"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," but these days, a guide through the seemingly endless flurry of pop culture is just what we need.
With that in mind, here is what's on the radar screen in TV, music and film for the coming week.
The Dark Knight Rises (July 20)
Big picture: It's a battle of the vocally challenged in the biggest movie of the summer. In one corner, Christian Bale's Batman, whose raspy bass makes him sound like the ill-gotten love child of Tom Waits and the Marlboro Man; in the other corner, new villain Bane (Tom Hardy), a super-strong terrorist who mumbles his way through a breathing apparatus. At stake: Gotham City and director Christopher Nolan's Batman legacy. The climactic film in the director's trilogy also finds Anne Hathaway donning some form-fitting leather as cat burglar Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman). Expect Hathaway to bring more intellectual depth to a role often relegated to visual catnip -- but she'll still pack a purr.
Liam Neeson also returns as Batman's twisted mentor from the League of Shadows. Three villains -- and Nolan doesn't even give the Caped Crusader his comic-book sidekick Robin to even things up? This Dark Knight will have to rise or fall on his own.
Forecast: Batman returns to action -- after an eight-year crime-fighting hiatus -- in diminished physical and mental form. He's older and slower -- and a source of loathing among the city folk for crimes he didn't commit. He's called the Dark Knight for a reason and Nolan has been given carte blanche to write his own ending for the character. While Batman will certainly save the day, my bet is he'll make the ultimate sacrifice for Gotham -- and earn this film Oscar glory in the process.
Big events: Degrassi (July 16, MuchMusic, 9 p.m.), L.A. Complex (July 17, MuchMusic, 8 p.m.)
Big picture: Kids these days! A love triangle takes centre stage in a new summer season of the award-winning Degrassi. Katie or Bianca? What is a confused Drew to do? It may the greatest high school dilemma since Dylan McKay had to answer the fabled question: Brenda or Kelly? (Note to Drew: I think Dylan's answer was BOTH -- but he had the advantage of magical sideburns). Meanwhile, the critically-acclaimed L.A. Complex deals with another group of troubled young folks as they struggle to become Hollywood's next star. The show's sharp blend of drama and humour -- and its compelling, raw relationships -- made it one of last year's surprise hits. Season 2 will introduce six new characters, including Canadian actor Alan Thicke (Growing Pains) as a hotheaded Hollywood powerbroker and director, and Krista Allen (Two and a Half Men) as Jennifer, a beautiful A-list actress on a perilous road to irrelevancy (you better tune in, Lindsay Lohan).
Forecast: Degrassi will continue to find success with its summer serial format. You can watch new episodes every Monday to Thursday. But L.A. Complex is the must-see of the two. I can only think of one way the show can top itself. Luke Perry isn't doing much these days, and I sense crossover potential! Who wouldn't like to see a 40-something Dylan McKay move from West Beverly Hills to Hollywood Boulevard?
Big releases on Tuesday: Soul Asylum (Delayed Reaction)
Big picture: Soul Asylum looks to reclaim ITS status as one of rock's top-tier bands. After a six-year absence, the bandmates are running the Asylum again. Their first single, Gravity, often sounds like a more-angst ridden Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers -- but fails to deliver the emotional potency of former hits like Runaway Train and Promises Broken. The band's new lineup includes founders Dave Pirner and Dan Murphy, but adds bassist Tommy Stinson (The Replacements) and one-time Prince drummer Michael Bland.
Forecast: Even if Delayed Reaction isn't a career-defining effort, the band is no longer going the "wrong way on a one-way track." The new lineup could provide fresh energy and creativity; time will tell whether these guys have got soul.
Honourable Mention: Jeff the Brotherhood (Hypnotic Nights): Produced by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, this Nashville's duo's first effort hits all the sweet spots. Don't come looking for depth, but the sunny guitar hooks and pitch-perfect rock anthems are impossible to resist. The 20-somethings may only sing about beer, drugs, music, partying and youthful nostalgia -- but they do it with a sweetness and warmth that make them sound like the musical love child of Weezer and The Beach Boys. (Sorry about all the "love child" talk this week, it must be the summer heat).
-- Postmedia News