It's that time of year again, when I tell you what's great to watch if you are a couch potato like me. The summer shows are surprisingly good this year, and I have also found that reality TV is playing almost no part in my summer. Which is good--I think supporting scripted television is totally the way to go.
Rizzoli & Isles (TNT Mondays 10pm): This isn't anything particularly special, but it's a competent procedural, and it's nice to see a show with females as the leads in this genre. I always liked Angie Harmon when she was on Law & Order, and Sasha Alexander was great during her stint on NCIS. The two of them are believable as friends, though they're only a few episodes in to the series and are still finding the characters' rhythm. I'm pleased to see Donnie Wahlberg working, since I think he is the less attractive but more talented of the Wahlberg brothers. Main distraction: every time Bruce McGill comes on screen I find myself squealing "D-Day!"
Memphis Beat (TNT Tuesdays 10pm): I'm still not sold on this one yet, but I'm giving it a chance. I like Jason Lee (despite the fact that he's a scientologist) and Alfre Woodard (remember when they played a couple in Mumford?). The cases are not particularly complicated, but they're enough to keep me watching. The side characters are funny, but I think may of them are under-utilized. Also, while I get the whole "Memphis" emphasis, sometimes the constant music cues get to be a little much. I'm not sure if this one is going to improve, since it could very well become extremely monotonous. It's not a "can't miss" but it's serviceable.
White Collar (USA Tuesdays 9pm): Con-man extraordinaire Neal Caffrey is back, and he is just as charming as ever. This season, the mystery of the music box continues, as well as Neal and Peter trying to figure out who killed Kate at the end of season one. The weekly cases are interesting and clever. Matt Bomer is really excellent in the role, and the interplay between him and Tim McKay (as FBI agent Peter Burke) continues to improve. Willie Garson is also still very funny as Neal's underworld friend Mozzie. I give this one a definite thumbs up.
Warehouse 13 (SyFy Tuesdays 9pm): Warehouse agents Myka and Pete are back, trying to keep society safe from the mysterious artifacts that belong in the Warehouse (think the place where the Ark of the Covenant went at the end of Indiana Jones...) Eccentric boss Artie, the mysterious Mrs. Frederic, and computer genius Claudia track artifacts all over the world. It's hard to explain, but for those who are into sci-fi, it's a fun little show. Not a "can't miss" but totally watchable. I just hope the show ends before they finally hook up Myka and Pete, since their current relationship is great to watch.
Psych (USA Wednesdays 10pm): This show has probably "jumped the shark" but I still watch it for the characters. The cases are really sort of lame, but as long as you acknowledge that they're just excuses for the characters to be doing things, they're all right. James Roday--who has written, directed, and produced a surprising number of episodes--and Dule Hill (as "psychic" Shawn and his sidekick, nervous and uptight Gus) make me laugh every single episode. The screenwriters may be struggling for plots, but their dialogue never fails me. Carlton Omundson as the tightly-wound Detective Lassiter is also a treat. As long as you don't expect too much from this, it can be a highly entertaining hour of TV.
Hot in Cleveland (TVLand Wednesdays 10pm): This is an old-school sitcom, "Taped in front of a live studio audience" and all. It has all the typical sitcom cliches, but I have really been enjoying it. Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick star as three women from L.A. who decide to move to Cleveland on a whim. They rent a house that comes with a cantankerous caretaker (Betty White.) They suffer the usual travails of single women in their late 30s-early 40s as well as making the cultural adjustment from Hollywood to the Midwest. The women have good chemistry, and as cheesy as the situations are (blind dates, visiting parents, fashion disasters) it's still fun. Sort of Golden Girls for the new millennium.
Burn Notice (USA Thursdays 9pm): Burn Notice is back once again. This is another show that isn't nearly as innovative as it was in its early seasons, but it's still worth watching, if only for the performances of Jeffrey Donovan (whom I saw throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game! Whoo!) and Bruce Campbell. Anything Bruce Campbell does is okay with me, really. This season, Michael is trying to chase down another giant dangerous conspiracy, with the help of Fiona and young spy Jesse (Coby Bell) whom--unbeknownst to him--Michael accidentally got burned. The question of course being how long Michael can keep his secret from Jesse while ostensibly helping him get his revenge. There hasn't been nearly enough of Sharon Gless as Michael's mother this season, but hopefully that will change.
