So what if few of the returning series thus far have given anyone cause to think “Man, I sure am glad those Hollywood writers are now making quadruple my EMT salary”? You could at least pretend to give a miniscule shit about Jim and Pam’s gooey Office happiness.
The list of truly brilliant (and therefore, low-rated) network TV shows is painfully short: NBC’s The Office and 30 Rock; CBS’ How I Met Your Mother; ABC’s Pushing Daisies; The CW’s Reaper; Fox’s … uh, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles? Sure, House and Bones are reliably entertaining, as are Family Guy and American Dad—but would you mount a doomed Internet campaign to bring ’em back if they suddenly went away? Didn’t think so; you could survive on their cable reruns forever.
If cable doesn’t become too loaded up with original programming, that is—yes, this is where The Only TV Column That Matters™ goes off on the superiority of cable yet again. Couldn’t be helped; now that you’re bored with what the Big Four networks have brought back for a few weeks to salvage a few ratings points, you’re constantly bugging me about “When’s [insert series here] coming back on [insert cable net here], you dirty [insert epithet regarding mother or sexual preference here]?”
Beginning with the biggie, HBO … no good news there. It’s going to be a summer full of documentaries and—get this—movies, with no new scripted anything until the September return of Entourage and the debut of Alan Ball’s (Six Feet Under) vampire drama True Blood. HBO’s post-Sopranos hopes Big Love, Flight of the Conchords and Tell Me You Love Me (blech) won’t be back until 2009, and Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, well, only Larry knows. And Rome, Deadwood and Carnivalé aren’t coming back. Ever. Quit asking.
Showtime (aka “The New HBO” or “Now Sucking 80 Percent Less Ass”) is in better shape, currently in the middle of an excellent second season of The Tudors and premiering Season 2 of Ira Glass’ This American Life on Sunday, May 4. Unfortunately, the writers’ strike has pushed the third-season premieres of hits Dexter and Brotherhood back to the fall, but Weeds returns June 16 (paired with the buzz-y new Secret Diary of a Call Girl), and David Duchovny could be back banging models on Californication by August.
FX isn’t giving up much official info, but Internet rumor (as always, my favorite kind) has it that Denis Leary’s Rescue Me will return for a 22-episode (10 more than usual) Season 5 in July, while the final season of The Shield and another go-round of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia may happen in September. As for Nip/Tuck and Damages … you want more of those? Really?
Season 2 of AMC’s breakout Mad Men will begin in July, coinciding with the DVD release of Season 1—buy it, catch up, report back. Seriously. The net’s Breaking Bad could also be back sometime this summer, hopefully with a little more focus. TNT’s The Closer, which could use a little less focus (too much CSI & Order, not enough Kyra Sedgwick going nuts) returns in July alongside, for some reason, Saving Grace.
USA’s killer Burn Notice is also back in July (with a guest arc by Battlestar Galactica’s Trisha Helfer—mmmrrrow!), along with reliables Monk and Psych and the debut of yet another off-kilter detective in the net’s In Plain Sight, which is already being talked up as the best new series of the summer. Star Mary McCormack (left) plays it somewhere on the kooky scale between Sedgwick and Saving Grace’s Holly Hunter; could be onto something.
Also returning this summer: Reno 911 and The Sarah Silverman Program (Comedy Central), Eureka (Sci-Fi) and Army Wives (Lifetime). Yes, I like Army Wives. Despite my (and most writers’) all-consuming desire to be a cartoon poon-hound like Duchovny’s Californication character, I’m really quite well rounded. Far as you know.