Wasn’t there a time when summers weren’t exactly a season that TV networks packed their schedules with new originals series that would keep you at home, instead of out, enjoying the weather, as well as the sights and sounds of probably the most-loved season of the year? Not anymore, apparently, as more and more networks are debuting (sometimes testing) new series during the summer months, both scripted and unscripted, as the ways in which we demand and consume content continue to rapidly evolve. Essentially, there are no “off-seasons” anymore in what is becoming an even more competitive TV landscape.
So let’s take a quick look at what’s coming this summer (2016) that black audiences just might be watching a lot of, listed in chronological order.
Note that this isn’t a comprehensive list. So feel free to chime in with titles of any summer series or TV movies not listed here that you’re looking forward to checking out.
The “Roots” mini-series reboot premieres tonight, Memorial Day – just a few hours from now.
The cast of the planned four-night, eight-hour scripted event miniseries includes Forest Whitaker as “Fiddler,” a slave who tries to mentor Kunta Kinte and risks his life to help him escape; Anika Noni Rose as “Kizzy,” the cherished, smart daughter of Kunta Kinte who maintains her family pride and warrior spirit; Chad L. Coleman as “Mingo,” a stern no-nonsense slave who keeps the Lea plantation afloat; Erica Tazel as “Matilda,” a preacher’s daughter and love interest to “Chicken George”; Derek Luke as “Silla Ba Dibba,” the military trainer of Juffure, charged with transforming teen boys into powerful Mandinka Warriors; Anna Paquin as “Nancy Holt,” the wife of a Confederate officer who has her own agenda when it comes to the handling of slaves; and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as “Tom Lea,” an uneducated slave owner desperate to claw his way into the elite company of Southern gentility.
Rounding out the cast, Emayatzy Corinealdi plays Belle, the wife of Kunta Kinte; Tip “T.I.” Harris plays Cyrus, a headstrong slave who fights for his freedom for the Union Army against Confederate Forces; Mekhi Phifer is Jerusalem, a mute slave who works on the Murray plantation, but who is not quite what he appears to be; James Purefoy will play John Waller, the wealthy owner of a Virginia plantation who buys Kunta Kinte as a slave upon his arrival in America; Matthew Goode is Dr. William Waller, the educated brother of John Waller; Lane Garrison portrays Frederick Murray, a mercurial Confederate officer and slave owner; and finally G. Hannelius plays Missy,” daughter of John Waller.
After a global search to find the actors to play the iconic roles of “Kunta Kinte” and “Chicken George” that spanned 15 locations (Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Congo, South Africa, Kenya, Los Angeles, London, Toronto, Vancouver, Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, New York, Paris and Ireland), newcomers Malachi Kirby and Regé-Jean Page were cast as Kunta Kinte and Chicken George respectively. Malachi was handpicked by executive producers Will Packer and LeVar Burton, who played the original Kunta Kinte.
They all join Laurence Fishburne, who plays Alex Haley, the author of the novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family.”
Phillip Noyce and Thomas Carter directed nights one and three respectively; Mario Van Peebles and Bruce Beresford directed nights two and four.
Questlove is Executive Music Producer for the production.
From Executive Producer Lorne Michaels, Maya Rudolph and Martin Short join forces for an all-new comedy show jam-packed with music, stars and the unique characters of two of the biggest icons in SNL history.
With Kenan Thompson as part of the team, the show is titled “Maya & Marty,” a live television variety show that is expected to premiere on NBC tomorrow, May 31, 2016.
Featuring surprise celebrity guests joining them each week, the series will be co-hosted by comedians Maya Rudolph and Martin Short, and will include various comedy sketches, musical numbers, and celebrity guests.
A standalone pilot for “The Maya Rudolph Show,” likewise a variety show hosted by Rudolph, was aired on May 19, 2014; in its original form it was not initially picked up for series. Beginning in 2015, the concept was revived and went through a year of redevelopment. The variety series was greenlit on February 12, 2016 and was tentatively titled Maya and Marty in Manhattan.
The series is NBC’s second recent attempt at airing a prime time variety show after “Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris” was cancelled partway through the fall 2015 season.
“Maya & Marty” is scheduled to premiere on NBC at 10/9 pm ET/PT on Tuesday, May 31, 2016, following the 11th season premiere of “America’s Got Talent.”
“Devious Maids,” the comedy-drama series created by Marc Cherry, returns for a 4th season this summer on the Lifetime network. The show’s starring cast includes Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez, Roselyn Sánchez, Edy Ganem, and Judy Reyes, with Susan Lucci, Rebecca Wisocky, Tom Irwin, Brianna Brown, Brett Cullen, Mariana Klaveno, and Grant Show in feature main roles.
