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Summer TV Preview: A Sizzling Summer for Cable … A Hot Mess for Networks

[IMG:L]Sizing up the year’s warmest months, Pulitzer Prize-winning Masterpiece Theatre host, Russell Baker, once declared, “Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer–and like it.” This sentiment could be attributed to a host of seasonal features: the unbearable humidity, the woeful absence of a summer romance, or, for the purposes of this article, having to sit through a spell of lackluster television programming, with nowhere else to turn.

This summer, the divide between cable and major network television couldn’t be any larger. While the major four networks are gearing up, or are already premiering some of their ‘hottest’ summer offerings, cable stations are sitting, waiting, and nearing the launch of big debuts, returning favorites, and an expansive selection of specials.

In fairness to the networks, it can’t be easy to have to say goodbye to huge shows, and then follow-up with anything that would seem decent by comparison. What could FOX possibly do to keep ratings steady through the summer after Jordin Sparks took the Idol crown? What heroics could NBC put on display to follow the success of its newbie, Heroes, and save its faltering schedule–the same way the band of superhumans saved New York from destruction? We saw Jack Shepherd’s future, instead of past, on the Lost finale; so what’s in the near future for ABC?

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All things considered, there will be something for everybody on television this summer.

HBO: No doubt the busiest network of the season, HBO is faced with the arduous task of having to say goodbye to one of the most successful shows in TV history.

For HBO, there is The Sopranos and then there’s everything else. All the while Tony and Co. have been busy saying goodbye, the Malibu mafia, aka the crew of Entourage, have been parading around Hollywood trying to get Vince’s dream project, Medellin, funded and made the way he wants. For some odd reason, the current batch of episodes is labeled as season three part two–the second half of last year’s part one. When the run ends on June 3, it will quickly be followed by the season four premiere, two weeks later.
–June 3 marked the season 3.5 finale of Entourage.
–June 17 marks the season 4 premiere of Entourage.

Big Love
[IMG:R]Also returning this June, on the 11th, is Big Love, bringing its complex brand of polygamy back to the airwaves for season two. In the new batch of episodes Bill starts an investigation to find out how publicly leaked has it all gotten, regarding folks knowing the nature of his unique relationship(s).
–June 11 marks the season 2 premiere of Big Love.

The Sopranos
Sure it was sad to see shows such as Sex and the City, Deadwood, Rome, and Six Feet Under end their runs; however, when Tony Soprano ‘wakes up in the morning and gets himself a gun’ for the final time, it will result in making an impression on the TV landscape that only a handful of shows have gotten to leave.
–June 10 marks the series finale of The Sopranos.

John from Cincinnati
In John from Cincinnati, Deadwood creator David Milch shows us the true meaning of ‘surf noir.’ The series follows the dysfunctional Yost family, who get a surprise visit from two men at the same time–John, who is interested in receiving surfing lessons and another man who wants revenge on the family. To make matters a little weirder, it should be noted that characters on the show sporadically levitate.
–June 10 marks the series premiere of John from Cincinnati.

Flight of the Conchords
On the comedy side, to join Johnny Drama, Larry David and Lucky Louis C.K., will be Bret and Jermaine, the folk-music/comedy duo internationally known as Flight of the Conchords. In the mid-month premiere, the two eager men head to their new home of New York City to get their burgeoning music career started, but find that the dream isn’t as easy as they thought.
–June 17 marks the series premiere of Flight of the Conchords.

[IMG:L]SHOWTIME: Two summer happenings for the other premium cable channel.

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The debut of a new off-beat comedy starring David Duchovny is in the works for later this summer. The series finds the former alien investigator now in the role of Hank Moody, a novelist with an addictive streak, who must juggle his career, taking care of his 13-year-old daughter, and dealing with his still-burning love for an ex-girlfriend.
–Early August will mark the series premiere of Californication.

