While Broadcast TV continues to go with cheap and mostly unremarkable programming (noted exceptions on my last blog), Cable remains as aggressive as ever with both scripted fare and non-scripted.
Scripted Series Recommendations:
Royal Pains (Thurs USA Network): Mark Feuerstein hasn’t had a successful run since he played one of the boyfriends on Caroline In The City, but here is strictly in his element as a successful doctor fired from his hospital gig due to hospital politics. The fun starts when he finds a new beginning in the works catering to the calls of the rich folks in the Hamptons. This show started out strong in the ratings and remarkably improved in its second outing, which is something rare when it comes to new shows. Check out this clip for yourself.
Burn Notice (Thurs USA Network): A compatible pairing with Royal Pains, the Jeffrey Donovan spy series continues to attract more viewers each Season and is now one of the highest rated USA series with an average of over 6 million per airing. A strong cast, including cult favorite Bruce Campbell (The Adventures of Briscoe County),series veteran Sharon Gless and Gabrielle Anwar, who brings a surprise fun to her gun loving, bomb building, sexy character, makes this show a winner despite the outlandish scripts.
Leverage (Wed TNT Network): Starting July 15th. Oscar winner Timothy Hutton is only a small part as to why this is one of the best scripted cable shows on the air today. The supporting cast each has something to offer in this series that could be renamed Mission Impossible 2009.
Particularly of note, Christian Kane, plays the muscle of the group and brings a highly entertaining quality to the stories as does Beth Riesgraf, who brings likable qualities to a character that on paper would be highly unlikable.
The Closer (Mondays TNT):
The granddaddy of all cable shows, this is the most watched series on cable. Kyra Sedgewick plays Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, the sweet-talking Southerner who leads the Priority Homicide Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. Early episodes focused more on her proving herself and getting acceptance from her associates, but the show has morphed into a much better than your average procedural series thanks to an interesting cast of characters. If you haven’t checked this out during past years, you are missing out.
Dark Blue (Wed TNT Network): Starting July 15th
Dylan McDermatt returns again post The Practice after one unsuccessful attempt (Big Shots) with Dark Blue. This series is described as a show that “focuses on a team of undercover police officers — so undercover, in fact, that many officers in their own department don’t even know their operation exists. McDermott plays Carter Shaw, the deeply flawed officer at the head of the team, whose life outside the unit is in shambles; his underlings include a newly married cop who doesn’t know how to handle the relationships he forms undercover and a young patrol officer with a shady past and a penchant for lying.” This clip was offered for preview.
This is just a small sample of promising shows that you’ll want to check out, but if you have the time, there are others to sample as well including USA Network Series Law & Order Criminal Intent, In Plain Sight; TNT’s Raising The Bar and HawthorNRe (which features Michael Vartan from Alias and Big Shots) . Showtime has Nurse Jackie featuring former Sopranos star Edie Falco, while HBO has “Hung” about a High School Coach who moonlights as a male escort. And returning in August is the critically acclaimed Mad Men from AMC.
As for Non-Scripted Shows, you aren’t going to want to miss:
The Next Food Network Star seems to be off the lists of all of the entertainment publications when it comes to their summer preview series, yet still draws a surprising high number of food network fans. This show may emulate the Bravo Top Chef series to a degree, but it also has the added factor of not only cooking great food, but being judged on Presentation skills. After all, the prize is your own Cooking Show on the food network. So far, it seems like only one of the former winners has turned into the Network’s breakout star, that being Guy Fiero who hosts the high rated Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
Also of note, The Next Design Star, which is basically the same concept on HGTV, returns on July 19th.
Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, which features 6 weeks of initial head to head competition between 4 World Renowned Chefs that leads into the Championship. While this installment lacks the cattiness that first endeared me to the show (as well as regular series host Padma Lakshmi), watching the pros sweat is surprisingly fun.
Kathy Griffin: My Life On The D List, the emmy winning purposely controversial Kathy Griffin returned with a bang thanks to guest star Bette Midler, who made this one one of her funniest outings to date.
