• Evan Northrup

HBO's 2020 Summer Rollout: Check Out What You Missed

Every year, HBO blesses our spring and summer by rolling out a collection of new shows and movies. Last summer, we got the instant classic miniseries Chernobyl, the highly awaited sequel seasons of Big Little Lies and Succession, the psychedelic teen drama Euphoria, and the disastrous, painful-to-watch conclusion to Game of Thrones. Every Sunday at 8:00pm, no matter how nice it was outside, you could count on one of those shows to bring you inside for an hour of great television (or harshly sub-par if it was Game of Thrones). 

This year, HBO’s spring/summer rollout looked a little different. Besides Westworld season three, which ended in May, most of the shows on the release schedule lacked hype. Unlike last summer, which featured the next seasons of long-awaited shows like Big Little Lies and Succession, every show that has come out this summer was a mini-series or on its first season. Additionally, besides Mark Ruffalo in I Know This Much is True, there were no huge names attached to draw attention to these new shows like Zendaya did to Euphoria in 2019. 

So compared to last summer, it feels like HBO is barely being talked about—unlike 2019, when I could expect multiple group chats to explode after every new episode of any of the aforementioned shows. Now, most people just respond with, “What’s that?” or, “Haven’t watched it yet,” when I hit their line about the newest HBO bombshell. I can’t blame them. Unless you’re a TV addict like me, you probably haven’t heard a single thing about any of the stellar shows that have already been released by HBO, that are coming out now, or that are starting soon. I’m going to remedy that. 

Listed below are just a few of my favorite HBO shows that have come out in the past few months, as well as shows coming soon that I’m itching to see. Attached below are trailers and quick, spoiler-free explanations of why you should give them a watch. It’s not a list of every show that HBO has released this summer, but hopefully it gets you interested enough to put HBO back on your radar. 

Lovecraft Country

If you are going to watch anything on this list, make it Lovecraft Country. Based on a 2016 novel of the same name, the show follows Atticus Freeman, Letitia Lewis, and Montrose Freeman in a journey across 1950s Jim Crow America, encountering two types of horror on the way: murderous racists and sci-fi, H.P. Lovecraft inspired monsters. 

Since two of the producers are Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, it's not surprising that this show does an amazing job of mixing genres. Sometimes it feels like an adventure story, then a historic drama, then horror, and on and on. HBO also used its keen eye for upcoming talent when casting Lovecraft Country. The leads are Jonathan Majors, who was recently in Da 5 Bloods and the Last Black Man in San Francisco, and Jurnee Smollet, who has had roles in Birds of Prey and various popular shows like HBO’s own True Blood.  To cap it off, they paired these two young stars with HBO legend Michael Kenneth Williams, who played Omar in The Wire

No matter what type of TV you like, Lovecraft Country is worth a shot. It always keeps one foot firmly grounded in reality—showing the nasty realities of Jim Crow America, strained interpersonal relationships, and the deep throb of loss—while keeping the other in a mix of fantasy with monsters, magic, seances, and adventure. There’s still six episodes of Lovecraft Country left to air, so start watching before it’s too late. 

Perry Mason

Filling in the Sunday 8:00pm time slot before Lovecraft Country was Perry Mason. Perry Mason, based on a 1950s TV show that was based on books from the 1930s, follows a private detective turned lawyer of the title name as he navigates crime, drama, mystery, and intrigue in 1930s Los Angeles. 

At first, I thought HBO might have missed with this one. But after a few episodes, I was hooked. The show starts slow, introducing us to the somber life of WWI veteran Perry Mason, who lives paycheck to paycheck by taking pictures of people having sex, following sketchy men and women around town; you know, private detective stuff. However, as the show goes on, the dark, underlying mystery of a murdered baby is developed, as are the characters, and the show becomes much more interesting. 

The designated hitter that brings the show home is the powerful 1930s atmosphere that hangs around every single scene. The sleazy jazz soundtrack, the dapper outfits, and the religious fervor paired with incessant drinking and smoking all make you feel like you just took the train straight to Depression-era America. If you’re looking for your next crime or detective show, check out Perry Mason

Raised By Wolves

So, this show is weird. Really weird. Like, so weird. 

Ridley Scott is one of the greatest sci-fi directors of all time. Because of him, we have classics like Alien, The Martian, Prometheus, and the best sci-fi movie ever (yes, best, don’t argue) Blade Runner. So by now, he’s probably given a green light to do just about anything he wants when he brings a new project to the studio, and this creative license shows on Raised By Wolves

The series follows two human-like androids, known only as Mother and Father, as they raise six human children on an otherwise uninhabited planet after Earth is destroyed in some Armageddon-type situation. Besides that, we know basically nothing except an ark full of not so friendly humans is headed to the same planet, hoping to claim it as their own. 

Aesthetically, the show is almost indescribable. There’s latex body suits, giant unidentified animal skeletons, and lots of strange, 80s-reminiscent sci-fi gadgets. The plot is just as hazy. There are quick flashbacks to the destruction of Earth, references to the possibly cultish humans headed to the planet, and one scene where the android known as Mother howls at the moon like the title animal. Like I said, very weird. 

Yet somehow, it works. The mystery is intriguing, the characters are interesting, and all the strange aspects of the show keep pulling me in. Unlike the first two shows on this list, Raised By Wolves might not appeal to everyone. But, if you like sci-fi or just strange TV in general, definitely check it out.  

We Are Who We Are

Although this is technically a fall release, it releases next Monday and looks incredible, so I thought it deserved a shoutout. 

We Are Who We Are is a coming-of-age story about two American teens who meet while living with their parents on a military base in Italy. The show gives off strong Euphoria vibes; not in plot, but in the way that it explores the struggles and themes that teens face every day—relationships, love, and the overall feeling of being lost. 

The show is written and directed by Luca Guadagnino—the acclaimed director best known for Call Me By Your Name—which is a good reason alone to be excited for We Are Who We Are. It also has Kid Cudi in his second HBO supporting role of the year, and hopefully he will kill it again. When it comes to how good We Are Who We Are will turn out to be, I’m in the dark like everyone else. But, I’m excited to check out the premiere next Monday.