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TV Shows To Binge On This Summer

Jul 15, 2017
Originally published on July 15, 2017 12:50 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

It's been boiling hot over much of the country this week. Would never suggest you go outside in this kind of weather, so we reached out to a few TV critics to see what they'd recommend to keep you inside binge watching. Maureen Ryan is a TV critic for Variety. She joins us from Chicago. Thanks so much for being with us.

MAUREEN RYAN: Thank you so much, Scott.

SIMON: Speaking of places that are hot or at least on their way to being hot, tell us about the show set in a town called Purgatory.

RYAN: Yes. I am in the mode where I really enjoy lighter fare in the summer but light fare that I think has emotional and psychological and thematic resonance. So I really like a show on Sci Fi called "Wynonna Earp." And it's a crazy premise, but imagine that "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" had a little bit of a western vibe.

There's a woman who has this - she's the heir of Wyatt Earp. She's the direct descendant of him. And he had a special gun, apparently. And she uses that special gun to send demons back to hell in this town called Purgatory, where the demons are kind of like - it's like a hellmouth, if you will.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "WYNONNA EARP")

DIEGO DIABLO DEL MAR: (As Malcolm Ramaker) Ah, one more step and little sister takes a short drop into oblivion.

MELANIE SCROFANO: (As Wynonna Earp) You got a name, revenant?

DEL MAR: (As Malcolm Ramaker) Well, back in your great-great-grandpappy's day, I was known as Malcolm Ramaker, entrepreneur.

SCROFANO: (As Wynonna Earp) An outlaw.

DEL MAR: (As Malcolm Ramaker) You know, I remember the exact moment in 1866 when Wyatt Earp had me hung for murdering my business partner.

SCROFANO: (As Wynnona Earp) Yeah, and now you're back.

DEL MAR: (As Malcolm Ramaker) Yes. You see, when the Earp heir turns 27, those of us killed by the last one, well, we resurrect a little more demonic than the time before. But one way or the other, we all end up in Purgatory.

RYAN: And I think it's one of those shows that in the first year, I think it wobbled a little bit in terms of the tone. Like, was it horror? Was it supernatural? Was it a jokey-comedy kind of show? But it's in its second season now. And it's really locked into what it is and what it can do. And it's one of those shows that I really just enjoy. Like, there are shows I watch for work and there are shows that I watch for pleasure. And on a Friday or Saturday night, if I have one of these episodes, I just have a big smile on my face. And I enjoy watching it.

SIMON: And I want to get you to talk about a show that's been getting some good attention, "Insecure." This is a half-hour comedy series on HBO created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore. I've seen a little of it. It's hilarious, touching and often quite pointed.

RYAN: This is a show that I think would resonate with a lot of people. It's really about that period in your late 20s, early 30s, where, you know, people are starting to wonder, should I settle down? Am I just settling down with this person because this is the time for me to do that? Do I really want to? What do I really want?

And Issa Rae is just such a ball of energy. And she's so winning and has so many wonderful modes that she can take you through from feeling awkward to empowered to being frustrated at work, you know? There are so many different things that the show kind of goes through - this kaleidoscope - within each half hour. But it's all very grounded in the everyday experiences of a very believable woman.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INSECURE")

ISSA RAE: (As Issa Dee) OK. Since you guys are so interested in my personal life, here it is. I'm 28 - actually, 29 because today is my birthday. I came from a great family. I have a college degree. I work in the nonprofit world because I like to give back. I've been with my boyfriend for five years. And I did this to my hair on purpose. So I hope that covers everything.

RYAN: And you're always rooting for her, which I think is a really tough thing to do. It's much tougher than it looks to create characters that even when they're making bad decisions, you still kind of are in their corner. And I have to say that the woman who plays Issa's best friend, Molly, Yvonne Orji, she's fantastic. You know, they have a bond that I think is incredibly important.

And I guess maybe a little bit of the thread that unites these two shows is sort of the friendships of women and the bonds of women. In "Wynonna Earp," there is - her sister is her best friend. And there is a number of relationships like that in the show.

SIMON: Is it superficial? I've read some critics who refer to "Insecure" as kind of an African-American woman's version of "Sex And The City."

RYAN: Well, you know, first of all, I really liked "Sex And The City" a lot. I don't think it was a perfect show. But, yeah, I don't...

SIMON: And the friendship between women was, I think, the real nice part of that series.

RYAN: That go to some darker places, you know? It's emotionally tough. I mean, both women are dealing with white coworkers who sometimes are obtuse. And they deal with a lot of complex things in their lives that they don't quite have the answer to. And I mean, one of my big things as a critic - and if I can just climb up on my soapbox for a minute - is that I don't actually think it's any easier to create, say, a half-hour show that is examining friendship and commitment and love and all that kind of thing than it is to create an hour-long show that is just sort of exploring, like, grim, dark, depressing topics, you know?

I think there's a nimbleness to "Insecure" that's really impressive. And I think that the fact that it's not in your face with social issues and things like that and it's not hitting you over the head with its themes, I think it's a plus in my book. It's not a bug but a feature.

SIMON: Maureen Ryan, TV critic for Variety, thanks so much for being back with us.

RYAN: It's my pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.