Summer television schedule offers viewers variety
When it comes to television, we’re in a bull market for doomsayers. It’s the end of the broadcast networks, as their signals are pirated and their quality is eclipsed by cable and online shows. It’s the end of commercial TV, as the advertising dollars move to the Internet. It’s the end of entertainment, as attention spans shrink to the length of a YouTube video.
And yet the shows keep coming. The 2013 summer season, which got under way this week, presents worthwhile options even beyond the 34 new and returning series, mini-series, movies and online originals listed in this preview.
The season may be relatively low in the kind of flashy, aspiring water-cooler fare that draws attention these days — of the new shows on the list, only Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” and “The Bridge” on FX truly fit into that category — but it’s relatively high in shows that promise stylish and smart entertainment. USA’s “Graceland,” BBC America’s “Broadchurch” and NBC’s “Crossing Lines” may fit that description, and returnees like Showtime’s “Dexter,” BBC America’s “Being Human” and HBO’s “Newsroom” have already shown that they do.
Striking a seasonal note, two of the summer’s most highly anticipated new shows allow us to spend a significant amount of our couch time at the beach: “Graceland,” set on the Southern California coast but filmed in Florida, and “Ray Donovan,” set in the Los Angeles basin with frequent forays to the expensive sands of Malibu and Santa Monica.
The dominant theme of the summer, though, may be goodbyes, as high-profile series like AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” Showtime’s “Dexter,” USA’s “Burn Notice” and Comedy Central’s “Futurama” begin their final seasons. But that’s probably just a reflection of what are actually boom times for TV: With more shows being made than ever before, there are more leave-takings that deserve notice.
“Longmire” (A&E, Monday) — This dark modern western starring Robert Taylor as a burned-out Wyoming sheriff was one of last summer’s pleasant surprises. As Season 2 starts, Walt Longmire and his combative deputy, Vic Moretti (Katee Sackhoff), are as amusingly irritated with each other as ever.
“Prisoners of War” (Hulu, Tuesday) — The second season of the Israeli series that inspired one of the best shows on U.S. TV, “Homeland,” becomes available online.
“Wizards vs. Aliens” (the Hub, June 1) — Russell T Davies, the driving force behind the modern “Doctor Who,” is a creator of this children’s series about two 16-year-old British boys — one a wizard — battling aliens who look like a cross between Klingons and members of the “Cats” chorus.
“The Killing” (AMC, June 2) — A co-production deal with Netflix saved the show from cancellation, and so Season 3 begins a year after the conclusion of the Rosie Larsen case, with the former detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) working on a ferry dock. Among the central cast, only Enos and Joel Kinnaman, as Linden’s once and future partner, Holder, return.
“The Fosters” (ABC Family, June 3) — The producing team behind the flight-attendant reality series “Fly Girls” turns to fiction with this new teenage drama about lesbian moms raising a family of foster and biological children. Teri Polo and Sherri Saum play the mothers; Jennifer Lopez is an executive producer.
“Mistresses” (ABC, June 3) — In this prime-time soap, based on a British series that ran from 2008 to 2010, extramarital sex is the premise rather than a bonus. Alyssa Milano, Yunjin Kim (of “Lost”), Rochelle Aytes and Jes Macallan are the quartet of friends in this third- or fourth-generation descendant of “Sex and the City.”
“Burn Notice” (USA, June 6) — Season 7 will be a wrap for this long-running (by cable standards) spy dramedy.
“Graceland” (USA, June 6) — This heavily hyped new series is a crime show that combines “The Real World” (seven strangers in a design-catalog beach house) with “Point Break” (uptight rookie and Zen-master veteran sharing surfing lessons and bonfires). Created by Jeff Eastin, creator of USA’s “White Collar,” it’s based on a sand grain of a true story about undercover agents from different federal agencies sharing a Southern California house.
“Primeval: New World” (Syfy, June 8) — This Canadian spinoff of the British series “Primeval” moves the angry-time-traveling-dinosaur action from England to Vancouver, British Columbia, and has an almost entirely new cast, led by Niall Matter, who played the bad boy Zane on Syfy’s “Eureka.”
“Sam & Cat” (Nickelodeon, June 8) — Sam Puckett (Jennette McCurdy) of “iCarly” and Cat Valentine (Ariana Grande) of “Victorious” get their own show in this double spinoff. The preternaturally mature Sam and the ditsy Cat will meet, become friends and start a baby-sitting service.
