Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Lovin': Seven Shows to Beat the Summer Doldrums

Summer, especially right now, can be quite the TV wasteland. In recent years, however, the cable channels have started giving us some original scripted programming to somewhat mitigate the withdrawal symptoms! Even so, it’s quite strange to go from having at least one show to watch almost every night to only watching two or three shows a week. This summer on the blog, Sarah and I will mostly be covering what we like to call “Summer TV Rewinds” (older shows we’re rewatching on DVD) and “Summer DVR Dumps” (shows from this past season that we didn’t blog as they were broadcast). Specifically, this summer, expect to read about “Downton Abbey,” “Sherlock,” “The River,” and “Homeland.” For new TV, I’ll also be covering HBO’s “The Newsroom,” written and created by the incomparable Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin. For this post, though, I’m going to highlight a few shows that I plan to watch, but not blog this summer. These shows are all highly entertaining, but they either don’t fit neatly into the blog schedule (because they will run into the beginning of the Fall regular TV season) or aren’t really suited to regular blogging because of their more procedural nature. So instead of, you know, going outside and enjoying the warm weather with a family cookout or something, watch these shows instead!


Premieres: Monday, June 11 at 9:00 PM on ABC Family (catch up with the pilot on, then check out Episode 2 later tonight)

The Bottom Line: “Bunheads” is a new dramedy by “Gilmore Girls” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. Broadway darling Sutton Foster plays Michelle, a Las Vegas showgirl who gets whisked away to a very small California town called Paradise when she impulsively marries a rather creepy (but rich) fan played by Alan Ruck. In Paradise, Michelle clashes with her new mother-in-law (played by “Gilmore Girls” alum Kelly Bishop) and potentially finds her new calling when she bonds with four of her mother-in-law’s ballet students. Two things about the show give me pause. First, there’s a major twist at the end of the pilot that I think could make the tone of the rest of the series completely different, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. Second, since this is an ABC Family show, I’m afraid that the creative team will be directed to focus more on the four teenage dancers instead of the much more interesting Michelle and her new family. Overall, though, I’m a sucker for shows with quirky, strong female leads (e.g. “Wonderfalls,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Suburgatory,” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), and “Bunheads” as it appeared in the pilot certainly fits that bill.

The LA Complex

Premieres: Tuesday, July 17 at 9:00 PM on The CW

The Bottom Line: “The LA Complex” is a Canadian import about a bunch of young adults (most of them Canadian) who are trying to start careers in the LA entertainment industry. All but one of the characters live at the Deluxe Suites (aka “The Luxe”), a long-term stay low-end motel with a neon-lit pool and an in-house indie band called Whale Tooth that plays music to create atmosphere at all times of day or night. While this sounds kind of cheesy, the show has depth because none of the characters are really all that successful. They are really struggling to get their careers started (or make a comeback, in one character’s case), and they struggle most deeply with their own self-doubt. The cast includes the lovely Jewel State, who has appeared on a number of favorite shows of mine at different stages in my life, starting with “Space Cases” and also including “Wonderfalls” and “Firefly.” The show also has a lot of uniquely Canadian charm. Leave it to Canadians to make a porn company look like a big happy family, for instance. Anyway, if you’re in the mood for a pure juicy soap with a side of Canadian cheese to beat the heat this summer, catch up on season 1 (most of the six episodes are up on Hulu) and check out season 2 when it premieres on the CW this July.

Warehouse 13

Premieres: Monday, July 23 at 9:00 PM on SyFy

The Bottom Line: Warehouse 13, entering season 4 this July, is a very clever genre show on Syfy. We follow Secret Service agents Pete and Myka, with the help of their friends Artie and Claudia, as they go on adventures to retrieve dangerous magical artifacts. These artifacts are all kept at Warehouse 13, which is only the latest in a very long line of Warehouses, each located in the center of civilization of its time. My personal favorite past warehouse is Warehouse 12, which was located in the UK. The top agents there were H.G. Wells herself (yes, in the Warehouse mythology, H.G. Wells was actually a woman, played by Jaime Murray, most recently of “Ringer”) and her assistant, played by “Torchwood’s” Gareth David-Lloyd. Anyway, what makes “Warehouse 13” a fun summer show is the camaraderie between the characters. They are truly a found family. The history nerd in me also appreciates the efforts to weave the artifacts into the fabric of American history.


Premieres: Monday, July 23 at 10:00 PM on SyFy

The Bottom Line: “Alphas,” which will be starting season 2 this July, is the story of a group of people with superpowers who work to bring rogue people with superpowers under control. What is interesting about “Alphas” is that the powers tend to come with a cost. For instance, one of the characters has super senses, but she can only use one super sense at a time, and it also makes her have some OCD tendencies. The Alphas had been kept secret by the government, but at the end of last season, they went public. I’m looking forward to seeing how the public will react to their existence. The only caveat is that last season’s showrunner, Ira Steven Behr, has left the show. Behr is what made “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” the complex, arc-driven show it was, and I think his presence will be sorely missed on “Alphas.”

White Collar

Premieres: Tuesday, July 10 at 9:00 PM on USA

The Bottom Line: “White Collar” is sort of a TV version of “Catch Me If You Can,” with convicted con man Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) working with FBI agent Peter Burke to solve white collar crimes. I like “White Collar” because it delves a bit deeper into the characters than the typical USA show. The Neal/Peter bromance is fun to watch. I also like the very healthy marriage between Peter and his wife Elizabeth, even if it does mean he tells her a lot more about his cases than he should. Only Coach and Tami on "Friday Night Lights" are better, really. At the end of last season, Neal and his friend Mozzie had skipped the country (it’s complicated), so the beginning of next season will take place on a tropical island. Good times should be had by all for sure.


Premieres: It’s been back on for a while now. It’s literally on my TV right now. Check it out on SyFy!

“Eureka,” now in its final season, is about a secret town in Oregon where the country’s best scientists do R&D for the Department of Defense. Inevitably, something goes wrong each week, and hapless Sheriff Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) has to save the day. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know these quirky characters and the town in which they live very well. The show also has the unique distinction of making scientists look really cool, and it makes science look like fun. I think we could use more television like that, really. The show got even better when the powers that be decided to employ geek culture ambassadors Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton to play frequently recurring scientist characters. We’ve followed all these characters through several major changes, including an alternate timeline that stuck, and I’m not sure I’ll be ready to let them go at the end of this season.


Premieres: Sunday, July 15 at 8:00 PM on TNT

The Bottom Line: “Leverage” follows the adventures of a group of sort-of reformed con artists who have decided to form their own company and become vigilantes of a sort. They like to say that they pick up where the law leaves off. Again, this is a show with extremely well drawn characters. There’s Nate, the functioning alcoholic who leads the team, Sophie the insecure grifter, Parker the uber-thief, Hardison the know-it-all hacker, and Eliot the hitter with a heart of gold. The plots can sometimes be a little repetitive, but it’s just a lot of fun to spend time with these characters each week. I’m a sucker for caper movies and shows ("Sneakers" has been a favorite of mine for years), so “Leverage” is go-to summer television for me.

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