Time was when summer TV meant reruns and sporting events – and sometimes even reruns of sporting events. But nowadays, there’s original programming to fill those dog days, some of it even eminently watchable and most of it coming to us from our friends in basic and premium cable. Here, a heads-up on, if you can believe it, even more forthcoming premieres, some of them offering up the birth of brand-new series, others returning favorites back for another (non-ratings) season.
Season 2 Premiere: Sunday, July 1
A husband-and-wife writing team, and creators of hit British comedy Lyman’s Boys, navigate the labyrinthine machine that is Hollywood when they are enticed to remake their witty, gently ironic show in the US – starring Matt LeBlanc.
Where’s the love? Ever-so-British writers Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverley (Tamsin Greig) are delightfully in love as the series starts, but the temptations of Hollywood heartthrobs have made for a rocky road. Matt LeBlanc, meanwhile, is secretly sleeping with the head of the studio’s wife, among others.
Reason to tune in: Matt LeBlanc! Oh, the writing is stellar, and the rest of the cast are also wonderful – in particular Black Books’s Greig and Kathleen Rose Perkins as perky network exec Carol – but LeBlanc playing himself (but, one assumes, a far douchier version of himself, fake ex-wife and all; oh, he has a real ex-wife, but not the one we see on the show) is a wonder to behold, he’s so funny and touching and horrible and endearing and sad. A must-see.
Series Premiere: Monday, July 9
An eccentric neuroscientist solves crimes. For the FBI. Because we just don’t have enough shows about eccentric consultants doing the jobs of actual law enforcement professionals. (Seriously, we really don’t.)
Where’s the love? Hard to say for sure, but since our neuroscientist is played by Will and Grace’s terminally handsome Eric McCormack, the FBI agent who recruits him is his former student and is played by Rachael Leigh Cook, and also on the roster is his best friend Natalie (Kelly Rowan; Seth’s mom from The O.C.!), at a guess…somewhere in there. Also, apparently Jamie Bamber has a recurring role as Rachael Leigh Cook’s love interest.
Reason to tune in: Jamie Bamber has a recurring role as Rachael Leigh Cook’s love interest! Also, LeVar Burton is another guest star, not to mention the fact that McCormack, Cook, and Rowan sure are pretty.
Season 7 (Part 2) Premiere: Monday, July 9
Queen of the Confession is LAPD interrogation specialist Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick), a Southern belle with a seemingly direct line into the criminal soul. Exacting, no-nonsense, and yet strangely winning, she took charge of a failing investigative unit and made it a success, all while dealing with various health, mental, and relationship issues, and the resentment of her (mostly male, of course) coworkers.
Where’s the love? Brenda and her FBI agent love interest Fritz (Jon Tenney) married in Season 4, which was nice.
Reason to tune in: Tightly scripted procedural drama, a bravura performance from Sedgwick, a cast who actually look old enough to have attained the experience and rank with which they are endowed—and junk food. Indeed, this show is practically junk food porn. We’re into the last six episodes of the final season now, though, so maybe start with a Season 1 box set, and go from there?
Season 3 Premiere: Tuesday, July 10
The CIA’s sweetheart, Agent Annie Walker (Piper Perabo), uses her gift for languages and her Carrie Bradshaw-worthy ability to run in Louboutins to carry out assorted undercover missions, keeping the world safe for democracy…and other stuff.
Where’s the love? Well, our Annie has quite the harem of smitten agent admirers, including renegade Ben (Eion Bailey), Israeli ally/enemy Eyal (Oded Fehr), and petulant-but-unbelievably-beautiful Jai (Sendhil Ramamurthy). Of most especial note, however, is her best bud Auggie (Christopher Gorham), whose recent interest in another has left Annie not best pleased. Elsewhere, Agency chief Joan (Kari Matchett) and even chiefier chief Arthur (Peter Gallagher) are married to each other as well as to their jobs...and spend a lot of time talking about it.
Reason to tune in: Piper Perabo is eminently likeable, and the cast of adorable that act as her backup chorus is more than worthy of attention. The missions are occasionally a little humdrum, but the Annie-related melodrama is usually pretty entertaining—we could do with less of her whiny sister (Anne Dudek), though.
Season 4 Premiere: Tuesday, July 10
Handsome, charming, and devil-may-care, conman Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) was captured pre-show by FBI lawman Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), only to escape…and be promptly captured again. Pressed into the service of the FBI, Catch Me if You Can-style, he now, with the help of shifty best-friend Mozzie (Willie Garson), helps Peter bring fraudsters of all sorts to justice, even becoming a trusted member of the team—except that he just went on the lam at the end of Season 3, and is now among the FBI’s Most Wanted again. Oh, the tension!
Where’s the love? Peter and his wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) are one of the cutest married couples on television, and Neal’s assorted romances—most recently with stunning insurance investigator Sara (Hilarie Burton)—never fail to please. Also, the series is notable for the presence of lesbian FBI agent Diana (Marsha Thomason) as a main character. It shouldn’t be notable for it, but it is.
Reason to tune in: Matt Bomer should be enough for anybody, but if it’s not, then his electric bro-chemistry with both Tim DeKay and Willie Garson should do it. Also, the crime capers are pretty fun, and Agent Jones (Sharif Atkins) is all kinds of hot.
