Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer TV

The "official" television season ended a couple of weeks ago, though a couple of series wrap up their runs tonight, FX's brilliant Justified and FOX's Glee.

And that brings us to the fluffy "summer season." In the past, the major broadcast networks virtually abandoned the summer, airing reruns and reality excrement, while the cable nets used this as an opportunity to gain a foothold with original programming. That hasn't changed dramatically, although a few of the big guys are trotting out scripted series.

Here are a few shows I'll be checking out this summer:

Lie To Me. This kicked off last night with a terrific episode, showcasing Veronica Mars star Jason Dohring as a psychopath matching wits with Tim Roth's Cal Lightman.

The Good Guys. 80's (or 70s?) cop show throwback, from the creator of Burn Notice, and starring Bradley Whitford's mustache.

Persons Unknown. Added it to the DVR last night, knowing virtually nothing about it, other than it comes from the writer of the Usual Suspects.

Weeds. The show went off the rails a few seasons ago, but Kevin Nealon, and particularly Justin Kirk, are hilarious, and Mary Louise Parker is hot.

Warehouse 13. What a delightful surprise this was last season. Kind of a mashup of the X-Files and the old Friday the 13th television series, this follows a pair of government agents who track down mystical artifacts. The cast has great chemistry, and the show is a lot of fun.

White Collar. The master plot got a little muddled during its first season, but the show is perfectly representative of USA's strategy: engaging, character-driven popcorn.

Covert Affairs. Another USA entry, with Piper Perabo as a entry level spy. Maybe it's like a high-calorie La Femme Nikita?

Rescue Me. I've stuck with Rescue Me through thick and thin, and last year it seemed to rebound after threatening to bottom out like FX's other one-time showcase, Nip/Tuck. Please bring the funny, 62 Truck .

Happy Town. The first few eps were confusing, incoherent and aiming for a quirky tone it didn't quite hit, and this is just a series burn-off at this point. But...Amy Acker.

Psych. The very definition of summer cotton-candy fare.

Futurama. Hells Yeah! Back from the grave, and returning to Comedy Central with all new episodes!

Burn Notice. Another show where the master plots kind of lost their way.

Doctor Who. Not exactly a summer series, since we're midway through the first season of Matt Smith's Doctor. But the show seems more tightly arc-ed with Stephen Moffat running things, and Karen Gillan's Amy Pond is already my favorite companion.

Being Human. This BBCA offering is about a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost living in a flat in England. Not quite to Buffy, or even Supernatural, levels, but quite engaging.

Scoundrels. The first of ABC's summer series airing on Sundays (which is suddenly a crowded night for original scripted programming), it seems like Desperate Housewives with criminals. And....Virginia Madsen!

The Gates. The second of ABC's summer series airing on Sundays, it seems like Desperate Housewives with vampires. And....Rhona Mitra!

True Blood. I think we already know how I feel about this one.

Hung. This never got the buzz of some of HBO's other offerings, despite being about a newbie male escort with a huge schlong, but it was well done, and a bleakly funny and melancholy look at desperation, loneliness and the economic downturn. (sounds like fun, huh?) And I love Jane Adams.

Entourage. At this point, I'm not even sure why I still watch. I really don't like any of the characters, and the limited plot variations seem completely played out.

Leverage. Ocean's 11 style capers on the small screen every week, carried out by an engaging cast. Seems like this should be on USA, but it's definitely worth a watch. Lots of fun, and one of the many, many shows featuring Mark Sheppard as a recurring character (which is a good thing).

Memphis Beat. Another TNT show, this one with Jason Lee as an Elvis-impersonating cop. That alone merits checking out the pilot.

Haven. Syfy show, based on a Stephen King story, that sounds a lot like a supernatural Eureka.

Eureka. Speaking of which, this charming Syfy show returns for its 4th season.

Mad Men. The Best Show on TV comes back for its 4th season also. Here's hoping for less Betty Draper, and more lawnmowers in the ad agency. And who doesn't love Roger Sterling? And...Christina Hendricks.


  1. Mostly Irrelevant Sidebar:
    While stocking up on Television to get me through the summer, I found Joan of Arcadia season 1 for $10.
    Any thoughts on the series? Will it offend my atheist sensibilities?
    I'm a pretty tolerant guy but I prefer my fictional deities to be socially liberal (i.e. as in Eli Stone) as opposed to insecure, bigoted twats (i.e. as in The Bible).
    I read that it was well received by the critics.
    Any opinions by anyone? Thanks.

  2. Interesting question. I didn't watch Joan; it seemed too "family" for me. However, from what I recall at the time, it was more in the Eli Stone vein (which I liked, and my theological sensibilities are in line with yours) than the "7th Heaven" one.

    As for the "quirky young lass receives messages from beyond" genre, it was really hard to beat the delightful (and canceled by Fox, of course) Wonderfalls. Or, kinda related, the first couple of seasons of Dead Like Me.

    Plus, Amber Tamblyn is adorable. I really liked her show last year, The Unusuals, which also starred future Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner. It was a shame that one didn't catch on.

  3. Hipster I think you would like Joan of Arcadia. I know I really did. All of the regulars provided top notch performances. The God angle was in there but was applied with a light touch. They even managed to tease the fundies by having God appear to Joan in all kind of different guises. I particularly enjoyed the multiple pierced goth God. God also never told Joan what she she do, just help Joan figure it out for herself. For $10 I say give it a try. My free recomendation comes with a double your money back guarantee.

  4. Thank you both. I believe I'll give it a shot.
    I'll let you know how it goes.

  5. BTW, Odd that you should mention them -- I've been meaning to rewatch both Wonderfalls and Dead Like Me.

  6. yeah, let us know how it goes. I'd be interested in checking it out if it's appealing. I think it's on reruns somewhere pretty frequently.

    One of my TV maxims is "follow the writer." Bryan Fuller was involved with some Treks, before going on to create (or co-create) Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies. That's 3 for 3 in my book.