Summer TV Preview: 20 Shows to Watch This Summer

  • Comments: ↓ 11 user comments
  • Publish Date: May 12, 2011

May 23: Premiere calendar updated with many new dates and times.

Take a chance on these shows

ImageIt's good that Bad's back

No longer a wasteland of reruns and failed pilots, the summer television season brings a surprisingly large lineup of new and returning programs. Sure, there's plenty of lighter fare, like the breezy dramas that populate TNT and USA, and the reality programs found on every other network. But there are also shows like Breaking Bad and Louie that repeatedly take chances and have them pay off in the form of some of the best television you'll find at any time of the year. This summer will also see the long-awaited return of HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm, the debut of a promising new sci-fi series in Falling Skies, the final seasons of Entourage, The Closer, and Rescue Me, and the arrival of an intriguing new FX comedy, Wilfred.

Below is a listing of key new and returning shows arriving between now and mid-August, followed a complete calendar of summer TV premiere dates.

Key new and returning programs

Alphas
(Syfy, Mondays at 10p starting July 11)

Okay, so Heroes didn't turn out so well after all, but it did start strong, so you can forgive NBCUniversal for returning to the concept once again on cable, where it might play out better. Syfy's new Alphas centers on a team of investigators with extraordinary mental and physical powers -- such as increased strength, immunity from pain, and the ability to influence the actions of others -- who use them to stop threats that the government is unable to prevent. David Strathairn and Malik Yoba star; the pilot was directed by Jack Bender (Lost), and the series was created by veteran screenwriter Zak Penn.

Breaking Bad
(AMC, Sundays at 10p starting July 17)

Bryan Cranston has won three consecutive Emmy Awards for his performance as chemistry teacher-turned-meth-manufacturer Walter White, but we can guarantee he won't win a fourth straight trophy ... only because the fourth season of Breaking Bad doesn't begin until after the eligibility cutoff date. Though the beautifully shot drama series seems to enter darker territory with each successive season, it also somehow gets even better each year (with Metascores of 74, 85 and 89 for its three seasons), and has been heralded by many critics as one of the best shows on television. (We concur.) Season 4, which will likely be the penultimate season for Breaking Bad, picks up immediately after the events of the shocking third season finale and introduces a shocking new development of its own, while later in the year, Walt will face a new competitor in the form of Gus' biochemist brother, Max.

The Closer
(TNT, Mondays at 9p starting July 11)

Though it doesn't get the same level of press as some other cable shows, TNT's long-running crime series is cable's highest-rated drama, and last year star Kyra Sedgwick earned an Emmy for her performance as head of the LAPD's Major Crimes Division. The upcoming 21-episode seventh season of The Closer will be the series' last, though only 10 episodes will actually air this summer; expect five more in the winter and the final six episodes of the series next summer. Joining the cast as a full-time regular is Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica), who has appeared sporadically in the past and could potentially star in a rumored spin-off series when The Closer ends next year.

Commercial Kings
(IFC, Fridays at 10p starting June 24)

Based on the website ilovelocalcommercials.com, IFC's new "docu-comedy" series follows comedians Rhett (McLaughlin) and Link (Neal) around the country as they film low-budget commercials for local small businesses. Given that it's a comedy series, expect the businesses to be especially small and quirky (a one-man trash hauling company, a "green" burial service, a company called Make Me a Pro Wrestler, etc.), and the commercials especially wacky.

Curb Your Enthusiasm
(HBO, Sundays at 10p starting July 10)

It has been 18 months since we last checked in with our wood-respecting hero, but not only is Larry David back, he's heading to New York for the first time in the series. The 10-episode eighth season of HBO's acclaimed comedy will split time between Manhattan and its usual home base of Los Angeles and feature guest stars like Michael J. Fox, Ricky Gervais, Rosie O'Donnell, Michael McKean, and former Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner.

