Summer TV 2010

Sun is shining, weather is nice, perfect time to stay inside and watch TV, right? Well with all the new and returning shows, that’s probably what the networks would like you to think. Summer TV has definitely been growing over the past few years. Besides the bevy of reality shows, there are a number of scripted shows that might be worth stepping away from the BBQ for. Here’s the lowdown on ones that I’ve watched.

True Blood picks up precisely where its previous season ended. After defeating Maryanne and her bacchanal of craziness, Bill proposed to Sookie, but before she could squeal I do, he was kidnapped. This season we get to meet his werewolf kidnappers as well as even more vampires, shape-shifters, and a whole menagerie of characters, as the show continues its wild ride over the top.

Leverage is about a crew of robin-hooding thieves that was great when it debuted, but became ridiculous in its 2nd season. In season three, the cartoonish undercover scenes have been replaced by smarter plots. Plus, the characters have jelled into more of a pseudo-family, so the interactions are much better. I had wanted to give up on this show last season, but now I think I’ll keep watching.

Pretty Little Liars is a cross between the movies “Heathers” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer”. A clique of girls comes back to school after some recovery time away. A past incident that they all want to keep hushed begins to bubble up as their mutual BFF is found dead. Surprisingly, the girls continue to get texts and messages from her, threatening to reveal their secrets and mess up their little teen lives. Even if you aren’t a big fan of teen melodrama, this series is a wonderful guilty pleasure. It’s all delicious fun.

Drop Dead Diva, Jane, faces another season of interesting cases that fall squarely into “Ally McBeal” territory and guardian-angel Fred goes to work for nemesis Kim as her assistant. Hopefully funny girl Margaret Cho gets more of a meaty role this season (see how Archie Panjabi works it on The Good Wife?), but I’m sure this will be another season of heart-warming dramedy.

Lost may be gone, but Persons Unknown is not the low budget suspense drama to take its place. When a group of seemingly-unrelated strangers are kidnapped and awaken in an empty hotel in an artificial town in the middle of nowhere, viewers are left with a whole lot of questions. Despite the lack of the same dramatic storytelling that made Lost gripping (and in spite of the harshly lit, unnatural way the scenes are all shot), this show has enough plot twists and cliffhangers to keep me interested — at least for a little while.

I’m fading fast on The Gates, though. A cross between “Twilight” and Desperate Housewives, this show about a gated community where vampires, werewolves, and witches are all trying to lead normal, suburban lives seems like a messy mashup where I still don’t care about any of the characters. Without the quirkiness of True Blood or Twin Peaks, everything seems stereotypical, despite the relatively unique premise.

Tim Roth is back in Lie To Me as the smug and obnoxious Cal Lightman, a.k.a. Dr. Lie-detector. As much as I enjoyed past episodes, I am glad that the show runners have decided to make the stories more about character than the pseudoscience of lie detection. I’m hoping that we’ll also get more of the side characters coming to centre stage this season (A little Lightman goes a long way!).

Verdict is still out on Scoundrels, a new series about a family of crooks whose matriarch, played by the always-interesting Virginia Madsen, decides that they need to go straight after daddy-crook, played by a surprisingly-cast-against-type Davis James Elliot, is sent to prison for 5 years. The kids are mostly quite annoying, and continually confound mom’s efforts, but I am enjoying the youngest daughter, who is like the reincarnation of Darlene from Roseanne.

What if the Sex in the City girls ended up in Cleveland and lived in a house with Betty White? That’s the gist of surprisingly funny new sitcom Hot in Cleveland. Naturally, White steals the scene most times, but sitcom vets Valerie Bertinelli (One Day at a Time), Jane Leeves (Frasier), and Wendie Malick (Just Shoot Me) can often hold their own. There’s definitely a girly vibe about this show, but I find myself laughing a few times each episode. What more do I expect?

Unnatural History is a fun kids show where main character Henry Griffin is sent away from the most remote and exotic places in the world (where he grew up with his adventurous anthropologist parents) to live in the U.S. and attend school in a museum (I know, this happens to every kid, right?). Each week Henry (with his Potter-esque cohorts: awkward, nerdy cousin Jasper, and cute-yet-smart girl-buddy Maggie) solve the historically-based cases (Henry stumbles upon them like Jessica Fletcher finds dead bodies) that the adults can’t.

Burn Notice — Michael “The-burned-spy” Westen is back for his 4th season, using his covert ops tactics to help Miami residents in need. This time he adds one more to his crew: Coby Bell plays Jesse, a former counter-intelligence agent who also got burned. Jesse’s a much-needed breath of fresh air who adds energy to the group dynamic (of Fee and Sam, and even Michael’s mother), so I hope it’s going to be a while before Jesse learns the truth — it was Michael who burned him (but not on purpose,OK?)

Good news everyone! The Planet Express crew are back on the air. So far the new Futurama episodes have been only OK (a spoof of Apple and the iPhone? We get it! Fanboys equals zombies. Move on!) but nevertheless there are some bright spots, including Leela’s singing boil named Susan. Get it? Susan? Boil? Singing? I know. The jokes seem a bit five-minutes-ago, but it’s just nice to see Fry and the gang back. I mean if they can do it for Family Guy, they owe Futurama at least this much!

Phew! That’s a lot of shows! Where’s my lemonade? Anyway, I hope that gives you a little taste. Pick the ones you might like after a day at the beach or maybe you’ll stumble upon one while checking out what channels show up on the motel TV. In any case, the main theme for summer is fun, so enjoy!

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