We may not be relying on television to keep us company as much as we did last summer. But there are still plenty of good reasons to unwind at home over the next months with old and new friends.
Here are 10 programs we're most looking forward to checking out.
"Never Have I Ever": Shows about teen angst have rarely been as painfully funny as Mindy Kaling's series about Devi, an Indian-American girl torn between two crushes. In season two, rapper Common plays a dermatologist who woos Devi's mom. (July 15, Netflix)
"McCartney 3, 2, 1": Paul McCartney isn't nearly as reclusive as fellow rock legends Bob Dylan and Prince. But he's hopefully still got juicy stories we haven't heard yet. This six-part documentary, made in conjunction with producer Rick Rubin, should serve as a nice opening act for Peter Jackson's film on the making of the Beatles' "Let It Be," expected to drop on Disney+ in late November. (July 16, Hulu)
"Schmigadoon!": Fans of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" and "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" will want to check out this toe-tapping series. "SNL" standout Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key play a couple who stumble across a mysterious city in which residents think they are starring in a 1940s musical. (July 16, Apple TV+)
"Turner & Hooch": The 1989 comedy isn't considered one of Tom Hanks' finest cinematic moments, but there's enough of us fans out there to justify this spinoff series in which his detective character's son (Josh Peck) also partners up with a dog. Matt Nix, who created the quick-witted series "Burn Notice," takes charge of the action and the poop scooping. (July 21, Disney+)
"Kevin Garnett: Anything Is Possible": It's no "The Last Dance," but the former NBA superstar had enough of a career to merit his own all-star documentary, which covers everything from his high school days to his Hall of Fame induction. (July 30, Showtime)
"Fantasy Island": Roselyn Sanchez takes over hosting duties from Ricardo Montalban for this reboot of the 1977-84 guilty pleasure. A similar attempt to revive the series with Malcolm McDowell in 1998 by ABC lasted only 13 episodes. (Aug. 10, Fox)
"Brooklyn Nine-Nine": After a 16-month hiatus, network TV's finest ensemble comedy returns for its final 10 episodes. The writers have reportedly used the downtime to come up with storylines that reflect growing criticism of police departments. (Aug. 12, NBC)
"Nine Perfect Strangers": Prolific writer David E. Kelley's previous collaborations with Nicole Kidman resulted in "Big Little Lies" and "The Undoing." This adaptation of Liane Moriarty's bestseller, set in a luxury resort, is an attempt to make it three hits in a row. Melissa McCarthy, Regina Hall and Michael Shannon are among the other guests. (Aug. 18, Hulu)
"The Walking Dead": After 11 years, the zombie apocalypse is coming to an end. But don't schedule your finale parties just yet. This last season will consist of 24 episodes, which means there are still 6,402 gruesome killings before we say goodbye. (Aug. 22, AMC)
"Only Murders in the Building": Steve Martin and Martin Short add Selena Gomez to their comedy team for this series about three residents in a luxury apartment complex who team up to play Sherlock Holmes. Martin is also the co-creator. (Aug. 31, Hulu)
Stay cool and have fun with these 10 video games
Game developer Flight School Studio is quite good at creating beautiful experiences that don’t easily fit into the standard boxes you expect from video games. Such is the case with its latest game, “Stonefly,” in which you pilot giant mechanical vehicles that behave like tiny, agile insects. (Or maybe everything in the game is tiny and insect-size? The world that Flight School has made is striking and unexpected.)
Played from an isometric view, combat in “Stonefly” consists of flipping over enemy bugs and pushing them off the environment in an almost sumo wrestling-like fashion. It requires some finesse and strategy, particularly since the various robo-insects you pilot will behave differently.
For me,“Stonefly” took just a bit too long to get going, and then it’s slowed up by the need to repeatedly collect resources to improve your abilities.
Still, it’s a game unlike anything else you’ve likely played recently, and it’s got a lot of impressive elements, especially considering that it comes from a relatively small team.
Available on PC, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
‘New Pokémon Snap’
This is a sequel to 1999’s Nintendo 64 classic “Pokémon Snap” — a game that I and many other old school “Pokémon” fans remember fondly. Rather than catching or battling with the series’ iconic creatures, the goal here is to take great pictures of different Pokémon creatures as you sit in a linear, tram-like cart. The better your photos, the higher your score.
If you don’t already love the “Pokémon” series, there is little chance that this game will appeal to you, even as different from mainline games as it may be. The appeal comes from seeing fan-favorite creatures out “in the wild” and trying to get a perfect shot before they scamper away.
Available on Nintendo Switch
‘Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart’
In this latest outing of Ratchet and his robot buddy Clank, the iconic duo must travel not only to new planets but also new dimensions to defeat an old nemesis, Dr. Nefarious. You’ll run, jump and shoot your way through a variety of colorful locales, using fun abilities to get from one place to the next. You’ll also amass an impressive arsenal of over-the-top weapons, ranging from a standard sci-fi pistol to a device that turns enemies into plants to a gun that literally rips a dimensional hole in the sky.
“Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart” stands out by being an impressive early showcase for the power of the PlayStation 5. It looks gorgeous and runs smoothly, even when creating big explosions in a large crowd of enemies. But one of the most impressive elements is its load times, allowing you to leap from one dimension to the next seamlessly during the adventure.
Available on PlayStation 5
‘Neo Geo Pocket Collection’
If you’d rather spend your summer with blasts from the past, you might be interested in the “Neo Geo Pocket Collection.” The 1999 Neo Geo Pocket Color was home to quite a few beloved games.
Fighting games like “SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium” and “SNK Gals’ Fighters” are still pretty fun, as are the two included Metal Slug games (miniaturized versions of action classics you might have seen in arcades). There are also some great high-resolution versions of the games’ manuals and box art. They aren’t all winners, but this collection is a neat blast from the past for a specific audience.
Available on Nintendo Switch
‘Resident Evil Village’
I’m a longtime fan of the Resident Evil series, especially “Resident Evil 4” and “Resident Evil 7.” So imagine my delight when realizing “Resident Evil Village” (the 8th game in the series) blends both games into something really fun and special.
Village retains “RE7”’s first-person gameplay, but it’s not nearly as scary or as unsettling as its predecessor (though there are plenty of creepy moments). It also mixes in a bit more of the action, complete with upgradable guns and a shopkeeper to whom you will sell collectable trinkets. It’s also got all the monster slaying and light puzzle-solving you would expect from a “Resident Evil” game, only this time you have to deal with werewolves and vampires in addition to the run-of-the-mill undead. It’s an early contender for one of my favorite games of the year.
Available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
‘DC Super Hero Girls: Teen Power’
There was a time when you couldn’t walk into a video game store without tripping over at least three games based on a comic book, but it has actually been a little while since we’ve seen a good superhero game aimed at younger players.
Based on the recent TV show of the same name, “DC Super Hero Girls” puts teenage versions of some of DC’s most powerful women front and center. Have you ever stopped to wonder what high school would be like if Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl and Green Lantern were in classes together? This game juggles both after-school antics and crime-fighting escapades, and it’s surprisingly successful at what it sets out to do.
Available on Nintendo Switch
You crash land on a dark, mysterious planet and stumble across the corpse of an astronaut — and you’re horrified to discover that it’s you.
So begins “Returnal,” a brutally difficult but devilishly good action game about time loops. You are all but guaranteed to die over and over and over again in “Returnal,” and each time you return to life, you also return to the beginning of your journey, retaining only select items and knowledge from your last attempt.
It was the mystery at the center of the story that kept me playing over and over, even after frustrating deaths.
One downside: At the moment it’s nearly impossible to save your game in the middle of a session (the developers instruct you to use the PS5’s “rest mode” if you need a break).
Available on PlayStation 5
‘Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade’
You can upgrade to a sharper, better version of one of 2020’s best games for free.
If you didn’t play the game last year, you have a perfect opportunity to hop in with “Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade” on PlayStation 5. It contains the stellar base game as well as a substantial new downloadable chapter, titled “Episode Intermission.” Players of last year’s version can grab that new chapter as a $20 add-on. It’s a lot shorter than the main game, but it’s sweet.
“Final Fantasy VII Remake” is in some ways a misnomer, because it’s the first chapter of an innovative reimagining of a classic, driven by a great story and polished gameplay that should entertain both old and new fans.
Available on PlayStation 5
Do you read more in the summer, but also play video games? Might I suggest “Disco Elysium” as a way to enjoy both?
“Disco Elysium” is a more cerebral take on classic role-playing games, with the most obvious difference being that there is no combat. Set in a fantasy world distinct from our reality, you play a run-down detective attempting to solve a murder mystery during a story that takes place entirely in a single city district. Everything you say and every choice you make has an impact on your character and the way other people interact with him. Be prepared for things to get deep — there is a lot of discussion among characters about politics, morality and religion.
Now in its “Final Cut” form, Disco Elysium is available on PC, Mac, Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
If all you’ve got to keep you entertained this summer is an aging computer, I have some good news: One of this year’s best games is designed to look like it runs on an old PC.
At times “Loop Hero” actually plays itself. Played from an overhead perspective in a board game-like fashion, the primary element of “Loop Hero” involves laying down tiles on a randomized track. The hero will walk in circles around that track, outside of your direct control, being influenced by every monster, building, item and other tile you strategically place on the field. You want to keep him alive — but you also want to put him at risk so you can collect more resources.
It’s difficult to put “Loop Hero” into words, but it can be even more difficult to stop playing.
Available on Windows and MacOS