Damages
(DirecTV, Wednesdays tbd starting July 13)

The good news for fans of the intricately plotted legal drama Damages: not only will there be a fourth season this summer, but season 5 will arrive in 2012. The bad news: if you have cable, you won't be seeing either season. Rescued by DirecTV after it was canceled by FX, the acclaimed series will air commercial-free exclusively on the satellite provider's 101 Network. Emmy winner Glenn Close returns along with Rose Byrne, while newcomers include John Goodman, Griffin Dunne, Bailey Chase, and Judd Hirsch, and the story involves a lawsuit over an incident involving a military contractor in a war zone.

Entourage
(HBO, Sundays at 10:30p starting July 24)

Only eight episodes remain in HBO's long-running "comedy" series, which might come as a relief to fans who have stuck with the show through its entire run, only to watch it slowly run out of ideas and momentum. Perhaps a short season and the need to bring about some sort of conclusion will produce an inspired batch of episodes, but then again, maybe not; a big-screen movie with the Entourage characters is reportedly in the works. Christian Slater, Alex Rodriguez, and possibly Charlie Sheen are among the cameos you can expect in the coming episodes, which will show Vince emerging from rehab while Johnny Drama works on his cartoon series, Turtle attempts to open a restaurant with Carmelo Anthony, and Eric signs a new client (The Big Bang Theory's Johnny Galecki, playing a version of himself).

Falling Skies
(TNT, Sundays at 10p starting June 19 at 9p)

Take the post-apocalyptic landscape of The Walking Dead and combine it with the evil alien invaders of V and you have Falling Skies, TNT's new sci-fi series. Six months after militaristic aliens have arrived on Earth and wiped out most of the population, history professor Noah Wyle leads a group of survivors in resistance. Steven Spielberg is an executive producer, while writers on the effects-heavy show include Graham Yost (Justified) and series creator Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan). The network is reportedly so high on the series that they are close to renewing it for a second season; in fact, they have just hired Caprica co-creator Remi Aubuchon to run the show if it comes back for another year.

Futurama
(Comedy Central, Thursdays at 10p starting June 23)

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Good news, everyone! Summer is now the official season of Futurama, with batches of 13 new episodes arriving not just this June, but also in the summers of 2012 and 2013. At this rate, perhaps the once-canceled show will last until the year 3000. One of the two episodes airing on the June 23 premiere night finds Bender with the power to self-replicate (while Patton Oswalt guests as "Unattractive Giant Monster"), and if reports from last year hold true, the final episode of this season will consist of three mini stories each told in a different style of animation.

The Inbetweeners
(BBC America, Saturdays at 11p starting June 18)

A critically acclaimed hit in the UK, The Inbetweeners also impressed American critics when its first two seasons aired on BBC America last year. Now, it's our turn to get the six-episode third season, which aired on Britain's E4 last fall. Often labeled the British equivalent to Freaks & Geeks, the half-hour show follows the (mis)adventures of four high school friends, and it is a bit raunchier than what you'd find on TV in the States, though MTV is currently developing an Americanized version.

Jon Benjamin Has a Van
(Comedy Central, Wednesdays at 10:30p starting June 15)

You may not recognize him by sight, but H. Jon Benjamin is the voice behind some of TV's most memorable animated characters, from the titular spy on Archer to the titular burger-flipper on Bob's Burgers as well as Coach McGuirk on Home Movies and Ben on Dr. Katz Professional Therapist. After appearing in numerous non-animated sketches on Important Things with Demetri Martin, Benjamin now gets his own eponymous show on the same network, Comedy Central. Produced by Funny or Die, the 10-episode series is a fake newsmagazine that finds the comedian traveling across the country "reporting" on stories ranging from hard news to human interest.

Louie
(FX, Thursdays at 10:30p starting June 23)

Image

Sure, on paper, comedian Louis C.K.'s eponymous show sounds like Seinfeld: comedic situations drawn from real life interspersed with portions of a stand-up routine performed at a comedy club. In execution, however, Louie is unlike any show we've ever seen, both funny and fearless, and the result in last year's first season was a program that wound up on numerous critic top ten lists at the end of 2010. Unafraid to jump into dramatic territory, experiment with different styles and formats, and ignore continuity when needed to better tell its stories, Louie has a unique voice, thanks to its star's total involvement (he writes, edits, and directs in addition to appearing in nearly every second of footage). The upcoming second season will include 13 new episodes, which will see co-star Pamela Adlon (Californication) returning.

