There was a time, not so very long ago, when summer TV was nothing but a wasteland of stale reruns that basically forced you to find something else to do with your leisure time for three months. But no more! Now, thanks largely to cable, summer TV is a wasteland of programming deemed too mediocre to compete in the big leagues of fall and the somewhat-lesser leagues of spring.
I kid! I kid! There’s actually some pretty good stuff on in the summertime, even if a lot of it is the equivalent of beach reading: light and pretty with an emphasis on fluffy fun. And maybe that’s just as it should be. I can’t say I’m generally much in the mood for dark, gritty, intellectual dramas when the sun’s shining brightly overhead and the mercury’s edging towards triple digits. (Perhaps that’s to blame for my increasing disenchantment with The Killing? Or maybe it’s that the show has actually managed to get duller as it’s gotten closer to its denouement.)
And, yes, there are usually a few shows that get burned off in the summer because some network belatedly realized they’d Made a Huge Mistake. But there are also a few genuine treasures to look forward to in between all those cookouts and lazy afternoons by the pool. We therefore present you with a round-up of the upcoming scripted television premieres and returns, for your DVR-programming convenience.
Wednesday, June 1
MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE (TNT)
In case you were worried the male experience was being underserved by the predominantly-male writing staffs that dominate the television landscape, this show about three men struggling through their mid-life crises in three separate, yet equally juvenile ways is back for a six-episode half-season.
FRANKLIN & BASH (TNT)
Riding the wave of shows about men who act like children and the cardboard women who decorate the scenery around them, TNT brings us this show about a couple of trickster lawyers (did we learn nothing from The Defenders?), played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar (doomed to languish on the worst of TNT’s offerings) and Breckin Meyer, and their boss, the never not creepy Malcolm McDowell. Think of it as the prequel to Men of a Certain Age.
Thursday, June 2
LOVE BITES (NBC)
When a comedy’s premiere date gets pushed back so many times that it ends up getting burned off over the summer, you just know it has be great, right? How bad does a show have to be to be considered worse than Outsourced and Perfect Couples anyway? Pretty damn bad, I’m guessing.
CHILDRENS HOSPITAL (Adult Swim)
Rob Corddry’s biting hospital-drama satire is back for its delightfully wicked third season, with an impressive pedigree of comedy talent that includes Rob Huebel, Ken Marino, Megan Mullally and Henry Winkler.
Sunday, June 5
The Glades (A&E)
You either love Matt Passmore as a cocky Chicago homicide detective transplanted to Florida or you hate him. But if you’re missing your weekly dose of The Mentalist/Castle/Bones, this procedural, which was A&E’s most-watched drama series ever in its first season, helps pass the time until your regular favorite crime-busters are back on the air.
TEEN WOLF (MTV)
I really have nothing to say about this reboot of the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie. Nothing. At all.
Tuesday, June 7
WHITE COLLAR (USA)
There’s almost nothing prettier on television than the sight of White Collar’s Matt Bomer in a suit. The bromantic chemistry between Bomer and co-star Tim DeKay is also enjoyable, and Willie Garson’s Mozzie always manages to liven things up, making this show about a con-man helping the FBI a diverting summer offer.
COVERT AFFAIRS (USA)
As far as I’m concerned, this show is just Alias all over again, with none of the Rimbaldi nonsense and 50% less excitement and charm. (Seriously, I never realized how much Piper Perabo was a dead ringer for Jennifer Garner before this show debuted.) The likeable supporting cast, which includes Christopher Gorham, Kari Matchett, Anne Dudek and Peter Gallagher, manages to elevate the unoriginal material somewhat, however.
Sunday, June 12
THE PROTECTOR (Lifetime)
Anyone besides me remember that show The Profiler? So ahead of its time. Anyway, Ally Walker is back in this series about an LAPD homicide detective and single mother. If it weren’t on Lifetime I might even watch it.
Tuesday, June 14
PRETTY LITTLE LIARS (ABC Family)
If this teen mystery drama based on the popular book series by Sara Shepard is your cup of tea, you’ll be happy to know it’s back for a second season.
THE NINE LIVES OF CHLOE KING (ABC Family)
And this spooky drama based on the books by Celia Thompson about a teenage girl with supernatural powers sounds like the perfect accompaniment to Pretty Little Liars.
MEMPHIS BEAT (TNT)
Wow, is this unexceptional cop show a complete waste of Jason Lee’s infectious charms. Even the amazing Alfre Woodard can’t make this mess worth watching. Let’s just hope they’ve given up on all the embarrassingly bad lip-synching they forced Lee to do last season.
