Skimming Through Summer Television

Summer is a time for outdoor fun: bike rides and ice cream cones, walks in the park and trips to the beach. Except when it’s not. Sometimes rain, excessive heat, mosquitoes, or the occasional chilly day drive us indoors. And sometimes we just want a break. While summer is not historically a good time for television, the networks keep on trying. Here are a handful of new summer shows that might be worth trying.

Keeping It Real
Reality television continues to figure heavily in the summer season. Expect to see still more of the Kardashians and Big Brother (yes, it’s still on). But there are a few newcomers too, and one or two might even be up your alley. The most likely to succeed might be a show that began airing on May 1. “The Big Brain Theorypits engineers against each other in challenges that test their mental might (Discovery). Fans of “Mythbusters” will likely love this too.

I’d be remiss to dismiss Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He seems to be able to draw an audience for almost anything he does, so his larger-than-life show “The Hero” may have some staying power. The Rock coaches people as they compete in harrowing contests to show their “strength, courage, and integrity” and to see who would be the best, well, hero (TNT, June 6).

CBS is said to be offering “Brooklyn D.A.,” a new six-part “documentary” series that follows the work of the District Attorney’s office in Brooklyn. Interestingly, a political rival has filed suit to halt the series, contending that this show amounts to a campaign gift to his opponent from the network. Though it shows up on the CBS schedule as debuting on May 28, as of this writing there is no information on the CBS site, so we’ll see if it ever makes it to the screen.

If you like The Hunger Games, the CW network is hoping you will also like “The Hunt” (July 31). In this show, 12 contestants are put into a large wilderness “arena” for one month without food, water, or shelter. During that time they attempt to capture each other and win a prize of $250,000. If that’s not enough for you, there’s “72 Hours,” the “Survivor”-meets-“Amazing Race” show in which nine contestants are airdropped into the wilderness with only water and a GPS, searching for a briefcase that holds $100,000 (TNT, June 6).

Seriously. On “Survivor” or “The Amazing Race” you spend about a month of your time competing for a million dollars, so why would you bother with these small potatoes? And speaking of potatoes, on both “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” you are guaranteed at least some food and water. All in all, it seems a better investment of time to join up with the grande dames of reality competition. But for someone like, say, my husband, who somewhat sadistically enjoys “Survivor” more when the competitors really have to scratch up something to eat or when it rains incessantly, these newcomers might offer more excitement.

More Games
The networks play their own games. Last fall, two shows were among the list of midseason replacements, presumably intended to fill the gap after some other shows were canceled early. Lots of shows were, predictably, canceled early, but still these two were not brought out as the new hope. Instead they have become summer season fodder, which gives you some idea of the confidence the networks have in them.

Save Me” (NBC, May 23) holds potential to be utterly offensive to Christian viewers. Anne Heche is a bad girl turned prophet—after a near-death experience, God now speaks directly to her. If you remember the early aughts series “Joan of Arcadia,” you’ll remember it as a show that seemed to take itself and its premise somewhat seriously, giving viewers pause to wonder what it would be like to hear from God, out loud, in our daily lives. Based on the trailers, “Save Me” seems to be a parody of that notion, turning communication from God into a one-note joke. In recent interviews Anne Heche applauds the creators for their openness to spiritual questions; it remains to be seen whether or not the show can do anything beyond laugh about them.

Another comedy may sound like the previously mentioned reality competition shows, but this one is completely fictional. “The Goodwin Games” (which premiered on FOX May 20) sets three very different adult siblings against each other in a contest to win the estate of their recently deceased father. This show owes much to “Arrested Development”; if you watched that series, family members like a dutiful, uber-productive citizen, a blonde actress wannabe, and an oddball con man might just sound familiar. Like “Arrested Development,” it is quirky with a goofy sweetness, but the wit is less sharp. Given some time, this show could get its legs, but it’s not likely to be given any time. And it’s hard to imagine how long this concept could be kept alive anyway.

Returning Favorites
Speaking of “Arrested Development,” that comedy-of-the-cult-following is back seven years after it was cancelled. Netflix has picked it up as its own; as of May 26 the entire fourth season, with the original cast, will be available for viewing. This quirky show may or may not be your cup of tea, but fans are receiving it with great enthusiasm.

Likewise, fans of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” will be thrilled to hear that a reboot of the improv comedy show is in the works, scheduled to debut on July 16 on CW.

Summer Adventures
Viewers looking for adventure will have a few choices. First off, on June 8 the British seafaring adventure series “Sinbad,” which was intended for an older family audience like “Doctor Who” or “Sherlock,” begins airing on Syfy. While the one-season series has already aired (and since been cancelled) in Great Britain, this will be the first time around for Syfy viewers. Also, Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” (CBS, June 24) has been adapted for television with King’s trademark creepiness tinged with violence. Previews hint at a well-produced show, albeit for those who enjoy the creep factor.

For a lighter show, viewers might like “King & Maxwell”, based on the David Baldacci novels. Two charming, beautiful people—Rebecca Romijn and Jon Tenney—form a partnership as private investigators (TNT, June 10).

In the event that summer days and nights become too much for you, put some aloe on the sunburn and mosquito bites and settle in with the remote to try something new.

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