NTSF:SD:SUV (and Childrens' Hospital)
(Adult Swim, Thursdays at Midnight starting July 21 and June 2, respectively)

A spinoff of the live-action Adult Swim comedy Childrens' Hospital, National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle, or NTSF:SD:SUV for short(ish), is a spoof of primetime crime procedurals. Paul Scheer stars, writes, and produces, and the cast also includes Kate Mulgrew, Martin Starr, Rebecca Romijn, and Rob Riggle. Meanwhile, Childrens' Hospital will also return this summer with a fresh batch of 14 episodes; returning cast members include Rob Corddry, Henry Winkler, Megan Mullally, Lake Bell, and Ken Marino, and guests will include Sarah Silverman and Jon Hamm.

Platinum Hit
(Bravo, Mondays at 10p starting May 30)

While nearly every reality competition show these days has amateurs trying to out-sing one another, no show has asked its contestants to write the songs in the first place ... until now. Hoping to do for songwriting what Project Runway did for fashion design and Top Chef did for the culinary arts, Platinum Hit features a dozen aspiring songwriters competing for a publishing deal and a cash prize of $100,000. Singer-songwriter Jewel hosts the 10-week series, while guest judges will include Donna Summer and Jermaine Dupri.

Rescue Me
(FX, Tuesdays at 10p starting July 12)

The seventh and final season of Rescue Me, FX's long-running drama starring Denis Leary as a New York City firefighter, will include just nine episodes, culminating in the series finale on September 6. That gives Leary's troubled Tommy Gavin character little time left to find the redemption that he seeks.

Teen Wolf
(MTV, Mondays at 10p starting Sunday June 5 at 11p)

Though the 1985 Michael J. Fox movie on which this new series is based took a lighthearted approach to lycanthropy, MTV's Teen Wolf promises to be a darker, more serious affair, with a bit of high school drama thrown in for good measure. OK, so it's really just Twilight in series form. (Why the network needed to associate the show with a goofy movie that no MTV viewer has ever seen still escapes us.) Tyler Posey stars as Scott McCall, a newly bitten werewolf dealing with his newly acquired powers, which make him stronger, faster, more attractive to women, good at lacrosse, and prone to going shirtless. Presumably, he also has some problems.

Torchwood
(Starz, Fridays at 8p starting July 10)

Titled Torchwood: Miracle Day, the fourth season of the hit BBC sci-fi series -- originally, a spinoff of Doctor Who -- is now officially a joint US-UK production, and will take place largely in Los Angeles, though it's not quite a full series reboot. Retaining the serialized, miniseries format of previous season Children of Earth, Miracle Day will spend its 10 episodes unfolding a story that begins when, for unknown reasons, the human population stops dying. Mekhi Phifer, Bill Pullman, and Lauren Ambrose star alongside Torchwood veterans John Barrowman and Eve Myles.

True Blood
(HBO, Sundays at 9p starting June 26)

HBO's hit vampire series returns for a 12-episode fourth season based, appropriately enough, on the fourth novel (Dead to the World) in Charlaine Harris' The Southern Vampire Mysteries. As in the book, the season begins when vampire Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) loses his memory -- all 1,000 years of it -- though the big story of the season will be the witches who arrive in Bon Temps and pose a threat for the town's other supernatural inhabitants.

Web Therapy
(Showtime, Tuesdays at 11p starting July 19)

While HBO gave us In Treatment, Showtime takes a much more lighthearted approach to psychotherapy in Web Therapy, which marks the return to the small screen for Lisa Kudrow. (Originally, the show aired on an even smaller screen online, but those episodes have now been edited together into 30-minute installments.) The former Friends star (who had a previous pay cable show in The Comeback) takes the lead as Dr. Fiona Wallice, who has a unique approach to her practice: she sees her patients in three-minute sessions, once a week, via webcam. Fortunately for us, those patients will include comedy veterans like Jane Lynch, Courteney Cox, Rashida Jones, and Bob Balaban, who are given free rein to improvise during their "sessions."