It’s actually incredibly considerate of TNT to schedule all their worst shows into blocks so I know which nights not to bother tuning in. So thanks, TNT. Sincerely.
Wednesday, June 15
HOT IN CLEVELAND (TV Land)
Think of this series, which stars Betty White, Jane Leeves, Valerie Bertinelli and Wendie Malick, as The Golden Girls for a a new millennium. Or the female counterpart to Men of a Certain Age, except that Hot in Cleveland is actually funny on occasion, despite the often tired dialogue.
HAPPILY DIVORCED (TV Land)
It’s difficult to imagine a TV show that sounds more painful than this one about a woman (played by Fran Drescher) re-entering the dating world while still living with her gay ex-husband (John Michael Higgins). Now allow me to tell you that it’s based on the real-life experiences of Drescher and her ex-husband, producer Peter Marc Jacobson. I think the word you’re looking for is yikes.
Saturday, June 18
OUTCASTS (BBC America)
BBC America seems to have dedicated itself to ensuring that us Americans have enough Jamie Bamber in our lives. In addition to their rebroadcasts of Law & Order: UK and repeats of Battlestar Galactica, they’re giving us this sci-fi drama, about a group of people forced to flee an uninhabitable Earth and colonize another planet. Oh, and it also stars Ugly Betty’s Eric Mabius. Yes, please.
THE INBETWEENERS (BBC America)
This unvarnished and comedic look at a quartet of awkward British teens presents a sharp contrast to the glam portrayal of high school offered by the decidedly sexier Brit series Skins. I’ll take the funny one any day.
COME FLY WITH ME (BBC America)
The second half of BBC America’s comedy block features Little Britain’s Matt Lucas (most recently seen on the big screen in Bridesmaids) and David Walliams playing dozens of characters in this mockumentary about an English airport.
Sunday, June 19
DROP DEAD DIVA (Lifetime)
If Lifetime thinks adding Paula Abdul to the cast of this comedy-drama about an undead wannabe model (no, seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up) will entice me to tune in, they are tragically mistaken.
FALLING SKIES (TNT)
Noah Wyle leads a ragtag band of rebels fighting against an alien invasion in what’s probably the summer’s most ambitious series. Hey, it’s got to be better than that V remake, right?
Tuesday, June 21
COMBAT HOSPITAL (ABC)
I guess we were probably overdue for another M*A*S*H imitation, and this Canadian series about a medical unit at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan aims to fill the gap.
Thursday, June 23
ROOKIE BLUE (ABC)
ABC is giving us a double-helping of Canadian co-productions this summer as this series about young cops in L.A. returns for its second season.
BURN NOTICE (USA)
Pretty and fluffy perfectly sums up this fun spy drama, which is back for its fourth season. If the sight of handsome star Jeffrey Donovan’s stylish shades and the always hilarious Bruce Campbell’s Hawaiian shirts don’t put you in the mood for summer, nothing will.
Yes, it’s another show about a couple of hot-shot lawyers, but given USA’s extremely decent track record, I’m willing to give this one the benefit of the doubt, despite the ridiculous premise (one of the lawyers never went to law school).
Of all the new summer offerings, this is the one I’ve got the highest hopes for. Sure, this series (based on a hit Australian show) about a man (Elijah Wood) who sees his neighbor’s dog as an obnoxious human in a dog suit (Aussie Jason Gann, reprising his role from the original) sounds deeply weird, but that could just be what makes it great. Or really, really annoying.
When practically every comedian and comedy writer working today raves about a show, you have to assume it’s worth watching. Find out for yourself when this vehicle for comedian Louis C.K. returns for its second season.
Sunday, June 26
This delightfully snappy series about a five-man band of altruistic grifters is, hands down, my favorite of all the returning summer series. If Aldis Hodge’s adorable hacker, Christian Kane’s noble thug and Beth Riesgraf’s wacky thief don’t charm your socks off, I can only assume you just don’t like to have fun (or possibly you’re wearing flip-flops).
TRUE BLOOD (HBO)
I know lots of people love True Blood, but as far as I’m concerned, the only thing worse than the writing on this atrocious vampire show (based on the equally atrocious books by Charlaine Harris) are the Louisiana accents. Regardless, consider this your notice (or warning) that it’s back for a fourth season.
Monday, June 27
Hey, look, one our worst moms on television is back for a seventh season! And apparently she’s coming off a well-deserved stint in jail. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that she hasn’t learned her lesson, though.
