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For good TV this summer, stream it

The world of television tipped more deeply than ever in the digital direction last week when NBC debuted its new drama "Aquarius" starring David Duchovny and made all 13 episodes instantly available online.

It was the first time any network had gone that far in imitating the model embraced by such video-on-demand services as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

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Thursday's move also marked the opening of a summer TV season in which streaming rules, and for the first time, the best place to see great TV is online. A viewer could do no traditional network or cable TV viewing this summer and still see the finest the medium has to offer.

Streaming video has been widely discussed since 2012, when Netflix announced that it was investing $100 million in the first two seasons of "House of Cards." But no one thought that Internet TV would so quickly become the main ring in which to find quality programming.

Not to overstate the case, network and cable TV will still earn 10 times what digital does this year, and part of the appeal of Internet TV this summer involves premium cable channels like HBO streaming such series as "True Detective" online even as they debut on TV — a nod by HBO to the new normal.

But from Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" returning next week on Sony's Crackle.com, to "Orange Is the New Black" starting a new season the week after on Netflix, Internet TV offers some of the summer's best television programming.

'Comedian in Cars Getting Coffee'

Interview show. Season 6 starts at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. One episode a week each Wednesday. Crackle.com.

One of the advantages of streaming TV, with its lack of Nielsen-ratings pressure, is that it can serve as a laboratory for an artist to play with the video canvas.

That was my thinking as I started watching this easygoing, offbeat series of interviews from Seinfeld when it debuted in 2012.

The long-running NBC comedy "Seinfeld" was his masterpiece, and maybe he will never again nail a decade as he did the 1990s. But I'll take Seinfeld's doodles and cut-outs from this later stage of his career any day.

Season 6 starts Wednesday with Seinfeld interviewing Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who played Elaine Benes on "Seinfeld" and is now seen on HBO as President Selina Meyer in "Veep."

Forget the fondness and rapport between the two, which is nice; this is TV's greatest female comedian with one of the medium's best male comics on the same screen having some fun.

Other interviews this season include: Bill Maher, Jim Carrey, Steve Harvey, Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert.

Noah and Colbert will be launching new shows in September, the former taking over from Jon Stewart at Comedy Central, and the latter replacing David Letterman on CBS. I cannot wait to see how Noah comes off in his conversation with Seinfeld.

'Orange Is the New Black'

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Dramedy. On June 12, full season available. Netflix.

Along with "House of Cards," this is the series that made Netflix the big dog in original streamed TV. And based on episodes made available for preview, the dramedy set in a women's prison absolutely maintains its edge.

No discussion of plot specifics is allowed before Monday, under an embargo agreement with the screeners. But I can say showrunner Jenji Kohan does a great job of bringing new characters into the mix — and employing some outstanding actors in the bargain.

Kate Mulgrew is back as Red, and she is far better in this late-in-her-career, ensemble-character role than she ever was in her TV leading-lady days. Blair Brown, a superb TV actress since "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd," also joins the cast, along with Mary Steenburgen.

Perhaps not as dark, desperate and existential as HBO's "Oz," this series is in its own way a profound meditation on power, female identity, sexuality, diversity and community.

'What Happened, Miss Simone?'

Documentary. June 26. Netflix.

The title for this stirring documentary about pianist-singer Nina Simone comes from Maya Angelou, who wrote: "Miss Simone, you are idolized, even loved, by millions now. But what happened, Miss Simone?"

This is the story of what happened with this brilliant performer, who grew up dreaming of and working toward a career in classical music.

Liz Garbus is the filmmaker, and I pay her the highest compliment in saying her direction is worthy of Simone's art and Simone's pain.

Give this film 10 minutes, and you will not be sorry.

Listen to Simone's daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, in the opening, saying of her mother, "She was brilliant. She was loved. She was also a revolutionary. But when the show ended, everybody else went home. She was alone … with her own demons … full of anger and rage."

And then see Simone herself in a 1968 interview, talking about what she means by being "free" — followed by her singing a gospel-driven version of "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free." No voice captures the righteousness of the civil rights movement like hers.

It is a transcendent video moment, and the documentary has barely started.

'Witnesses'

Six one-hour episodes. Available now. iTunes and Amazon.

One of the happiest byproducts of the rise of Internet TV is the way American viewers are being offered far more excellent international television.

This one comes from France with English subtitles. I can't remember ever seeing a French-made crime drama on American TV.

The series opens in a builder's model home, where someone has left three fully dressed bodies sitting on the couch, a living room chair and the kitchen table — mimicking a family. Whoever did it went to the trouble of exhuming the bodies from three different cemeteries.

And it is the second such model-home staging in two weeks!

Enter Detective Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier), a highly skilled young investigator who heads the team trying to crack the mystery.

Things get more complicated when she finds a picture in the second home of retired Detective Paul Maisonneuve (Thierry Lhermitte). He trained her to be a detective and might also have slept with her — and now he acts as if he doesn't know her name.

Winckler is a character worth getting to know, and nobody does sex, death, betrayal and infidelity like the French. I want more.

'The Fall'

Two seasons of six one-hour episodes. Available now. Netflix.

Since the remake of "The X-Files" was announced, Gillian Anderson has been enjoying a nice bit of publicity. And I can't wait to see Agent Dana Scully either. But if you really want to appreciate what an outstanding actor Anderson is, spend some time with her Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson.

And yes, the full title is necessary; Gibson rarely lets anyone forget it.

The BBC-made series is set in Belfast, with Scully's character being brought in from London to investigate the murder of a young woman that has the local authorities stumped. She's also investigating their investigation.

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I hesitate to put this in a class with Helen Mirren's "Prime Suspect," but it's close. Anderson's performance sizzles, stews and soars just like Mirren's.

Like the best episodes of that landmark British-made series, "The Fall" also has a great villain. He's played by Jamie Dornan, whom some readers might remember from a little feature film called "Fifty Shades of Grey."

Here he's a grief counselor by day as well as a sexual predator and creep par excellence after dark. But he is oh-so-clever that you wonder if Gibson, strong and smart as she is, has the stuff to trap and take him down.

The first image we see of him shows him clad in balaclava and black burglar's outfit breaking into a young woman's house via a basement window. He is coming in head-first, wriggling his body like a snake. What a perfect image. What a great series.

Once upon a time, series like this could be seen only on Sunday nights on PBS. Change is good.

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