Welcome to Sweden
Working the Engels
Thursday, July 10 (NBC)
Series Debuts: Summer network TV isn't all about imported Canadian filler—there's Swedish filler, too: Comedy Welcome to Sweden is based on creator/star Greg Poehler's (younger bro to Amy) real-life experience of moving around the world with his Swedish girlfriend (played here by Josephine Bornebusch), and already premiered in that country months ago. It's only on NBC because of Amy (who guests in the premiere episode); Welcome to Sweden has a subtle, sweet, indie-flick vibe that would probably play better on cable—unlike Working the Engels, which drives home its few laughs with a sledgehammer. Oh, and it's Canadian.
Friday, July 11 (Netflix)
Season Premiere: The Only TV Column That Matters™ asked it upon the debut of this supernatural soap opera last year, and I'll ask it again: Why is anyone surprised that terrible things happen in a town called Hemlock Grove? Season 1 didn't sit well with critics, dismissing the style-over-sense creep-theatrics of executive producer/occasional director Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) when they should have just embraced the chaos and marveled at star Famke Janssen's endless array of white outfits (seriously, they're stunning).
Ray Donovan, Masters of Sex
Sunday, July 13 (Showtime)
Season Premieres: As awful and effdup as Ray (Liev Schreiber) and the Donovan clan are, they still won over viewers last summer—even paired with the turrible final season of Dexter (let us never speak of that again). This season, Hollywood "fixer" Ray and ex-con dad Mickey (Jon Voight, still stealing the show) face some new heat from a FBI bureau chief (Hank Azaria) and a journalist (Vinessa Shaw), both very interested in the Boston mobster Mickey plugged last season. Meanwhile, in the Season 2 premiere of Masters of Sex, Dr. Masters (Michael Sheen) and "Dr." Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) deal with being fired and labeled a 'ho, respectively.
Sunday, July 13 (FX)
Series Debut: If you're thinking, "Not another vampire show," don't worry—The Strain is definitely not another vampire show. The Guillermo del Toro/Chuck Hogan series (based on their book trilogy of the same name) kicks off with a slow-burn premiere episode as an international flight full of "dead" passengers and crew lands in New York City, and it's up to CDC agents Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Martinez (Mia Maestro) to decipher how and why. The "how" is in freight: an ancient, vampiric monster loosed during the flight. The "why" is a conspiracy to turn the earth into Planet Vampire, with NYC as ground zero. According to sources (i.e. friends of mine who actually read), the series follows the source material faithfully, and the pilot sets up what should be, in a summer filled with apocalyptic TV epics, the most genuinely scary. Suck it, True Blood.
Tuesday, July 15 (El Rey)
Series Debut: El Rey network el jefe Robert Rodriguez pulled off an impressive TV series remake/expansion of his From Dusk Till Dawn film earlier this year, but Matador seems like even more of a stretch: Tony "Matador" Bravo (Gabriel Luna) is a beloved soccer star who enjoys a jet-setting playboy lifestyle off the field—but it's all a cover for his work as a CIA agent; his fame affords him access to criminal power players, but it's also an increasingly liability (unless he's on a mission in the US of A, where "soccer star" fame is equal to "badminton idol"). It may sound like a gag, but Matador is slick and action-packed, which we could all use after a month of the World Cup.