Summer Schedule

From the perspective of a TV fan, I do relish the summer a bit. While it means no new episodes of my favorite shows, it does give me the ability to catch up with shows in time for the fall season. This autumn, I’ll be watching “House” and “It’s Always Sunny…” on a regular basis, and neither was previously in my wheelhouse.

As far as original series go, the summer tends to be pretty nasty. Still, I managed to watch four shows regularly this summer, which is pretty good. Interestingly, not a single one is on network TV, compounding my theory that the nostalgia of “network television” is dissipating as good programs head to USA, FX, HBO and more.

Anyway, that’s not important, so with the help of Hulu, here are the four shows I have enjoyed this summer, ranked in order of favoritism:

1. Mad Men (AMC) — The movie channel launched a full-scale guerilla marketing campaign for their Emmy baby this summer, as advertisements for the show were seemingly everywhere. Here in Chicago, I’m pretty convinced AMC paid the Chicago Tribune to pimp the show for weeks. It did this with the July 27 start date in mind, offering an award-winning show months before its significant competition. It was a good strategy, and I know quite a few that have jumped on the train since the dynamic first season in 2007. This time around, things seem to have a darker resonance, and with every character, a nasty cloud looms in the distance. The addition of Duck Phillips to the roster isn’t one I welcome with open arms, and I am concerned that the accusations of the show being masochist have effected the storyline. Still, Don Draper is one of the most compelling characters on television, and this is one of the most real shows on television, moving at a pace that builds characters rather than additional plot lines, a decision I think we should applaud.

2. Burn Notice (USA) — It took me awhile to buy into this show, but with Hulu offering all the episodes, I did manage to get through them all. The show’s voice is relatively obnoxious, but I do like Michael Weston. At first, I regarded him as a character conceived from Dr. House, but that’s not really fair, as we aren’t talking about self-loathing, just sarcastic. The premise of the show is unique, and while the overarching plot is rather dry, the individual episodes play nicely. I like the character Sam quite a bit, and even Michael’s mother hits the right notes most of the time. The show is not without it’s flaws, falling into too many cliches and containing annoying voice-overs, but in the end, the juice is worth the squeeze.

3. Weeds (Showtime) — The first two seasons of Jenji Kohan’s comedy were two of my favorite comedic seasons since Arrested Development left us. Nothing on television was as unique as detailing the suburban drug business. And in Mary-Louise Parker, Showtime found an actress capable of handling Nancy’s voice, while also bringing a sexiness to the role that television hasn’t known for a long time. However, the show is getting worn, and in Season 3, Kohan realized a big change would be needed to keep things afloat. However, the huge nature of the changes have created a problem by itself, and the writers are having a difficult time keeping up with themselves. While the voice of this show — Nancy and Andy, particularly — are still the same, everything else is so different.

4. In Plain Sight (USA) — It hasn’t been, but it has sure seemed like for years, TNT has done the female-led drama thing by themselves. Holly Hunter and Kyra Sedgwick have made careers — Emmy-nominated careers, now — thanks to the TNT shows that center around them. It’s an underexposed style, and “In Plain Sight” is a show that heightens the brand. Mary McCormack was a nice find for USA, she is just good-looking enough and just funny enough to work. She plays Mary, a U.S. Marshal for the Witness Protection Program, accompanied with a best-friend male partner and family of misfits. The show is not particularly exciting or irreverent, but it works just enough to make it into my lineup in a dull season. I’m not sure I’d heartily recommend it, but I can’t really dissuade it after this many episodes, eh?

Forty days until The Office, by the way. 40 days.

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