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What I'm Watching This Summer

Remember when summer television was an oxymoron? Now, instead of warmed-over reruns and stale burn-offs, broadcast and cable networks are increasingly giving us fresh fare during the warmer months.

Audiences have already proven themselves addicted to Showtime's Nurse Jackie and hungry for more of HBO's True Blood, while NBC is offering several series such as Merlin, The Philanthropist, The Listener, and something called I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! just to name a few. TNT seems hellbent on programming nearly every night of the week while USA returns its scripted hit dramedies and launches a new one with Hamptons-set medical series Royal Pains.

So what will I be watching this summer? Turn up the A/C, grab an ice cold elderflower Collins, sit back, and relax... Let's take a look at what I'll be tuning in to during the hot season.

JUNE

Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
I've already raved about this brilliant and darkly hysterical drama series starring Edie Falco numerous times over the last few weeks so I won't gush again but I will say that you should do yourselves all a favor and tune into this remarkable piece of television, stat. It's funny, touching, controversial, and quirky... often times all in the same half-hour. (On Air; Mondays at 10:30 pm ET/PT)

Top Chef Masters (Bravo)
I don't know about you but I am going through some serious Top Chef withdrawal, so it was perfect timing that Bravo would launch a spin-off series to tide us over until the main course arrives. The format is slightly different--24 master chefs compete in a culinary round robin before advancing on to the final rounds--and the judging table doesn't quite sport the familiar faces we've grown accustomed to seeing over the course of Top Chef but the result is a fun offshoot of a high-end restaurant destination. (On Air; Wednesdays at 10 pm ET/PT)

Better Off Ted (ABC)
ABC had shelved several filmed installments of freshman comedy Better Off Ted this season, which the network will now air this summer instead of holding them over for Season Two, which returns to the ABC lineup in early 2010. So why not take this chance to return to the deliciously loopy world of Veridian Dynamics and catch up on the staffers' new adventures before the long wait for the sophomore season? (New episodes return June 23rd; Tuesdays at 8:30 pm ET/PT)

True Blood (HBO)
The Southern Gothic vampire drama has returned with a second season of more sex, gore, and synthetic blood, along with new mysteries and a whole new slew of complex and enigmatic characters. Just what sort of speed bump will vampire teen Jessica provide now that she's cutting in on Sookie and Bill's alone time? What's up with Jason and the Fellowship of the Sun? What does Maryanne want with Tara? And will Sam ever get over his unrequited love towards waitress Sookie? Having already seen the first four episodes of the second season, I'm already hooked. (On Air; Sundays at 9 pm ET/PT)

Doctor Who (BBC America)
Digital cabler BBC America has craftily snagged the US first window to British sci-fi series Doctor Who from Sci Fi and they're airing the first two of five specials featuring David Tennant's swan song as the Doctor before he leaves the series at the end of the year. First up is "The Next Doctor," as the Doctor encounters a man (David Morrissey) who claims to be a future incarnation of the Doctor, followed about a month later by "Planet of the Dead," where the Doctor teams up with master thief Lady Christina de Souza (Michelle Ryan) after they end up on a distant planet with a busload of strangers. Trust me, you don't want to miss any of Tenant's final performances as the Doctor. It's enough to make your heart (or hearts) skip a beat. (Airs Saturday, June 27th at 9 pm ET/PT and Sunday, July 26th at 8 pm ET/PT)

Gordon Ramsay's F Word (BBC America)
BBC America has returned the raucous and fun Gordon Ramsay's F Word, entering its fourth season, to primetime and it's a very good thing indeed. The culinary series boasts a variety of segments in which Gordon pits his strength against celebrities in cooking challenges, puts amateur kitchen brigades through their paces, and investigates various elements of food today, all while trying to teach the nation to cook healthy, tasty food at home. (On Air; Wednesdays at 9 pm ET/PT)

Hung (HBO)
HBO will launch its latest drama series this month. Starring Thomas Jane, the series follows the exploits of sad sack high school teacher/basketball coach Ray Drecker, whose dreams of fame and fortune didn't quite pan out the way he planned. Now he's underpaid, divorced, and nearly homeless (thanks to a nasty fire) and his kids have moved in with their mother (Anne Heche). After meeting a local poet (Jane Adams), Ray decides to use his greatest asset (ahem, it has to do with the series' title) in order to make it big. (Launches June 28th; Sundays at 10 pm ET/PT)

Royal Pains (USA)
I'm still not totally sold on this new USA series, starring Mark Feuerstein and Paulo Contanza, but I'm willing to give it a few weeks to check it out, though I dearly wish they'd drop the cringe-worthy open credits as soon as humanly possible. On the plus side: the supporting cast (including Constanza), the locale (the Hamptons), and the concierge medicine conceit, offering some nice medical procedural fun juxtaposed with some well-heeled comedy. (On Air; Thursdays at 10 pm ET/PT)

Masterpiece Mystery (PBS)
The venerable Masterpiece Mystery has already aired the brilliant and gripping Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh and will also offer two new Poirot mysteries and four new Miss Marple mysteries (starring Julia McKenzie taking over as the titular sleuth) as part of its "Six by Agatha" mini-season and the new season of Inspector Morse spin-off Inspector Lewis, starring Kevin Whately. (On Air; Sundays at 9 pm ET/PT; check local listings)

