Summer Series Breakdown (Part One)

With the ever-growing proliferation of platforms for television series, the traditional fall-to-spring tv season is all but a thing of the past. Now, the number of new and returning series that hit the airwaves in the summer months is starting to rival those that launch in the fall season.

To that end, I watched quite a few different series this summer, so I thought I’d do a little breakdown of all the new ones I watched to let you know what I found worthy and if I made the right decision to spend a large part of my summer holed up indoors like a hermit (spoiler: it was totally the right decision).

Since there’s a lot of series and stuff I want to cover, this is only the first part of a two-part post (which you should know already since its right there in the title…) anyway, let’s get to it!

Wet-Hot-American-SummerFDOCWet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix)

Wet Hot American Summer was one of those blink-and-you-missed it movies that had a very short and limited theatrical run before being regulated to late night cable and the back shelf of the video store. But in the 15 years that followed, audiences slowly started discovering the comedic gem, which chronicles the final chaotic day of summer camp at Camp Firewood, circa 1981.

Also in those 15 years, many members of its cast slowly started becoming more and more successful. So when someone had the bonkers idea to reunite the cast (which includes Janeane Garofalo, Michael Ian Black, Chris Meloni, Molly Shannon and Michael Showalter along with now-A-listers like Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, Amy Pohler and Elizabeth Banks) and have them play not only the same characters, but even younger versions of them (well, two months younger, but still), of course everyone was on board. This not only makes WHAS:FDOC one of the most star-studded shows ever, but probably the only show ever where the average age of all the actors playing 17 year olds hovered somewhere around 40.

There’s literally too much going on in the 8 episodes to even attempt to explain it, but when you have a show where a returning cast like that is joined by new cast members that include the likes of Jon Hamm, Josh Charles, Kristen Wiig, Chris Pine, Michael Cera, Jason Schwartzman and H. John Benjamin (among many others) then you don’t question it. You watch it, enjoy it and revel in its delicious irreverence.

Barely Famous (VH1)

In Barely Famous, stars Erin and Sara Foster (daughters of musician David Foster) play fictionalized versions of themselves who pitch a “docu-series” (don’t call it a “reality show”!) about them as they negotiate the superficial celebrity life in Hollywood. Both girls shine in this fame-skewering show and never avoid a chance to send up their own dubious semi-celebrity status. To wit, one hilarious bit has Sara Foster trying to get a free Birkin bag because she’s a celebrity, pointing out to the sales clerk that she’s on (the no longer airing) 90210. Cut to Erin Foster addressing the camera:

“90210 was cancelled in 2013”  (pause)  “Sara’s part was cancelled in 2012”

Full of game cameos from celebs like Jessica Alba, Courtney Cox and Kate Hudson (who manages to swoop in a snag herself a free Birkin bag with ease), Barely Famous is a refreshingly humorous look at the not-so-serious side of being (kinda) rich and (semi) famous. It’s also reminiscent of another fictionalized celeb series – Tori Spelling’s underrated So NoTORIous, which was ALSO on VH1. Hmm…No word on a season two yet, but let’s hope the Foster girls have better luck than Tori did when it comes time to face the VH1 renewal board.

Difficult People (Hulu)

Playing slightly more fictional versions of themselves are Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner in Hulu’s Difficult People. The duo play Julie Kessler and Billy Epstein, two self-involved best friends and aspiring comics who spend the majority of their time rubbing everyone they meet wrong way, all the time wondering why no one has approached them with the offer of headlining their own tv show.

Whether it’s threatening kids at a matinee performance of Annie, hijacking a PBS fundraiser to perform an impromptu and inappropriate roast or hitting David Byrne with a van and then fleeing the scene, these two can only do wrong – and they do it hilariously.  The duo are also given some stellar support from the likes of Andrea Martin and Gabourey Sibide and as with Barely Famous, the celeb cameos abound, with everyone from Martin Short to Andy Cohen showing up to make sure Julie and Billy get put in their place on a regular basis.

Well, that’s it for Part One – three thumbs up so far! Coming up in Part Two: a hit, a miss and my top show of the summer!