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Summer TV Preview: ABC, CBS, NBC & Fox

May 28th, 2008 9:43am EDT
Hell's KitchenMemorial Day has come and gone, and with its passing the summer of 2008 has (unofficially) begun. It wasn't so many years ago that the summer quarter was little more than an exercise in futility for the networks. They figured that no one would want to stay indoors on beautiful summer evenings to watch original programming, so they instead filled the schedule with repeats of shows that weren't interesting the first time around. Occasionally, viewers were treated to the burn-off episodes of a failed (and swiftly canceled) offering from the prior season. Yippee.

That all changed a few years ago. With the emergence of summer smashes like "Survivor" and "American Idol," programmers realized the somewhat obvious fact that if they scheduled original programming during the summer, people would watch it. Imagine that. So now, in the age of narrowcasting and the year-round schedule, they do just that.

The only problem now is that there is too much programming out there, and our poor DVRs need a little respite from the rigors of the traditional television season. So, we decided to take a look at what the broadcast and cable networks have in store for audiences in the summer of 2008, hopefully making sense of the schedule. There are a plethora of options out there for viewers this summer, many of them terrible (there is even a double dose of "According to Jim" repeats each week for the masochists out there). The broadcast networks are reality heavy, while it is cable that once again can claim dominance in the scripted arena. Both have some intriguing offerings that are worth checking out.

Following are the broadcast networks' summer schedules:

1.) MONDAY

There will not be much of note put forward by the broadcast networks on Monday nights. ABC and NBC are the only two with any original programming on the night, and most of it looks pretty terrible.

ABC: ABC will be giving over the 8 p.m. hour to yet another installment of "The Bachelorette." Since one hour is apparently not nearly enough, the show will take up two.

Nick LacheyThe timeslot will then be taken over by "High School Musical: Get in the Picture" and "Wanna Bet?" mid-summer, a losing combination that will surely suffer from poor viewership. "High School Musical," hosted by Nick Lachey (who long ago gave new meaning to the phrase "hitting rock bottom") is yet another musical/talent competition. This one focuses on a bunch of hopeful wannabe singers competing to win a starring role in a music video that will run during the end credits of upcoming feature film "High School Musical 3."

In "Wanna Bet?," D-List celebrities bet on the outcomes of crazy stunts, with the winnings going to charity. Not to be outdone by brother Nick, Drew Lachey will be one of the "lucky" pseudo-celebs appearing on the program.

Things get slightly more intriguing at 10 o'clock with the return on "The Mole." For those that don't remember, "The Mole" was one of a slew of reality competition shows that debuted shortly after the success of "Survivor." In it, a group of men and women have to work together in order to complete certain tasks for money. The catch? One member of the group is the eponymous "mole," who secretly works to sabotage the group's effort. Each week, the contestants will vote someone out. If they oust the mole, they win. If they don't, the mole wins. It was fairly entertaining television back in the day, but that might only have been because Anderson Cooper was the host. With The Coop moving on to bigger and better things at CNN this new edition lacks a cool host, but is still worth checking out nevertheless.


American GladiatorsNBC: NBC's Mondays are even more grim than ABC's. "American Gladiators" debuted a couple of weeks ago at 8 p.m., though judging by the atrocious ratings, no one really cares. Maybe that is because after getting over the initial rush of nostalgia brought on by the first season of "Gladiators," Americans realized that it is indeed painfully bad television, full of manufactured suspense, too many commercials and way too much of The Hulkster.

Following gladiators will be another season of "Nashville Star," yet another music/competition reality show. But this one is for country singers. Yee-haw!

What to Watch: "The Mole." Skip everything else.

2.) TUESDAY

ABC: Tuesday nights will be home to more reality TV on the broadcast networks. Beginning in late June, ABC will go with a block consisting of "Wipeout," "I Survived a Japanese Game Show," and the return of "Primetime." "Wipeout" is by far the weak link in that lineup. In it, contestants gather together to compete on extreme obstacle courses. Guess whoever is most "extreme" wins.


"Japanese Game Show" follows 10 Americans who take part in a crazy Japanese game show. We all know how intense those Japanese game shows can be, and the prospect of Americans trying to both adapt to a foreign culture and compete in wild game show sounds entertaining in a very secret guilty pleasure sort of way.

"Primetime," an ABC staple during the strike earlier this year, is a somewhat fascinating unscripted series that examines human nature and why certain people react to situations in different ways. In it, a select number of unaware participants will be thrust into an artificially generated situation, and their actions are then analyzed. Good stuff.

CBS: The only new programming on CBS will be another season of "Big Brother." Voyeurs rejoice.

