It’s a good week for sci-fi fans with the promising premieres of The Strain and Extant, but those partial to comedy get only a couple of lackluster shows served up by NBC.
Monday, July 7
POV (10-11 pm, PBS)
Disabled filmmaker Niko von Glasow chronicles the 2012 Paralympic Games in London in My Way to Olympia.
Tuesday, July 8
Finding Carter (10-12 am, MTV)
I have to give credit to whoever is in charge of choosing the original, scripted programming at MTV: the channel’s recent offerings have been better than decent. The high-concept premise—a young woman learns that the woman she believes to be her mother abducted her as a toddler, and she is reunited with her birth family—could have felt like an ABC Family reject, but ultimately comes across as a better show than most of what ABCF programs. (Two-episode premiere)
Also tonight: Inside The Walking Dead (10-11 pm, AMC), a behind-the-scenes look at the show’s visual effects and makeup.
Wednesday, July 9
Extant (9-10 pm, CBS)
One of the summer’s biggest TV events has Steven Spielberg behind the camera as executive producer and Halle Berry in front of it in this 13-episode sci-fi thriller, playing an astronaut who returns from a year-long space mission to discover that she is pregnant, though she was alone in space and had previously been unable to conceive. Oh, and while she was away her husband made them a creepy robot child.
Also tonight: the season two premiere of The Bridge (10-11:15 pm, FX), which aims to put more focus on issues faced by border towns while introducing Franka Potente as the catalyst of the season’s major criminal arc.
Thursday, July 10
Welcome to Sweden (9-9:30 pm) and Working the Engels (9:30-10 pm, both NBC)
NBC tosses out two more comedies to see if they’ll catch on, but both of these feel like so much filler, just so NBC can say they are airing new shows in summer. Sweden was created by Greg Poehler (brother of Amy, who’s an executive producer here) and is based on his experience marrying into a Swedish family and moving there. Some famous Poehler family friends make guest appearances in the early episodes, but having Greg also star in the show seems like a misstep. Engels, a Canadian show about a dysfunctional family (is there any other kind?) coming together to keep the family law firm going after the patriarch dies, is a bland, forgettable Arrested Development wannabe that wastes talented actors like SCTV legend Andrea Martin and Hannibal’s Kacey Rohl.
Friday, July 11
The Almighty Johnsons (10-11 pm, Syfy)
I’m guessing Syfy is trying to attract more female viewers with this one, a fantasy series about four (presumably hunky) brothers who learn that they are reincarnated Norse gods.
Saturday, July 12
The Outsiders (9-11:30 pm, Sundance)
Here’s a reminder that at one time Hollywood was capable of adapting young-adult novels into satisfying, well-executed movies, due as much to the source material (S.E. Hinton’s now-classic novel of rival gangs in 1960s Oklahoma) as to the guiding efforts of director Francis Ford Coppola. The cast is full of young actors who went on to have solid careers: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio, Diane Lane, Emilio Estevez, and Tom Cruise.
Sunday, July 13
The Strain (10-11:40 pm, FX)
FX’s Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 10 are already occupied by other dramas and the Monday and Thursday slots are used for comedies (two new ones arrive next week), so it’s a logical move to establish a show on Sunday, which is a competitive and busy night year-round, and this is a smart choice to inaugurate the night. But you want to know about the show, right? I’ve been anticipating this one for a while: adapted by Guillermo del Toro from the trilogy of books he co-wrote with Chuck Hogan, it’s about a virus that causes vampirism and a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that’s racing to stop the virus from spreading.
Also tonight: Showtime has the season two premieres of Ray Donovan (9-10 pm) and Masters of Sex (10-11 pm).
The League (2009- )
I’ve suggested a lot of British shows over the past couple of months, so I was trying to swing back to something American this time. The League fits most of the criteria for a cult show: it airs on a cable channel (FX/FXX); it runs in shorter seasons; its humor is edgy, not broad; and its general filthiness will appall some and delight others. Netflix has the first four seasons available (and the first was only six episodes), so if you start now they should add season five before season six starts airing this fall and you can be caught up for its premiere. (45 episodes total; each season is pretty self-contained, but subsequent seasons tend to reference past events.)
(Note: this information is accurate as of publication time, but programming is subject to change at the discretion of channels and networks. All times listed are Eastern tim