While year-round programming is still just a quasi-reality (especially if you’re not into reality TV), with DVD seasons and some summer series, the season is no longer a television wasteland. This summer I enjoyed a number of returning shows (and one new one) and I didn’t watch a single person get voted off of anything! (though I did watch a couple of eps of Jon & Kate Plus Eight — so cute! — and stayed up late watching an ep of … wait for it … Nanny To Go). Anyway… let’s talk about the stuff I intentionally watched:
This is a fun, spoofy new show that owes a lot to X-Files. It’s about a young woman, Wendy Watson (who they call “Dub dub” for short) who ends up apprenticing for a guy known as The Middleman. Equipped with high tech devices and a super-computer in the shape of a surly middle-aged librarian (yes, it’s that kind of humour), they set out to save the world each week from all the dangerously funny weirdness that goes on without our knowledge. It’s on ABC Family, so it’s not as intense or scary as X-Files was. It’s much more tongue-in-cheek, and each episode is absolutely swarming with pop-culture references. Written by former Lost scribe Javier Grillo-Marxuach (based on his comic book series), this one was a surprisingly light and enjoyable.
In its third season, Psych is still a lot of fun. I have no doubt that star James Roday is as obnoxiously charming in real life as his character Shawn Spencer (a guy pretending to be psychic to help the Santa Barbara police department solve crimes). He continues to have Jessica Fletcher-esque luck in stumbling upon murders and other bad goings-on, and I think that the buddy relationship between Shawn and best friend Gus (played by West Wing’s Dule Hill) is as delightfully banter-filled as ever. I know it sounds weird, but I do enjoy a little light murder now and then.
This and Battlestar Galactica are the last two remaining space shows around (and BSG’s in its final season … sniff) so I will continue to watch them no matter how preposterous they might get. That isn’t to say either one of them has gone there yet, in fact Stargate Atlantis is still solid. There have been a handful of episodes so far this season and the rest of the season will finish out the fall, but I am really glad that they switched commanders. Amanda Tapping (from SG-1) has been replaced by Robert Picardo (formerly the doctor from Star Trek Voyager) as Richard Woolsey. Being the new civilian leader of the expedition, he brings his particular brand of bureaucratic stiffness to the character, which I hope will be more humanized as the season goes on (if anyone can pull that off it’s Picardo). They still have yet to introduce a cool new villain or compelling story arc this year, but it’s still early days.
My favourite summer series is actually one of my favourite series on TV. If you’re not familiar with this show about an unemployed spy, you have to check it out (season one is available on DVD). Each episode is a great combination of clever action, interesting character drama blended with Miami salsa. Jeffrey Donovan plays the likeable main character, Michael Westen and I love his voice-over, MacGyverish, spy tips (perfect for those times when I either need to defend myself in a dark street or pull off some covert ops after exhausting my black budget). Last season had a stronger story arc leading up to Michael discovering who got him fired. This season continues that with him being extorted by those same people (featuring guest stars Tricia Helfer from BSG, and Michael Shanks from Stargate) into doing jobs for them. It seems a bit more contrived and less interesting, but the weekly cases (he plays Robin Hood on the side) are as much fun as ever.
As you can see from my choices, summer TV is still focused on the whimsical and light-hearted (which is how I like it anyway). As excited as I am that the new fall season with its full slate of shows is coming just around the corner, with all this great summer viewing, I hardly noticed them gone.