There used to be a time when summer television was all reruns and special events, like baseball games and the occasional Olympics. Then it became a reality television zone, giving life to such mind-numbingness as CBS’ Big Brother, a show about thirteen insipid individuals put in a house and made to play inane games and “back door” each other for a chance at a half a million dollars. And all right, I admit I ate that particular one up with the same spoon I would dip in my Ben & Jerry's! In fact, I even considered auditioning for the show one season while in college, after a professor who's wife was a producer over there told me I'd be perfect for it. Now I think I should have been more insulted than flattered by such a statement, but oh the innocence of youth! Anyway, more and more, now, though, networks are scheduling new shows for the summer block that are quirkier, non-formulaic, and even character driven. What was once a wasteland is fast becoming a haven for smaller, niche shows that would have otherwise been buried amidst the hype and flash of the fall season. Summer 2010 may be the crux of that “alternative programming.”
Premiered on May 19th and then beginning as a thirteen-episode series in June is a buddy cop dramatic comedy called The Good Guys. Starring Colin Hanks and Bradley Whitford, this show is an upbeat “good-guys-win” sort of show, according to its creator, Matt Nix. Set in Dallas, the detective duo is somewhat haphazardly matched-- with Hanks a by-the-book newb to Whitford’s somewhat bumbling but always-gets-the-job-done-even-by-accident veteran. The characters are charming, and the cases are lighthearted enough that the sense of danger and drama are just in good fun. It’s the perfect summer fluff, even if it feels better suited for the USA network then where it will actually air, Fox.
ABC has The Gates, which sounds like it should be too campy and cheesy to warrant much attention, but those are the perfect ingredients for my summer TV schedule! Rhona Mitra stars as a supernatural member of a gated community of residents who all escaped there to avoid the dangers of the outside world. When their police chief retires early and suddenly, one such outsider (Frank Grillo) is brought in to take over the reign of the town. Unfortunately for them-- who all prove to have similar powers-- he does things a bit differently and wants to take a closer look at the families "inside" said gates. The combination of supernatural gimmick craze (with vampires, werewolves, and what appear to be witches with their magic potions) so far and the usual familial drama make The Gates the perfect replacement for Desperate Housewives during these hot summer nights. The Gates premieres on June 20th.
ABC also has Scoundrels, a one-hour comedic drama based on a New Zealand show of the same premise. A wife of a career criminal decides it’s time to have her family go “straight” after her husband finds himself on the wrong side of a long prison sentence. Though this is effectively a remake, and the second attempt for the network at that, it is worth a look for it’s cast: Virginia Madsen plays the wife at the center with David James Elliott as her “scoundrel” husband. Patrick Flueger (The 4400) plays dual roles as the couple’s twin sons. With talent like that on board—and the obligatory “s” at the end of the title, prepare for twists and developments that other family members may not be what they seem. Scoundrels will premiere on June 20th on the alphabet network.
And yes, of course there is still some reality television thrown in for good measure. Losing it with Jillian is NBC’s post-Biggest Loser health, fitness, and weight loss program that premieres tonight, June 1st. Featuring trainer extraordinaire Jillian Michaels, who will be moving in with families all across the country to help them get their lives and weight under control, this one feel-good, inspirational program that is sure to touch hearts…and nerves. Says Michaels: “It just wrecks you but in the most beautiful way because you're also a huge part of their healing process." That's a winner in my book!
Starting June 10th, Bravo has Bethenny Getting Married, a spin-off of The Real Housewives franchise, starring New York City's wittiest and most entrepreneurial "housewife," Bethenny Frankel. This was shot while she was still engaged and pregnant (now she is married and has given birth baby Bryn) and features more nitpicky discussions with her then-fiance Jason over picking a new assistant and entertaining his friends than it does cat-fights with other rich, polished women. Some of her Housewives castmates will undoubtedly make appearances within this series, but as a whole it is much more focused on humor than drama, and that's a refreshing change of pace!
NBC also brings back Last Comic Standing on June 7th, a show that I am a sucker for because I love stand-up comedy of any kind! They have revamped the design of the reality competition program with a new host (Craig Robinson) and new judges, and I can only hope that means they will showcase more of the performers' actual sets instead of their backstage banter and nerves. We watch for the funny, but we can't really judge them if we don't see (and hear) their jokes...in context!
USA also has a new season of Nix’ Burn Notice (June 3rd), keeping his fans happy and laughing through the hot months, and July 12th brings the return of The Closer to TNT. With nothing else of interest to me on the horizon, maybe this is the year I will attempt to get into both of those!