The last couple of years, the major broadcast networks tried to present high-profile original programming in the summer, figuring there was no reason that cable should have the audience all to itself.
But it turns out that while cable offers a number of original series in the summer, that hasn’t made summer audiences any bigger.
A small audience works fine for cable, where “Mad Men” can be a hit with fewer than 3 million viewers. It does not work for broadcast networks.
So this year the broadcast networks are mostly taking a rest. Among the few original shows that are coming back, “Rookie Blue” on ABC (premiering June 23) and “Flashpoint” on CBS (already underway) are Canadian imports — that is, much cheaper and thus requiring only modest numbers.
Cable networks are happy to keep filling the void, and several have already done so. Cinemax, for instance, has an edgy late-night series called “Femme Fatales.” It’s noir with women, it airs on Friday nights, and yes, it’s for grownups.
Back in prime time, TNT has one of the summer’s most ambitious projects with “Falling Skies,” launching June 19 and starring Noah Wyle as the leader of a small band of humans trying to save Earth from an alien invasion. Lots of action here.
There’s also lots of action in “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” which launches July 8 on Starz. It’s the latest season of an alien-themed British hit, now co-produced by Starz and the BBC and filmed mostly in the U.S.
USA, which loves the summer, brings back “White Collar” and “Covert Affairs” on Tuesday, “Burn Notice” on June 23 and “Royal Pains” on June 29. It’s also adding a legal series, “Suits,” on June 23 and “Necessary Roughness,” about a therapist to the stars, on June 29.
ABC is offering a couple of new game shows: “101 Ways to Leave a Game Show,” premiering June 21, and “Take the Money and Run,” premiering Aug. 2. ABC also has the popular “Wipeout” returning June 21.
ABC Family also introduces “Switched at Birth” June 6 and “State of Georgia” June 29.
Showtime launches “The Franchise” on July 13, chronicling a year with the San Francisco Giants.
‘Hot in Cleveland’ – and Betty White! – will return to TV Land on June 15. (TV Land)
And here are some other summer dates worth keeping in mind:
“The Glades” (A&E). Season premiere of cops at work in alligator country.
Monday night: “HGTV‘d” (HGTV). The makeover team pays surprise visits to lucky winners.
June 12: The Tony Awards (CBS).
“The Protector” (Lifetime). This new series pairs up with the season premiere of the returning hit “Army Wives.”
“The Glee Project” (Oxygen). An intriguing cross-promotional show gives contestants a chance to win a multi-episode arc on the hit “Glee,” which is of course on another network.
“Ice Loves Coco” (E!). Rapper/actor Ice-T and his model/wife, Coco, mark 10 years together by showing us eight hours.
June 19: Daytime Emmy Awards (CBS).
“Ryan & Tatum” (OWN). Oprah is loading up her new network with reality shows, and for this one she has scored the O’Neal family, reunited almost 40 years after “Paper Moon.”
June 20: Keith Olbermann returns to nighttime commentary on the fledgling Current channel.
“Sex Crimes Unit” (HBO). A documentary on how the NYPD‘s special forces solve some of the most sordid crimes around.
June 21: Staten Island Cakes (We). Apparently there’s no such thing as too many reality shows that involve frosting.
“Combat Hospital” (ABC). Practicing medicine under the most difficult conditions.
June 23: “Expedition Impossible” (ABC). Another reality adventure series from Mark Burnett, who knows something about sending contestants on tricky missions in pursuit of a large sum of cash.
June 26: “Leverage” (TNT). Former cons who have gone over to the side of the angels return for another season of clever crime-solving and bad-guy busting.
June 29: “Love in the Wild” (NBC). An “adventure dating” competition, with 10 men and 10 women sent off into, well, the wild.
Aug. 17: “The Hour” (BBC America). An ambitious concept: a weekly hour of high-class Brit drama. It starts with the multipart title series and in October switches to the second season of the dark cop drama “Luther.”
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