I'm beginning to think the fall season will come as a relief, a break from the congestion of summer's TV glut. Everyone's in the game these days, with a seemingly endless supply of new and returning shows on cable, while the networks keep launching reality concepts in hopes of finding the next breakthrough. (Sorry, CBS, but that Survivor
rip-off Pirate Master
isn't it.) Each week brings a fresh crop of contenders, so here's a sampling of the latest wave of the summer season, an eclectic mix of drama, reality and documentary. The good news? There's something for nearly everyone.
Thursdays, 10 pm/ET, Bravo
The hook: Getting a peek into the celebrity fishbowl of Paula Abdul's hectic life.
Was I hooked? Hardly. Celebreality is the emptiest form of guilty pleasure, and this pathetic time-waster is no different. As perky Paula pouts and preens around a bland posse of publicists, personal handlers and everpresent puppies, it's like Anna Nicole's show without the lurid excesses. In other words, a dull train wreck.
My score (0-10): 1
Foyle's War, Series IV
Sundays, PBS; check listings for Mystery!
The hook: Classic British mysteries against a backdrop of World War II-era intrigue.
Was I hooked? Have been for years. The quiet desperation of lives wrecked by combat and deprivation provides motive for mayhem involving weapons smuggling, sabotage and murder. In the July 8 finale, boss detective Foyle (Michael Kitchen) faces a moral crisis as national security trumps justice. Sound familiar?
My score: 8
Shaq's Big Challenge
Tuesdays, 9 pm/ET, ABC
The hook: A pint-size version of The Biggest Loser, as Shaquille O'Neal helps whip a group of overweight kids into shape.
Was I hooked? You bet. While some moments feel staged, sounding the alarm about childhood obesity is a worthy goal. And as these undisciplined kids learn what it's like to be cheered on as they sweat and strain, Shaq's heart isn't the only one likely to be warmed.
My score: 7
Thursdays, 10 pm/ET, USA
The hook: Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is a Miami spy for hire, having been fired suddenly (given a “burn notice”) by his bosses for reasons unknown.
Was I hooked? Not yet. Neat premise, with a cool star who fits USA Network's brand of quirky heroes (Monk, Psych). But while the deadpan Westen is scrappy and resourceful, the pilot is neither thrilling nor funny enough to earn notice.
My score: 4
Simon Schama's Power of Art
Mondays, PBS; check listings
The hook: A master raconteur tells the gripping stories behind the creation of seminal artistic masterpieces.
Was I hooked? Immediately. With the aid of colorful dramatic re-creations, these passionate readings of art and life are infused with populist scholar Simon Schama's irreverent, infectious style. He finds flesh and blood within the paint and marble of museum pieces. We listen, enthralled.
My score: 9