Royal Pains (USA Thursdays 10pm): I am not sure why I watch this 'private doctor in the Hamptons serving quirky rich people' show, to be honest. I am generally not a fan of medical shows, but for some reason I enjoy this one. I think--as with most USA shows--I'm a fan of the characters, despite the slightly stupid situations they're often subjected to. USA really takes seriously their "Characters Welcome" slogan. While the plots of their shows aren't the greatest, I think as a channel the characters on their original programming are very enticing.
Project Runway (Lifetime Thursdays 8pm): Project Runway starts this Thursday and I am really excited, though not sure that expanding the episodes to 1.5 hours is a good idea. While I like to think we'll get more discussion of the process of designing and watching the designers struggle in the workroom with making their ideas into reality, then defending them on the runway, I have a sneaking suspicion it just means more time for cattiness and crying. They can cry...as long as they cut and cry.
Haven (SyFy Fridays 10pm): This one is not really very good. It's supposedly based on Stephen King's novel The Colorado Kid except it seems to have very little if anything to do with the book as I remember it. FBI agent Audrey Parker comes to small town of Haven for an investigation and decides to stay once she sees a photograph of a mysterious woman who could be her mother. Haven is a weird place full of very quirky locals where people can control the weather and music can drive sane people crazy and crazy people sane, and Audrey kind of digs the weird. She joins the local police force and is partnered with native son Nathan (son of the sheriff) who has a medical condition that doesn't allow him to feel pain. The two of them run around investigating weird happenings (according to locals, it's the return of "The Troubles") while Audrey tries to find out about her past. To be honest, I kind of only watch this for Eric Balfour--who plays town bad boy Duke Crocker--because as it turns out, at some point he got insanely skankiliciously hot. (When did that happen? Last I remember he was gawky and his head was too big and he sort of reminded me of Lurch with a bad goatee.) Anyway, it's another show that people who like sci-fi might like. Or people who like hot guys--Lucas Bryant, who plays Nathan, is fairly attractive as well--might like it too.
True Blood (HBO Sundays at 9): GODDAMN THIS SHOW IS EXCITING! LAFAYETTE HAS A BOYFRIEND AND WHO KNOWS WHAT HIS DEAL IS AND TARA GOT KIDNAPPED BY AN INSANE VAMPIRE BUT SHE ESCAPED AFTER CLUBBING HIM OVER THE HEAD AND I THINK HE IS GOING TO BE REALLY PISSED WHEN HE WAKES UP AND THE KING OF MISSISSIPPI KILLED ERIC'S FAMILY AND HAS HIS FATHER'S CROWN ON DISPLAY WHICH IS KIND OF TACKY NOW ERIC'S OUT FOR REVENGE AND LORENA'S GOT BILL ALL TIED DOWN AND TORTURED AND SOOKIE IS STILL...WELL, VERY WHINY BUT I'M SURE SHE'LL GET IT TOGETHER SOON AND THE QUEEN IS IN A TIGHT SPOT AND SAM'S WHITE TRASH FAMILY ARE FIGHTING HIS BROTHER IN DOGFIGHTS AND JESSICA AND ARLENE SHOULD HAVE A SITCOM AND OKAY SO I TOTALLY FAST FORWARD THROUGH ALL THE JASON PARTS BECAUSE HE BORES ME AND THAT STORYLINE SHOULDN'T EVEN SHOW UP UNTIL BOOK FOUR AND NAZI WEREWOLVES WHAT MORE DO I HAVE TO SAY?!?! *pantpantpantpant* It's not something that everyone will enjoy because really it's just a soap opera with vampires and werewolves and whatnot. However, I am simply mad for it because I am a goob. You should hear me yammering away at The Boyfriend when each episode ends. He tends to nod his head and back away slowly.
We also watch a rather stunning number of cooking shows--particularly Diners, Drive-ins, and & Dives (shout out to Minnesota Missy, who works on the show) and really anything else Guy Fieri is on, and several considerably nerdier cooking shows on PBS. Plus there's an endless parade of sports, plus new Futuramas.
On the whole, it's not a bad summer for TV. I'll be excited to see what's new in the fall but I'm not suffering any withdrawal so far!