THE BIG C (Showtime)
I hear this series starring Laura Linney is really quite good, but I’m still not going to watch a show about cancer. Sorry.
Wednesday, June 29
ROYAL PAINS (USA)
This series about a concierge doctor (Mark Feurerstein) treating the rich and privileged in the Hamptons practically screams summer. And that’s about all it’s got going for it, unfortunately.
NECESSARY ROUGHNESS (USA)
Rescue Me’s Callie Thorne stars in this series about a therapist who works with pro athletes and celebrities, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the 1991 Scott Bakula movie.
Friday, July 8
TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY (Starz)
Look, I can’t deny that that the trailers for this look pretty awesome. But if this American continuation is anything like the British sci-fi drama’s previous offerings, what starts out as a jolly good time is destined to degenerate into a disappointing mess by the end. Nevertheless, we’ll be glued to our seats, hopeful that the influence of some of our favorite American writers (Doris Egan, Jane Espenson and John Shiban) will inspire Russell T Davies to finally give us a Torchwood that delivers on all that potential.
Sunday, July 10
CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (HBO)
In the “That’s Still On?” Department, Larry David’s uncomfortable comedy is back for another season. Okey dokey.
Monday, July 11
I really wish cable networks would stop chopping up their seasons. Case in point: it feels like it’s been a hundred years since the first half of Eureka’s fourth season aired. It’s hard enough to get invested in this pleasant but annoyingly formulaic show without trying to keep track of a storyline involving altered timelines over a ridiculously long hiatus.
THE CLOSER (TNT)
It’s Kyra Sedgwick’s last season on this cop drama that basically ushered in the renaissance of summer cable programming we’re enjoying right now. I won’t miss her terrible attempt at Georgia accent, but I will miss the smart story lines and amusing ensemble cast. Fortunately, we’ve got the forthcoming spin-off starring Mary McDonnell to look forward to after Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson has interrogated her last suspect.
WAREHOUSE 13 (Syfy)
I suspect most of my affection for this goofy steampunk-influenced series is due to the high likeability quotient of star Eddie McClintock. It also might have something to do with the way it switches gender tropes around by making McClintock’s Secret Service agent the intuitive one and his female partner the one with the superior physical skills. I’m not thrilled about the prospect of Pete getting a new partner in the form of Aaron Ashmore, though, so let’s hope they get Myka back where she belongs quickly.
This sci-fi drama about a team of people with supernatural abilities solving cases for the CIA and the FBI sounds a bit more promising when you know that David Strathairn plays the team’s leader.
RIZZOLI & ISLES (TNT)
Hooray! Everyone’s favorite lesbian crime-solving duo are back for a second season. Wait, what do you mean they aren’t lesbians? Do they know that? Because all my lesbian friends assure me that this is the best lesbian show on TV.
Wednesday, July 13
RESCUE ME (FX)
Denis Leary’s gritty drama about New York firemen returns for its seventh and final season. Is it wrong of me to hope that Leary’s next project is something with a few more laughs?
Do not look for the fourth season of this dark legal drama on FX, because it’s following in the footsteps of Friday Night Lights and moving to DirecTV’s 101 Network. Which means if you don’t have DirecTV you’ll have to wait for the DVDs to find out how Patty Hewes plans to manipulate the impressive new roster of guest stars, including John Goodman, Judd Hirsch, Fisher Stevens, Griffin Dunn, Bailey Chase and Derek Webster.
Friday, July 15
An FBI agent continues to investigate the strange happenings in a mysterious Maine town in the second season of this utterly forgettable series based on Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid. How forgettable is it? I’ve already forgotten about it.
Sunday, July 17
BREAKING BAD (AMC)
This critically-acclaimed drama starring Bryan Cranston as a meth-cooking chemistry teacher is finally back for its fourth season after an extended hiatus, and if you haven’t seen the first three seasons, AMC is making it extra-easy for you to catch up by rerunning them starting July 5. So you have no excuse.
Tuesday, July 19
WEB THERAPY (Showtime)
For some reason the phrases “part-improvised” and “Lisa Kudrow” used in conjunction give me the vapors, but your mileage may vary. If nothing else, the list of guest stars—which includes Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bob Balaban, Rashida Jones, Selma Blair, Jane Lynch, Molly Shannon and Courteney Cox—certainly sounds enticing.
Sunday, July 24
And here’s our second entry in the Department of “That’s Still On?” Don’t worry, though, it’s the last season of this blithely sexist show. Finally.