From Muppets to murderers, sharks to catfish, a new “Star Trek” to a new-to-America comedy game show, there are a number of things headed to a TV near you in the next couple of weeks.
Here are 10 things worth checking out:
“Helter Skelter: An American Myth” (premieres Sunday, July 26, at 11 p.m.on Epix) • It’s been almost three years since Charles Manson died at the age of 83 — and 51 years since his followers murdered nine people — but the fascination with the man and his crimes continues. This six-episode “docu-series” tells the story of Manson’s life and the murders, and features interviews with former members of the so-called Manson family.
Epix promises that it will “will upend what people think they know” about Manson and the murders, “and cast an entirely new light on this crime of the century.” That’s not altogether true. If you’ve read any of the books or seen any of the umpteen TV productions (both documentaries and dramas) about Manson, this will all be familiar.
If you don’t know a lot about the man, his followers and their crimes — and plenty of Americans weren’t born when actress Sharon Tate and eight others were killed — “Helter Skelter: An American Myth” is more than enough to fill you in.
The title isn’t great, however. Yes, Manson has been mythologized over the years. But his crimes were real — they weren’t a myth.
“Wynonna Earp” (returns Sunday, 11 p.m., Syfy) • This weird Western/horror/supernatural series and cult favorite in which the great-great-granddaughter of Wyatt Earp fights reincarnated bad guys returns for its fourth season … sort of. The series was in production when the coronavirus pandemic broke out, forcing an end to filming. And that came after a long delay as the result of financial trouble at the production company. (The last new episode aired 22 months ago.)
Apparently, half of 12 planned episodes were completed; the rest will air … maybe next year sometime?
Maxxx (starts streaming Wednesday on Hulu) • This import from the U.K. stars O. T. Fagbenle (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) as a former member of a boy band trying to launch a solo career a number of years after falling into obscurity.
Maxxx is a thoroughly terrible person — a foul-mouthed narcissist with no redeeming qualities — and the laughs come at his expense. Along with a lot of cringing. It is, in a way, reminiscent of “Absolutely Fabulous.”
Christopher Meloni — who will return to his “SVU” role as Elliott Stabler in the spinoff “Law & Order: Organized Crime” — plays Maxxx’s manager.
“In My Skin” (starts streaming Thursday, July 30, on Hulu) • It took a while, but this acclaimed 2018 British drama has finally made it to America. It’s a coming-of-age story centering on a Welsh teenager, 16-year-old Bethan (Gabrielle Creevy), who’s trying to navigate life and keep her troubled home life — her mother is bipolar — hidden from her classmates.
It’s not exactly a happy story, but it will definitely tug at your heart.
“In My Skin” won the 2019 BAFTA (the British Oscar/Emmy) as best drama, and Creevy won as best actress.
“Muppets Now” (starts streaming Friday, July 31, on Disney+) • This new six-episode series is, believe or not, “unscripted.” Well, don’t believe that. It’s clearly scripted, albeit with, perhaps, some improvisation from time to time.
It casts the Muppets in several genres, some of which recur from episode to episode. The first installment features “Lifesty with Miss Piggy.” (Get it?) There’s a profile of Kermit the Frog in “Muppet Masters.” (Turns out he’s a photobomber.) The Swedish Chef stars in a — you guessed it! — cooking show titled “Okey Dokey Kookin.” (And wait till you see him face off with Danny Trejo in Episode 2.) And in “Mup Close and Personal,” Kermit interviews RuPaul. (That goes off the rails when Gonzo, Miss Piggy and others join in.)
Episode 2 introduces viewers to “Pepe’s Unbelievable Game Show” — headlined by Pepe the King Prawn. (It’s insane.) And Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker host “Muppet Labs Field Test.” (Also insane.)
Reviews of “Muppets Now” are embargoed until July 27, but I don’t think Disney will mind if I tell you that I was amused — and I occasionally laughed out loud.
“Taskmaster” (debuts Sunday, Aug. 2, at 8 p.m. on The CW/Ch. 30) • This totally bizarre, utterly hilarious British series is new to America, but it’s been airing in the U.K. since 2015. And it’s … sort of hard to describe.
A group of British comedians perform a series of strange tasks assigned by Greg Davies (the “Taskmaster”) and administered by his assistant, Alex Horne. The first episode involves powerful smells, a search for a baby monitor, homemade ventriloquist dummies, sneaking up on Horne, and peeling a banana with your feet. And it’s way funnier than that sounds.
Davies assigns points for various tasks, and there’s a winner in each episode — but that doesn’t really matter. It’s all about the comedy.
The CW bought the rights to Seasons 8 and 9, a total of 20 episodes. Once you tune in and get addicted, here’s a bonus — the first 52 episodes are available on YouTube.
“Elizabeth Smart: Finding Justice” (Sunday, Aug. 2, at 8 p.m. on Lifetime) • In this hourlong special, Smart interviews Candra Torres — who, as a teenage bride in the 1970s, was kidnapped and brainwashed by the man who murdered her husband. She was a victim of Stockholm syndrome when few people had even heard that term.
Smart — who was also kidnapped as a teenager — does a great job in the interview, relating to Torres in a way that not much of anybody else could.
The hourlong “Finding Justice” airs after the premiere of the TV movie “A Murder to Remember” (6 p.m., Lifetime), which is based on Ann Rule’s recounting of Torres’ story in her book “Empty Promises.”
“Star Trek: Lower Decks” (starts streaming Thursday, Aug. 6, on CBS All Access) • The second animated “Trek” series is a lot different from the first. Not only is TV animation light years beyond what it was in 1974, but this is a comedy about junior officers on the U.S.S. Cerritos, one of the “least important” vessels in Starfleet.
It’s coming to us from executive producer Mike McMahan, who was a writer/producer on “Rick and Morty.”
I can make one prediction with 100% confidence: A good-sized contingent of Trekkers are going to hate “Lower Decks,” because they don’t have a sense of humor about the franchise.
Is it actually funny? I have no comment yet — reviews are embargoed until Aug. 6, the day the show premieres.
“Catfish: The TV Show” (returns Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 9 p.m. on MTV) • This addictive reality show features investigations into online relationships that may be what they seem — but mostly are not, because one person is catfishing the other. In other words, pretending to be someone he/she is not.
It’s amazing that, after 146 episodes, there are still so many catfish out there. And Season 9 will be different from all that have gone before, because hosts Nev Schulman and Kamie Crawford will be doing all their investigating and confronting of catfish virtually, what with the pandemic.
If it seems crazy that the catfish would agree to go online and be identified, remember that they’ve been doing it in person since 2012.
Shark Week (Sunday, Aug. 9 through Sunday, Aug. 16, Discovery) • This has been an annual event since 1988, featuring a mix of science, entertainment and — let’s be honest here — dopey, dubious fun. The full schedule isn’t out yet, but we do know that this year’s lineup will include “Tyson vs. Jaws: Rumble on the Beach.”
Yes, we’re being told that former boxing champion Mike Tyson will “try to score a TKO over the massive shark” when the “two heavyweights square off underwater.” And we’re assured that “no sharks were harmed (or bitten) in the making of this episode.”
Is Tyson really going to box a massive shark? I doubt it. There will be some kind of a twist. There always is.
Will it be fun? It just might be.