Watching the clips for the season, this looks to be the funniest one yet! While a lot of the humor seems forced (as in her video diary speeches), the show is at it’s best when she is working off of her family and friends for laughs and has no qualms about her D list status. Check out this clip from her time with guest Lily Tomlin.
Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO),
The only political show that I can sit through thanks to an interesting host (who I hear is a total jerk in real life) and guests who come from both the conservative and liberal front. Although Conservatives are spare due to the liberal audience, it is really when the show is at it’s best when both sides duke it out.
hasn’t lost it’s edge after 5 seasons. The best comedy on ever to grace Premium Cable’s airwaves, (with Lisa Kudrow’s shortlived The Comeback a close second) Entourage returns on July 12th.
Big Brother After Dark, is the unedited live feed on Showtime2 that runs overnight 7 days a week. . Nothing you’ll want to sit through the entire 3 hours of, but it’s occasionally fun to fast forward through.
Other Reality shows you might want to look out for are Project Runway (Lifetime), Intervention (A&E), Jon & Kate plus 8 (TLC), Housewives of New Jersey (Bravo), Tori & Dean Home Sweet Hollywood, Gordon Ramsey’s F Word (BBC America), How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria (BBC America), Penn & Teller’s Bull*hit (Showtime), Hammertime (A&E) and of course Bridezilla’s on We.
So there you have it. Too many shows to compete with an active summer schedule. Please do not attempt to watch them all. Go out and have some fun first!
TV has always been a virtual wasteland when it comes to summer TV viewing and growing up, has always been a tradition of having few choices for alterative programming other than reruns. And because at the time, Cable offered very little new or innovative programming, shows like Cheers and Cosby easily could score over 20 million viewers in reruns. These days, the top TV comedy Two and a Half Men only can muster around 9 to 10 million viewers. So while networks are setting for less viewers in this cable landscape, here are a couple of recommended first run viewing options on Network TV over the Summer.
Better Off Ted (ABC Tuesday Nights): The show has had very small ratings but ABC is sticking with it and in an effort to find more viewers, will be running first run episodes beginning on June 23rd! If you were a fan of Arrested Development, this kind of had that type of humor going for it. Some of this is very hit or miss, but if you give the show a chance, you may find it will grow on you. Like The Office, 30 Rock and other non-laugh track comedies, this one will never find a mass audience like the established hits of yesteryear, but hopefully enough will tune in to warrant a few years. Check out this clip courtesy of ABC
The Listener (NBC Thursday Nights): Canadian TV gave CBS a surprise hit last summer courtesy of Flashpoint and NBC is hoping to strike gold with this one which is kind of a mix between Medium, The Mentalist and Heroes. The gimmick here is Craig Olejnik who is the “listener” also known as Toby Logan, a 25-year-old paramedic with a secret telepathic ability. the lead can read minds to help solve cases. Nothing here is unique but the show is good escapist TV. Check out this clip courtesy of NBC
Dirty Sexy Money (Sat Nights – July 18th – Aug 8th)
This Dynasty for the next generation never caught the audience it deserved, so now the final 4 episodes (and yes, the show has a show ending finale that will tie up all loose ends) will be airing on Saturday Nights on ABC beginning July 18th. Expect very little promotion from ABC (and no new video clips are available ) about this so you’ll be on your own to remember to set your recorders. Dirty Sexy Money – Home – ABC.com
ABC also has the return of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire primetime coming in August with Regis as host!
Big Brother (CBS – Sun, Tue, Thurs Nights): Don’t knock TV’s guiltiest summer pleasure until you try it. The live feed in combination with the Primetime antics makes for the perfect escape and it is so oddly addictive that you’ll find yourself hooked before you know it. Fall Preview 2009 on CBS.com
Of course there is plenty more to watch thanks to cable. Next will be looking at all of the innovative variety of offerings on the cable nets.
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