Shocking news out of camp Weeds has revealed that Mary-Kate Olsen will be joining the cast for season three. Olsen, landing her first major TV role since her long-running stint as Michelle Tanner, will play Tara, Silas’ new love interest that lives in the new church community. Matthew Modine also jumps aboard to play Sullivan Gruff, the land developer in charge of the same nearby community they call Majestic.
–August 13 marks the season 3 premiere of Weeds.

FX: This summer we get the treat of two returning favorites, and a debut drama on FX.

Rescue Me
[IMG:R]In Rescue Me’s upcoming fourth season, I assume it’ll begin by filling us in on the status of Tommy and his lover Sheila, following the fire that she accidentally started at the end of last season, which engulfed them both. From there, it’ll be the usual chaotic introspection from Denis Leary’s Tommy Gavin, a man that can’t quite catch a break.
–June 13 marks the season 4 premiere of Rescue Me.

Glenn Close must’ve been impressed with FX when she was a guest-star on The Shield last season because she is slated to star in Damages, a new summer debut for the network. Close stars as Patty Hewes, a powerful, corporation-tackling attorney in the dark, gritty drama that evokes shades of ABC’s former hit The Practice. The show’s first season begins late July.
–July 24 marks the series premiere of Damages.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
For the comedy that’s rapidly spreading by word of mouth as you read this, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has a promising third season approaching that will begin in late summer. The low-budget show follows a gang of friends–Charlie, Mac, Dee, and Dennis–who run an Irish pub and argue constantly, each with a more than generous amount of ignorance and vanity. Danny DeVito also stars as Dennis and Dee’s father, Frank Reynolds.
–Late summer marks the season 3 premiere of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

USA: Also in the land of cable, USA has a new show, a mini-series and three returning shows to look forward to during this heated stretch.

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Monk and Psych — Friday Nights:
The comedy series Monk and Psych will both be returning this summer–Monk for its sixth season and Psych for its second. Both shows center on brilliant, but less-than perfect detectives. Psych’s Shawn, the fake psychic, and Monk’s Adrian Monk, the real extreme OCD case, help solve crimes like nobody else can and help USA provide an extremely funny Friday night lineup.
–July 13 marks the season 6 premiere of Monk, and the season 2 premiere of Psych.

[IMG:L]The Starter Wife
Last week marked the premiere of the six-hour miniseries, The Starter Wife, which airs through the end of June and features Debra Messing in the starring role. Based on the best-selling book of the same name, in the miniseries, Messing’s Molly Kagan must face a harsh new reality when her high-powered, Hollywood husband divorces her for a woman half her age. This demotes Kagan from the role of carousing socialite to that of an anxious woman, who must decide what her next steps will be as a single woman.
–May 31 marked the series premiere of The Starter Wife.

The 4400
Returning will be the sci-fi drama The 4400, with new episodes starting mid-month. The mission continues to uncover the mysteries behind the planet’s returned abductees.
–June 17 marks the return of The 4400.

Burn Notice
To round out USA’s summer lineup will be the new original series Burn Notice. In the show, Michael Weston, played by Jeffrey Donovan, gets canned from his job as a spy and retreats to Miami to investigate the reasons for his firing.
–June 28 marks the series premiere of Burn Notice.

TNT:  As per their usual TNT serves up just enough hard-hitting drama to quench your summer thirst.

The Closer
[IMG:R]The TNT police drama begins its third season next week. Fresh off of her worthy ‘07 Golden Globe win, Kyra Sedgwick, once again, returns as Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson to ruffle some feathers, while she gets down to solving some grizzly crimes.
–June 11 marks the series premiere of The Closer.

To join Sedgwick’s award-winning show in the small family of TNT original dramas, Heartland premieres mid-month. In the new series, Treat Williams plays an organ transplant surgeon who places more importance on the lives of others than on his own.
–June 18 marks the series premiere of Heartland.

