(The following is the weekly extended preview of the PopRox column in Sunday’s Pocono Record. Enjoy.)
Summer television peaked in about 2009 and the quality of the summer slate has slowly regressed since then.
But it’s still a packed schedule, a chance for the cable networks to introduce you to some of their biggest shows that otherwise might get swallowed up if they aired against Modern Family or American Idol.
Instead of leading these shows to certain ratings annihilation, they end up in the summer where the schedule is pretty much clear from Big Four network interference.
Check out some of the highlights of the summer TV schedule:
Return date: Returned Tuesday (Comedy Central)
The comedy that’s impossible to explain. Is it stoner humor? Is it youthful, don’t-know-where-you’re-going-with-your-life humor? Here’s how I describe it. Bill and Ted are now 25, are still hanging out together, and now they smoke weed. And drink. And after this week’s episode, they also dabble in, umm, harder stuff. They’re still pretty stupid, but they’ve at least matured enough to put together a couple coherent sentences. It just so happens that those sentences are outrageously funny. An acquired taste, yes, but really funny.
If you like this, check out: Futurama (Comedy Central, June 20), Twenty Twelve (BBC America, June 28), Comedy Bang! Bang! (June 8, IFC)
Debut date: June 7
Your guess is as good as mine. One of the TV shows that defined who I am as a person is coming back, kinda. This is part of VH1′s Roc Doc series, which is what puts together the Behind the Music series. From the official description of the show, it looks like a documentary on the show, kinda like a 30 for 30 ESPN thing. Wait, MTV did that already, and did it rather well. So I have no idea what’s going on here. Although there most likely will be a whole portion dedicated to this, as well there should be:
Debut date: June 13 (TNT)
What, you’re not just a little bit curious? When most TV shows or movies do a reboot, they bring in a whole different cast to make sure there is a new vibe for a younger generation. Not Dallas, no sir. Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray are all coming back to be part of the new show. That’s right, folks, their schedules were clear to return. The focus of the show is going to be on the younger generation of Ewings, sure, but seeing the elder Ewings back might be a little bit funny. Like when J.R. gets shot again and the show cons America into caring. Again.
If you like this, check out: Army Wives (Lifetime, June 24), Rizzoli & Isles (TNT, June 15), Secret Life of the American Teenager (ABC Family, June 11)
Return date: June 14 (USA)
Here’s the good part about not as many really, really good shows debuting in the summer through the last couple years. It gives shows like Burn Notice — shows on the outer fringe of being good — a chance to find an audience. Which is what the theory was when cable networks started airing new shows in the summer in the first place. Burn Notice already has an audience — it’s one of the highest-rated shows on cable. But it’s easier to watch it when it doesn’t have to compete for DVR space with The Office and Grey’s Anatomy.
If you like this, check out: Falling Skies (TNT, June 17), Covert Affairs (USA, July 10)
Return date: June 27 (MTV)
Quick! Guess which edition of Real World this is! Give up? It’s the 27th season. Even though it stopped being relevant about 25 years ago, it’s still the father (or great-great-grandfather) of all reality TV. This time there is a Philly guy, a Jersey guy and a Boston guy all in the house. Nope, I don’t see anyone fighting here.
If you like this, check out: The Glass House (ABC, June 18), Big Brother (CBS, July 12).
Debut date: June 28 (FX)
Charlie Sheen has almost 70 acting credits. You know how many he’s been legitimately funny in? Exactly three — and two of them (Ferris Bueller and Being John Malkovich) were cameos. So on Sheen’s comedy resume, we’re left with the original — and only the original — Major League. He hasn’t been funny in anything else he’s done, including Spin City and Two and a Half Men. So can anyone tell me why he KEEPS GETTING COMEDY JOBS??? I get this one. It’s his first post-2.5 Men show, so anything he would have done the first time out would have been sought-after. But when he’s not funny in this, can we just let him go? Pretty please?
If you like this, check out: The Exes (TV Land, June 20)
Return date: June 28 (FX)
Any year that gives us five great comedies is a good TV year. In 2011, we saw the debuts of Happy Endings, Workaholics, New Girl, Suburgatory and Wilfred, so it was a great year for TV comedy. In its own way, Wilfred might be the funniest of the bunch — as long as you’re in on the joke. In its first season, it went from The dog is talking just like a dog is, that’s hysterical! to Eh, doesn’t this dog ever shut up? all the way back to The dog is hysterical again! And that’s where it ended, with the dog riotously funny. Even if it was
pretty very existential in its finale.
If you like this, check out: The Newsroom (HBO, June 24), Weeds (Showtime, July 1), Louie (FX, June 28)
Return date: July 15 (AMC)
Gus wasn’t the only one blown away from last season’s finale. (Hiyo!) We all were. Breaking Bad goes into its 16-episode fifth and final season with everyone’s favorite teacher-turned-meth manufacturer finally back in control of his world. He’s taken out the man who wanted him dead, he’s gotten his partner back on his side and he finally got his albatross of a future ex-wife out his hair for a while, throwing her the bone of running a car wash with some of his chump change. If he really wanted to get rid of Skyler, he now can buy Los Pollos Hermanos and have her run that into the ground too. The season is being split into two viewing periods, with the first eight episodes airing this summer and the last eight airing next summer.
If you like this, check out: True Blood (HBO, June 10), Boss (Starz, Aug. 17)
Debut date: Aug. 19 (BBC America)
If your network has never aired an original series before, wouldn’t you want to team up with some of the best producers when you do decide to make it happen? How about Tom Fontana, the showrunner behind St. Elsewhere, Oz and Homicide: Life on the Street. And Barry Levinson, the Oscar-winning director of Rain Man? That’s a pretty good start for the 1860s period piece about a cop in the Five Points area of New York City. That’s the area brought to life in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.
If you like this, check out: Hell on Wheels (AMC, Aug 12), Damages (DirecTV, July 11)
In case you were looking for something else, a bunch more summer premieres:
Teen Wolf, MTV, Sunday
Real Housewives of NYC, Bravo, Monday
Pretty Little Liars, ABC Family, Tuesday
Storage Wars, A&E, Tuesday
Royal Pains, USA, Wednesday
Bridezillas, WE, June 10
Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp, Lifetime, June 19
Snooki and JWoww, MTV, June 21
Episodes, Showtime, July 1
The Closer, TNT, July 9
Leverage, TNT, July 15