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September 4, 2015

TV 101: Curing the Summertime TV Blues

by Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously), posted May 25th 2011 4:00PM
WipeoutTelevision is a funny thing. When you've been watching it all your life, it not only takes on a habitual role, it can also become extremely personal. Everyone has "their shows" -- the shows they watch religiously, the shows for which DVR isn't an option, the shows they try to talk their significant others into liking, the shows that force them to ream out a blogger for merely suggesting that "maybe the show is slipping," ignoring the fact that the blogger really likes the show too, and if they could just meet face to face they would see that there's no need to call him that.

Taking that into account, it can be depressing, quite frankly, when the summer months arrive and all those shows we've been manipulating our schedules around are gone. But it doesn't necessarily have to be. The summer is an opportunity to leave that televisual comfort zone that we've spent so many years cultivating and seek new shows to add to our socially acceptable obsession. Here's a shortlist of shows premiering this summer that should be a cure for the "where's my show" blues.

Personally, I die a little inside when the comedies go away. NBC's Thursday night lineup, 'Modern Family,' 'The Middle' and 'Saturday Night Live,' all go a long way toward keeping me as close to sane as possible. That's why I was stoked to see that FX will debut the second season of 'Louie' and the new series 'Wilfred' on June 23, which, with the addition of HBO's 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' season 8 on July 10, should keep us all fat and giggly until the fall.

These programs definitely provide a different kind of comedy than what you're used to seeing -- more gritty than sugarcoated, more edgy than formulaic -- but laughter is laughter. It's the best medicine, it makes the world go round, and it's worth two in the bush. Instead of mourning the loss of Michael Scott, you can rejoice over the return of Larry David.

For those of you who need your reality fix -- please seek professional help -- temper your fits of withdrawal with a variation on the theme. I would urge anyone entrenched in the guilty pleasure of celebreality to venture up the dial and seek out some more "real" reality -- meaning shows about real people, not celebrities pandering in contrived situations. The first program that comes to mind is 'Freaky Eaters,' beginning June 5 on TLC. It's basically trying to get people who compulsively eat weird s**t to stop eating weird s**t, or at least understand why they do.

Conversely, if that kind of dour and grim reality is your jam, maybe you could use some of the frivolity and mindlessness that celebreality can provide. You're covered there as well with the CBS series 'Same Name,' starting up July 24. Think of it as celebrity life swap, and in the pilot episode some dude named David Hasselhoff trades places with The Hoff we all know and tolerate. Presumably, the ordinary Hasselhoff will ride in a limo and ironically have his picture taken with snarky twentysomethings in line at Starbucks, while The Hoff may actually show minor indications that he is indeed, a human being. Good times.

Everyone knows that 'True Blood' -- with hot new cast member Christina Moore -- makes its triumphant return June 26, and that should be plenty to satiate all the suspense, drama and vampire-sex freaks in our midst. But maybe, in the spirit of summer and taking it easy, we can turn our attention to 'Franklin & Bash,' premiering June 1 on TNT. With Breckin Meyer and the incomparable Mark Paul Gosselaar in the lead roles, this looks to be sort of a parody of lawyer dramas and crime series that should provide enough entertainment value to make your favorite drama seem that much better once it returns in the fall.

Summer is the perfect time to engage in the wholly cheap and ridiculous realm of the modern day game show. Game shows used to be about games -- guessing games, trivia, puzzles -- now the games are a prelude to making people look like morons (see 'Hole in the Wall' among others). You could certainly get your fill of this from 'Wipeout,' starting with a summer sneak preview June 21 on ABC, but I'm going to point you in the direction of '101 Ways to Leave a Game Show' which embraces this trend with abandon. The title itself tells you that the show has little to do with the game and everything to do with how contestants leave it. It's basically what would happen if 'Fear Factor' and 'Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader' had a disgusting baby ... and we stole it from Britain.

Dr. Vaughan teaches English/media/humor courses at Binghamton University in upstate New York, and his repertoire is vast. You can also check out his blog or find him on Facebook.

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I don't have cable! What about scripted network summer shows?

May 27 2011 at 8:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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May 25 2011 at 10:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

err this article is disgusting. Not a single mention for Breaking Bad which starts up again this July and is arguably the best show on TV. You should feel great shame.

May 25 2011 at 7:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to 412623514's comment
Mike S

Ummm.. if Breaking Bad was "arguably the best show on TV" then it would be on the schedule in September. They put junk on in the summer between commercials because folks are on the front porch sipping lemonade, talking to the neighbors and swatting at the mosquitos.

May 26 2011 at 6:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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