Summer TV picks: ‘Secret Invasion,’ ‘’I’m a Virgo,’ ‘The Bear’

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo and Amy Ta, produced by Angie Perrin

“For people who are fatigued with all the CGI, the special effects, and the blasts … this is more human. This is much more about espionage. It’s Marvel's version of a [James] Bond-style thriller,” says NPR’s Eric Deggans about “Secret Invasion.” Credit: YouTube.

With the writers’ strike raging on, who knows how that will affect viewing choices in the coming months. For now, viewers still have some hot new TV shows to look forward to: “Secret Invasion,” “The Horrors of Dolores Roach,” “I'm A Virgo;” plus the returning favorite, “The Bear.” KCRW hears from NPR TV critic Eric Deggans and New York Magazine TV critic Jen Chaney. 

“Secret Invasion” (Disney+)

This Marvel spinoff centers on Samuel L Jackson’s character Nick Fury, who must protect Earth from a deadly invasion of shape-shifting aliens.

Deggans: “It's about [Fury] regaining his mojo and figuring out how to stop this invasion without involving superheroes. So for people who are fatigued with all the CGI, the special effects, and the blasts … this is more human. This is much more about espionage. It’s Marvel's version of a [James] Bond-style thriller.” 

Chaney: “I do have a little bit of Marvel fatigue and just franchise fatigue in general. I completely agree that it's great to finally put Nick Fury in the center of a story because Samuel Jackson has been present in all of these Avengers movies, but he's always peripheral. … So finally having him in a starring role is great.”

“The Horrors of Dolores Roach” (Prime Video)

This follows a woman (Justina Machado) who sets up a massage business in the basement of a New York empanada restaurant after being released from a wrongful prison sentence. She goes to extreme lengths to hold onto her new life. The show is developed by horror movie makers Blumhouse.

Chaney: “When she gets out and goes back to her Washington Heights neighborhood, she's surprised that it has changed so much. It's been gentrified. … The nasty landlord who comes to get one of the first massages, she accidentally kills. It's the owner of the shop who gets the bright idea that the best way to hide the evidence is to put them in some empanadas and serve them to the public. … If you're not too squeamish about that aspect of it, I think this is a really interesting series.” 

Deggans: “Here, gentrification is an allegory for horror. It's a way to talk about contemporary issues in a different way, to get you to look at it in a different way. … What if the gentrification of a neighborhood isn't just that things get better? For some people, it really is a horror show because they can't afford to live in a neighborhood that they once loved.”

“I'm A Virgo” (Prime Video)

This coming-of-age show focuses on Cootie (Jharrel Jerome), a 13-foot-tall Black man in Oakland. It’s created by Boots Riley, who directed 2016’s “Sorry to Bother You.” 

Deggans: “He's 19 and his girlfriend has super speed, and they have a friend whose superpower is persuading people and winning arguments. … That's the allegory for Black excellence. And the TV show is talking about how white-dominated capitalism can subjugate and try to subvert and try to co-opt Black excellence, and how important it is to remember your history and stay true and keep your eyes open to what's happening — and be aware of how you know that exploitation might happen so you can resist it and you can defuse it.”

Chaney: “When something comes out that is this original, this bold, this unlike anything that you've seen, I'm just grateful that it exists. But just from a technical standpoint, this is a remarkable show — just what Boots Riley does with perspective to make Jharrel Jerome's character loom so much larger than everybody else. And I also think Jharrel Jerome does just an outstanding job of playing this character because he really has been sheltered by the people who are raising him, and so he's such an innocent.” 

“The Bear” (FX Networks)

This returning favorite follows Carmy, a Michelin-starred chef who returns home to Chicago to run his late brother’s diner. In season two, Carmy and the other workers are trying to turn the establishment into a fine dining restaurant. 

Chaney: “This show is just so rife with specificity in terms of what it feels like to work in a kitchen. But it also just does such a beautiful job with character development. You care about every one of these characters, but it's never overly sentimental or pandering. … If you've been on the internet at all recently, you've probably already had it spoiled that the array of guest stars in the season, and particularly in the sixth episode, is just jaw-droppingly good. It and ‘Succession’ might be my two favorite shows this year.” 

Deggans: “They're struggling with pressure to succeed and the fear of investing in something because if they really tried and they failed, then that hurts worse than not trying at all.”