The series centers on five Latina maids working in the homes of Beverly Hills’s wealthiest and most powerful families. The show was originally in development to air on ABC. The pilot drew 1.99 million viewers, and in episode six, shot up 45 percent from the series premiere, to 2.90 million viewers. The first season finale would become its highest-rated episode, with 3 million viewers. It’s one of Lifetime’s big original series hits.
On September 24, 2015, the show was renewed for a 10-episode fourth season which starts on June 6, 2016.
TV ONE will premiere “Love Under New Management: The Miki Howard Story” on Sunday, June 12 at 7 p.m. ET (encore presentation at 9 p.m. ET), directed by Christine Swanson from a screenplay she penned with Rhonda F. Baraka.
Starring Teyonah Parris in the title role and featuring a special cameo appearance from Grammy Award-nominated R&B songstress Miki Howard herself, this is the network’s first-ever bio-pic inspired by TV One’s signature series “Unsung.”
“Love Under New Management: The Miki Howard Story” features an ensemble cast that also includes Darius McCrary as Gerald Levert; Vanessa Bell Calloway as Miki’s mother Josephine Howard; Gary Dourdan as Augie Johnson; LisaRaye as Sylvia Rhone; and Amari Cheatom as Eddie Phelps.
The film will serve as the crown jewel of TV One’s Black Music Month celebration.
The film candidly explores the complicated history of Howard’s romantic relationship with R&B singer Gerald Levert, the tumultuous relationship with her mother, and her battles to overcome spousal abuse and drug addiction.
ABC’s 2016 summer primetime schedule will include the new comedy series “Uncle Buck” which is set to premiere on Tuesday, June 14.
Based on the hit movie of the same name, Uncle Buck (Mike Epps) is a charismatic hustler who has gotten by on his charm for years. But when his brother, Will (James Lesure), and sister-in-law, Alexis (Nia Long), move to town and need help with their kids, he steps up to become their “manny,” and their lives will never be the same. Will and Alexis are wary of Buck’s questionable parenting skills, but his unique perspective and street smarts provide some unconventional solutions to raising their three rambunctious kids, who typically make a hobby out of terrorizing their nannies.
“Uncle Buck” stars Mike Epps as Buck, Nia Long as Alexis, James Lesure as Will, Iman Benson as Tia, Sayeed Shahidi as Miles and Aalyrah Caldwell as Maizy.
Executive producers are Will Packer, Steven Cragg and Brian D. Bradley.
ABC is also loading up on the summer game-show series, with 3 “reboots”/”reimaginings” all of them hosting by black entertainers.
– “To Tell the Truth” – Premieres Tuesday, June 14: Hosted by Anthony Anderson, “To Tell the Truth” is an anarchic and funny re-imagination of the beloved, game show of the same name. The all-new version takes the excitement to another level, featuring fun characters from pop culture over the six-episode series. Anderson presides over four famous faces, including legend Betty White (who has appeared on previous versions of the show), actress NeNe Leakes, NBA star Jalen Rose and a special guest for each episode. In each round they are presented with three people who all claim to be the same person with the same incredible talent, job or achievement. One is sworn to tell the truth while the others are not. The panel of celebrities has a chance to grill each participant before taking turns deciding who they think is telling the truth. “To Tell the Truth” is produced by FremantleMedia North America. Barry Poznick, Toby Gorman, Jeff Gaspin, George Moll and Anthony Anderson are executive producers.
– “The $100,000 Pyramid” – Premieres Sunday, June 26: The Pyramid is back! Hosted by Pro Football Hall of Famer and celebrated TV personality Michael Strahan, “The $100,000 Pyramid” features 10 episodes with 100 grand up for grabs each week when some of today’s hottest stars team-up with players from across the country to take on the timeless war of words, racing against the clock to give and guess clues in one of TV’s all-time great word-association games. “The $100,000 Pyramid” is produced by SMAC Entertainment in association with Sony Pictures Television and is taped in front of a live studio audience in New York. Michael Strahan, Constance Schwartz and Vin Rubino are the executive producers.
– “Celebrity Family Feud” – Returns Sunday, June 26 (Season 2): The primetime summer hit “Celebrity Family Feud,” a celebrity version of “Family Feud,” returns for a second season. The 10-episode series will feature celebrity families and their immediate family members or their extended TV families, competing against each other to win money for charity. Hosted by Steve Harvey, the highly popular multi-hyphenate standup comedian, actor, author, deejay and Emmy(R) Award-winning game show host, “Celebrity Family Feud” pits celebrities and their families against each other in a contest to name the most popular responses to a survey-type question posed to 100 people. “Celebrity Family Feud” is produced by FremantleMedia North America and is taped in front of a live audience in Los Angeles, California. Gaby Johnston and Jennifer Mullin are executive producers.
