Summer used to be a tricky time of year if you were a television fan. Back when there were fewer channels, most networks followed the same basic programming schedule: TV show seasons began in September and ended in May (with a lengthy break for the holidays in December) and then you were stuck with re-runs during the vast wasteland that was June, July and August. The idea, of course, was that most people would want to take advantage of the nice weather and would be otherwise occupied with activities that would not involve sitting in front of the TV. Networks could save some money by not having new original programming in the summer and people were given a chance to catch episodes of a show that they may have missed in these dark ages before the ubiquitousness of DVR and TV shows on DVD.
And while I fully support the idea of grabbing the brass ring of summer and taking advantage of all the season has to offer, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to watch any TV. Even during the warmer months, there is some down time. Sometimes, it is just too damn humid out to want to spend a lot of time outside. Sometimes it is very rainy. And really, there are only so many BBQs one person can attend. Apparently, I’m not the only person who feels this way because cable channels have found success in scheduling new programs during the summer. They saw a vacuum that wasn’t being filled by the major networks and decided to gamble with shows in June, July and August. And they found that if you schedule it, people will watch. With increased competition, even the major networks have abandoned their original scheduling game plan and offer some summer viewing alternatives, though they tend to be in the reality TV genre.
As the fall TV shows come to end, I’ve began to turn my attention to how I want to devote my television viewing time over the summer. While I will primarily be devoting my time to some of the new summer shows, I also plan to use some of the summer to give some of the fall shows I didn’t watch a chance, as well as finally catch up on some shows that I have on DVD. In between vacationing (I leave in three weeks!), getting sunburned (not something I plan, but tends to happen every summer) and concerts, this is what is on my summer agenda:
- Breaking Bad (AMC, returning July 15): This is arguably one of the best shows on TV. Ever. It is just so well done – the acting is top notch and the stories are just so perfectly executed. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul just keep knocking it out of the park season after season as the former chemistry teacher and his student who pair up to cook crystal meth and wind up getting deep and deeper into the business. The show is dark and dramatic, but can also be wickedly funny. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend picking up the first season on DVD; it’s only six episodes but that is all you’ll need to be hooked. The final season of the show starts this summer, with 8 episodes airing in 2012 and the final 8 episodes airing in the summer of 2013. I’ll be so sad to see this show end.
- True Blood (HBO, returning June 10): Though the books that the show is based on may have fallen out of my favor, I still enjoy the soapy Southern Gothic program about the vampires and other supernatural creatures in residence in Louisiana. This is kind of the perfect summer show: lots of sex, lots of over the top drama and general ridiculousness. You don’t have to think very hard while watching this show. While I haven’t found the last few season as compelling – I was particularly disappointed with the interpretation of my favorite book in the series – it is still enjoyable viewing, especially when substantial screen time is devoted to Alexander Skarsgard, Joe Manganiello and Ryan Kwanten.
- Louie (FX, returning June 28): I’ve mentioned a few times on the blog my love of Louis C.K. and his fabulous show Louie, so I won’t bore you with repeating it. But I am very much anticipating the debut of season three of his show and to see just where he is going to take the viewer this year. He always has some interesting stories to tell.
- Wilfred (FX, returning June 28): I enjoyed the first season of this show about a man (Elijah Wood) who inexplicably sees his neighbor’s dog Wilfred as a man in a dog suit (Jason Gann). It was dark and often very funny. I don’t know if the visual of Gann humping a giant teddy bear will ever fail to make me giggle. There were a few missteps in season one where the jokes didn’t necessarily work for me, but it was such an amusing and creative premise that I’m curious to see what they will come up with for season two. I don’t know how long the show is sustainable – the central premise may eventually get tired – but so far they have been able to keep it fresh and innovative.
- The Newsroom (HBO, debuting June 25): I’ve generally gotten to the point with HBO programming that I’m willing to take a flier with just about any original programming that they debut. So I probably would have checked out the Newsroom even without the Aaron Sorkin pedigree and the incredible cast. But now I am legitimately looking forward to this show’s premiere. I’m a big fan of Sorkin and his snappy dialogue and I think that his style will work well with a show that is about the behind the scenes of a fictional cable news network. As long as Sorkin doesn’t get as preachy as he did in The West Wing, I think this is a show that I will really enjoy.
- Friday Night Lights, Season 5: I love, love, love this show – in fact, I love it so much that I couldn’t bring myself to watch the final season immediately. The DVD has been sitting on my shelf, mocking me. But I know once I start the DVDs I’ll plow right through the episodes and then the show will really be over. I’m all for delayed gratification, but now that it’s been over a year since the show ended I have to worry about it getting spoiled for me. So I think this summer I will finally take the plunge and watch the remaining episodes. And then I’ll probably cry.
- Deadwood, complete series: I never watched this HBO drama when it was on, but many of the critics that I respect have raved about it so I bought the complete box set on DVD without ever having seen an episode. It was a gamble, but it paid off as I really enjoyed the first season. Life got in the way, however, and I never found the time to sit down and watch the two remaining seasons. There is a lot going on in the show with the rich characters and storylines and I didn’t want to sit down to watch it unless I could give it my full attention. At this point, I think I’ll need to re-watch the first season as well to refresh myself of all the intricacies of the relationships and plots. I’m looking forward to spending some of the summer with Timothy Olyphant, who I do believe was born to wear a cowboy hat, and Ian McShane’s portrayal of Al Swearengen, who can make cussing sound like Shakespeare.
- Grimm/Once Upon a Time: I was intrigued by both these shows when they debuted this fall, but given my phobia of committing to first season shows, I decided to wait and see if they would be renewed before I gave either of them a chance. Both are scheduled to come back next season, I’m willing to give them a chance. I’m guessing I will prefer Grimm to Once Upon a Time, but we’ll have to see how that actually plays out.
- New Girl: I’m on the fence about this one; while I’ve heard good things about the show, I generally want to punch Zooey Deschanel in the face (don’t even get me started on her iPhone commercial). And that isn’t necessarily a quality you look for in the lead of a show you are going to watch. I may give it a try and see if the rest of the ensemble will outweigh my dislike of her. I somehow doubt it, but I’ll try and keep an open-minded.
- Homeland: Heard nothing but great stuff about this show when it debuted last fall on Showtime. I had every intention of checking it out, but I think it lost a time slot showdown with some other shows that I was already committed to. I planned to watch it on demand and then just never got around to it. Summer seems like a good time to catch up on it before season two. If the President of the United States can find time in his schedule to watch the show, I think I can squeeze it in.
This probably seems like a lot, but since most of these shows have shortened seasons (around 13 episodes) it won’t be too much of a time commitment. I’ll still have plenty of time for other more outdoorsy summer activities. And I may bail on some of the shows if I just don’t like them; there’s no certainty that I’ll watch every episode of everything I’ve mentioned.
What are your summer viewing plans?