May 23: Premiere calendar updated with many new dates and times.
Take a chance on these shows
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
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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).
(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.
(Comedy Central, Thursdays at 10p starting June 23)
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.
(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.
(FX, Thursdays at 10:30p starting June 23)
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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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."
(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
|Mon 5/23||8p||The Bachelorette||Reality competition||ABC|
|Tue 5/24||12:30a||Soul Quest Overdrive||Animation/comedy||Adult Swim|
|Thu 5/26||9p||4th & Forever||Reality||Current TV|
|Thu 5/26||8p||So You Think You Can Dance||Reality competition||Fox|
|Mon 5/30||8p||Basketball Wives||Reality||VH1|
|Mon 5/30||9p||Single Ladies||Drama/comedy||VH1|
|Mon 5/30||10p||Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition||Reality||ABC|
|Mon 5/30||10p||Platinum Hit||Reality competition||Bravo|
|Mon 5/30||10p||Surprise Homecoming||Reality||TLC|
|Tue 5/31||9p||America's Got Talent||Reality competition||NBC|
|Tue 5/31||10p||Love Handles||Reality||Lifetime|
|Tue 5/31||10p||Million Dollar Decorators||Reality||Bravo|
|Wed 6/1||9p||Franklin & Bash||Drama||TNT|
|Wed 6/1||9p||Man vs. Food Nation||Reality/food||Travel Channel|
|Wed 6/1||9p||Haunted Collector||Reality||Syfy|
|Wed 6/1||10p||Hollywood Treasure||Reality||Syfy|
|Wed 6/1||10p||Sand Masters||Reality||Travel Channel|
|Wed 6/1||10p||Love in the Wild||Reality competition||NBC|
|Wed 6/1||10p||Men of a Certain Age||Comedy/drama||TNT|
|Wed 6/1||10p||The World According to Paris||Reality||Oxygen|
|Thu 6/2||10p||Love Bites||Drama/comedy||NBC|
|Thu 6/2||10p||NY Ink||Reality||TLC|
|Thu 6/2||Midnight||Childrens' Hospital||Comedy||Adult Swim|
|Fri 6/3||9p||Whale Wars||Reality||Animal Planet|
|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||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||Reality||HGTV|
|Mon 6/6||8:30p||House Hunters on Vacation||Reality||HGTV|
|Mon 6/6||9p||Switched at Birth||Drama||ABC Family|
|Mon 6/6||10p||Teen Wolf||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|
|Sun 6/12||9p||The Glee Project||Reality competition||Oxygen|
|Sun 6/12||10p||Keeping Up with the Kardashians||Reality||E!|
|Sun 6/12||10:30p||Ice Loves Coco||Reality||E!|
|Tue 6/14||8p||Pretty Little Liars||Drama||ABC Family|
|Tue 6/14||9p||The Nine Lives of Chloe King||Drama||ABC Family|
|Tue 6/14||9p||Memphis Beat||Drama||TNT|
|Tue 6/14||10p||Gene Simmons Family Jewels||Reality||A&E|
|Wed 6/15||10p||Rocco's Dinner Party||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||Comedy||TV Land|
|Wed 6/15||10:30p||Jon Benjamin Has a Van||Comedy||Comedy Central|
|Sat 6/18||9p||Outcasts||Sci-fi||BBC America|
|Sat 6/18||11p||The Inbetweeners||Comedy||BBC America|
|Sat 6/18||11:30p||Come Fly With Me||Comedy||BBC America|
|Sun 6/19||9p||Drop Dead Diva||Drama||Lifetime|
|Sun 6/19||9p||Falling Skies||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||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||Game show||ABC|
|Tue 6/21||10p||The Hot Zone||Drama||ABC|
|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||Reality competition||ABC|
|Thu 6/23||10p||Rookie Blue||Drama||ABC|
|Thu 6/23||10p||Futurama||Animation/comedy||Comedy Central|
|Fri 6/24||10p||Commercial Kings||Reality||IFC|
|Fri 6/24||10:30p||Young, Broke & Beautiful||Reality||IFC|
|Sun 6/26||9p||True Blood||Drama||HBO|
|Sun 6/26||10p||The Marriage Ref||Reality||NBC|
|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||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||Drama||USA|
|Thu 6/30||10p||Extreme Chef||Reality/food||Food Network|
|Thu 6/30||10:30p||Ugly Americans||Animation/comedy||Comedy Central|
|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|
|Sun 7/10||9p||Tough Love||Reality competition||VH1|
|Sun 7/10||10p||Curb Your Enthusiasm||Comedy||HBO|
|Sun 7/10||10p||Famous Food||Reality competition||VH1|
|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||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||Reality||Showtime|
|Wed 7/13||10p||Legend Quest||Reality||Syfy|
|Thu 7/14||11p||The Green Room with Paul Provenza||Talk||Showtime|
|Sun 7/17||10p||Breaking Bad||Drama||AMC|
|Tue 7/19||9p||Hell's Kitchen||Reality competition||Fox|
|Tue 7/19||11p||Web Therapy||Comedy||Showtime|
|Thu 7/21||Midnight||NTSF:SD:SUV||Comedy||Adult Swim|
|Sun 7/24||9p||Same Name||Reality||CBS|
|Sun 7/24||11:30p||The Venture Bros.||Animation/comedy||Adult Swim|
|Wed 7/27||8p||Are We There Yet?||Comedy||TBS|
|Tue 8/2||9p||Take the Money and Run||Reality competition||ABC|
|Fri 8/5||10p||Whisker Wars||Reality||IFC|
|Sat 8/6||11:30p||Friday Night Dinner||Comedy||BBC America|
|Mon 8/8||8p||Bachelor Pad||Reality competition||ABC|
|Mon 8/8||10p||Karaoke Battle U.S.A.||Reality competition||ABC|
|Sun 8/14||9p||The Great Food Truck Race||Reality competition||Food Network|
|Sun 8/14||9:30p||In the Flow with Affion Crockett||Comedy||Fox|
|tba||Against the Wall||Drama||Lifetime|
|tba||Bar Rescue||Reality||Spike TV|
|July||Big Rich Texas||Reality||Style|
|June||Billy the Exterminator||Reality||A&E|
|tba||Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew||Reality||VH1|
|tba||Deadliest Warrior||Reality||Spike TV|
|tba||Forever Young||Reality||TV Land|
|tba||Friends with Benefits||Comedy||NBC|
|July||Giuliana & Bill||Reality||Style|
|tba||The Hour||Drama||BBC America|
|tba||It's Worth What?||Game show||NBC|
|tba||Ludo Bites America||Reality/food||Sundance|
|August||Man vs. Wild||Reality||Discovery|
|tba||Million Dollar Mind Game||Game show||ABC|
|tba||Most Lethal||Reality competition||Spike TV|
|tba||Mountain Men of Alaska||Reality||Discovery|
|tba||Oliver Stone's Secret History of America||Documentary||Showtime|
|tba||Project Runway||Reality competition||Lifetime|
|August||The Rachel Zoe Project||Reality||Bravo|
|tba||Rollin' Around the World||Travel||OWN|
|tba||Ton of Cash||Reality competition||VH1|
|tba||Who's Still Standing?||Game show||NBC|
|tba||Work of Art: The Next Great Artist||Reality competition||Bravo|