ABC will also premiere the 7-hour-long critically-acclaimed documtary “O.J.: Made in America” – the most ambitious project from ESPN Films to date, which will air over the course of a week in June. It is the defining cultural tale of modern America – a saga of race, celebrity, media, violence, and the criminal justice system. And two decades after its unforgettable climax, it continues to fascinate, polarize, and even, yes, develop new chapters. From Peabody and Emmy-award winning director Ezra Edelman, the latest project under ESPN Films’ “30 for 30” brand, “O.J. Made in America” will premiere on Saturday, June 11 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. After an ESPN replay at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 14, the second two-hour installment will follow at 9 p.m., and subsequent episodes will air June 15, 17 and 18.
In February, Netflix and Lionsgate announced that the original series “Orange is the New Black” from creator and executive producer Jenji Kohan, had been renewed for not one, not two, but three (that’s right, 3) additional seasons.
“Jenji and her team have produced a phenomenal and impactful series that is both funny and dramatic, outrageous and heartfelt. Audiences around the world have come to love the ladies and men of Orange is the New Black, and we are eager to see where three more seasons will take them,” said Cindy Holland, Vice President of Original Content at Netflix.
But first, the upcoming 4th season will be released in its entirety (as is customary for Netflix) on June 17, 2016.
The acclaimed hour-long series stars a diverse and award-winning ensemble of actresses including Taylor Schilling, Uzo Aduba, Kate Mulgrew, Laura Prepon, Laverne Cox, Dascha Polanco, Danielle Brooks, Selenis Leyva, Samira Wiley, Taryn Manning, Yael Stone, Jackie Cruz, Lea DeLaria, Adrienne C. Moore and Elizabeth Rodriguez, along with Michael Harney and Nick Sandow.
The series is based on the best-selling memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman.
“Murder in the First” is a detective anthology drama television series that airs on TNT. The series was created by Steven Bochco and Eric Lodal, and stars Taye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson. Set in San Francisco, the show follows a single case across an entire season.
On November 12, 2015, TNT renewed “Murder in the First” for a third season, which is set to premiere on June 19, 2016.
In the first season, SFPD Homicide Inspectors Terry English (Diggs) and Hildy Mulligan (Robertson) investigate two seemingly unrelated murders only to learn that both victims are connected to a Silicon Valley prodigy who is darker than anyone realizes. In the second season, as San Francisco recovers from a deadly school bus massacre, English and Mulligan investigate the death of a fellow officer and uncover a dark conspiracy that threatens to shake the city to its core. In the third season, English and Mulligan juggle investigating a football player’s murder and dealing with their own personal issues while District Attorney Mario Siletti reels from a tragedy that threatens to jeopardize his career.
And for the upcoming 4th season… well, you’ll just have to tune in beginning June 19, to find out what the crime/mystery will be.
OWN’s new original series “Greenleaf,” featuring Oprah Winfrey’s first scripted television role in two decades, will launch on June 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The network is evidently very confident in the series’ potential as a ratings hit because a 13-episode second season has already been ordered.
The megachurch drama from Emmy nominated writer/producer Craig Wright (“Lost,” “Six Feet Under”) and Lionsgate Television centers on the journey of estranged daughter and disillusioned preacher Grace Greenleaf (played by Merle Dandridge) who has returned home after 20 years on the occasion of the mysterious death of her sister, Faith. As she reenters the world of Calvary Fellowship World Ministries, the Memphis megachurch run by her powerful parents, Bishop James Greenleaf (Keith David) and Lady Mae Greenleaf (Lynn Whitfield), it becomes evident that things are not as virtuous as they seem and that the family’s outward display of faith hides sin and misdeeds.
Written and created by “Six Feet Under” scribe Craig Wright, and starring Merle Dandridge as Grace Greenleaf, Lynn Whitfield, Keith David, and Oprah Winfrey in a recurring role, “Greenleaf “ will debut on OWN June 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
“Killjoys” is a Canadian space adventure drama series that airs on the Syfy channel. The series was renewed for a second season in September 2015, which is set to premiere on July 1, 2016.
“Killjoys” follows a trio of hard-living bounty hunters – Dutch, John, and D’avin– taking on interplanetary missions, chasing and capturing deadly criminals throughout a distant system named the Quad. They have sworn amongst themselves to remain neutral during a bloody, multi-planetary class war that threatens to destroy the Quad. However, their own pasts and the events around them begin to draw them in deeper to this dangerous vortex of war.
It’s a rare sci-fi series with a black woman lead, and I’m not sure if it’s one that a lot of you are watching. Hannah John-Kamen stars as Dutch (aka Yalena); Aaron Ashmore is John Jaqobis; and Luke Macfarlane is D’avin Jaqobis.
