Did you think that with the regular TV season drawing to a close, your DVR-and your eyeballs-would get a well-deserved rest? Think again. In their increasingly successful attempt to turn television watching into a year-round endeavor, the networks have conspired to pack the ostensible off-season with more programming than you can shake a pair of barbecue tongs at. There are enough shows-good, bad and trashy-to keep you planted on the couch until all your regular favorites come back after Labor Day. Here are the eight to keep on your radar.
If you’re already having withdrawal symptoms because Lost is off the air for good, then perhaps a mystery show with the tag line “By the end of the summer, answers will be known” is for you. The NBC miniseries Persons Unknown comes from writer Christopher McQuarrie, who won an Oscar for The Usual Suspects (and didn’t win one for Valkryie), and is sure to provide plenty of paranoid thrills. To wit: The series follows a group of strangers who get kidnapped, stranded in an abandoned town and aren’t allowed to leave. And did we mention that there are cameras following their every move? Think of this as The Truman Show filtered through the mind of David Lynch. But let’s just hope this one is more like Lost and less like FlashForward. (NBC, June 7)
The amount of joy you get out of The Good Guys depends solely on your tolerance for mustache jokes. If it’s high-as it is in our case-you’ll probably fall head over heels in love with this clunky throwback to the ridiculous cop shows from the ’80s. Bradley Whitford (wonderfully ‘stached) and straight-arrow Colin Hanks co-star as two mismatched Dallas police officers who are constantly assigned to the most menial of crimes (or Code 58s, as they’re known-which was also the original name of the series). Fox aired the pilot last month, and while it was tonally inconsistent-too jokey and then not jokey enough-any show that features Mr. Whitford, a 1978 Pontiac Trans-Am and AC/DC is probably a good enough bet for the summer. (Fox, June 7)
Not in the mood for the ‘stache, but still want to see cops battle robbers? There’s always Memphis Beat, which, ironically, stars a mustache-less Jason Lee (ironic considering he spent the better part of four seasons of My Name is Earl rocking one). Beat feels like any good generic cop show should, but the fact that it comes from executive producer George Clooney and co-stars Alfre Woodard and DJ Qualls should be enough to make it more tolerable. And Mr. Lee, who still has a lifetime pass for his work in Mallrats and Chasing Amy. (TNT, June 22)
And wait, there’s one more cop show! Rookie Blue is a Canadian procedural about five rookie police officers who join the force. Think Grey’s Anatomy plus Southland plus sex minus mustaches. (ABC, June 24)
O.K., enough with the cop shows. How about some trashy teen fun? Based on Sara Shepard’s series of best-selling books, Pretty Little Liars is like an assembly-line-manufactured combination of Desperate Housewives, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Veronica Mars and Gossip Girl. And if you’re like us, that’s kinda music to your ears. Four girls spend a year lying about the disappearance of their friend, only to find someone who may or may not be her sending them threatening texts about secrets and lies. Throw in some indie rock on the soundtrack, and you’ve got a winner. (ABC Family, June 8)
Following in the footsteps of its highly popular series Burn Notice, USA premieres Covert Affairs, a spy thriller co-starring Julia Roberts look-alike Piper Perabo as the C.I.A.’s newest recruit. So basically, it’s like Alias, but blond. The fun here-besides the death-defying stunts-is the supporting cast, which features not only Peter Gallagher but also 24 vet Gregory Itzin (the awful President Logan) and ER star Eriq LaSalle. (USA, July 13)
You might remember Scoundrels as the show that actor Neal McDonough was fired from due to his refusal to participate in sex scenes with co-star Virginia Madsen, because of his religious beliefs. Or maybe you just know it from those incessant promos that have been running on ABC for weeks. Whatever the case, Mr. McDonough’s replacement, JAG star David James Elliot, and Ms. Madsen star as a husband and wife who just happen to lead a family of small-time thieves. If this brings us one step closer to Ms. Madsen winding up on Desperate Housewives, we’ll take it. (ABC, June 20)
And speaking of Wisteria Lane, The Gates is like Desperate Housewives with vampires. Because if Twilight has taught us anything, it’s that people just love vampires. (ABC, June 20)
Our most anticipated show of the summer? Try The Big C. The latest Showtime dramedy stars Laura Linney as a suburban housewife diagnosed with cancer who tries to overcome her sickness with a sense of humor. Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) directs the pilot, and Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) co-stars, so we’re sold. That Oliver Platt also appears is just gravy. (Showtime, Aug. 16)
And if all those new shows aren’t up your alley, old favorites like Entourage (now with more fame!), True Blood (now with more sex!), Weeds (now with more melodrama!) and Mad Men (now with more workplace day drinking!) return as well. Phew. On the bright side, all this TV means your sunscreen budget will be borderline nonexistent. Happy watching!