Summer TV's not the old song and dance anymore. It's the new song and dance, with NBC's America's Got Talent and Fox's So You Think You Can Dance (both premiered in May) leading the charge of reality shows.
They'll try to marry people off (The Bachelorette is back) or stick them in a box until they blow the roof off (Big Brother premieres July 7). And enough freaks and fakes, not to mention chefs with their fryers and fricassees, will fill the tube to give everyone a huge tummy ache.
The heck with them. We like TV the old-fashioned way, scripts and acting. Summertime used to be a graveyard of repeats, but TV's newfangled summertime offers plenty of opportunity for original programming.
Before we start, a reminder: The networks have developed some fine sitcoms in recent years, and summer's a great time to catch up with good ones you may have missed: Raising Hope on Fox; The Middle, Modern Family, and Cougar Town on ABC; Mike & Molly and The Big Bang Theory on CBS; and Community and Parks and Recreation on NBC.
On Wednesday, TNT's Franklin & Bash (**) premiered, and Men of a Certain Age (***) returned. Here's a selective rundown of new and returning scripted series that are on the way, with recommendations based on past seasons, early screening, previews, or just plain buzz:
Love Bites (*) Little promotion bodes poorly for this NBC hour-long comedy, which features a revolving door of B-list guest stars. Premieres Thursday.
The Glades (***) A & E's entrancing cop series returns, with Matt Passmore as the policeman who retires to Florida but does not get away from it all. Premieres Sunday.
Teen Wolf (**) It's been 26 years since the Michael J. Fox movie. Twenty-six-year-olds are at the far end of the MTV audience, so most viewers will not be surprised by this much darker show with the same name. Sunday.
Switched at Birth (**) Teen girls discover they have spent their lives with the wrong families. One is deaf. ABC Family. Monday.
White Collar (**) and Covert Affairs (**) USA standbys - crime and action delivered with a light touch - return Tuesday.
Battlestar Galactica (****) BBC America bought rights to the reruns from SyFy and will run the entire series from the start, beginning June 11. It's not just some space-cowboy rocket show. Galactica (rightfully) won the Peabody Award, and this is one of the summer's big events.
The Protector (***) An extra critical star for Ally Walker as the acting star of this Lifetime series about an L.A. detective balancing work and motherhood. June 12.
Memphis Beat (**) and HawthoRNe (**) TNT summer standbys, a touch drippier than USA's, return June 14.
Pretty Little Liars (**) Pretty little girls, and ordinary-looking ones, too, along with a complement of grown-ups, have made this simultaneously sunny and slightly creepy series a big winner at ABC Family. June 14.
Hot in Cleveland (**), TV Land fave with Betty White returns, and Happily Divorced (**) premieres. It's about Fran Drescher and her ex-husband, Peter Marc Jacobson, who turned out to be gay. But because it's a sitcom, not a reality show, Jacobson produces and John Michael Higgins plays him. Also features Rita Moreno. June 15.
Falling Skies (***) TNT's Big Deal sci-fi series from Steven Spielberg stars Noah Wyle and his family fighting the aliens. He's a historian, not a librarian, this time. June 19.
Masterpiece Mystery (***) Three new Poirots and a Miss Marple kick off the series this summer. It ends in the fall with four new Inspector Lewises. PBS. June 19.
Rookie Blue (**) An extra star for the adorable Missy Peregrym (see The Protector), one of the rookie cops in this lightweight Canadian import that was ABC's highest-rated summer show last year. June 23.
Wilfred (****) Everybody but Elijah Wood and the audience sees a cute little doggy. We see an oaf in a dog suit. Hugely hilarious in a boyo way. FX. June 23, right before the return of Louie (***), starring comedian Louis C.K. as his supposed schlub self.
Suits (**) Big-shot lawyer hires young genius with questionable credentials. High-profile cases mingle with mishaps, following the return of spy-jinx Burn Notice (**). USA. June 23.
True Blood (****) This time, witches join the Sookie Stackhouse Southern-fried supernatural on HBO's best-of-the-bunch vampire-aganza. June 26.
Leverage (**) Timothy Hutton returns, scamming his way into our hearts and the pockets of the bad guys. TNT. June 26.
Weeds (***) and The Big C (***). Twin comedies with likable stars return, offering contrast. Mary-Louise Parker and Co. are way offbeat, while Laura Linney comes down on the poignant side. June 27.
State of Georgia (**) Former Inquirer reporter and hugely successful author Jennifer Weiner journeys into the world of sitcom with this one starring Raven Symone as an aspiring New York actress. ABC Family. June 29.
Necessary Roughness (**) stars Callie Thorne as therapist to an NFL team, premiering after the return of Royal Pains (***), USA's best blue-skies series. June 29.
Torchwood: Miracle Day (***) Starz doesn't just pick up existing BBC episodes of the cult sci-fi fave. It makes a whole batch of new ones depicting a frightening world in which no one dies. July 8.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (****) Larry David got bored again and called his friends, and they finally figured it out: He's a social assassin. Julia Roberts and Michael J. Fox show up, as Larry takes Manhattan. HBO. July 10.
Rescue Me (***) Denis Leary returns for his seventh and final go-round in this hard-hitting tragicomedy, and there aren't many of those going around. FX July 12.
Breaking Bad (****) When it comes back for its fourth season, this one, about a run-of-the-mill high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer and sinks ever deeper into the crime world, will be the best series on television. AMC. July 17.
Entourage (**) Maybe it takes refined taste to fall in love with this inside-baseball Hollywood comedy. Whatever it takes, a lot of people have it. July 24.