The summer television season is getting off the ground, and while in years past, that meant catching up on a lot of television we missed over the course of the regular television season, thanks to the rise of quality cable programming, there are nearly as many options during the summer months as the rest of the year. Not everything will equal the departing "Mad Men" and "Game of Thrones," but there are certainly contenders (and one show that's arguably better than both). Looking over the summer schedule, what do we have to look forward to? Before we get to the 15 Most Anticipated shows, I'll tell you what didn't make the list: Charlie Sheen's comeback show, "Anger Management"; Russell Brand's new talk show; "White Collar" and "Covert Affairs" (sorry, there's only room for one USA Network show on the list); Showtime's "Episodes," (the first season was major disappointment); and HBO's "True Blood," because I think it's a worthless show.
Here, however, are the 15 shows I think may be worth watching this summer.
15. Dallas -- The only thing I much remember about the original series was that is starred the astronaut from "I Dream of Jeannie" and that it came on after Dallas. The new series is not a reboot or a remake; it's a continuation of the original series with several of the original characters (including Larry Hagman). I don't have high hopes for the series -- the casting of Jordana Brewster and Jesse Metcalfe suggests a certain "The OC" kind of show set in Texas -- but I'm at least curious enough to check it out if only to see if they confront issues surrounding the oil industry that weren't as predominant back in the 70s and 80s. (TNT, June 13th)
14. Push Girls -- Not typically a big fan of reality television, there's something a little different about "Push Girls," which debuted last night. It's about four "attractive" women who, at some point in their lives, became paralyzed from the neck or waist down. It will follow their lives and the challenges they face in their everyday lives. Early buzz on the show has been positive. It airs on Sundance, which at least suggests that it won't be crassly exploitative, although the short trailer does have a slight Bravo feel about it. (Sundance, June 4)
13. Longmire -- Based on a the mystery novel series by Craig Johnson, the biggest draw for "Longmire" actually seems to be Katee Sackhoff and the languid pacing and beautiful Wyoming vistas. The series follows Walt Longmire, as he tries to get back on his feet after struggling with the death of his wife. With the help of his daughter, the new deputy Victoria (Sackhoff) and his best friend Henry, Walt decides to run for re-election against a young deputy. The series premiered on A&E to record settingratings this past Sunday, but will undoubtedly be re-aired throughout the week if you want to catch up and fill the Sunday night vacancy left by the departures of "Game of Thrones" and "Mad Men."
12. Suits -- With the exception of "Psych," "Suits" is probably the most consistently good USA Network offering. It's a formulaic legal drama in the only way that the USA Network knows, but the lead attorneys -- Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams -- are suitably charming, and the love interest, Meghan Markle, is suitably hot. The first season had a strong opening and, after a soft middle, came on strong in the end. Hopefully, the second season will be better able to maintain the season-ending momentum. (USA Network, June 14th).
11. Franklin & Bash -- TNT's counterpoint to "Suits," "Franklin and Bash" kicks off its second season Dude-Bro'ing tonight. The show stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer as "Streetwise plaintiff's attorneys" who start work for a major law firm, but you already know that. It gets special mention here because it's a Danger Guerrero favorite, and he'll be keeping you apprised of the show all season long. Plus, Zack Morris' ass is apparently a very big selling point. (Starts tonight on TNT)
10. Hit & Miss -- If the awesome show description doesn't sell you, I don't know what will: "Written by feature writer Sean Conway (Brilliant Love) and to be directed by Hettie Macdoland, the six-episode series centers on Mia (Chloe Sevigny), a contract killer with a big secret - she is a transgender hit man who suddenly finds out that in the previous life has fathered several children." Yes, that's right: Chloe Sevigny man-turned-woman hitman who will also find out she's the father of a lot of kids."
Take a second a wrap that around your brain and then watch the promo clip. How perfect is Sevigny for this role? (DirectTV, July 11th)
9. Political Animals -- Like "Hit & Miss," this is another six-part miniseries, but it's a little more run-of-the-mill and it's on a network that most cable owners have, FX. The big selling points are Sigourney Weaver and Carla Gugino, who appears to shed her clothes on several occasions during the series' run. The show follows Elaine Barrish (Weaver), a former First Lady and current Secretary of State, who finds herself recently divorced. She must deal with State Department issues while trying to keep her family together. Gugino plays a journalist turned ally, who apparently has no problems using her body to get the story. That's my kind of journalist.
