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Halle Berry returns from the final frontier, but her space odyssey is just beginning
Sandra Bullock had it bad in Gravity, but that was a flat tire compared to Halle Berry‘s pickle in Extant. In this new series, set in the near future, Berry is Molly Woods, an astronaut just home from space and yanked into an inexplicable new orbit. She was alone out there, yet now she’s pregnant – and has visions of an onboard encounter with a stranger. Halle’s performance is strikingly muted and modulated, and it works: Her stillness deepens the story. The pilot is promising, not to mention beautifully designed. Steven Spielberg is an executive producer, and there are sophisticated touches reminiscent of AI. You’ll wish there was an online catalog so you could order Berry’s high-tech, accent-lighted trash sorter. (CBS, July 9, 9 p.m.)
DIAGON ALLEY COMES TO LIFE!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
An enchanting new expansion at Universal Orlando
Even Muggles who don’t know a Bowtruckle from a Boggart will be spellbound by the new Diagon Alley expansion of Florida’s Potter-themed park, opening July 8. Building on the success of the original Wizarding World experience, which debuted there in 2010 and has been raking in the galleons ever since, the area features two new attractions: Escape from Gringotts, a thrill ride topped by a massive fire-breathing dragon, and the Hogwarts Express, a replica of the scarlet steam engine. From the interactive wands to the butterbeer ice cream, it’s the next best thing to strolling around J.K. Rowling’s magical mind – and that’s the biggest thrill of all. ($96 for a one-day, one-park ticket)
Back to the U.S.-Mexican border, where corruption swirls in the dust, for a new season of the compellingly grim crime show. Det. Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) hunts for a tattooed killer (Franka Potente, terrific) who may have a weird religious bent. (FX, July 9, 10 p.m.)
At the center of this entertaining new show is strength trainer Mike Barwis – or maybe it’s more accurate to say his voice is. He speaks in a low register that dips below sea level, and his words emerge as a kind of gravel-coated croak as he growls, “I like life, I like energy, I like fire!” Based outside Detroit, he and his trainers help all kinds, including the Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman in the premiere. Just watching it feels like a decent workout. (Discovery, July 9, 9 p.m.)
Lights! Camera! Ebert!
Adapted from Roger Ebert’s bestselling memoir, Life Itself pays tribute to the late, great movie critic’s years with TV partner Gene Siskel – those famous thumbs – while shining a light on his joys and struggles: his marriage, his alcoholism, his prolific last years when he was robbed of his voice, and his final battle with cancer, which returned after director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) began filming. Ebert bravely uses the camera to confront his mortality. (R)
Yet another good-looking British boy with a deep, uncanny voice, this former busker just released his second EP, Let It Go. Unlike the acoustic hush of his debut, these tracks surround him with fuller production: country twang on “Heavy Handed,” blue-eyed soul stomp on “If You Ever Want to Be in Love.” But the real star remains his otherworldly croon.
Melissa McCarthy in a frantic, ultimately touching adventure
Melissa McCarthy’s latest vehicle is a bit of a mess—but what has tidiness got to do with Melissa McCarthy? Willing to look like a scrap heap, she digs for emotional gold: With her, you get the garage sale that is life. Tammy is an unpleasant slob who takes to the road with her hard-partying grandmother (Susan Sarandon). Their adventures vary from raucous to tedious, but then the movie quiets down. McCarthy draws us in as Tammy stops bellowing and reflects on what her heart needs and wants. It’s McCarthy’s Raging Bull. (R)
Welcome to Sweden
Greg Poehler stars in a sitcom about lovers without borders
You don’t expect an American to play straight man to a cast of Swedes – not that the Swedes aren’t funny, but where are the Scandinavian stand-up comics? In any event, this sitcom starring Greg Poehler (Amy’s brother) is a real charmer – as skimmingly light as a balsa-wood plane. Poehler, who looks like a well-rested Greg Kinnear, leaves New York City to follow his Swedish girlfriend (Josephine Bornebusch) back home. The fish-out-of-water humor is tart but affectionate, even sunny. (NBC, July 10, 9 p.m.)
Turn the virtual TV knob and lose yourself in 3,400 clips from ’80s shows. It’s curiously addictive – like Hart to Hart, which you’ll find here. (my80stv.com)
Songs of the Summer
Iggy Azalea (featuring Charli XCX)
Ariana Grande (featuring Iggy Azalea)
AM I WRONG
Nico & Vinz
Earth to Echo
A kid-friendly fantasy that doubles as a sweet and surprisingly sincere coming-of-age road trip, Echo follows four wide-eyed teens through a single night as their mysteriously hijacked smartphones guide them to a cuddly alien and a hidden spaceship. (PG)
Great New Books
Millennials who can’t grow up, a look at suffering’s role in success and a smart summer treat from Jojo Moyes
Emily Gould Friendship
Set in hipster Brooklyn, former Gawker editor Gould’s latest centers on Bev and Amy, 30-year-olds struggling to be grown-ups in a world where moving back home while working for peanuts is often the only course. It’s a wry, sharply observed coming-of-age story for the postrecession era.
David B. Feldman & Lee Daniel Kravetz Supersurvivors
We hear a lot about trauma and resilience, but the authors take that idea a step further, examining the lives of people who not only bounce back but “bounce forward,” accomplishing more than ever. An inspirational read that’s rooted in hard science.
BOOK OF THE WEEK
Jojo Moyes One Plus One
Bridget Jones meets Little Miss Sunshine in this witty British romp from bestseller Moyes. While ferrying her math-whiz daughter to a competition in Scotland, Jess, a lovelorn, cash-strapped single mom, has car trouble and must accept the kindness of a Mr. Darcy-like stranger. He’s an arrogant tech millionaire being investigated for insider trading. Then again, he’s a little bit cute…. Wryly romantic and surprisingly suspenseful.
NEW IN PAPERBACK
Christina Baker Kline Sweet Water
Another novel with rain boots on the cover. But Kline (Orphan Train) transcends cliché with this moving tale of an artist rediscovering her southern roots.
Graeme Simsion The Rosie Project
In Simsion’s winning bestseller, a genetics professor is using science to help him find the perfect mate – until the beguilingly imperfect Rosie comes along.
Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett A House in the Sky
A TV reporter held hostage for 460 days by Somali bandits, Lindhout survived to write this searing, ultimately uplifting memoir.