What to Watch This Summer

Not even all that long ago, summertime used to be a TV wasteland of nothing but reruns and castoff episodes of cancelled series. But the traditional television season structure has been eroding in recent years. The networks have slowly started to realize that there are still audiences out there clamoring for new programming to watch over the summer. Nowadays, even though the summer schedule may be dominated by crap reality shows, many networks are willing to sprinkle in a mix of new series and returning favorites as well. The following are some that have caught my eye, for better or worse.

Welcome Back, Old Friends

The third season of ‘True Blood‘ premieres on HBO this Sunday, June 13th. Despite last season’s weirdly anticlimactic finale, this is easily my most anticipated series. I love its characters, and I love its vibe. I really hope it comes roaring back in top form.

Rescue Me‘ returns for a sixth season on FX starting June 29th. As I understand it, the show has officially been planned to end after Season 7. This sixth season will have only 10 episodes, and the final season just 9 more after that. That’s a strange decision, considering that Season 5 ran for 22 episodes all on its own. ‘Rescue Me’ is a very uneven show. And yet, oddly, its unevenness is also one of its greatest strengths. No other series on television is willing to swing so wildly between bawdy comedy and overwhelming tragedy, sometimes shifting several times over from scene-to-scene within a given episode. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s great ballsy entertainment. I happen to think that Season 5 was its best yet, and am hoping for a strong return.

On July 25th, ‘Mad Men‘ will be back for its 4th season on AMC. I know that this is one of the most acclaimed series on television, and I liked the few episodes I’ve watched well enough. Yet for some reason, I’ve just never fully gotten into it. I need to sit down and watch this one from the beginning sometime soon.

Speaking of acclaimed shows that I don’t watch, TNT has a sixth season of ‘The Closer‘ starting July 10th. The network also began burning off its final episodes of ‘Saving Grace‘ a few days ago. ‘Leverage‘ will be back for a third season on June 20th, and ‘HawthoRNe‘ for a second season June 22nd. (Some of these shows are more acclaimed than others. I don’t follow any of them.)

USA started the fourth season of ‘Burn Notice‘ last week. I’ll watch this show occasionally. What I’ve seen, I’ve liked, but haven’t loved enough to follow regularly. It’s got a great premise, but the execution often feels slack and dull to me. The same network also recently brought ‘Royal Pains‘ back for a second season. A few women in my office who watch this one tell me that it’s entertaining. I saw one episode, and that seemed like enough. The second season of ‘White Collar‘ begins this Sunday. That falls into the same category as ‘Burn Notice’ for me. I’ll watch it if I happen to stumble across it, but won’t go out of my way to record it.

CBS will bring the Canadian SWAT drama ‘Flashpoint‘ back for a third season starting… oh, I guess it already started June 4th. Who knew? Does anyone watch this thing? I believe I saw the first episode, and thought it was decent enough, but nothing that compelled me to tune in again. I’m actually kind of surprised to hear that it’s lasted three seasons. Apparently, all of these episodes already aired in Canada last year.

If you must watch a reality show, watch ‘So You Think You Can Dance‘, which started its seventh season on Fox a couple weeks ago and will run through mid-August. It’s a competition program that rewards genuine talent, passion, and hard work. In other words, it’s the total opposite of ‘American Idol’. And host Kat Deeley is pretty cute too.

Hello, Newcomers

I’ve recently covered both ‘The Good Guys‘ (Fox) and ‘Persons Uknown‘ (NBC) here in the blog. I’m still on the fence about ‘The Good Guys’ until I catch up with its second episode. ‘Persons Unknown’ seems to have a lot more potential right off the bat.

ABC will premiere ‘The Gates‘ on June 20th. It’s being promoted as a cross between ‘Twilight’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’. You can already count me out. The previews also look insufferably awful. Then on June 24th, the network will debut ‘Rookie Blue‘. That’s got to be one of the worst titles in the history of television, and I’m just not buying Missy Peregrym as a cop. Not even an adorable rookie cop. I give it two episodes before cancellation.

Speaking of lousy titles, TNT has ‘Rizzoli & Isles‘ coming up on July 12th. I guess that’s supposed to remind us of ‘Cagney & Lacey’, right? This one stars Angie Harmon (‘Law & Order’) and Sasha Alexander (‘NCIS’) more or less rehashing their old characters as a female buddy cop team. It’s supposed to be set in Boston, but will undoubtedly shoot in Los Angeles or Toronto. As a Bostonian, I always enjoy making fun of shows set here that wind up looking nothing at all like the city. (Yes, I’m looking directly at you, ‘Ally McBeal’.)

TNT will also bring us ‘Memphis Beat‘ on June 22nd, starring Jason Lee as a Blues-singing cop in that titular city. Bad title, bad premise, bad casting. Yet the show’s produced by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and John Fortenberry (‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’). Weird. I’m almost intrigued, but… No, I’m already over it.

Finally, Showtime has Laura Linney as a suburban mom dealing with cancer in ‘The Big C‘ on August 16th. The show appears to mix drama and comedy. Oliver Platt and Gabourey Sidibe also star. I smell Emmys.

I’m sure I missed something interesting, but those are the series that stand out to me. So fret not, TV junkies, this summer may not be a total waste.

3 comments

  1. Joe B

    “The Closer” and “Mad Men” are the best thing on any TV at the present time. Thank God for Netflix– which is the way I see them. No 500-channels-of-Dreck (cable, satellite) for me. 10 channels of local and network dreck will do just fine!

  2. mh

    Burn Notice, Leverage, The Closer, White Collar, Royal Pains, Psych: they’re all slick, breezy entertainments that mix soft procedurals with detailed character development. They give off vibes very similar to Fox’s Bones or ABC’s Castle, so fans of those shows might very well like these cable offerings.

    Of those, The Closer is the grittier and more like a network series than the others, but they’re all smartly written and well worth watching.

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