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Those lazy-hazy-crazy days of summer (television)
By NOA AMOUYAL
05/19/2014
Viewers looking to wind down after a sweltering day at the beach now have plenty to feast their eyes on.
 
Once upon a time, before the advent of Netflix, HBO and Showtime, the summer television season was an utter snoozefest. Come May, programs would go into hiatus, leaving viewers channel surfing through talking heads, reality TV contestants clawing at each other or reruns of their favorite shows.

Luckily, the days of slim television pickings during the summer are over. Now, viewers looking to wind down after a sweltering day at the beach have plenty to feast their eyes on.

Below is a rundown of the five hottest programs to burn up the small screen this summer. Some are new to audiences but most have already been lovingly welcomed into many living rooms worldwide, including Israeli ones.

LOUIE

There may not be a more beloved presence on both the small and silver screens at the moment than comedian Louis CK. In the past nine months, he’s starred in critically acclaimed films like American Hustle and Blue Jasmine and released his fifth HBO comedy special (for which he won an Emmy).

Thankfully, though, all of that success has not diminished his signature self-deprecating and ultra-observant nature. When promoting his series Louie (which he writes, directs, edits and stars in), CK told David Letterman, “If there’s one job that I’d get rid of, it’s the acting. Because it’s hard to direct when you are the dude, and when I edit I have to look at my stupid face for hours and hours.”

Louie, which kicked off its fourth season last week, follows CK’s alter-ego around Manhattan as he struggles juggling life as a single dad by day and a stand-up comedian by night. Like Seinfeld, that other quintessential show about neurotic New Yorkers, Louie, too, shines in moments that reveal how weird, brutally honest and strange people can be as they go along their day-to-day routine.

MASTERS OF SEX

Don’t let the title of this Showtime series fool you. While Masters of Sex may spend a good deal of its time talking about, well, sex, the program is really about women redefining gender roles and striving to be taken seriously in the working world. Set in the 1950s, the show, which begins its sophomore season in July, follows a doctor and his research assistant as they study how the human body reacts to stimulus during intercourse.

Just like Mad Men brilliantly used the backdrop of the advertising industry to explain human interaction during that era, Masters of Sex uses science to depict what was taboo, expected and condoned in post-World War II America.

It helps, of course, that at the center of the show is the sexual and professional tension brewing between Michael Sheen as the overly reserved William Masters and Lizzy Caplan as his assistant who adroitly knows how to push his buttons.

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK

Last summer, the Netflix original series left fans with a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers. Without giving too much away, its freshman season ends with its star committing an act that would no doubt make her already interminable prison sentence a whole lot bleaker. As a result, the second season of this dark comedy about women navigating through life in a New York prison is eagerly anticipated. Knowing this, Netflix has amped up their social media campaign in the past few weeks: the release of a series of posters featuring every individual character has only caused fans salivating even more as they wait to see what the television gods have in store for the women of Litchfield prison.

A NORMAL HEART

Thanks to HBO, many A-list celebrities no longer dismiss starring in television movies out of hand. Quite the opposite, in fact: HBO movies have become the place for actors looking to sink their teeth into substantive and prestigious roles. As such, stars like Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Matt Damon and Michael Douglas have all jumped on that HBO Films bandwagon.

This year, Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo and Jim Parsons lend their star power to this film, that portrays the life of playwright and AIDS activist Larry Kramer.

Based on Kramer’s 1985 Broadway play set in New York during the early ‘80s, when the world was just beginning to be exposed to AIDS, in A Normal Heart Mark Ruffalo plays Ned Weeks, a gay man who wants to desperately raise awareness despite the tension his activism causes between his friends, boyfriend and family.

THE LEFTOVERS

This new HBO series certainly has all the makings of a cult hit. The supernatural drama from Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof is about a small town coming to terms with a rapture-like event in which two percent of the population suddenly disappear without any trace or explanation. The series, which debuts in late June, is dedicated to the stories of the confused and grief-stricken ones left behind. The series stars Justin Theroux as the town’s chief of police, whose son was part of that 2%, Amy Brenneman as his wife, whose grief pushes her to join a cult, and Liv Tyler who is pursued by that cult.
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