Al RokerNBC: NBC will be going with "Celebrity Family Feud," and another edition of "America's Got Talent." "Feud" is a new spin on the popular game show, where celebrity families will square off against eachother. These families will either consist of a celebrity and his or her actual family members, or beloved television "families" from past and present. Entertaining game show + celebrities = gold. And it's hosted by Al Roker!

As for "America's Got Talent," not very many people watched seasons 1 & 2, and we can bet that there won't be very many new viewers for season 3. Sorry America, but you really don't have any talent after all.

Fox: If you want to see new seasons of "The Moment of Truth" and "Hell's Kitchen," then Fox Tuesday nights will be your sanctuary this summer. "The Moment of Truth" is an abomination, plain and simple. "Hell's Kitchen" is passably entertaining, although it would be a lot more fun if they brought back Dewberry from season 1.

What to Watch: "I Survived a Japanese Gameshow," "Primetime" and "Celebrity Family Feud."

3.) WEDNESDAY

NBC: New programming Wednesday nights on NBC consists of "The Baby Borrowers" and "Celebrity Circus." Both sound pretty terrible, don't they? Well, "The Baby Borrowers," based on a British series, could prove to be somewhat interesting. Several teenage couples will take up residence in a home and take care of an individual at different stages of life. They start with a baby, then move on to small child, pre-teen and finally senior citizen.


"Celebrity Circus," on the other hand, promises to be just as atrocious as it sounds. D-List celebrities who couldn't make it onto "Wanna Bet?" try their luck at performing circus acts. Yes, really.

CBS: More "Big Brother" on CBS.

So You Think You Can Dance?Fox: Fox will be going with another season of "So You Think You Can Dance?" Memo to Fox: if it's not celebrities up there trying to mambo, no one really cares.

What to Watch: "The Baby Borrowers"

4.) THURSDAY

ABC: After two hours of repeats, ABC will be going with "Hopkins 24/7" at 10. A sort of real life "ER," the series chronicles doctors and patients at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Light viewing it's not.

CBS: CBS will be countering with *gasp* a new scripted series. The much delayed "Swingtown," about the shifting social climate of those groovy 1970s (read: lots of sex, bad fashion and hilariously horrible hair), focuses on a couple who move to suburban Chicago and are shocked by their free-spirited neighbors. Sure it is going to be cheesy, but it's got a couple of things going for it: 1) The 70s were awesome and 2) it's freakin' scripted programming! On the broadcast networks!


NBC: A new season of "Last Comic Standing" will air on NBC. The comedian reality competition has never been very watchable, mainly because almost all of the contests are not funny. At least it is no longer hosted by Jay Mohr.

Following "Last Comic" in the very crowded 10 o'clock hour is the horror anthology series "Fear Itself." It's high time we get another horror anthology series, and this one has some talent behind it. Contributors include John Landis, Ronny Yu and Mary Harron.

Fox: More "So You Think You Can Dance?" on Fox. And "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?" as well. Brutal, Fox. Absolutely brutal.

What to Watch: "Hopkins 24/7," "Swingtown" and "Fear Itself"

5.) FRIDAY

ABC: ABC has a full slate Friday nights, starting with "Dance Machine." Contestants from all walks of life will have to dance to popular songs from past and present. (See memo to Fox RE: "So You Think You Can Dance?") "Dance Machine" will be followed by returning reality competition "Duel," where contestants duel (hence the name) against others. But they don't use anything cool like pistols or swords in their duels, they use trivia. They use the mind. Things might have ended differently for founding father Alexander Hamilton if this show existed 200 years ago.

Enrico ColantoniCBS: CBS has another new scripted series (that's two!) in "Flashpoint." "Flashpoint," which was produced in Canada, is about a specially trained emergency task force that deals with all sorts of nasty situations that come about in big cities. It looks to be fairly procedural and episodic, but Enrico Colantoni is on board so it is worth checking out.

That's about it for Friday nights. Everything else is repeats and news magazines.

What to Watch: "Flashpoint"

6.) SATURDAY

Nothing much on Saturday nights. Big Surprise.

7.) SUNDAY

CBS: There are only two series' of note airing fresh installments on Sunday nights. The first is "Million Dollar Password" on CBS. The revival of the enormously popular game show has a simple premise. There are two contestants, each one paired up with a celebrity. The contestants take turns with their celebrity partner giving hints, trying to lead the other person to guessing the correct category. The old repeats on Game Show Network are great, and this update promises to be equally engaging. Plus, it's hosted by Regis Philbin!

CBS is also going with "Jingles," yet another reality competition. But this one has a somewhat interesting premise. Contestants have to write and perform advertising jingles for all sorts of products. It's created by reality dynamo Mark Burnett, so it's worth a shot.

What to Watch: Both of them

What do you think of the broadcast networks' summer schedule? Will you watch any of the shows or skip TV entirely? Make a comment!


Story by Derek Krebs
Starpulse contributing writer