Wilfred
(FX, Thursdays at 10p starting June 23)

Yet another TV comedy about an introverted man who sees his neighbor's real-life dog as a man dressed in a dog suit, Wilfred is a remake of the Australian series of the same name. (OK, so it's the only such comedy, and the early word from industry observers is that it has one of the funniest pilots in recent years.) Elijah Wood stars, and creator Jason Gann reprises his role as the dog Wilfred from the original. Ed Helms, Rashida Jones, Mary Steenburgen, Jane Kaczmarek, and Lost's Nestor Carbonell will guest.

Calendar of premiere dates

Week of May 22, 2011
Date Time Show Type Network
Mon 5/23 8p The Bachelorette Reality competition ABC
Tue 5/24 12:30a Soul Quest Overdrive NEW Animation/comedy Adult Swim
Thu 5/26 9p 4th & Forever NEW Reality Current TV
Thu 5/26 8p So You Think You Can Dance Reality competition Fox
Week of May 29, 2011
Date Time Show Type Network
Mon 5/30 8p Basketball Wives Reality VH1
Mon 5/30 9p Single Ladies NEW Drama/comedy VH1
Mon 5/30 10p Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition NEW Reality ABC
Mon 5/30 10p Platinum Hit NEW Reality competition Bravo
Mon 5/30 10p Surprise Homecoming NEW Reality TLC
Tue 5/31 9p America's Got Talent Reality competition NBC
Tue 5/31 10p Love Handles NEW Reality Lifetime
Tue 5/31 10p Million Dollar Decorators NEW Reality Bravo
Wed 6/1 9p Franklin & Bash NEW Drama TNT
Wed 6/1 9p Man vs. Food Nation NEW Reality/food Travel Channel
Wed 6/1 9p Haunted Collector NEW Reality Syfy
Wed 6/1 10p Hollywood Treasure Reality Syfy
Wed 6/1 10p Sand Masters NEW Reality Travel Channel
Wed 6/1 10p Love in the Wild NEW Reality competition NBC
Wed 6/1 10p Men of a Certain Age Comedy/drama TNT
Wed 6/1 10p The World According to Paris NEW Reality Oxygen
Thu 6/2 10p Love Bites NEW Drama/comedy NBC
Thu 6/2 10p NY Ink NEW Reality TLC
Thu 6/2 Midnight Childrens' Hospital Comedy Adult Swim
Fri 6/3 9p Whale Wars Reality Animal Planet
Week of June 5, 2011
Date Time Show Type Network
Sun 6/5 9p The Next Food Network Star Reality competition Food Network
Sun 6/5 9p Ice Road Truckers Reality History
Sun 6/5 10p Mancations NEW Reality/travel Travel Channel
Sun 6/5 10p The Glades Drama A&E
Sun 6/5 10p The Real L Word Reality Showtime
Mon 6/6 8p Masterchef Reality competition Fox
Mon 6/6 8p My Yard Goes Disney NEW Reality HGTV
Mon 6/6 8:30p House Hunters on Vacation NEW Reality HGTV
Mon 6/6 9p HGTV'd NEW Reality HGTV
Mon 6/6 9p Switched at Birth NEW Drama ABC Family
Mon 6/6 10p Teen Wolf NEW Drama MTV
The first episode also airs the night before (6/5) at 11p.
Tue 6/7 9p White Collar Drama USA
Tue 6/7 10p Covert Affairs Drama USA
Wed 6/8 9p Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman Science Science
Thu 6/9 10p Ridiculousness NEW Comedy MTV
Week of June 12, 2011
Date Time Show Type Network
Sun 6/12 9p The Glee Project NEW Reality competition Oxygen
Sun 6/12 10p Keeping Up with the Kardashians Reality E!
Sun 6/12 10:30p Ice Loves Coco NEW Reality E!
Tue 6/14 8p Pretty Little Liars Drama ABC Family
Tue 6/14 9p The Nine Lives of Chloe King NEW Drama ABC Family
Tue 6/14 9p Memphis Beat Drama TNT
Tue 6/14 10p Gene Simmons Family Jewels Reality A&E
Tue 6/14 10p Hawthorne Drama TNT
