We’re now officially in the midst of summer, although it may not feel like it with many outdoor events canceled and vacations off the table for the foreseeable future. Even television hasn’t emerged unscathed, as networks spread content into the fall to cover for production lags that will likely continue for some time.
But there are still some highly anticipated shows hitting screens this summer, and plenty of older favorites are just begging for a rewatch. Some television programming only has a certain quality that makes it a perfect summertime viewing experience: whether it’s the beach, summer camp, or just a bright, sunny aesthetic. Here are a few shows that will have you living vicariously through their summer exploits!
“Outer Banks” may be a slightly bizarre mashup of “The OC,” “Riverdale,” and “The Goonies,” but it’s still new content in a year when we’re rapidly running out of material for binge-watching. Set in the vacation hotspot that is the Outer Banks of North Carolina, “Outer Banks” revolves around a group of teenagers who go on the hunt for a legendary treasure in their oceanside community. With its warm, sun-drenched beaches, “Outer Banks” feels almost as though just watching it might end up giving you a tan.
Back in the heady days of the early 2000s, when every network was clamoring to replicate the quasi-scripted success of “The Simple Life,” MTV came out with “Laguna Beach” and changed their programming style forever. Centered around the lives of several privileged teens in Southern California, it had plenty of drama, both real and contrived. It marked the death of MTV as a channel that played music videos and launched the careers of several truly insufferable reality stars. But honestly, people were obsessed with it for a reason: it’s compulsively watchable television.
“Salute Your Shorts” is a childhood summer icon, guaranteed to make any kids desperate to go to summer camp so they can experience the kind of hijinks the kids at Camp Anawanna were known for. A Nickelodeon early 1990s staple, “Salute Your Shorts,” revolved around a group of young teens at sleepaway camp, where chaos reigns and counselor Ug can barely keep a handle on things. It’s a cleverly scripted, well-cast kid’s show that mostly maintains its charm, and it deserves a rewatch for the legitimately traumatic episode featuring Zeke the Plumber alone.
7. Killer Camp (CW)
“Killer Camp” gives every person who has ever yelled advice at the ill-fated characters in a 1980s slasher their moment in the sun. In it, a group of reality star aspirants turns up for what they believe will be a steamy “Love Island” vibe, when they discover that they’ve signed on for a replication of a classic slasher summer camp. As contestants are eliminated and “killed,” the remaining cast members fight to identify the killer and become the final girl (or boy) of this real-life murder mystery. The winner gets not only the satisfaction of knowing that they would survive a slasher film but also a cash prize; the longer they survive, the more money they win.
6. Summertime (Netflix)
After being stuck inside for several months, a summer vacation to the pre-COVID-19 Adriatic Coast is probably on everyone’s mood board. “Summertime” isn’t anything incredibly complex: it’s just a sun-soaked, opposites-attract Italian romance between two beautiful twenty-somethings set against the backdrop of gorgeous coastline. But while it isn’t likely to win a handful of Emmys anytime soon, it’s precisely the sort of mindless escapism that you need when the reality is becoming a little too much to bear.
“The Babysitters Club” dominated the literary landscape for a generation of kids in the 1990s, and Netflix has brought it back from the dead in a new television adaptation. This is a series where the kids feel as though they’re perpetually on summer vacation, with school taking a massive backseat to their babysitting adventures (didn’t they ever have homework?) Its warm, nostalgic glow combined with some much-needed updates to bring it into the twenty-first century will make the newest iteration of “The Babysitters Club” classic comfort TV.
The Hamptons, glamorous parties, convoluted revenge plots: everything you want in a summer binge-watch and more. “Revenge” stars Emily VanCamp as a mysterious woman who infiltrates a wealthy and status-obsessed Long Island community, hiding the truth about her past to her new friends/targets. She plots bloody revenge to right past wrongs, and it’s almost impossible to stop watching. Loosely based on “The Count of Monte Cristo,” the ABC drama is a perfect balm for every anxiety-ridden person currently engaged in a feud with their neighbors because, at this point, tensions have reached a boiling point.
3. Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi (Hulu)
We may be starting to venture out to restaurants again this summer, but we’re certainly not in a position to travel the country trying out different regional cuisines. So instead, we’ll let “Taste the Nation,” do the work for us and live vicariously through Padma Lakshmi. But for viewers expecting just a simple cross-country trip filled with quick foodie stops, “Taste the Nation” might turn out to be a surprise. In the hands of Lakshmi, the show takes a political approach, focusing not just on food but on the contributions of immigrants to the evolution of a cuisine and confronting contradictory racial prejudice.
“Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp” is the long-awaited sequel of the cult hit, “Wet Hot American Summer,” an ultra-low-budget film about a group of eccentric counselors at a summer camp. Since this Netflix limited series came out fourteen years after the original movie, building a story around their camp reunion would have been an obvious choice (and indeed is a premise they would mine in “Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later.”), But instead, they veered down a different path, capturing the entire cast of characters at the very beginning of their summer, providing backstory to the events of the original film and forcing a group of 40-something actors to recreate their early-20s selves. Unexpected, wildly impractical, and perfect.
1. The OC (Fox)
“The OC” is such a quintessential summer show that it was honestly a little jarring whenever they would end up going to school. Set in a wealthy oceanfront community in Orange County, California, “The OC” is a classic fish out of water story. Ben McKenzie stars as Ryan Atwood, a gifted teenager from the wrong side of the tracks who is taken in by the rich but quirky Cohen family. It’s soapy but incredibly addicting, with iconic turns from Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson, among others. Its penchant for bikinis, beaches, and endless parties among the Newport elite give “The OC” a major summer vibe that would make it a perfect candidate for a rewatch right now.