breaking Bad" (LIKE, DUH!!), and "True Blood", and of course starting this year the new "The Newsroom" of Aaron Sorkin, likely to be the next best show on TV (and given HBO's backing, no less).



But I think you talked me into giving "Teen Wolf" a shot, and if I have time, I might check out "Louie". That's not enough though for "Falling Skies", I'll continue to sit that one out. I like my Noah Wyle as Dr. John Carter on "ER" or as an absolutely HILARIOUS (because of how bad it is) Indiana Jones-type librarian from the TNT original movies.
Reply
Flag
Please watch Teen Wolf!! It's what all the cool kids are doing!!! No seriously...watch it for me. I'm selfish and I like reading your insight.
Reply
Flag
I watch ALL these shows except for Louie, Teen Wolf and Wilfred. The rest of them I watch and LOVE! After reading this I'm thinking of catching up on Wilfred though, but I don't think Louie and Teen Wolf is for me....
Reply
Flag
I think my summer catch up show is gonna be Teen Wolf and I always like to watch a classic so I think I'm gonna go with Veronica Mars.
Reply
Flag
I can't believe Price let this article go without an homage to Matt Bomer.
Reply
Flag
I can't either. Plus lack of Matt Bomer homage is literally a crime in all fifty states and at least two dozen countries...
Reply
Flag
The only show I want to see on the list is true blood.
Reply
Flag
Load More Comments

Like TV.com on Facebook