Wed 6/15 10p Rocco's Dinner Party NEW Reality competition Bravo
Wed 6/15 10p Toddlers & Tiaras Reality TLC
Wed 6/15 10p Hot in Cleveland Comedy TV Land
Wed 6/15 10:30p Happily Divorced NEW Comedy TV Land
Wed 6/15 10:30p Jon Benjamin Has a Van NEW Comedy Comedy Central
Sat 6/18 9p Outcasts NEW Sci-fi BBC America
Sat 6/18 11p The Inbetweeners Comedy BBC America
Sat 6/18 11:30p Come Fly With Me NEW Comedy BBC America
Week of June 19, 2011
Date Time Show Type Network
Sun 6/19 9p Drop Dead Diva Drama Lifetime
Sun 6/19 9p Falling Skies NEW Sci-fi TNT
The first episode is two hours and begins at 9p; subsequent episodes will air at 10p.
Sun 6/19 10p Ryan and Tatum: The O'Neals NEW Reality OWN
Sun 6/19 Midnight Mongo Wrestling Alliance Animation/comedy Adult Swim
Mon 6/20 8p ET Countdown with Keith Olbermann News Current TV
Mon 6/20 9p RuPaul's Drag U Reality competition Logo
Tue 6/21 8p History Detectives Documentary PBS
Tue 6/21 9p 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show NEW Game show ABC
Tue 6/21 10p The Hot Zone NEW Drama ABC
Tue 6/21 10p POV Documentary PBS
Wed 6/22 9p I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant Reality TLC
Wed 6/22 10p The Real World/Road Rules Challenge Reality competition MTV
Thu 6/23 8p Wipeout Game Show ABC
Thu 6/23 9p Burn Notice Drama USA
Thu 6/23 9p Expedition Impossible NEW Reality competition ABC
Thu 6/23 10p Rookie Blue Drama ABC
Thu 6/23 10p Futurama Animation/comedy Comedy Central
Thu 6/23 10p Suits NEW Drama USA
Thu 6/23 10p Wilfred NEW Comedy FX
Thu 6/23 10:30p Louie Comedy FX
Fri 6/24 10p Commercial Kings NEW Reality IFC
Fri 6/24 10:30p Young, Broke & Beautiful NEW Reality IFC
Sat 6/25 10p Carson-Nation NEW Reality/fashion OWN
Week of June 26, 2011
Date Time Show Type Network
Sun 6/26 9p Leverage Drama TNT
Sun 6/26 9p True Blood Drama HBO
Sun 6/26 10p The Marriage Ref Reality NBC
Mon 6/27 10p Weeds Comedy Showtime
Mon 6/27 10:30p The Big C Comedy/drama Showtime
Wed 6/29 8p Melissa & Joey Comedy ABC Family
Wed 6/29 8:30p State of Georgia NEW Comedy ABC Family
Wed 6/29 9p Royal Pains Drama USA
Wed 6/29 10p Behind the Music Music VH1
Wed 6/29 10p Necessary Roughness NEW Drama USA
Thu 6/30 10p Extreme Chef NEW Reality/food Food Network
Thu 6/30 10:30p Ugly Americans Animation/comedy Comedy Central
Week of July 3, 2011
Date Time Show Type Network
Thu 7/7 9p Big Brother Reality competition CBS
Show will air Wednesdays at 8p, Thursdays at 9p (live on East Coast), and Sundays at 8p
Fri 7/8 9p Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta Reality TLC
Fri 7/8 10p Torchwood Sci-fi Starz
Week of July 10, 2011
Date Time Show Type Network
Sun 7/10 9p Tough Love Reality competition VH1
Sun 7/10 10p Curb Your Enthusiasm Comedy HBO
Sun 7/10 10p Famous Food NEW Reality competition VH1
Mon 7/11 8p Eureka Sci-fi Syfy
Mon 7/11 9p Warehouse 13 Sci-fi Syfy
Mon 7/11 9p The Closer Drama TNT
Mon 7/11 10p Rizzoli & Isles Drama TNT
Mon 7/11 10p Alphas NEW Sci-fi Syfy
Mon 7/11 10p HGTV Design Star Reality competition HGTV
Tue 7/12 10p Rescue Me Drama FX
Wed 7/13 9p Ghost Hunters International Reality Syfy
Wed 7/13 9:30p The Franchise: A Season with the San Francisco Giants NEW Reality Showtime
Wed 7/13 10p Legend Quest NEW Reality Syfy
Wed 7/13 tbd Damages Drama DirecTV