On the USA network, “Mr. Robot” returns for season 2. The drama–thriller television series is created by and stars talents of Egyptian descent – Sam Esmail (creator) and Rami Malek (star).
Malek plays Elliot Alderson, a cybersecurity engineer and hacker who suffers from social anxiety disorder and clinical depression. Alderson is recruited by an insurrectionary anarchist known as “Mr. Robot”, played by Christian Slater, to join a group of hacktivists. The group aims to cancel all debts by attacking the large corporation E Corp. The pilot premiered on multiple online and video on demand services on May 27, 2015, and the series was renewed for a second season before the first season premiered on USA Network on June 24, 2015.
The 10-episode second season will premiere on July 13, 2016.
Mr. Robot has received much critical acclaim and has been nominated for multiple awards, winning the 2015 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama.
Your Sunday nights are about to become even more competitive as the Starz network’s entire Saturday night lineup of original programming will be moved to Sunday nights, to compete with HBO and Showtime.
So that means, when “Power” returns for season 3 this summer, it will air on Sunday nights, not Saturdays as has been the case for the last 2 seasons. It has also been Starz’s highest-rated original series since its premiere, and with that kind of momentum behind it, and a much-anticipated third season in front of it, one can understand Albrecht’s confidence in the move.
There’s also the LeBron James produced scripted dramedy series “Survivor’s Remorse,” which will also be moved to Sunday nights, from Saturdays, when it returns this summer as well.
Emmy award (and overall TV award season) consideration could also be a motivation for the move; if you think about it, historically, the heavy-hitters tend to air on Sunday nights, from “Game of Thrones,” to “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” “The Good Wife,” “Homeland,” “Penny Dreadful,” and the list goes on…
“Power” starts its third season on Sunday, July 17 at 9PM ET/PT. The season 3 premiere episode, “Call Me James,” will air with a triple play beginning at 9PM in its move to Sunday nights. The upcoming season of “Power” will include ten hour-long episodes.
“Survivor’s Remorse” will premiere its third season on Sunday, July 24 at 10PM ET/PT with the first two episodes of the season airing back-to-back with “The Night of the Crash” followed by “The Ritual.” The upcoming season of “Survivor’s Remorse” will include ten half-hour episodes.
Over at Starz competitor, HBO, Dwayne Johnson returns as Spencer Strasmore for season 2 of “Ballers” on July 17 at 10PM.
Looking at the lives of former and current football players, “Ballers” follows former superstar Spencer Strasmore (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) as he gets his life on track in retirement, while mentoring other current and former players through the daily grind of the business of football.
“The charismatic and hugely talented Dwayne Johnson, along with the rest of the ‘Ballers’ cast, has truly struck a chord with the HBO audience,” said Michael Lombardo, president, HBO Programming. “We are thrilled with the overwhelming response the series has received and look forward to another exciting season.”
Omar Benson Miller, John David Washington (Denzel Washington’s son, in his first major acting role), Donovan Carter, Troy Garity, Rob Corrdry, Jazmyn Simon, and Arielle Kebble also star in the series, which is set in Miami, FL, and is created and executive produced by Steve Levinson, with executive producing duties by Mark Wahlberg, Peter Berg, Dany Garcia, Julian Farino, Evan Reilly and Rob Weiss.
Netflix will premiere its much-anticipated music-driven 1970s-set drama series, “The Get Down” this summer.
The series will be released in 2 parts; the first half will debut on Friday, August 12, 2016, and will unfold over 6 episodes. Dates on the second half will be announced later.
“The Get Down” will follow a rag-tag crew of South Bronx teenagers in a broken down and beaten up, violent New York City at the brink of bankruptcy, which gave birth to hip-hop, punk and disco – a story told through the lives and music of the South Bronx kids who changed the city, and the world… forever.
Cast members include Justice Smith (playing “Ezekiel”), Shameik Moore (as “Shaolin Fantastic”), Skylan Brooks (as “Ra Ra”), Tremaine Brown, Jr. (as “Boo Boo”), Herizen Guardiola (“Mylene Cruz”), Yahya Abdul-Mateen (“Cadillac”), Mamoudou Athie (“Grandmaster Flash”), Jimmy Smits (“Francisco Cruz” aka “Papa Fuerte”) and Jaden Smith (Marcus “Dizzee” Kipling).
Luhrmann directed and serves as executive producer of the series which is also executive produced by Catherine Martin, Paul Watters, Thomas Kelly, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Shawn Ryan and Marney Hochman.
So… what did I miss? Or what are you looking forward to checking out, whether it’s on this list, or not on it? Jump in below in the comments section and share…