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Get set for summer: Broadcasters, content providers launch plenty of viewing fare

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It used to be that summer was the time to turn off the TV set and relax at the beach. That was before you could take your screen to the beach in the same pocket you take your sunscreen.

The idea of an "unplugged cottage" where distant signals are pulled in off rabbit ears is a thing of the past. Now cottages are places where people binge-watch the latest Netflix or online offering as well as stream network fare.

As a result, broadcasters and other content providers have packed this summer with many distractions. Some got an early start in June, including last summer's hit, "Under the Dome" (Mondays on Global), perennial summer leader "Big Brother" (Wednesdays and Thursdays on CBS and Global) and Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," now streaming on Crackle.

There are 50 premieres and finales in the month of July alone on network and cable, including the final seconds of Jack Bauer's latest opus, "24: Live Another Day" (July 14). Here are more than a dozen other shows worth staying in for this month and next:

1. "The Amazing Race Canada" (premiering Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CTV). Last summer's biggest hit drew 3.5 million viewers a week, an astounding total for a Canadian series. It's back with beer-swilling Olympian Jon Montgomery as host. Among this summer's 11 teams are former National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Rex Harrington and his partner with the famous name, Bob Hope, as well as two members of Canada's National Women's Hockey Team, Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson. Rumours Season 2 would extend outside Canada's borders proved false, but seven provinces and one territory are visited. "Gas for life" from Petro-Canada plus $250,000 is at stake.

2. "Extant" (Wednesday, CBS, Global). Oscar winner Halle Berry stars in this 13-part sci-fi series as an astronaut who returns to Earth inexplicably pregnant after a year in space. Goran Visnjic ("ER") plays her Earth hubby, who naturally feels she has some 'splainin' to do. Steven Spielberg helped put this baby in orbit.

3. "The Strain" (July 13, FX Canada, FX). Super creepy thriller from Guillermo del Toro ("Hellboy") promises to make the vampires on all other TV shows look like Teletubbies. A worm-like virus infects a planeload of passengers and spreads from there. Shot in Toronto, with Corey Stoll, David Bradley, Kevin Durrand, Natalie Brown and Sean Astin among the ensemble.

4. "Ray Donovan" (July 13, Showtime, TMN/Movie Central). Liev Schreiber stars as the ultimate L.A. fixer, but Golden Globe Award winner Jon Voight, 75, continues to steal this series as Donovan's bad dad, Mickey. Look for guest star turns in Season 2 from Hank Azaria, Sherilyn Fenn and Ann-Margret.

5. "Masters of Sex" (July 13, Showtime, TMN/Movie Central). Ready for more "Sex"? Pioneering sex therapists Masters and Johnson (Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan) are back, with Caitlin FitzGerald and Betsy Brandt among the Season 2 patients.

6. "Majumder Manor" (July 21, W). Comedian Shaun Majumder ("This Hour Has 22 Minutes") continues on his quixotic quest to turn his picturesque hometown of Burlington, N.L., into a tourist destination. Along for the ride is gal pal Shelby, with the season culminating in the couple's wedding. But will the guest accommodations in remote Burlington be ready in time?

7. "The Killing" (Aug. 1, Netflix). The entire six-episode fourth season drops Aug. 1 on Netflix, allowing fans to say goodbye to this B.C.-based series which originated on AMC.

8. "Outlander" (Aug. 9, Showcase, Starz). A married combat nurse from 1945 (played by Caitriona Balfe) is mysteriously swept back to 1743, where she's forced to marry a rugged Scottish warrior (Sam Heughan). Hoot mon! Big-budget, international co-pro shot in Scotland and based on the bestselling, historical sci-fi novels of Diana Gabaldon.

9. Summer is when the U.S. networks look down their bench for Canadian shows to fill slots. "Motive" (Wednesday) and "Rookie Blue" (Thursday) return to ABC, with "Working the Engels" (Thursday) needing a breakout run on NBC to overcome a slow start on Global. Canadian comedies "Seed" and "Backpackers" both premiere on The CW July 14.


Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

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