8. Damages -- It's been an uneven series to say the least. After a strong start, the thiller-drama starring Glen Close and Rose Byrne has had a lot of ups and downs, quality-wise, and has often wasted the talents of some great recurring roles, such as those played by Timothy Olyphant and John Goodman. Nevertheless, I thought Dylan Baker helped to bring it back from the dead last season. Going into the fifth and final season, we know -- or at least we think we know -- that Rose Byrne's character will end up dead. Even when the storylines don't line up, the acting is superb in "Damages," and that's plenty enough to sustain a summer show. (July 11, DirectTV)
7. Wilfred -- The second season of "Wilfred," based on an Australian show, will also run up against competition from Seth MacFarlane's similarly premised, Ted, in theaters this summer. Ironically, "Wilfred" -- which is about Ryan's (Elijah Wood) relationship with his neighbor's dog, who appears as a wise-ass, pot-smoking jackass in a dog suit to Ryan -- is best when it avoids the MacFarlane humor, as it contains a few genuine moments of dark humor and pathos, which elevates it above what is also some fairly great dick-and-balls (and doggie sex) humor. (FX, June 28th)
6. Bullet in the Face -- We already talked about this show last week, and if a show starring Eddie Izzard and Eric Roberts as wackjob mob bosses isn't a big enough sell, take your pick from among the show's other selling points: 1) It will feature beheadings, 2) it will piss off the Catholic League, 3) it comes from the creator of "Sledgehammer," and 4) it's being described as the most violent comedy in the history of television. (IFC, August 16th)
5. Olympic Games -- London -- The Olympics, at least for me, is one of those events I never have much interest in until they start. The Olympic commentators typically do a solid job of creating compelling storylines with the athletes -- Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt will likely topline coverage this year -- and since the Olympics is all-pervasive during late July and early August, Internet buzz will likely make most of us viewers. Save for The Dark Knight Rises, the Olympics will be the most talked about event of the rest of the summer, so you may as well watch. You're going to hear about it anyway.
4. Copper -- "Copper" will be BBC America's first original show (it typically only airs repeats of British shows) and it comes from Tom Fontana ("Homicide: Life on the Streets," "Oz," and "St. Elsewhere" to name a few), who runs in the same circles as David Simon, and executive producer Barry Levinson. It centers on an Irish immigrant cop trying to keep the peace in the historical Five Points neighborhood in 1860s New York City while searching for information on the disappearance of his wife and death of his daughter. It also stars Franka Potente (Run Lola Run). This is the dark-horse of the summer. (BBC America, August 19th)
3. The Newsroom -- The latest Aaron Sorkin show again takes a behind-the-scenes look, this time of a cable news channel trying to rise above the yelling, partisan, dumbing-down, ratings-grabbing hackery of modern news stations, basically a televised version of Network for contemporary America. It promises to be smug, divisive, and very-well written and acted. The cast alone makes the show worth watching: Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, and Sam Waterston, among others. It's probably going to piss some people off, but it will be one of the most talked about and engrossing series of the summer. (HBO, June 24th)
2. Louie -- Not always the funniest comedy on television, but it is the most thought-provoking. In fact, "Louie" is at its best when it goes to dark, experimental places. "Louie" intercuts vignettes with his stand-up routine, and hits on themes that resonate loudly with his audience. "Louie" premieres on FX on June 28, and Louis CK will undoubtedly be the Prince of the Summer, but that's only because ...
1. Breaking Bad ... Walter White will be king. The eight-episode first half of the two-part fifth and final season kicks off in July, and no show this summer will compete with the richly-layered, slow-burning complexity of "Breaking Bad." Without a Big Bad on board, the focus may turn on Walter White as the show's lead villain. He's gone too far, and there may be no way to salvage the well-intentioned, looking-out-for-his-family Walter White we knew at the beginning of the series, so the rest of the show may be about Jesse Pinkman's survival and ultimate redemption. Whatever happens, Vince Gillian won't steer us wrong. (AMC, July 15th)