Summer 2022 is in full swing, and with the record-breaking heat many of us are enduring, now is the perfect time to stay inside and catch up on some prestige TV. But with so many streaming services out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Don’t worry. I got your back. My favorite series this summer center fascinating female characters played by phenomenal female actors. Here are my five fave series to binge-watch your way through the dog days of summer.
The Bear, FX
The Bear is the most authentic portrayal of restaurant culture I’ve seen reflected on TV. It’s fantastic. Chef Carmen “Carmy ” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White, Shameless) is a renowned young fine dining chef who leaves a top restaurant in NYC to run the family restaurant, The Original Beef of Chicagoland. The Bear grabs your attention from the first frame and holds you to the last second. The pacing was sharp and kept me watching on the edge of my seat. The energy is so authentic; watching this show sparked my restaurant work memories in more ways than I can share. My favorite character, Sydney Adamu (Ayo Edebiri, Big Mouth) is a talented chef in her own right. Sydney knows how gifted Carmy is and wants to learn from the best. Black women working in the culinary field at all levels face sexism and racism, particularly when a young Black woman is management. Ayo Edebiri gives life to a character I’ve not seen portrayed realistically on television, a Black female sous chef, and she is a joy to behold. Smart, assertive, and talented, Sydney also deals with the heavy consequences of being an overachiever. What happens if she fails? The Bear brings grit, chaos, determination, and chosen family to the screen, and I am here for it.
Station Eleven, HBO Max
I knew Station Eleven was special sixty seconds into the pilot Wheel of Fire, and I was 100% invested in this world by the end of the episode. Based on the bestselling novel by Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven is a sublime telling of how art in all forms connects the human experience and makes life worth fighting for. Station Eleven involves a flu-based pandemic that triggers a global apocalypse. The show nimbly travels forward 20 years post-pandemic and reveals the world of the survivors and their descendants while traveling back through a twenty-year time frame. As Miranda Carroll, Danielle Deadwyler (The Harder They Fall) is superb. Every moment Deadwyler is onscreen, she is a radiant force of nature. Miranda’s contribution to this world is the driving force behind the narrative, and I’m so excited to see this character lived by a Black woman. The norm in post-apocalyptic stories like The Road or The Walking Dead is examining how society breaks down and human beings fight one another to survive; Station Eleven celebrates how art community and love provide human beings opportunity, resources, and community care to thrive beyond survival.
The Summer I Turned Pretty, Prime Video
The Summer I Turned Pretty is the fresh and lovely rom-com I didn’t know I needed. I was not expecting to fall in love with this series as hard as I did. A simple tale of first love in the perfect beach house setting, Belly (Lola Tung), her mom Laurel (Jackie Chung, Station 19), and her brother Steven (Sean Kaufman, Manifest) have spent every summer of their lives at Laurel’s wealthy best friend’s beach house with her two sons, Jeremiah (Gavin Casalengo, The Vampire Diaries) and Conrad (Christopher Briney). Belly’s had a crush on Conrad for three years; this year, she’s turning sixteen and gorgeous. Unfortunately for Belly, Conrad’s dating Nicole (Summer Madison, Emergency) who becomes a mentor to Belly as she prepares to participate in the debutante ball, and the love triangle begins. First love is not a new story, but through the lens of creator Jenny Han, the series is fresh and delightful as an ocean breeze. Jenny Han wrote the YA fiction The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy and is on the writing team, which aligns the book’s perspective with the series. We get to experience teenage characters that are queer and bisexual in storylines that subtly weave in social challenges that Belly, her family, and other characters of color experience without being too on the nose or centered in the narrative. All the summer beach shenanigans that teenagers do in teenage rom-coms are the focus, and there’s some heart-wrenching and lovely drama for the adults in this world as well. It’s easy to fall in love with The Summer I Turned Pretty. I’m looking forward to Season 2.
P-Valley is radiantly Black. Easily one of my favorite TV shows, EVER, it finds it core from creator Katori Hall’s nuanced, multi-dimensional characters, normally portrayed as broad stereotypes in the minds of lesser writers. P-Valley dives deep into the lives of the dancers at the Mississippi strip club The Pynk, peeling back the layers of make-up hair and “floss,” to reveal the rich raw reality of Black life in the Dirty South beyond the statistics. The ladies of The Pynk know how to create beauty and joy out of nothing as they strive to make that money before time takes its toll. This season the Keyshawn (Shannon Thornton, Inventing Anna) storyline stands out as we witness the negative consequences of colorism in devastating ways I’ve never seen portrayed on television. At the same time, P-Valley is all about Black on Black love in all identities, shapes, and sizes, with a touch of magic thrown in for good measure. Each episode of P-Valley is a masterpiece created for us, and by us, not to be missed.
Physical, Apple TV+
Season 2 of Apple TV+’s Physical is even better than Season 1. The series follows San Diego housewife Sheila Rubin (Rose Byrne, Damages) on her journey to fitness guru stardom. Byrne is laying down one of the best performances I’ve seen on television this year. Sheila’s journey to fitness fame is a drama-filled roller coaster and a cutting view of sexism and misogyny that is, unfortunately, still relatable. Every member of the cast is superb. It’s hard to name a favorite, but Tyler, the surfer burnout (Lou Taylor Pucci, American Horror Story) and John Breem, the sexy Mormon Republican (Paul Sparks, Boardwalk Empire) bring humor and intrigue, and they just shine. Physical doesn’t pull any punches. Sheila’s thin-bodied fitness is an illusion. The audience can hear Sheila’s abusive bulimic inner voice in voiceovers throughout the narrative, reflecting the sheer lunacy of toxic wellness and who our capitalistic culture chooses to be our gurus. Shelia is a brilliant businesswoman who has to battle all the men in her life to make her vision a reality. You can’t help but root for this dynamo. Physical is clever, sexy, and funny with just the right amount of 1980s cool. Season 3? Yes, please.
Give yourselves permission to stay away from the summer heat, sit back, relax, and enjoy the drama with these five binge-worthy series featuring impressive female characters you’ll be sure to remember.
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Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.