Weeds (Showtime)
Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) is in way over her head this season, what with an unborn child with her drug lord boyfriend Esteban (Demian Bichir), the feds watching her every move, and an furious Guillermo (Guillermo Diaz) plotting against her from prison. Meanwhile, Andy (Justin Kirk) gets entangled with Nancy's estranged sister Jill (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Silas (Hunter Parrish) and Doug (Kevin Nealon) plot a new business venture, Celia (Elizabeth Perkins) contends with the fallout from a hostage situation, and Shane (Alexander Gould) enters the family business. (On Air; Mondays at 10 pm ET/PT)

Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List (Bravo)
Why is this on the list? Because I'm a glutton for punishment, apparently. But Griffin's can-do attitude in the face of constant adversity (and snarky comments about anyone and everyone) make for great reality television and that's about as "real" as I can get these days. No thank you, Heidi and Spencer, I'm perfectly fine living vicariously through insider/outsider Kathy Griffin. (On Air; Mondays at 10 pm ET/PT)

JULY

Warehouse 13 (Sci Fi)
On this new sci-fi drama, two very different Secret Service agents (Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly) find themselves transferred to the mysterious Warehouse 13, a top-secret storage facility in South Dakota that houses some powerful arcane artifacts. Their mission: to collect and safeguard these supernatural objects for caretaker Artie (Saul Rubinek), even as they attempt to figure out just what the hell is going on at the warehouse. (Launches July 7th; Tuesdays at 9 pm ET/PT)

Being Human (BBC America)
Meet three very unusual roommates: werewolf George (Doctor Who's Russell Tovey), ghostly Annie (Sugar Rush's Lenora Crichlow), and vampire Mitchell (The Clinic's Aidan Turner). As the trio work to keep their secrets hidden from prying eyes and blend in with the general population, they strive to understand what it is to truly be human, even as they contend with a possible vampire revolution and constant threats of exposure. (Launches July 25th; Saturdays at 9 pm ET/PT)

Torchwood: Children of Earth (BBC America)
The third season of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood returns, not with with a full season, but with a five-episode event that will air across a single week and day-and-date with the United Kingdom. Can Torchwood prevent the end of the human race even as they're still reeling from the deaths of two of their own? (Airs July 20th-July 24th; Monday to Friday at 9 pm ET/PT)

Dirty Sexy Money (ABC)
The ABC guilty pleasure disappeared off the airwaves late last year and the network will return the series to its schedule to burn off its final remaining unaired episodes. Can't remember just what happened last time we saw the Darlings? Neither can I but I hope that the final installments offer some closure and some tongue-in-cheek soapiness to boot. (Unaired episodes return July 18th; Saturdays at 10 pm ET/PT)

AUGUST

Mad Men (AMC)
The jaw-droppingly brilliant period drama returns with a third season of cigarettes, alcohol, and secrets and lies. Will the marriage between Don (Jon Hamm) and Betty (January Jones) survive yet another season of hostility and seething anger? Will Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) ever find happiness with Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) now that she gave him a hell of a bombshell last season? And just what will happen to Sterling Cooper now that the British are coming? Find out this summer as we take yet another trip back to the 1960s. (Launches August 16th; Sundays at 10 pm ET/PT)

Flipping Out (Bravo)
I've missed the delightfully zany Jeff Lewis and Co. so I'm pleased as punch that Bravo is bringing the OCD-suffering real estate speculator and his band of eccentric colleagues and employees back for a third season of real estate hijinks. With the market crashed and prices plummeting, will Jeff be able to keep it together and keep moving forward? Me, I don't really care so long as Jenni and Zoila are along for the ride. (Launches August 17th; Mondays at 10 pm ET/PT)

Project Runway (Lifetime)
New network (Lifetime), new location (LA), and a new start for the sartorial competition series. Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia, and Michael Kors return with a brand-new batch of designers looking to make a name for themselves in the fashion industry. Will the gang be able to make it work at Lifetime? Find out later this summer. (Launches August 20th; Thursdays at 10 pm ET/PT)

Skins (BBC America)
It's a whole new start, meanwhile, for the provocative British teen series Skins, which returns to the States for a third season that features an entirely new cast (save Kaya Scodelario's Effy and Lisa Backwell's Pandora) and a whole new mess of trouble for them to get into in Bristol. (Launches August TBA)

Now that I've detailed just what I'll be tuning in for this summer, I'm curious to know: what will you be watching on these lazy, hazy summer evenings? Discuss.

Comments

K said…
Thanks for the (Earlier) Nurse Jackie tip. I'm loving it. Royal Pains is a bit painful, honestly. And Top Chef Masters, I'll watch, but am not really loving it. It is missing some of the spice that comes with the real ongoing competition of the original.
wooster182 said…
No "Leverage"?
joy said…
Off your list? DW, Royal Pains, Warehouse 13, Being Human, TW, DSM, Mad Men and Skins.

Plus: Closer, Saving Grace, Psych (but I can't remember when it comes back, must be soon because the ads are back in full force), Burn Notice, Solve/Maria (yes, i know), Secret Life (yes, i know), and there's a couple of the new shows that the cablenetlets are launching that I'll probably give a shot.

I'm curious...I tend to think I skew all Nielsen demos all to hell with my TV dance card. Do you think you do the same thing? Or, do you think you're demo agnostic as a critic? Or even as a regular television fan?
Harleypeyton said…
Torchwood and Dr. Who. I picked up the Series Three DVDs for Skins, and it's straight-up terrible. Everything I loved about the first series is missing here. The playful sense of absurdity, the romance of youth, the willingness to explore the less than sympathetic aspects of various characters.

This new season plays like it was written by someone who heard about the first series in a bar. Feh.

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