Once upon a time, the summer was the designated dumping ground for all of the crap that the networks had lying around that they didn’t deem good enough to put on during the regular season, but now…well, actually, there’s still a bit of that going on, but viewers are also starting to get some unexpectedly strong material as well. I’ve been bombarded with screeners over the past few weeks, so many that I haven’t been able to keep up with them all, but I’ve managed to pull together a list of 10 shows that I have seen and found at least worth giving a try, if only for one episode to see if the first taste is enough to keep you coming back for more.
Wizards vs. Aliens
As a rule, any series which features Russell T. Davies, the man who finally succeeded in selling “Doctor Who” to Americans, as part of its creative team is a series that’s at least worth giving a shot, even if it is on The Hub. In fact, let’s back up a second: The Hub actually has a quite a lot of fun programming for the hipper young-adult set, so no one should be dismissing the network out of hand as being merely a channel for kids. Plus, hello, the show’s called “Wizards vs. Aliens.” How is that not going to be awesome? Granted, it’s still intended for a younger demographic, a la Davie’s “Who” spin-off, “The Sarah Jane Adventures,” so you shouldn’t go in expecting “Torchwood” levels of darkness, but if you go in with the right mindset, you’ll find it’s a lot of fun for the whole family.
Beverly Hills Pawn
As a rule, my interest in reality shows which take an inside look at jobs and businesses rarely goes beyond their first episode, but much as I repeatedly find myself sucked into watching “Pawn Stars,” so did I quickly blow through the two-episode screener that Reelz sent for its own version of the series, which takes place in Beverly Hills rather than Las Vegas and features owner Yossi Dina dealing with a decidedly high-class clientele as often as not. Being as it’s just around the corner from Hollywood, there’s also a tendency for a lot of show biz stuff to find its way into the shop, which adds a fun element to the proceedings, and, y’know, call me crazy, but I find Yossi’s team – Aria, Cory, and Dominique – a damned sight easier to look at than Rick, Big Hoss, Chumley, and the Old Man.
TNT isn’t going to pretend, so there’s no reason why we should, either: the biggest reason you’ll want to tune in to their new reality-competition series “The Hero” is because it’s hosted by The Rock. The competition itself has some eye-popping moments, too, but based on the first installment, the contestants may get on your nerves more than they inspire you to want to root for them. No, Dwayne Johnson is really the single greatest selling point for this show: he’s his usual charismatic, funny self straight out of the gate,and there’s rarely a moment when he’s on the screen that you aren’t aware exactly why he’s so popular. Good thing for “The Hero” that they’ve got him, eh?
Calling “72 Hours” derivative of “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” is A) an utterly accurate assessment, and B) completely beside the point. I mean, obviously those are the two shows it’s swiping from. Thing is, it’s got one advantage over those two shows: each episode features three teams going on a quest for a briefcase filled with $10,000, and they find it by the end of the episode. None of that waiting to see how the whole season plays out here, my friend. You get everything you want in the course of a single hour, with each episode set in a different location to keep things visually interesting. The highest compliment I can pay “72 Hours” is that TNT sent out a screener of three episodes and, despite the fact that I rarely watch “The Amazing Race” and may not have ever seen a complete episode of “Survivor,” I blew through all three of these episodes back to back. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable these things are when you know you’re going to see a winner declared by the time the closing credits roll.
Race to the Scene
Fair warning: this is an incredibly goofy show, and Dolph Lundgren’s turn as host is probably the goofiest aspect of all. The concept of this reality-competition series – yes, another one – is to run the contestants through various trials based on scenes from different movies. I’ve seen them tackle key moments from “Forrest Gump” and “Independence Day,” and it’s pleasant enough to watch, but, man, Lundgren seems to be having the time of his life, stepping outside his usual stern action hero / sneering bad guy persona and being silly. I’m not saying that he’s not a little stiff as a game-show host, but whether you laugh or groan, you can’t help but react when you see him wearing Forrest Gump’s suit, sitting on a bench on the sidelines of a football field, and hear him say, “Like my mama always said, ‘Life is like a box of Swedish meatballs: you never know what you’re gonna get.'”
There’s no point in wasting too much of your time or mine by rehashing the information I gave you in last week’s column about USA’s latest and darkest drama, “Graceland,” so beyond the link I just offered you, I’ll just say again that this series should be a must-watch, if only to prove to USA that there’s a market for more substantial material amongst their viewership.
With Ray Harryhausen having just ascended to that great special effects studio in the sky, you can’t help but get a little wistful at the thought of SyFy taking a shot at bringing the adventures of Sinbad to a new generation. Having seen only a single episode of the series thus far, the best I can say about “Sinbad” is that I’m looking forward to watching Naveen Andrews – Sayid on “Lost” – have fun playing the bad guy, but knowing some of the adventures this sailor has been on over the years, I’m hoping they capture the sense of fun that should be inherent in Sinbad’s adventures at all times.
Primeval: New World
I admit, I fell behind on BBC America’s “Primeval” somewhere in its second season, so I’ve no idea exactly what happened at the end of the series’ run or if it’s explained at some point how the time/space gateway which used to open in the UK is now opening here in the States. Ultimately, though, I find that I don’t really care, because DINOSAURS. Yeah, seriously, I don’t care how it happened. I’m just going to sit back, accept whatever they tell me, and enjoy the action. (I’ve always found that’s the best way to enjoy anything where the plot involves dinosaurs being in modern times, anyway.)
King & Maxwell
TNT knows drama. I mean, they must, right? It’s their slogan, for God’s sake. But they also know paint-by-the-numbers buddy procedurals. “Rizzoli & Isles”? Check. “Franklin & Bash”? Check. With one starring two female leads and one starring two male leads, however, TNT decided to think outside the box on their latest effort, pairing a man with a woman. Jon Tenney’s a proven commodity from “The Closer,” and Rebecca Romijn is hot and a pretty decent actress to boot, so as long as you can buy them as former Secret Service agents turned private detectives, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t like “King & Maxwell.”
Under the Dome
Stephen King’s TV adaptations have always been a little hit and miss, usually because they’re an hour or more longer than they really need to be. “Under the Dome” may not change that track record, given that it’s been transformed into a 13-episode summer series which, based on all reports, has the potential to extend for several more summers if the ratings are right, but the fact that it’s being adapted by Bryan K. Vaughn (the creator of the comic book “Y: The Last Man” who got some TV-writing experience on “Lost”) and expanded and tweaked to better fit into a weekly-series format leads me to believe that the possibility of success is better than average. The first episode definitely confirms that they’re planning to keep all the gore of the book that broadcast-network standards will allow, and after his work on “Breaking Bad,” you know damned well I’ll follow Dean Norris anywhere. We’ll see how it all plays out, but I’m cautiously optimistic.
Tags: Beverly Hills Pawn, CBS, Dean Norris, Dolph Lundgren, Dwayne Johnson, Graceland, Jon Tenney, King & Maxwell, Primeval: New World, Race to the Scene, Rebecca Romijn, Reelz, Russell T. Davies, Sinbad, Stephen King, SyFy, The Hero, The Hub, The Light from the TV Shows, The Rock, TNT, Under the Dome, USA, Will Harris, Wizards vs. Aliens