What to expect for August, streaming-wise: Netflix is pulling back the curtain on some major releases, including the latest cartoon from Simpsons mastermind Matt Groening and a half-hour comedy that’s already attracted controversy weeks ahead of its premiere; Amazon makes a bid for a blockbuster series with the launch of John Krasinski as stubble-faced man-of-action Jack Ryan; and Hulu puts their stamp on one of the year’s most socially resonant documentaries. Boom! Here’s your click-and-watch TV guide for the month. (For your network and cable viewing must-sees, go here.)
All About the Washingtons (Netflix, Aug. 10th)
After an extended reality-TV stay at Run’s House (who’s house? Run’s house!), the man born Joseph Simmons is getting some new digs. The hip-hop legend can now add “sitcom sensation” to his résumé, courtesy of this new multi-camera comedy that turns his life into a modern-day rework of Father Knows Best. (Father Knows Beats?) Run takes top billing as Joey Washington, a titan of the old school ready to hang up his mic and let his ambitious entrepreneur wife (also played by his real-world spouse Justine Simmons) bring home the bacon for a while. But being a full-time father to a house full of kids turns out to be tougher than leather. There will be life lessons and hard-earned paternal wisdom, hopefully spit out 16 bars at a time.
Disenchantment (Netflix, Aug. 17th)
“Simpsons meets Game of Thrones” would be enough to put a certain species of TV fan into a coma quicker than a roll of 20-sided dice for dexterity points. Still, even though Matt Groening’s latest series in set in Dreamland, a medieval kingdom bursting with knaves, dragons and warlocks, he says that there’s more to this animated fantasy-comedy than that pithy, SEO-friendly description. The animation legend has already promised that this series will plumb darker emotional depths than his past work; the arc-based structure marks a departure from the usual modus operandi as well. The liquor-slugging Princess Bean (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) embarks on a perilous odyssey with her elf pal Elfo (Nat Faxon) and her literalized personal demon Luci (Eric Andre) to find some independence beyond her castle. All manner of threats await her. Just don’t mistake her for a damsel in distress.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Netflix, Aug. 10th)
The year is 1946: As England pulls itself back together following World War II, novelist Juliet Ashton (Lily James, a.k.a. Young Meryl from Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) looks for her next subject. Thankfully, it finds her in the form of a letter from Dawsey (Game of Thrones‘ Michiel Huisman), the new owner of a poetry book she pawned years earlier — he’s also the founder of a covert book club established as a cover during the Nazi occupation. She soon attends herself, bonding with the handsome bibliophile in the process over their shared love for writing. But what of her moneyed American beau (Glen Powell) who wants to bring her back to the States? Pour yourself a cup of tea, break into a fresh tin of biscuits and settle in for a swoonworthy love story from across the pond.
The Innocents (Netflix, Aug. 24th)
From the algorithm that brought you Stranger Things and The OA comes this new sci-fi series, where the supernatural once again throws youngsters into a mystery laced with danger. Lovers-on-the-run June (Sorcha Groundsell) and Harry (Percelle Ascott) flee their families to start a new life together. It’ll be tough, since money is tight and the couple will be on their own. Oh, and also, June’s a shape-shifter and there’s an unsettlingly driven professor (Guy Pearce) intent on tracking her down. (Guess we kind of buried the lede there.) He holds the secret to where her powers come from and how they fit into a grander clandestine scheme. Bingers, at your ready!
Insatiable (Netflix, Aug. 10th)
Already the subject of a heated controversy online, Netflix is banking that this comedy will win the public over once they can actually watch it. Debby Ryan dons a fat suit to portray Patty, the object of mockery for everyone at her high school and the survivor of a grisly car crash right at the beginning of summer vacation. When she returns to class in the fall, however, a few months of a wired-shut jaw have turned “Fatty Patty” into the svelte envy of her grade. Guess who goes about wreaking her revenge on all those who wronged her, from the queen-bee bullies to the boys that wouldn’t give her the time of day? The show’s opponents have already imagined the worst-case scenario — it could be streaming-service Hindenburg or a Heathers for the era of body positivity.
Jack Ryan (Amazon, Aug. 31st)
From Dunder Mifflin’s resident smart-aleck to indie filmmaker to the director of horror sleeper hit A Quiet Place — John Krasinski now career-pivots once again, going full action hero in this serialized take on Tom Clancy’s espionage paperbacks. He’s now the fifth actor to portray the CIA analyst, with the small-screen Ryan unraveling an international conspiracy involving falsified bank statements, a terrorist cell and an impending attack on American soil. The actor has stated that he plans on drawing from Harrison Ford’s interpretation of the oft-adapted character in his own performance, showing the vulnerable everyman beneath the seemingly superhuman feats of courage.
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Like Father (Netflix, Aug. 3rd)
You ever have one of those days where your fiancée abandons you at the altar, launching you into an all-night blacked-out bender with your estranged dad that ends with both of you on the cruise ship chartered for the honeymoon? Or maybe it’s just Rachel, the workaholic played by Kristen Bell in this deceptively sharp dramedy? The premise sounds like a comical misunderstanding designed to bring her closer to caddish Harry (Kelsey Grammer) over vacation hijinks, but the screaming matches between them have a vitriol to them that cuts a little deeper than expected. Between passages of escapist luxury aboard the ship, they jointly give a masterclass on playing repressed, broken-down adults.
Minding the Gap (Hulu, Aug. 17th)
This gritty documentary from breakout first-timer Bing Liu follows a pair of friends he made in his Illinois hometown, on radically different tracks in life and yet united by their love of skateboarding. The 23-year-old Zack has accidentally impregnated his girlfriend, and faces down the responsibilities of fatherhood while mourning the end of his youth. As for the 17-year-old Kaire, he’s mourning his recently deceased father while pondering how to be a man as a black kid in an almost entirely white town. Liu also turns the camera on himself as he struggles to tell these stories responsibly while pursuing one of his own, culminating in an intense on-camera confrontation with his mother. Don’t miss this.
One Dollar (CBS All Access, Aug. 30th)
They say that when investigating a crime, the smart move is to “follow the money.” This new thriller takes that adage to heart, unspooling a multiple-homicide mystery in a Rust Belt hamlet by tracking the movements of a single dollar bill from one dirty hand to the next. The specifics have been kept tight under wraps — the poster hints that pollution may factor into the plot — but the slow revelation of everything afoot in town exposes a fractured community embroiled in tensions both class- and race-based. Dependable character actor John Carroll Lynch takes the lead in a taut work of suspense that doubles as a grim disassembly of small-town America’s veneer of sleepy politeness.
Ordeal By Innocence (Amazon, Aug. 10th)
Bill Nighy does Agatha Christie — how could it be anything but a delectable, depraved, dementedly British delight? There’s been a murder most foul, with a wealthy heiress leaving behind five suspicious adult children and a husband intent on finding her killer. He seems to pin it on one of the sons (Anthony Boyle) … until the narrative jumps ahead a year and a half, when a man claiming to be the key alibi appears on the family’s doorstep. For Anglophiles in the mood for something frightfully improper, it does not get better than this.