Top TV Shows Of The Summer
The outer banks, paradise on earth, well, not quite. Set in a coastal town in picturesque Outer Banks, North Carolina, the show follows sixteen-year-old John Booker Routledge, commonly known as John B, after the mysterious disappearance of his father, which seems to be linked to a secret treasure hunt. John B and his closest friends, a group of teens from a blue collar neighborhood known as the Pogues, set off on a mission to find the truth behind his father’s disappearance and the treasure, while simultaneously butting heads with the upper class teens in town, known as the Kooks. Additionally, on his journey, John B falls for Sarah Cameron, a girl belonging to his rival group the Kooks. While the plot follows a classic Shakespearean formula resulting in a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet, many of the characters lacked development and depth, especially those belonging to the Kooks. Furthermore, the continual timeline issues, given the entire season supposedly takes place in a week, and inconclusive plot threads leave much to be desired. It is, however, unlikely that many of the small annoyances within the show would prevent the target audience, primarily being teenagers, from watching. Despite its flaws, the sun drenched setting, cast chemistry and heaps of drama provided viewers with positive summer vibes that were unsurpassed by any other show in this review. While “Outer Banks” may not have been paradise, it was likely one of the biggest hits of the summer, spurring trends on TikTok and numerous other social media platforms, so it would be unrealistic to label the show anything less than a success.
“Little Fires Everywhere”
Packed with socially significant messages, “Little Fires Everywhere” is a required watch. The show is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Celeste Ng, which was one of the best books I read last year, so to say I had high expectations is an understatement. Set during the 90s in a seemingly perfect suburban town called Shaker Heights, the show is centered around the equally perfect Richardson family, led by mother Elena, played by Reese Witherspoon, whose world is shaken when single mother Mia played Kerry Washington and her daughter Pearl move into their rental property in the neighborhood. Mia, a photographer, and Pearl, who becomes fast friends with the Richardson children, had been on the road for as long as Pearl had been alive until they moved to Shaker; as the show progresses it is clear Mia is running from something in her past, which Elena becomes determined to uncover. Additionally, while working at a Chinese restaurant to earn extra money, Mia learns the story of her immigrant coworker Bebe who is desperate to find her baby daughter, who she left at a firehouse after coming close to starvation. Mia soon discovers that Elena’s best friend Linda and her husband are the adoptive parents of Bebe’s daughter and becomes determined to help them reunite, much to Elena’s dismay. The all-star cast and electric sparring between Witherspoon and Washington breathed life into Ng’s characters and portrayed their motivations and relationships in a way that felt honest. At its core, the show carefully delved into the complexities of motherhood, race, class and gender in the subtle ways those themes present themselves in everyday life. While I am unsure if the TV rendition lived up to all of my expectations I built from the book, it is likely the best show I’ve watched this year and binge worthy in every way.
Based on the novel by Sally Rooney, drama and young love find harmony in “Normal People”–– a moody boy-meets-girl story that grapples with adolescence and identity. The story, set in Scotland, follows Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a social outcast and Connell (Paul Mescal), a popular but self conscious boy, who are classmates in high school. When the pair begin a relationship, Marianne suggests to Connell they keep it secret, and he readily agrees out of his own insecurity of what his classmates may think, a decision that reverberates throughout the season. The show continues to follow the pair and their complex, ebbing and flowing relationship throughout college and into young adulthood, where suddenly, Marianne flourishes socially, and Connell finds himself out of place. You won’t find yourself rooting for either Marianne or Connell as the series progresses because their flaws are portrayed so clearly and elegantly on screen by Edgar-Jones and Mescal, who skillfully portray the internal struggles of the transition to adulthood and finding your path in life, thus, giving their respective characters incredibly authentic personalities and developments. Although to me this story read like a beautifully melancholy love letter, this is likely not a series that is for everyone given the purposefully mundane nature of this story. However, the breathtaking scenery of Scotland and numerous European cities make up for the lack of constant action and tedious dialogue between characters, which each in turn add to the show’s realism. If you can appreciate the slow burn of the storyline and poetically unheroic characters, “Normal People” is an alluring depiction of self discovery throughout the passage of time.
“Julie and the Phantoms”
Directed and composed by High School Musical’s Kenny Ortega and David Lawrence, “Julie and the Phantoms” appeals to a younger teenage audience, or anyone who wants some Disney channel nostalgia. Based on the Brazilian hit show “Julie e os Fantasmas,” Julie and the Phantoms stars Madison Reyes as Julie, a vocally talented teen who rediscovers her love of music in the wake of her mother’s death after accidentally awakening the ghosts of a charming 90s boy band called Sunset Curve who only she can see unless they play music together. The members of Sunset Curve, Luke (Charlie Gillespie), Reggie (Jeremy Shada) and Alex (Owen Joyner), form a new band led by talented singer Julie, with hopes of fulfilling their dream of finally making it to fame. The echoes of High School Musical can definitely be seen throughout the season, as Julie is pitted against Carrie, a Sharpay-esque rich, blonde, popular singer in the same music program who also happens to be the daughter of the only living member of the former band Sunset Curve. The musical performances throughout the season ranged from fun pop numbers to heart wrenching ballads that would poignantly touch any viewer. Additionally, the incorporation of music into the show also managed to feel authentic and add to the plot lines without coming off as overly forced, which is often a difficult balance to achieve. The chemistry between the cast members, especially Reyes and Gillespie, whose characters are both dealing with their own grief and trauma, made the show a captivating watch. With its intriguing plot, dazzling musical numbers and charismatic cast, “Julie and the Phantoms” made for an entertaining and heartwarming binge-worthy watch, perfect for all ages to enjoy.