ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION

Summer TV: A new 'Roots,' Cameron Crowe's 'Roadies,' and a guide to all the shows you'll want to watch this season

Summer television season is about to kick off, and long gone are the days when that meant working through your DVR recordings or making due with reruns until your favorite shows return. Summer TV shows are as ambitious as ever, and this year's slate includes programs that mark the TV debut of award-winning filmmakers, offer us an animated reboot, revisit landmark TV history and more. And let's not forget the return of established favorites including "Casual," "Mr. Robot" and "UnREAL"

Here is a guide to all the shows you don't want to miss in summer 2016.


Why it was time to reimagine 'Roots' to speak to a new generation

LeVar Burton and Malachi Kirby, Kunta Kinte past and present.
LeVar Burton and Malachi Kirby, Kunta Kinte past and present. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
The cast of the original "Roots," from left: John Amos, Lynne Moody, Ben Vereen, Leslie Uggams, Georg Stanford Brown, Louis Gossett Jr. and Sandy Duncan.
The cast of the original "Roots," from left: John Amos, Lynne Moody, Ben Vereen, Leslie Uggams, Georg Stanford Brown, Louis Gossett Jr. and Sandy Duncan. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Almost four decades after its premiere, "Roots" still stands as an elite landmark in TV history. The saga of author Alex Haley tracing his ancestral roots to a young African boy kidnapped and sold into slavery was a phenomenon when it first aired on ABC in 1977,  gripping a nation with its brutal but ultimately triumphant tale.

The new "Roots" is a more extensive, historically accurate account of Mandinka warrior-turned-slave Kunta Kinte and the trajectory of his family's story through American history. But while the new "Roots" was created to speak to a new generation of TV viewers, the original series continues to resonate. 


'Roadies' reminded Cameron Crowe about why he loves directing

Carla Gugino, left, Cameron Crowe and Luke Wilson behind the scenes on "Roadies."
Carla Gugino, left, Cameron Crowe and Luke Wilson behind the scenes on "Roadies." (David Dolsen / Showtime)

Filmmaker Cameron Crowe may be best known for such beloved big-screen teenage touchstones as "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Say Anything..." and hits such as "Almost Famous" and "Jerry Maguire," but beneath his celluloid exterior the former Rolling Stone writer's heart is still pure vinyl.

So much so that when discussing his upcoming Showtime series “Roadies” -- his inaugural foray into television -- Crowe can’t help but deploy musical analogies.


'Casual' Season 2 explores the difficulties of finding friendships as an adult

(Hulu)

"Casual," which centers on bachelor Alex (Tommy Dewey) and his newly divorced sister (Michaela Watkins) and her teen daughter Laura (Tara Lynne Barr), was part of a handful of shows that kicked off Hulu's aggressive push into original programming last year.  

While the debut season of "Casual" was about dating and sex and the growing pains of adjusting to a new life, this season delves into the complexities and perils of finding friends and meaningful relationships.


Ellen Barkin plays a hard crime-boss matriarch in 'Animal Kingdom'

Ellen Barkin as Janine “Smurf” Cody in "Animal Kingdom."
Ellen Barkin as Janine “Smurf” Cody in "Animal Kingdom." (Eddy Chen / TNT)

I don’t want her to be sympathetic. Smurf might’ve had a very tough life, but I just think she’s bad.

— Ellen Barkin on her character Janine “Smurf” Cody

"Animal Kingdom" shares the same premise as the 2010 Australian film: Following the deadly overdose of his mother, teenager Josh is drawn into the family from which she tried to shield him.

Its members include his crime-boss grandmother Janine “Smurf” Cody and her four nefarious sons: Baz; the newly-released-from-prison Pope; mercurial third child Craig; and the youngest, Deran.


Steven Zaillian dives into TV with HBO's nearly abandoned 'The Night of' 

John Turturro plays defense lawyer Jack Stone in "The Night of."
John Turturro plays defense lawyer Jack Stone in "The Night of." (HBO)

Oscar-winning screenwriter and part-time director Steven ‎Zaillian has delved into the crime world over his long Hollywood career, with screenplays for "American Gangster," "Gangs of New York" and "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

He embraces cops and criminals once more for "The Night of," his atmospheric drama on HBO.

But there was a big difference this time.


Billy Ray Cyrus' 'Still the King' is 'Eastbound & Down' goes to Nashville

Leslie David Baker, left, and Billy Ray Cyrus in "Still the King."
Leslie David Baker, left, and Billy Ray Cyrus in "Still the King." (Mark Levine / CMT)

After spending years portraying the father of a fictional pop star (who of course became one in real life), Billy Ray Cyrus sought something different for his next TV project. Co-created by Cyrus, the comedy “Still the King” tells the story of “Burnin’ ” Vernon Brownmule, a one-hit-wonder who became the “second-best Elvis impersonator” in the business.

I always say there’s a little bit of Elvis in all of us, and sometimes we just don’t know where it is.

— Billy Ray Cyrus, country singer and actor


'Voltron' reboot aims to capture the magic of the original

Voltron gets an updated look in "Voltron: Legendary Defender."
Voltron gets an updated look in "Voltron: Legendary Defender." (Netflix)

Though a hit, the original lion-based "Voltron," created by Peter Keefe and John Teichmann in 1984, only ran for one year. The premise: A quintet of young pilots command five robot lions that can be combined to form Voltron — a giant, sword-wielding robot who defends the universe from the constant threat of alien invasion.

Helmed by "Legend of Korra" alums Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery, "Voltron: Legendary Defender" will feature stronger, inclusive storytelling and will rebuild "Voltron" from scratch.


The new must-see TV shows to check out this summer

"Thirteen," "Uncle Buck," "BrainDead" and "Feed the Beast" are among the shows premiering this summer.
"Thirteen," "Uncle Buck," "BrainDead" and "Feed the Beast" are among the shows premiering this summer. (BBC; ABC; CBS; AMC)

Gone is the era where summer meant reruns on TV. Now, for the rest of your life, there will be more new series coming betwixt Memorial Day and Labor Day than you can shake a stick at, or could if you had time to find one. Not to mention a giant international sporting event and the craziest election ever squelching like the Blob through the 24-hour cable-news cycle. 

And that is only some of what's coming.


Don't forget the returning summer shows

Rami Malek, left, and Christian Slater in "Mr. Robot."
Rami Malek, left, and Christian Slater in "Mr. Robot." (USA Network)

Forget parting -- season finales are such sweet sorrow, especially all these months later when it's time to remember what they wrought. As summer shows make their return, let us help with the memory jogging.


Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
72°