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Turn on, tune in, cool off

Summer no longer a rerun wasteland; new, returning shows make it worthwhile to get out of the heat

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Hot enough for you? Indeed, the outdoorsy portions of Manitoba have been sizzling for the past couple of weeks, consistently hitting temperatures that, for some, make it difficult to be outside.

The good news, for those inclined to take air-conditioned, couchbound shelter from the blazing sun and bothersome humidity, is that TV is hot this summer, too. Long gone are the days when television spent June, July and August in a rerun-filled off-season snooze. This year -- as evidenced in recent weeks by the arrival of such high-profile titles as Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom, the made-for-cable reboot of Dallas, the return of Matt LeBlanc's self-parodying comedy Episodes and the steamy/scary fifth season of True Blood -- there's more than enough worthwhile programming on the tube to keep any hours spent inside from feeling wasted.

Here's a quick look at some of summertime's upcoming small-screen attractions:


Starring Elliot Knight and Naveen Andrews

Sunday at 6 p.m., Space

This Brit-import 21st-century update of a classic seafaring tale follows a low-level thief named Sinbad (Elliot Knight) who inadvertently becomes an adventure-seeking sailor after fleeing his homeland of Basra to escape the vengeance-seeking Lord Akbari (Lost's Naveen Andrews). Exotic locations, plenty of computer-generated monsters and demons.

Opening Act

Featuring Nicki Minaj, Rod Stewart, Jason Mraz, Brad Paisley, Lady Gaga and LMFAO

Monday at 9 p.m., Bravo

Producer Nigel Lythgoe (American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance) is the driving force behind this dreams-come-true reality series, which searches the YouTube realm for talented singers and then surprises the best of the online bunch by offering them a chance to open for a music-industry megastar.

NY Med

Featuring Dr. Mehmet Oz

Tuesday at 9 p.m., ABC

This summer documentary series, from executive producer Terence Wrong (Hopkins, Boston Med), offers an unflinching look at the work of top-notch surgeons working in several New York City hospitals. Cameras were allowed unprecedented access to emergency departments and operating rooms for a full year; among the MDs featured is Dr. Mehmet Oz, who performs surgery and, later, becomes a patient.

The Closer

Starring Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Tenney and Mary McDonnell

Wednesday at 11 p.m., Super Channel

After seven seasons, five Emmy nominations and one Emmy win for best actress in a drama series, Kyra Sedgwick heads into her final set of episodes as Deputy LAPD Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson. Not surprisingly, it's destined to be a messy exit as questionable tactics used on past cases are re-examined, putting her career and the future of the Major Crimes Unit in jeopardy.

Big Brother

Hosted by Julie Chen

Thursday at 7 p.m., CBS/Global

OK, so it isn't exactly uplifting or intellectually challenging TV fare -- but the simple fact of the matter is that Big Brother, entering its 14th season, remains a huge summertime ratings winner for CBS, and is even more popular on a per-capita viewership basis here in Canada. The new edition features four returning veterans, as well as -- and jeepers, don't all reality shows have one these days? -- a relative of Survivor baddie Russell Hantz in the cast.

Breaking Bad

Starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn and Dean Norris

July 15 at 9 p.m., AMC

For many TV addicts, the arrival of Breaking Bad's fifth (and final) season is the must-see event of the summer. Bryan Cranston, formerly pigeonholed as a comedy actor (Seinfeld, Malcolm in the Middle), has turned in arguably the best multi-season dramatic performance of the past half-decade, as cancer-diagnosis-driven high-school teacher Walter White has descended deeper into the dark world of drugs and crime. In the new 16-episode season (which will be split into two eight-instalment runs), Walt and sidekick Jesse (Aaron Paul) continue their ruthless rise to full-kingpin status.

Political Animals

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Adrian Pasdar, Carla Gugino and Ellen Burstyn

July 15 at 8 p.m., Bravo

An intriguing made-for-U.S.-cable drama with a stellar cast and an eerily familiar storyline, Political Animals stars Sigourney Weaver as a former first lady who campaigns unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination and then accepts a post as the new U.S. president's secretary of state. Oh, and her former-president husband -- a serial philanderer with a southern twang? She dumps him.

Hell on Wheels

Starring Anson Mount, Colm Meaney, Common and Dominique McElligott

Aug. 12 at 8 p.m., AMC

Despite being dismissed by many critics as a watered-down version of HBO's much grittier Deadwood, this wild-West yarn set against the construction of the transcontinental railroad earned a second-season renewal from AMC. Anson Mount is a formidable presence as Cullen Bohannon, a former Confederate soldier with a score to settle on the lawless frontier, and Colm Meaney is completely over the top as villainous railroad baron Doc Durant.

Anger Management

Starring Charlie Sheen, Selma Blair and Shawnee Smith

Post-Olympics preview (date TBA), CTV

Long after its June premiere on its U.S. home, FX, Charlie Sheen's return to the sitcom genre will be given a sneak-preview showing on CTV before its actual fall-schedule launch (oddly, the recently launched FX Canada specialty net does not hold the rights to this series). Critical reaction has been decidedly mixed, but the Stateside version of FX was very pleased with Anger Management's premiere-week ratings.

Common Law

Starring Michael Ealy, Warren Cole, Sonya Walger and Jack McGee

Aug. 26 (time TBA), Showcase

This light-hearted cop drama, from U.S. cable's USA network, focuses on a pair of partnered-up LAPD detectives whose investigative efforts are hampered by the fact they can't stand each other. When the situation becomes unworkable, their boss decides to force them into couples therapy to see if they can work out their differences.


Starring Tom Weston-Jones, Kyle Schmid, Anastasia Griffith and Franka Potente

Aug. 26 (time TBA), Showcase

This highly anticipated period drama from Tom Fontana (Homicide: Life on the Street, Oz) follows an Irish-immigrant cop patrolling New York City's infamous Five Points neighbourhood during the 1860s. His efforts to keep the peace are complicated by his ongoing effort to uncover information about the disappearance of his wife and the death of his daughter.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 7, 2012 G1

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