Season 5 Premiere: Sunday, July 15
For four seasons now, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) has slowly been becoming utterly, horribly, unwatchably evil, proving that even with a fatal disease—lung cancer, in this case—a character can still be wholly unsympathetic, to the point of one actively wishing him dead.
Where’s the love? Between Walter and young wife Skyler, mostly. If you can get past all the unsympathetic enough to care.
Reason to tune in: You thought Weeds was too wholesome and upbeat.
Season 5 Premiere: Sunday, July 15
Rob from the rich, give to the victimized; that is the mission statement of Leverage’s elite team of scammers, hackers, and investigators who carry out elaborate cons in order to right wrongs in the name of the Little Guy—which they do as much for the thrill as for the righteousness of it all.
Where’s the love? Upstanding Nate (Timothy Hutton) and conwoman Sophie (Gina Bellman) have a history and a sparky attraction that will not be denied—except that it has been, quite expertly, for four seasons already. Elsewhere, team members Hardison (Aldis Hodge) and Parker (Beth Riesgraf) have a thing, but “soldier of fortune” Eliot’s (Christian Kane) most serious involvement has pretty much been with his hair.
Reason to tune in: As much as any show on television, Leverage gives us a family of truly unique, but still co-dependent, characters. The cons are clever, the writing is witty, the relationships are ever uncertain, and Christian Kane as Eliot is badass.
Series Premiere: Sunday, July 15
In this six-hour mini-series, Sigourney Weaver plays a divorced former First Lady who was defeated in a presidential race and is now the Secretary of State. Hilarity ensues?
Where’s the love? No idea. Sigourney has two twenty-something sons (one of whom is Gossip Girl bad boy Carter Baizen), and Carla Gugino is in this too, so it would be a shame for her not to have something going on somewhere. She’s so pretty. (And, of course, talented.)
Reason to tune in: Writer Greg Berlanti was also responsible for Eli Stone and The Broken Hearts Club, so we know he’s witty and a little left-of-center. Throw Sigourney freaking Weaver into the mix, not to mention the aforementioned pretty and talented of Carla Gugino, and this one is worth checking out, at the very least.
Sullivan and Son
Series Premiere: Thursday, July 19
A New York corporate lawyer returns home to Pittsburgh to find his parents preparing to sell their neighborhood bar…which he then decides to run.
Where’s the love? Lawyer-cum-bartender Steve (Steve Byrne) has, we are told, a love interest in one Melanie (Valerie Azlynn). Excellent.
Reason to tune in: Comedian Byrne’s Asian-Irish-American schtick is often entertaining, and the race-related quips are bound to fly thick and fast in an Irish neighborhood bar. Also, his father is played by Dan Lauria—Kevin’s dad from The Wonder Years!
Season 2 Premiere: Monday, July 23
Super-powered humans called Alphas band together to fight against the evil super-powered humans of Red Flag. They’re government-sanctioned, though, which is what sets this show apart (really, copyright lawyers!) from, say, The X-Men and Heroes.
Where’s the love? Our Hero, Hicks (Warren Christie), and mind-controlling temptress Nina (Laura Mennell) may be one of the most boring possible couples in sci-fi history—but there’s them.
Reason to tune in: Gary! Played immaculately by Ryan Cartwright, Gary is an autistic young man who can detect wireless signals with his brain. He’s awesome.
Season 4 Premiere: Monday, July 23
In the deepest heartland of America lies the Warehouse, a cavernous repository of artifacts—ordinary household items, for the most part, which have been imbued with magical, mystical powers by the actions and deeds of those who once possessed them. Tracking down and adding yet more artifacts to this collection are the FBI’s Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly), along with their geek goddess sidekick Claudia Donovan (Allison Scagliotti), all under the aegis of cantankerous head archivist, Artie (Saul Rubinek). At the end of Season 4, however, the Warehouse was destroyed! Where, oh where, will this lead?
Where’s the love? Are Pete and Myka more than partners and close friends? Do we want them to be? It’s really tough to be sure. In many ways, they’re Scully and Mulder, but in others they’re Marshall and Mary, making it hard to decide if theirs is an Unresolved Sexual Tension or just true, platonic kinship. At this point, it could go either way.
Reason to tune in While it is assuredly Syfy’s flagship original program, Warehouse 13 has nevertheless not made the crossover transition of, say, Battlestar Galactica. That is a shame, as the show is smart, intriguing, family-friendly and full of fun facts to know and tell, also offering with it a unique paranormal premise and some very fine performances. Plus, the funny! (And Eddie McClintock takes his shirt off every now and then, too, which doesn’t completely suck.)
BONUS: August Premieres to Watch For
On August 8, NBC will give us a preview of new fall show Go On, starring Matthew Perry. On August 12, we’ll get a peek at the same network’s Animal Practice, featuring the hilarious Tyler Labine (of Reaper fame)—and also on the 12th, AMC brings us Season 2 of the surprisingly-gripping building-of- the-railroad drama Hell on Wheels. (Welcome back, Cullen!) Meanwhile, NBC’s Grimm returns—oddly—on August 13, which is also when TNT launches their new Mary McDonnell-led spin-off to The Closer, called Major Crimes. And on August 19, BBC America brings us Copper, an historical procedural set in post-Civil War Manhattan, and worth checking out if for no other reason than the presence of the radiant Franka Potente.
Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.