Nine of the best TV shows to watch this July

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Apple TV+ A still from Lady in the Lake (Credit: Apple TV+)Apple TV+

(Credit: Apple TV+)

From Natalie Portman’s small-screen debut to violent Ancient Roman epic Those About to Die and a reboot of cult 1980s film Time Bandits.

(Credit: BBC)

(Credit: BBC)

1. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

As Wednesday Addams’ werewolf roommate Enid in the Netflix series Wednesday, Emma Myers helps solve murders. But here the actor stars as a more down-to-earth sleuthing student in this adaptation of Holly Jackson’s popular YA novel. Myers is Pip Fitz-Amobi – with that wonderful name, how could she not be special? – who is determined to find the truth behind a supposedly solved murder-suicide that shook her school five years before. As school projects go, she gets points for ambition. Zain Iqbal plays her friend Ravi, whose brother was the presumed killer, and Anna Maxwell Martin is Pip’s understanding mother. Dolly Wells, co-star and co-creator with Emily Mortimer of Doll & Em, directs the series. Unusually, Jackson wrote both a British and American version of the novel, each with different settings – the fictional Little Kilton in the UK and Fairview, Connecticut in the US – but the television version stays in Little Kilton.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is currently on BBC iPlayer in the UK and premieres 1 August on Netflix internationally

Apple TV+ (Credit: Apple TV+)Apple TV+

(Credit: Apple TV+)

2. Sunny

The topical theme of artificial intelligence meets a tried-and-tested mystery plot in this series starring and executive produced by Rashida Jones. She plays Suzie Sakamoto, an American living in Japan. When the plane her husband and small son are on crashes, the tech company her husband worked for gives her a robot companion for consolation – a chatty little know-it-all named Sunny who vaguely resembles a metal Teletubby. Strange things start happening, and soon Suzie and Sunny team up to investigate what really happened to her son and husband, whose bodies have not been found. Jones navigates her role smoothly to express Suzie’s grief and determination, as well as her sense of the absurd, in a show that has suspense and, thanks to Sunny and some chicanery from the tech company, some comic moments. Hidetoshi Nishijima, the star of 2021 Japanese Oscar-winner Drive My Car, is Suzie’s husband, seen in flashbacks, whose ties to Sunny come as a big surprise to his wife.

Sunny premieres 10 July on Apple TV+ internationally

Amazon Prime Video (Credit: Amazon Prime Video)Amazon Prime Video

(Credit: Amazon Prime Video)

3. Sausage Party: Foodtopia

No pun was too cringey, no double entendre too obvious in the 2016 animated adult comedy Sausage Party, about food items in a supermarket – and that was just what lots of people liked about it, as the film became an unexpected box office hit. The television spin-off features many of the same starry voices, notably Seth Rogen as Frank, the hot dog who discovered that food’s fate is to go down someone’s gullet, and helped engineer an escape from the store. Kristen Wiig returns as Frank’s girlfriend, the hot dog bun Brenda, along with Edward Norton as Sammy Bagel Jr. New voices include Will Forte as the human whose help they need to build a utopia, and Sam Richardson as an orange, Julius. (Yup, a nod to the one-time fruit-drink chain of Orange Julius stores.) Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who were among the film’s producers, are behind the television version too. They told Empire magazine: “It’s got all the heart, double the puns, and triple the food-on-food sex”.

Sausage Party: Foodtopia premieres 11 July on Prime Video internationally

MGM (Credit: MGM)MGM

4. The Emperor of Ocean Park

Forest Whitaker brings gravitas and slyness to the role of Judge Oliver Garland in this Chicago-set series based on Stephen L Carter’s 2002 bestselling novel The Emperor of Ocean Park. Garland dies of a heart attack in the show’s opener. Or was he murdered? The timeline constantly flips between past and present. In the flashbacks, updated from the novel to 2009 and beyond, Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court is derailed because of some dicey connections in his past. In the present, his three children discover some dark secrets. His daughter, Mariah (Tiffany Mack) is conspiracy-minded to begin with, but that doesn’t mean she’s wrong when she suspects their father was killed. She has a hard time convincing her two brothers, Tal (Grantham Coleman), a law professor with marital problems, and Addison (Henry Simmons), a television journalist. Full of plot twists and family drama, the show is the latest evidence that legal thrillers are perfectly suited to television.