Thu 7/14 11p The Green Room with Paul Provenza Talk Showtime
Fri 7/15 10p Haven Sci-fi Syfy
Week of July 17, 2011
Date Time Show Type Network
Sun 7/17 10p Breaking Bad Drama AMC
Tue 7/19 9p Hell's Kitchen Reality competition Fox
Tue 7/19 11p Web Therapy NEW Comedy Showtime
Thu 7/21 Midnight NTSF:SD:SUV NEW Comedy Adult Swim
Week of July 24, 2011
Date Time Show Type Network
Sun 7/24 9p Same Name NEW Reality CBS
Sun 7/24 10:30p Entourage Comedy HBO
Sun 7/24 11:30p The Venture Bros. Animation/comedy Adult Swim
Wed 7/27 8p Are We There Yet? Comedy TBS
Week of July 31, 2011
Date Time Show Type Network
Tue 8/2 9p Take the Money and Run NEW Reality competition ABC
Fri 8/5 10p Whisker Wars NEW Reality IFC
Sat 8/6 11:30p Friday Night Dinner NEW Comedy BBC America
Week of August 7, 2011
Date Time Show Type Network
Mon 8/8 8p Bachelor Pad Reality competition ABC
Mon 8/8 10p Karaoke Battle U.S.A. NEW Reality competition ABC
Week of August 14, 2011
Date Time Show Type Network
Sun 8/14 9p The Great Food Truck Race Reality competition Food Network
Sun 8/14 9:30p In the Flow with Affion Crockett NEW Comedy Fox
Tue 8/16 9p Downsized Reality WE
Still Unscheduled But Expected in Summer
Expected Show Type Network
tba Against the Wall NEW Drama Lifetime
tba Bar Rescue NEW Reality Spike TV
July Big Rich Texas NEW Reality Style
June Billy the Exterminator Reality A&E
tba Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew Reality VH1
tba Deadliest Warrior Reality Spike TV
tba Fearless Kitchen NEW Reality OWN
August Flipping Out Reality Bravo
tba Forever Young NEW Reality TV Land
tba Friends with Benefits NEW Comedy NBC
tba Garo Unleashed NEW Reality/fashion Sundance
July Giuliana & Bill Reality Style
tba The Hour NEW Drama BBC America
tba Inkmasters NEW Reality Spike TV
July Iron Man NEW Animation/action G4
tba It's Worth What? NEW Game show NBC
August LA Ink Reality TLC
tba Ludo Bites America NEW Reality/food Sundance
August Man vs. Wild Reality Discovery
tba Million Dollar Mind Game NEW Game show ABC
tba Moonshiners NEW Reality Discovery
tba Most Lethal NEW Reality competition Spike TV
tba Mountain Men of Alaska NEW Reality Discovery
tba Oliver Stone's Secret History of America NEW Documentary Showtime
tba Project Runway Reality competition Lifetime
tba The Protector NEW Drama Lifetime
tba Quirky NEW Reality Sundance
August The Rachel Zoe Project Reality Bravo
tba Rollin' Around the World NEW Travel OWN
tba Shoebox Sessions NEW Reality Sundance
tba Ton of Cash NEW Reality competition VH1
tba Who's Still Standing? NEW Game show NBC
July Wolverine NEW Animation/action G4
tba Work of Art: The Next Great Artist Reality competition Bravo

All times are ET/PT unless otherwise indicated.

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Comments (11)

  • Jorda  

    Looking forward to the return of Breaking Bad, that show is so intense. The show I am looking most forward to however, is the return of Spartacus. Season 2 has been in the making for so long now, there is no way it could be bad, unless the new Spartacus actor sucks. Either way, hopefully it comes back within a reasonable amount of time (preferably before the end of the year).

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