13 Hidden Treasures of Summer TV

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Yes, you know about the returns of "True Blood," "Breaking Bad" and "Dexter"; we've dug up a baker's dozen off-the-beaten-track summer series, specials and movies you'll want to see

Summer television has become just as hot as the temperatures expected to accompany the season, but save some room in your schedule for more than just the final season of "Dexter" or "Breaking Bad."

The networks — and even streaming services like Hulu — have a bevy of movies, documentaries, specials, cartoons, comedy series and reality competitions in store for viewers between June and September.

Also read: 12 TV Shows You Should Watch This Summer

Among them: Marilyn Monroe's personal struggles and triumphs will be examined in HBO documentary, "Love, Marilyn," Discovery Channel will broadcast Nik Wallenda's daring tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon (live!) and Seth Meyers gets animated in new Hulu original series, "The Awesomes."

Here are 13 hidden treasures to keep an eye out for this summer, in order of appearance:

"Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer"

Premieres: June 10 on HBO

Why It's Worth Watching: Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist punk-rock collective, made headlines last year when three members were arrested for staging a performance on the soleas of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior. (They "got what they asked for," Russian President Vladimir Putin said for the record.) Directors Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin give viewers a front row-seat to the controversial trial.

"Love, Marilyn"

Premieres: June 23 on HBO

Why It's Worth Watching: Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Monroe's death, the documentary features readings of recently uncovered private handwritten letters, diaries, notes, poems, journals and notebooks, read by the likes of Elizabeth Banks, Adrien Brody, Ellen Burstyn, Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Paul Giamatti, Lindsey Lohan, Jeremy Piven, Uma Thurman and Marisa Tomei.

"Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret" & "The Anna Nicole Story"

Premieres: June 22/June 29, respecitively, on Lifetime

Why It's Worth Watching: You love Lifetime's brand of made-for-TV drama that is ripped from the headlines and artistically exaggerated for your guilty-viewing pleasure. This summer, it's a twofer: Jodi Arias' brutal murder of former lover Travis Alexander, then  Anna Nicole Smith's tragic life just a week later. You already know what to expect, but here are the trailers:

"Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda"

Premieres: June 23 on the Discovery Channel

Why It's Worth Watching: Last summer, Wallenda, a seventh-generation member of the Flying Wallendas, became the first person to walk a tightrope stretched directly over Niagara Falls. This summer, he's stepping it up a notch, becoming the first to walk a tightrope stretched across the Grand Canyon, 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River. That's higher than the Empire State Building. And he's not wearing a harness. And it's live.

"Moone Boy"

Premieres: July 10 on Hulu

Why It's Worth Watching: Coming-of-age comedies don't get much better than this quirky Irish sitcom created by and starring comedian Chris O'Dowd ("Bridesmaids," "Family Tree"). In what could be described as a cross between "Malcom in the Middle" and "Wilfred," O'Dowd plays the 30-something imaginary friend of an 11-year-old boy growing up in rural Ireland in the late 1980s. 

"Hollywood Game Night"

Premieres: July 11 on NBC

Why It's Worth Watching: Amy Poehler, Martin Short, Jason Batemen, Matthew Perry and Kristen Bell, among others, pair with non-celebrity contestants for outrageous trivia challenges, all in a cocktail-party atmosphere. Jane Lynch ("Glee") hosts. Preview the pop-culture party, below.

"Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

Premieres: July 16 on the CW

Why It's Worth Watching: Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie and Wayne Brady all are back — though Aisha Tyler replaces host Drew Carey (who replaced British host Clive Anderson in ABC's American version) as the intermediary between the performers and the audience screaming out improv scenarios. 

"Animation Domination High Def (ADHD)"

Premieres: July 27 on Fox

Why It's Worth Watching: As the acronym suggests, Fox's new 90-minute, late-night animation programming block consists of hyperactive 15-minute cartoons tailor-made for the Digital Generation. Expect the unexpected, like "Axe Cop," a vigilante superhero created by 5-year-old Malachai Nicolle, or "Golan the Insatiable," a godlord from an alternate universe who fights the boredom of suburban life with his only friend, a 10-year-old goth girl. Here's a preview:

"The Hunt"

Premieres: July 31 on the CW

Why It's Worth Watching: In this reality show, 12 teams of two are pitted against each other in the middle of the wilderness. With no no food, water or shelter, the contestants must rely on physicality and survival skills for one month while they hunt each down until only one team is left standing. Sound familiar?

"The Awesomes"

Premieres: Aug. 1 on Hulu

Why It's Worth Watching: "Saturday Night Live" may be on summer hiatus, but you can still get your fix of Not Ready for Primetime Players present and soon-to-be past. Seth Meyers voices Professor Doctor Awesome, the leader of a not-so-super superhero task force, the Awesomes. Bill Hader, Keenan Thompson and Taran Killam make up the roster of  reject heroes.


"Casting By"

Premieres: Aug. 5 on HBO

Why It's Worth Watching: Casting directors rarely get the praise they deserve. Just ask them. Tom Donahue's documentary, however, focuses on pioners like Marion Dougherty and Lynn Stalmaster who trusted their gut instincts to reject traditional Hollywood casting in favor of bringing new kinds of leading men and women to the screen, like Dustin Hoffman, Bette Midler, Robert Duvall and Gene Hackman. 


"Clear History"

Premieres: August TBA on HBO

Why It's Worth Watching: Greg Mottola ("Superbad") directs an unrecognizable Larry David, who also co-wrote the film, as a disgraced former marketing executive plotting revenge against his former boss (Jon Hamm), who made millions from the electric-car company he once owned. Eva Mendes, Kate Hudson, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Bill Hader and Danny McBride co-star. 


"Low Winter Sun"

Premieres: Aug. 11 on AMC

Why It's Worth Watching: Based on a 2006 British miniseries of the same name, Mark Strong ("Sherlock Holmes," "Kick-Ass") stars as a Detroit detective who must live with the consequences that arise after assisting in the murder of a fellow cop. A gritty replacement for AMC's departing "Breaking Bad" — and like "Breaking Bad's" meth-cooking chemistry teacher Walter White, Strong's character also has a secret he must protect at all costs.