“King & Maxwell” (TNT, June 10) — Jon Tenney, so dapper as an FBI agent in TNT’s “Closer” and “Major Crimes,” goes scruffy to play a former Secret Service agent turned Washington-based private eye on the channel’s latest lightweight summer crime series (not to be confused with “Rizzoli & Isles”). Rebecca Romijn plays his partner-antagonist.
“Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer” (HBO, June 10) — HBO’s summer documentary series begins with Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s film about the Russian punk band and cause celebre, which won a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
“Inspector Lewis” (PBS, June 16) — With 27 feature-length episodes, Lewis (Kevin Whately) is closing in on his former guv’nor in the Thames Valley police, Inspector Morse, who logged 33. But this summer’s three cases, which lead off the “Masterpiece Mystery!” season, may be Lewis’ last (signals are mixed). “Mystery!” will continue with the Morse prequel “Endeavour,” a new adaptation of “The Lady Vanishes” and the long-awaited seventh season of “Foyle’s War.”
“True Blood” (HBO, June 16) — The “Peyton Place” of erotic supernatural fantasies enters its first season without the daily attention of its creator, Alan Ball, who stepped down as showrunner after Season 5.
“Futurama” (Comedy Central, June 19) — This venerable (it made its debut in 1999) and reliably funny animated sitcom begins its final season, having been canceled for the second time.
“Crossing Lines” (NBC, June 23) — The title of this crime drama is doubly apt: The show is about a team of globe-trotting investigators at the International Criminal Court, and it’s an American-German-French production. Donald Sutherland and William Fichtner star.
“Devious Maids” (Lifetime, June 23) — Last year ABC passed on this show, technically a spinoff of “Desperate Housewives,” but Lifetime stepped in with a 13-episode order. Edy Ganem, Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez, Judy Reyes and Roselyn Sanchez play an unusually attractive group of Beverly Hills domestics.
“Under The Dome” (CBS, June 24) — A town in Maine finds itself cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible dome, which is apparently a bad thing, in this mini-series based on a Stephen King novel.
“Dexter” (Showtime, June 30) — Michael C. Hall’s honorable serial killer reaches the end of the line — one way or another — as this Showtime bellwether enters its eighth and final season.
“Ray Donovan” (Showtime, June 30) — Showtime’s new Emmy-bait drama feels a lot like “The Sopranos” on Sunset Boulevard: A Hollywood fixer who lives in suburban Calabasas makes deals and dispenses violence while coping with his highly strung wife, young children, troubled brothers and menacing gangster father. Liev Schreiber leads an impressive cast that includes Jon Voight, Elliott Gould, Katherine Moennig and Eddie Marsan. The pilot telegraphs the ambitions of the show’s creator, Ann Biderman (“Southland”), with a scene that pays homage to a Gould film that is one of the classics of Southern California noir, Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye.”
“Moone Boy” (Hulu, July 10) — Chris O’Dowd of “Bridesmaids” and “Family Tree” created this series for the British network Sky; it will have its U.S. premiere online at Hulu. O’Dowd plays a young Irish boy’s imaginary friend.
“The Bridge” (FX, July 10) — The latest dark Nordic thriller adaptation, this serial-killer tale shifts the action from the Denmark-Sweden frontier to the U.S.-Mexico border. Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir play the lead cops.
“Orange is the New Black” (Netflix, July 11) — Jenji Kohan, creator of “Weeds,” hops on the Netflix bandwagon with a dark comedy about a Brooklyn woman (Taylor Schilling, of NBC’s “Mercy”) sentenced to a year in federal prison. The series is based on the memoir of the same title by Piper Kerman.
“Being Human” (BBC America, July 13) — With its original ghost, werewolf and vampire gone, this story of supernatural friendship returns for a final season with several new cast members. (Lenora Crichlow, who played Annie the ghost, can be seen on the new ABC sitcom “Back in the Game” this fall.)
“The Newsroom” (HBO, July 14) — Aaron Sorkin’s much maligned drama about romance and idealism in a television newsroom returns for a second season.
“Teen Beach Movie” (Disney, July 19) — Disney’s latest candidate for movie-musical franchisehood zaps two teenagers (Ross Lynch and Maia Mitchell) into an alternate dimension where they’re inside a beach party movie that looks a lot like “Grease.”
“Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove” (Hallmark, July 20) — The channel’s first original scripted series, based on one of Macomber’s series of novels, stars Andie MacDowell as a small-town judge.
“Broadchurch” (BBC America, Aug. 7) — This contemporary murder mystery set in a seaside resort was a hit in Britain, where its eight-episode first season averaged more than 9 million total viewers. David Tennant (“Doctor Who”) stars as a senior detective.