What a pleasant surprise to find something worthy in the middle of the barren summer-TV schedule!
Unless you're streaming, it's been a struggle to find quality scripted programming (emphasis on scripted).
Then along comes P-Valley Season 1 Episode 1, which introduces viewers to the women of The Pynk.
From that name alone, it was clear that the series wasn't about a women's book club.
Instead, The Pynk is one of those popular Southern gathering spots -- a strip joint.
But once you get past the unnecessary stigma for that workplace, P-Valley is an involving deep dive into the lives of the women who work there and those attached to them.
Creator Katori Hall grew up in Memphis and was fascinated by the pole dancers at such clubs, especially after she fell out of a pole-dancing class.
That led to six years of research and her 2015 play, Pussy Valley.
But 2 1/2 hours wasn't enough time to tell these women's stories. Fortunately, Starz offered Hall the chance to do in a TV series.
So now she has at least eight hours in this first season.
There's plenty of stories to tell in Hall's well-developed characters.
Those would have to start with Uncle Clifford, the gender-fluid hustler who is the heart of The Pynk.
Watching Clifford in action, the first question had to be how does she stay in business?
Looking at the long lines outside the club, evidently, she is filling a need.
Also, Clifford thinks quickly on her feet.
As an example, after the equity-loan store employee heaped scorn on Clifford, she turned around and invited all those waiting to cash their checks to come to The Pynk, where she would provide the same service for a cheaper fee.
Out of spite, Clifford created a new revenue stream.
Clifford is a charismatic leader, offering his "girls" rules to live by, such as "Let the stage be your stepping stone, not your tombstone."
The Pynk is a second home for many, thanks to Clifford's efforts.
The women who work there buy into what Clifford is selling.
That starts with queen bee Mercedes, Clifford's star attraction. Mercedes wants to leave stripping behind and start a dance school.
But the mystery will be if she can leave behind that good stripping money.
Through Mercedes, Hall examines the importance of the church in a Southern community.
Patrice, Mercedes's preacher mother, condemns her daughter's lifestyle but is more than happy to receive her tithe and to stash Mercedes's earning in the church's building fund.
And backsliding Christian Mercedes allows her to get away with that hypocrisy.
Even when Mercedes has one foot out the door, Clifford was still there for her, replacing some of the money that Patrice had guilted from her.
For Keyshawn, stage name Miss Mississippi, The Pynk is a place of escape. Here, she can temporarily get away from the baby daddy who beats her.
One of the most heartwarming moments of this episode came when Clifford cleaned up Keyshawn while giving her an inspiration talk about her self-worth.
Then, after she thrilled the crowd with her high-flying routine, Keyshawn got right back into the car with her abuser.
The opening episode didn't touch much on Gidget, the white girl, other than her being a sympathetic ear for those around her.
One of the smartest things Hall did was to add some mystery to P-Valley in the form of Autumn Night, aka Haley.
We didn't learn much about Autumn. She has PTSD from some sort of violent encounter. She fled from an area that suffered a natural disaster. She left behind a daughter.
And someone was taking photos of her at the end. And I don't think that was Andre, who she met cute earlier.
Getting attached would be dangerous for Autumn, who is trying to hide, and Andre, who is attempting to be taken seriously as a businessman.
It will be intriguing to see where this pair goes next.
Mercedes took an instant dislike for Autumn, especially after Clifford made it clear that she was going to be Mercedes's replacement and that Mercedes should train her.
With Autumn refusing to open up to anyone, she has traded a dangerous situation for a lonely one.
Now the questions are who is after her and why?
An interesting wild card was the aspiring rapper L'il Murda.
He appeared to enjoy the atmosphere of The Pynk, despite being a closeted gay.
And what to make of his budding relationship with Uncle Clifford? Will that grow, or will it evolve?
Having a women's drama with action scenes was an enjoyable twist.
Watching Mercedes and Miss Mississippi fly around the pole highlighted their athletic abilities.
Some may denigrate what they do because of the erotic aspect, but pole dancing requires the same type of strength as gymnasts need.
They're doing much more than just shaking their asses and should be appreciated for that.
The series also does a wonderful job of detailing all the various facets and mechanics of a strip club, with a bouncer, a bar staff, and a bookkeeper part of the behind-the-scenes staff.
The Pynk seems like a colorful hangout for the summer.
To catch up, watch P-Valley online.
Which character did you like best?
What's Autumn running from?
Can Mercedes change careers?
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.