[IMG:L]Various Cable Stations’ Reality Shows: For cable reality, on top of the tidal wave of reality regularly aired by E! and VH1, The Simple Life Goes to Camp kicked off May 28 on E! and features a reunited Paris and Nicole. Given Paris ’ recent slammer-bound escapades, there may just be a spike in the ratings.

Additionally, Bravo’s two addicting shows Top Chef and Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List will both have some new material for TV this summer.

One other show of note is Reunited: Real World Las Vegas on MTV, the first time that an entire cast will return to the house they shared for another dramatic three-month stay.

Finally, the pint-sized intrepid Bindi Irwin , daughter of the late Croc Hunter, will make her TV debut in Bindi the Jungle Girl, beginning on Discovery Kids on June 9.

ABC: In the Next Best Thing, which has already debuted, celebrity impersonators are taken ‘off the streets’, and finally given a stage to ‘perform’ on–watched by a captive audience, and critiqued by three judges–one of which you may recognize.

Shaq gears up for the June 26 launch of the fitness-inspired Shaq’s Big Challenge, in which the basketball superstar coaches six obese middle-school students to achieve better health. There’s an important lesson that can be learned from Shaq’s Big Challenge. If as a network, one must create a bad reality show, at least do so by achieving something positive.

Another season of American Inventor begins June 8. The nation has been clamoring for more of Simon Cowell’s Inventor ever since the winner of season one unveiled his creation–the…–oh right, the show’s first season was memorable to nobody.

[IMG:R]Fast Cars & Superstars, beginning June 7, sees musician Jewel, skateboarder Tony Hawk, and William Shatner, among others, in a high-speed stock car race. The show will profile the stars’ training sessions, their personal dramas, and will culminate in a 12-car race.

CBS: Last week saw the debut of CBS’ Pirate Masters–yes, a pirate reality show. Sixteen arrrr-ditioners have been selected and will compete in a series of swash-buckling, booty-stealing challenges to be dubbed the $1 million Pirate Master.

When summer swings in, so too does Big Brother. It’s been a seasonal tradition of sorts and Big Brother 8 kicks-off on July 5. So once again, time to break out the cameras and the live feeds–let’s get ready to rumble.

[IMG:L]NBC: On June 5 we get a new season of America’s Got Talent complete with some new faces. Regis is out as host and taking his place will be Jerry Springer; subbing in for bubbly Brandy will be Sharon Osbourne. One man who will be returning is The Hoff, David Hasselhoff, who hopes to overcome his latest videotaped battle with reality by judging a pack of poor performers.

In Age of Love, premiering June 18 and hosted by the talented Mr. Ripa, Mark Consuelos, tennis pro Mark Philippoussis gets to sample women who range in age from their 20s to their 40s. This fuzzy premise aims to teach us a lesson on something, although seems we’re forced to watch to find out what it is.

And finally for NBC, Last Comic Standing also heads back for its fifth go-round on June 12. This season, the show opened their casting call to comics from all around the world, instead of just America.

Foul-mouthed, over-temperamental Gordon Ramsey aims to finally make cooking a contact sport on the network’s third season of Hell’s Kitchen, which starts June 4.

So You Think You Can Dance? has miraculously done the electric worm back on to our TV screens, and can currently be seen on Wednesday nights.

[IMG:R]Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett have teamed up to create On the Lot, an updated version of Project Greenlight. The show has already premiered, will air through the summer, and has all the drama and entertaining behind the scenes action that we’ve come to expect from a Mark Burnett production. Judges Brett Ratner, Garry Marshall, and Carrie Fisher preside over the pool of budding filmmakers, all pining for a piece of the Hollywood pie.

So, there you have it. Although the major networks don’t seem to want viewership until the fall season begins, you can still get a fair share of cutting-edge programming on cable. It makes that monthly bill seem like less of a pain, doesn’t it? 

If you like comedy, drama, or if you’re like me and can’t turn away from even the worst of reality shows, it won’t be too bad and, hey, fall’s right around the corner!

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