Mr. TV: Heat Seeker

I know, I know, technically the summer has only just officially begun. But it seems like months have passed since the annual “Gone Fishing” sign went up at the broadcast networks after Memorial Day weekend.  

Unlike in the past when TV junkies like me would get through the long summer months pondering how “dead” Bobby popped up in the shower on Dallas or who kidnapped Val’s twins on spinoff Knots Landing, there are no meaty cliffhangers to latch onto. So, at this point, I am counting the days until CBS’ perennial non-scripted Big Brother returns. Just 11 days.

As a fan of Survivor, I was highly entertained by NBC’s revival of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, which ended the season last week and, like Survivor, featured a group of contestants (D-list stars in this case) trying to survive in the jungle. I’m a Celebrity is the true definition of the show about nothing, but it lingered on too long before voting. Watching former American Idol contestant Sanjaya Malakar crying to Lou Diamond Phillips like he’s a father figure and learning that Janice Dickinson hasn’t been able to do “No. 2” recently were truly lowbrow high points. If it comes back next season (and I hope it does), let’s have a Brady and/or a Partridge sitting in the jungle. Barry Williams and Danny Bonaduce, want to compete again?

I’m a Celebrity was so unbelievably bad it was actually good. So much so that it cut into my time with competing So You Think You Can Dance on Fox. I continue to give this show props for the amazing talent it finds; Dancing With the Stars on ABC does not even come close. But I am just not into it this summer (and I will not watch this fall when the first, and probably last, regularly scheduled traditional season edition begins). While Judge Mary Murphy’s screeching squawk was once a hoot, it’s time for her “hot tamale train” to tone it down a notch…or two.

Naturally, the summer is a time for networks to burn off canceled episodes of series like ABC’s Pushing Daisies and Eli Stone, CBS’ Harper’s Island and Worst Week, and NBC’s Kings. Although there is some new original scripted programming (to date, Fox’s Mental and NBC’s The Philanthropist and Canadian drama The Listener), viewers are so accustomed to believe nothing is worth watching in the summer they have not embraced any of these series. And that’s a shame because The Listener, although formulaic, is not bad.

Cable, as we know, always steps up to the plate in the summer with a diversified slate of original programming. Clearly the new show that has people talking is Nurse Jackie on Showtime, which deftly combines the struggles of an aging nurse in a professional environment. More viewers have sampled Jada Pinkett Smith on TNT’s more traditional Hawthorne, but when Emmy comes calling, Edie Falco (the “Meryl Streep” of the small screen) will likely get recognized. For my money, after five seasons into her run as deputy chief Brenda Johnson on The Closer, it is time for the amazing Kyra Sedgwick to bring home the gold.

If you think everything on cable is worth watching at present, let me issue a warning. You may want to avoid nonscripted nonsense like Hammertime on A&E and upcoming Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami on E! It’s too bad E! has basically abandoned its once must-see True Hollywood Story series for garbage like this.

Since I’m what you could call a “late bloomer” (translation: someone who latches onto something good after everyone is talking about it), one of my summer goals is to sink my teeth into HBO’s True Blood. There is a lot of buzz out there about it. But I still have no interest in Lifetime’s Army Wives, TNT’s Saving Grace or AMC’s Mad Men, which I just don’t understand what all the hoopla is about. I’d also like to avoid getting hooked on America’s Got Talent on NBC again (but I know I probably will—some old viewing habits die hard). And my primary function in July and August (other than Big Brother) is to watch the pilot episodes of the new crop of fall series coming up.  

After the long, hot summer, I will be looking for something original worth watching. I really hope I won’t be disappointed.