Emperor of Ocean Park premieres 14 July on MGM+ in the US

Apple TV+ (Credit: Apple TV+)Apple TV+

(Credit: Apple TV+)

5. Time Bandits

Time travel can be an irresistible fantasy for all ages, which is the idea behind this colourful family-friendly series based on Terry Gilliam’s 1981 film about a boy who joins a band of robbers traveling through the ages. Here the band is led by Lisa Kudrow as Penelope, who brings 11-year-old Kevin (Kal-El Tuck) and her group to different periods of history, as they stop in the first days of Stonehenge, the Ice Age and the Middle Ages, among other eras. The show’s creators are Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi – the duo behind the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, who share Gilliam’s off-kilter comic style – and writer Ian Morris, who collaborated with Waititi on his last film Next Goal Wins. The show lands in a different cultural moment from the movie. In the film, Kevin accompanied a band of dwarfs, who are not present in the television version. And the series has been shadowed by a controversy of its own. The actor Charlyne Yi recently alleged that they were “physically assaulted” and “psychologically abused” on set. In a statement, Paramount Television Studios said that they had “conducted a full investigation regarding allegations that were brought to our attention”, and that “additional steps were taken to address concerns”.

Time Bandits premieres 14 July on Apple TV+ internationally

NBC Universal (Credit: NBC Universal)NBC Universal

(Credit: NBC Universal)

6. Those About to Die

Slipping into view ahead of Ridley Scott’s hugely anticipated film Gladiator 2, which arrives in November, this sword-and-sandals action series has a pedigree of its own. Anthony Hopkins plays the Roman Emperor Vespasian, complete with flowing robes and a gold laurel wreath on his head. Roland Emmerich, the director of spectacles including Independence Day, directs five of the 10 episodes of the show about gladiators and those who try to kill them. And Robert Rodat, the screenwriter of Saving Private Ryan, is the series creator. The cast includes Iwan Rheon, best known as the villainous Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones. Peacock’s official description calls his character, Tenax, a “crime boss” who runs a gambling operation for bets on all those vicious games in the newly-built Colosseum. Somehow that makes you imagine Tony Soprano in a toga, but it suggests how much Peacock is leaning into a connection between those 79 AD shenanigans and today.

Those About to Die premieres 18 July on Peacock in the US and 19 July on Prime Video in the UK

Apple TV+ (Credit: Apple TV+)Apple TV+

(Credit: Apple TV+)

7. Lady in the Lake

Starring in her first television series, Natalie Portman is a 1960s Jackie Kennedy lookalike as Maddie Schwartz, an upscale Baltimore housewife whose determination to solve the murder of a drowned woman turns her into a journalist. Moses Ingram (Josie in The Queen’s Gambit) plays Cleo Johnson, the murder victim whose story is told in flashback in tandem with Maddie’s bolt for freedom from her stifling marriage. Based on Laura Lippman’s novel and written and directed by Alma Har’el (Honey Boy), the show takes on themes of feminism and Jewish and black identity, in the guise of a textured murder mystery. It was shot in Baltimore, where Portman’s grandmother once lived, giving the role a special resonance. “To have been there and imagined my family being there 60 years ago was really amazing,” she told Vanity Fair. “To imagine what it was to be a woman at that time in a Jewish marriage, the restrictions of what that meant at that time and place definitely felt personal to explore.” 

Lady in the Lake premieres 19 July on Apple TV+ internationally

Netflix (Credit: Netflix)Netflix

(Credit: Netflix)

8. The Decameron

A pod of people sheltering together during a pandemic sounds timely, but Boccaccio got there first, in the 14th Century to be exact. In The Decameron he imagined nobles and servants gathered in a villa outside Florence, where they told stories and hoped to avoid the bubonic plague raging outside. Kathleen Jordan, creator of this irreverent dark comedy very loosely based on Boccaccio, has said she approached his classic book as a series of “short little horny tales”. The show is also set in Florence in 1348, with a range of characters including Tony Hale as the hapless steward of the villa where everyone is staying, Zosia Mamet as an entitled woman hoping to become mistress of the villa, and Saoirse-Monica Jackson (Derry Girls) as a put-upon servant. There is class conflict, but also drinking, dancing, sex and Survivor-style scheming in a series that counts Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black) among its executive producers.

The Decameron premieres 25 July on Netflix internationally

Apple TV+ (Credit: Apple TV+)Apple TV+

(Credit: Apple TV+)

9. Women in Blue

This Spanish-language drama, set in the early 1970s, is inspired by the real story of the first women to join Mexico City’s police force. It did not go smoothly. The story focuses on four women who soon learn they are public relations window dressing, not expected to do any real crime-fighting and given whistles instead of guns. Their uniforms may make them look like airline hostesses of that era, with short blue skirts and high leather boots, but they are smarter than the dismissive men around them. Soon they go off on their own initiative to find a serial killer targeting women. The female officers are a mix of personality types, led by the fiercely determined Maria (Bárbara Mori), along with Gabina (Amorita Rasgado), daughter of a respected policeman, the fingerprint expert Angeles (Ximena Sariñana) and the young, rebellious Valentina (Natalia Téllez). That neat distribution may be typical, but the series also offers a fresh take on the female cop show.

Women in Blue premieres 31 July on Apple TV+ internationally

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