Beyond the rerun: A guide to Summer television

Goodwin Games
From the producers of How I Met Your Mother, The Goodwin Games premiered on May 20.

Not too long ago, the beginning of summer marked the end of the TV season. As a child this annoyed me because summer meant that I finally had free time to watch all the television I wanted, yet nothing was on besides reruns and episodes of Maury. I thought the explanation for this was that people spent more time indoors in the colder months, and therefore, were assumed to watch more television: It didn’t make sense to debut new shows when everyone was outside enjoying the sun and competing in intense games of croquet and bocce ball.

Summer replacement TV sometimes consists of Paris Hilton’s The Simple Life (2003-2007, FOX) or The Real Wedding Crashers (2007, NBC), but it’s far from a wasteland considering some of the best shows have started during the “summertime.” Below is a list of my favorite shows that premiered in the warmer months:

1) The Wire (June 2, 2002; HBO)

2) Seinfeld (July 5, 1989; NBC)

3) Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction (May 25, 1997; FOX)

4) It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (August 4, 2005; FX)

5) Survivor (May 31, 2000; CBS)

6) Six Feet Under (June 3, 2001; HBO)

7) The Real World (May 21, 1992; MTV)

8. Reno 911! (July 23, 2003; Comedy Central)

9) Nip/Tuck (July 18, 2003; FX)

10) Burn Notice (June 28, 2007; USA)

Another explanation for the traditional TV season goes back to the early radio days when there were only a few national advertisers, namely car companies. New cars were always introduced in September, so companies were willing to pay the most to advertise those vehicles in the fall, and ad rates declined as the months progressed. New radio seasons were timed to earn the most money, and television simply adopted the same model.

Regardless of the origin, fall start dates are still used to create buzz and excitement by the networks; however, the traditional season no longer also means a summer TV wasteland or endless reruns of ABC’s Wipeout (not that there’s anything wrong with that) as more and more channels eschew the traditional season all together. Now, some of the best shows continue into the warmer months (Game of Thrones and Mad Men) or have seasons beginning in the summer (The Real Housewives of New Jersey, So You Think You Can Dance?, True Blood, Dexter and my favorite, Breaking Bad).

There is also an increasing number of totally new shows debuting every summer. Some of them have the potential to become favorites or rise to the status of “quality,” while others are worth checking out just because they are completely insane. Here are a few highlights:

The Goodwin Games

FOX, premiered May 20

This summer sitcom features three adult siblings who compete for their father’s $23 million inheritance by engaging in a series of challenges. Produced by the same people as How I Met Your Mother, I was first drawn to the show because I am in love with Scott Foley (from Felicity and more recently, Scandal), but stuck around for the endearing dynamic between the three siblings and the flashbacks that tell the eccentric stories of their lives

Under The Dome

CBS, premiered June 24

This show is an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name, and explores a small Maine town that mysteriously and abruptly finds itself disconnected from the world by a giant, invisible dome. The show is written by Lost alum Brian K. Vaughan and produced by Steven Spielberg, which like it or not, gives the show instant credibility. Plus, similar to every other show this summer, there is a murderer on the loose!

Ray Donovan

Showtime, premiered June 30

Starring Liv Schreiber, Ray Donovan is like the masculinized version of ABC’s Scandal. Schreiber plays a fixer of other people’s problems (mostly those of celebrities and politicians), but his own life is complicated when his father (played by Jon Voight) is released from prison early. Shown sticking a gun in someone’s mouth and dancing around in a towel with a cigarette dangling from his lips in the trailer, Voight looks like a pretty intense father figure to deal with. Because it’s playing on Showtime, there is bound to be lots of nudity (not to be ageist, but finger’s crossed that it’s not Voight’s) for your enjoyment.

The Bridge 

FX, premiered July 10

This show is a Scandinavian remake about two detectives tracking a serial killer active along the U.S.-Mexico border. The show deals with cartels, poverty, immigration and other border issues as the detectives, and an unwillingly involved journalist (played by Matthew Lillard), try to unravel the mystery. The creative forces behind this remake also produce Showtime’s Homeland, which bodes well.

Low Winter Sun

AMC, August 11 premiere

Based on a British miniseries (it’s amazing how many U.S. shows are adapted from foreign programs), this drama is scheduled to follow Breaking Bad on Sunday nights. Low Winter Sun features Mark Strong (from Zero Dark Thirty and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as a Detroit police detective who finds it increasingly difficult to distinguish the cops from the criminals, the good guys from the bad guys. The premise isn’t that unique, but it promises to show us “the dark side” of motor city—as if any of us ever read about its bright side?

Lastly, and not for the faint of heart, there are a slew of other new and crazy shows to check out. Does Someone Have to Go? (FOX, premiered May 23) will make you feel better about your own crappy job as employees take over their companies and vote people out. The Haves and the Have Nots (OWN, premiered May 28) is being called the Downton Abbey of the south, and is a soapy melodrama that explores the relationship between an affluent family and their impoverished employees. While neither of these are practically good, their premises are definitely amusing and both make for good summer guilty pleasures. Plus, watching these two shows—and a few others that I’m too embarrassed to mention here—make me feel all the more thankful that summer TV has come a long way from what I remember as a kid.

Opposite of most people, Melissa Zimdars actually watches more TV in the summer (mostly because she has an irrational fear of lawn darts). 

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