Hackers, Drug Dealers and a Springsteen-Loving Mayor: THR Critics Pick Summer's Best Shows

Denis Leary's rock 'n' roll return, a trans-Atlantic rom-com, a politically charged miniseries, a smart drama (on Lifetime?!) — the season's 7 must-see new shows.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

It should surprise no one that summer viewing would be stocked with both high quality and highly entertaining fare as the Platinum Age of television continues unabated. With so many alluring options, viewers had to choose wisely yet again, but were able to pick from buzz-heavy surprises like USA's Mr. Robot, Amazon's out-of-nowhere comedy Catastrophe and the heavier but worthwhile political and issue-oriented miniseries Show Me A Hero from HBO. If the plethora of high-end choices did nothing else, it kept viewers sharp for the fall task of quickly winnowing the massive amounts of shows about to splash through their screens.

1. Show Me a Hero (HBO)

David Simon's six-part miniseries, directed by Paul Haggis and based on real events, initially gives off a slight "eat your vegetables" whiff. But the first-class storytelling and acting will hook you. Starring Oscar Isaac as a 1980s Yonkers, N.Y., mayor embroiled in a racially charged public housing dispute, the drama richly rewards viewers for their investment — and emerges as a potential Emmy heavyweight for 2016.

2. Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll (FX)

This sharply funny and wonderfully spot-on comedy features creator Denis Leary as an aging New York rocker who discovers he has a very talented daughter. Channeling the star's searing sense of humor into an entertaining and accessible package, each half-hour episode also is full of insights into aging, family, friendship and love.

3. Mr. Robot (USA)

In this gripping cyberthriller, Rami Malek plays a computer programmer who is recruited by Christian Slater's eponymous Mr. Robot to join an elite team of hackers. Stylish, enthralling and buoyed by Malek's charismatic performance, this was one of the summer's most exciting small-screen surprises.

4. Documentary Now! (IFC)

Creators Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Seth Meyers hilariously spoof nonfiction film in riotous half-hour episodes, each a parody of a celebrated documentary (Grey Gardens, Nanook of the North, etc.). This is no scattershot takedown of the genre, but a loving lampoon that makes you appreciate the movies being satirized all the more.

5. Unreal (Lifetime)

This fascinating, addictive fictionalized behind-the-scenes look at reality dating shows (created by Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro and starring Shiri Appleby) will validate every cynical thought you've had about the genre. But it's also a provocative and engaging drama teeming with love triangles, mother issues and other juicy themes and storylines. 

6. Catastrophe (Amazon Prime)

A fling between an American adman and an Irish teacher leads to an unplanned pregnancy and then romance in this charming, laugh-out-loud Brit com. Those craving more after watching all six half-hour episodes can rejoice: Season two started shooting this summer.

7. Narcos (Netflix)

Director Jose Padilha's compelling 10-part series, created by Chris Brancato, does more than trace the rise and fall of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar — it portrays various people entangled in his larger-than-life story on both sides of the law and around the globe. With its fine cast and impressive depth and breadth, this could be the international breakthrough the streaming site's been hoping for.