1 Overlong at 16 songs, Miranda Lambert’s “Platinum” probably could have used an editor. But not to punch up her lyrics. Comparing herself to Elvis Presley’s wife in “Priscilla,” Lambert sings about being “married to a man who’s married to attention.” Take that, Blake Shelton. In the title track, Lambert insists “what doesn’t kill you only makes you blonder.” You go, girl. She’s smart, insightful, clever and even a little insecure, all of which make this the year’s best country album thus far.
2 The animated “How to Train Your Dragon 2” offers stunning visuals, fantasy and adventure. And a worthwhile message, too. Writer/director Dean DeBlois has created a thoughtful tale as meaningful for grown-ups as it is pleasurable for its young primary audience. The story finds do-gooding Viking dragon rider Hiccup hoping to negotiate a truce with dragon poachers, but the menace won’t be disposed of so easily. The conflict leads to a thrilling, epic showdown. The vocal cast includes Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig and Jonah Hill, but the real performing stars are the animators.
3 If you have an early bedtime, here’s a chance to sample a late-night star during prime-time hours. “Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Night,” which runs before every NBA finals game, may last only a half-hour, but that’s plenty of time to catch Michael Jordan trying to palm a bowling ball, Snoop Dogg and Psy dueting on “That’s What Friends Are For” and Kimmel playing hoops against DeMarcus Cousins while the NBA center has to bang on a bass drum. Silly? You bet, but it’s the perfect appetizer before an intense series and all the more reason to hope the Miami-San Antonio clash goes to Game 7.
4 Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” is an inspired choice for a free outdoor production, requiring little more than actors, minimal props and a willing suspension of disbelief to bring its sparkling zest to the fore. The play revolves around a pair of twins, mistaken identities and an unlikely love triangle. Theatre Pro Rata director Carin Bratlie takes full advantage of the setting in various parks and public spaces, keeping the actors who aren’t actively involved in a scene within the audience’s periphery. theatreprorata.org
5 The second season of the Netflix original series “Orange Is the New Black” is now available for your binge-watching pleasure — this time with more Crazy Eyes and a new super-villain wreaking psychological terror on the cellblock. Devotees of this excellent women’s-prison drama already have singed their eyeballs plenty since the season bowed June 6, but newbies should start with Season 1. Boring old Larry out in the free world will have you begging to get back behind bars, but otherwise count on more back stories on “how they got here” and the return of a certain mustachioed nemesis.
Poll: Which of these returning TV series are you most looking forward to this fall?