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The 20 shows worth staying inside for this summer, according to our TV experts

An illustration of the rooms in a house, with activities inspired by summer TV shows.
(Danie Drankwalter / For The Times)
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A year after the COVID-19 pandemic left the world in lockdown — and that at-home companion, TV, more central to our daily lives than ever — lower case rates and widespread vaccine distribution mean many shuttered cultural institutions are reopening, or planning to, this summer. And after months without trips to the movies, dinners with friends, concerts, plays, museum openings and more, that means TV’s traditional off-season is likely to be the quietest in years. Like you, those of us on The Times’ TV team are eager to get out and stretch our legs as soon as it’s safe. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to tune in for this season: Here’s our guide to the 20 TV shows worth staying inside for this summer.

From the buzzed-about to the under-the-radar, the Times TV team selects the shows to queue up for your nights at home this summer.

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‘Betty’

A photo illustration of three young people with skateboards under their arm
Dede Lovelace, from left, Ajani Russell and Andrew Darnell in Season 2 of “Betty.”
(Illustration by An Amlotte / Los Angeles Times; photos by Stephanie Mei-Ling / HBO)

First they fought sexist trolls. Now they’re behind HBO’s skateboarding masterpiece

“The girls got so much hate,” “Betty” creator Crystal Moselle recalled of her early collaboration with the once-nonprofessional cast. “It even leaked over to my Instagram pages sometimes too. It was very sexist. But now the skateboard world is so diverse. ... It got completely commercialized for a while. Now I feel like now it has its authenticity back.” READ MORE >>>

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‘Never Have I Ever’ and ‘We Are Lady Parts’

A photo illustration of the all-girls Muslim punk band in "We Are Lady Parts"
Lucie Shorthouse, from left, Faith Omole, Anjana Vasan, Juliette Motamed and Sarah Kameela Impey in “We Are Lady Parts.”
(Illustration by An Amlotte / Los Angeles Times; photo by Laura Radford / Peacock)

Why a punk rock comedy about an all-girl Muslim band is summer’s most subversive show

Fans of Netflix’s surprise hit “Never Have I Ever,” soon to return for its second season, will find inspiration and deep humor in Peacock’s British import “We Are Lady Parts,” a hilarious hybrid of pummeling punk rockisms, immigrant insider humor and 21st century feminism about an all-girl Muslim punk band. Both shows feature South Asian nerds as their leads, moving them from the punchline to the main story and giving them the freedom to have messy emotions. They’re angry, goofy, horny and grieving: Get ready. READ MORE >>>

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Niche reality competitions

Photo illustration of two men building a curved tower out of Lego
Contestants Mark and Steven in Season 2 of “Lego Masters.”
(Illustration by An Amlotte / Los Angeles Times; photo by Tom Griscom / Fox)

Flower arranging. Blowing glass. What’s behind reality TV’s ‘extreme creativity’ boom

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Throw a fully functional teapot in less than a minute. Craft a giant bathroom object by melting and sculpting glass. Build a bridge entirely out of Lego that can hold up to 1,000 pounds.

These are the challenges contestants may face in HBO Max’s “The Great Pottery Throw Down,” Netflix’s “Blown Away” and Fox’s “Lego Masters,” respectively — three titles that are part of a burgeoning reality TV subgenre that shines a spotlight on the most specialized of design skills. These shows take the episodic elimination structure of long-established competition series and fill it with people seasoned in the most niche creative fields. READ MORE >>>

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‘Physical’

A photo illustration of a woman in 1980s aerobics gear holds a boom box and her daughter's hand.
Rose Byrne, right, and Grace Kelly Quigley in “Physical.”
(Illustration by An Amlotte / Los Angeles Times; photo by Jessica Brooks / Apple)

Remember Cindy Crawford’s exercise tape? Rose Byrne’s next role gave her flashbacks

In the new Apple TV+ dramedy “Physical,” set near San Diego in 1981, Rose Byrne stars as Sheila Rubin, a former Berkeley activist turned disillusioned housewife who can hardly tolerate her boorish husband. She is also battling a private but all-consuming eating disorder that seemingly warps her every thought, which we hear in a running voice-over.

Salvation arrives in the form of an aerobics class at the nearby mall. Sheila begins teaching, then decides to make her own workout video, viewing it as an opportunity for both financial gain and personal fulfillment.

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“A lot of this is drawn from [series creator Annie Weisman’s] own life, from women in her life, so that was a huge sort of touchstone for me to bring to Sheila,” Byrne told The Times. “It was a combination of those women and the entrepreneurs of that time, like Suzanne Somers. For me, I had Cindy Crawford.” READ MORE >>>

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‘Tuca & Bertie’

Two animated birds chatting on a couch.
A photo illustration of a scene from Season 2 of “Tuca & Bertie.”
(Illustration by An Amlotte / Los Angeles Times; photo by Adult Swim)

Netflix canceling ‘Tuca & Bertie’ ‘blindsided’ its creator. Inside the fight to save it

The groundbreaking animated series’ short life on the streaming service sparked an outcry from fans. But behind the scenes, creator Lisa Hanawalt had outlets competing for her favor — including the show’s new home, Adult Swim. READ MORE >>>

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Tulsa Race Massacre documentaries

A woman puts a hand to her chin while riding on the back of a truck during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
A truck carries Black Americans during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
(Illustration by An Amlotte / Los Angeles Times; photo by Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

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They were told white men ‘wouldn’t relate to’ the Tulsa Race Massacre. Then came ‘Watchmen’

When filmmaker Jonathan Silvers got the idea a few years ago to make a documentary about the 1921 annihilation of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Okla. — the most deadly and destructive racist attack in U.S. history — he imagined he would have no trouble finding a distributor.

He was wrong. READ MORE >>>

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