For network television, summer is traditionally a wasteland of horrible reality TV series and endless repeats.
But in the last few years, summer has also become a stronghold for hit original series on cable like "Burn Notice," "True Blood," "Warehouse 13," "Futurama," "Rescue Me" and more. If you love television the way that we do, you won't have any problems finding something to watch.
This year is looking particularly promising, with several new shows that could potentially join the pantheon of summer series for a long time to come. After pouring over the list of upcoming programs, these are our picks for the best new shows of the summer.
Series Premiere: 7/11/11
Syfy has become notoriously hit and miss lately. The fantastic "Stargate Universe" was abandoned in the fall against heavy network competition and summarily canceled just as it was delivering some of the greatest sci-fi stories on TV in years. The network has also become increasingly reliant on reality shows and wrestling to fill out its schedule, alienating its core audience in the process.
That said, we're cautiously optimistic about "Alphas," a new superhero series created by Zak Penn, the screenwriter of "X-Men: The Last Stand" — whom the network bizarrely (and somewhat inaccurately) credits as the "creator" of "X-Men: The Last Stand." The series' premise is a familiar one. Basically, several ordinary people with extraordinary abilities are brought together to solve crimes that no ordinary law enforcement or military assets could handle. David Strathaim ("Good Night and Good Luck") headlines the show as Doctor Lee Rosen, a Professor X-like mentor who helps the "Alphas" master their abilities and work together.
Warren Christie ("October Road"), Malik Yoba ("New York Undercover"), Laura Mennell ("Watchmen"), Ryan Cartwright ("Bones") and Azita Ghanizada ("Castle") round out the cast, with former "The 4400" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" executive producer Ira Stephen Behr attached as the showrunner.
This has the potential to be a great show, so don't let us down Syfy!
Series Premiere: 6/23/11
Going from sci-fi to the simply bizarre, FX's "Wilfred" looks so ludicrous that it may actually turn out to be a great comedy.
"Wilfred" is based on the Australian TV series of the same name, with creator and star, Jason Gann reprising his role as the dog named Wilfred. "Lord of the Rings" actor Elijah Wood plays Ryan, a suicidal man who sees Wilfred as a man in a ridiculous dog suit. But everyone else in the world sees and hears Wilfred as an ordinary dog.
FX has been pushing this show pretty heavily and the early clips are pretty funny. "Wilfred" may fit right in at the network that brought us "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia."
BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD
Series Premiere: Summer 2011
For those of us who grew up in the '90s, "Beavis and Butt-Head" was the forerunner of "South Park" and it was also one of the first cable animated series that really pushed the envelope for what a "cartoon" could get away with on TV. If anything, it was so violent and crude that MTV almost immediately censored the duo's obsession with fire and their tendency to maim each other with chainsaws and other household instruments of destruction.
And while "Beavis and Butt-Head" creator Mike Judge went on to a long run on the comparatively tame "King of the Hill," he's returning to his more famous creation later this summer. Although we don't know if our favorite idiots will still be commentating on nearly extinct music videos, "Jersey Shore" is certainly ripe for some commentary by Judge.
NTSF: SD: SUV
Network: Adult Swim
Series Premiere: 7/21/11
I was never in favor of putting live action content on Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. And frankly, "Children's Hospital" is the only live action show on that network that's actually funny and entertaining.
Having said that, "NTSF: SD: SUV" looks a promising companion series. Based on a mock trailer from the first season of "Children's Hospital," "National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle" or "NTSF: SD: SUV" is a parody of every procedural show that you've ever seen; from "NCIS" to "CSI" and even "Law & Order."
Paul Scheer ("Human Giant") created and stars in "NTSF: SD: SUV;" which features a ridiculously impressive cast including Rob Riggle, Rebecca Romijn, Kate Mulgrew and Brandon Johnson. Thus far, the show looks like it's going to be bizarre and completely nonsensical… just the way we like it.
Network: Cartoon Network
Series Premiere: July 2011
Technically, "ThunderCats" is the second '80s animated series getting a revival this summer. But while we aren't impressed by the trailers for "Voltron Force," the new "ThunderCats" may actually capture the spirit of the original show.
The producers of the new "ThunderCats" have taken the series' sometimes confusing and disjointed mythology and streamlined the story so that it actually makes sense. For example, all of the action takes place on one planet (Third Earth) and the focus is squarely on Lion-O's attempt to claim the throne of Thunderian throne after the fall of the kingdom. The voice cast for this reboot is also impressive, with Will Friedle, Clancy Brown, Robin Atkins Downes, Kevin Michael Richardson, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Matthew Mercer and even Larry Kenney; the original voice of Lion-O who will portray his father, Claudius on the new series.
Only the Pokémon-looking Snarf gives us pause…
Series Premiere: Summer 2011
Out of nowhere, Cinemax seems to have decided to become a real player in the original series market. For its first major program, Cinemax is teaming with British network Sky to produce "Strike Back," an action series based on the novel by Chris Ryan and inspired by the British TV series of the same name.
Sullivan Stapleton stars as Damien Scott, a former U.S. Special Forces operative who is recruited to work alongside a British military unit out to neutralize a deadly terrorist group. Thus far, most of the plot details are still unknown, but the early trailers show us a lot of action… and a topless woman.
Hey… it is a Cinemax series, after all!
Series Premiere: 6/5/11
Are you ready for a surprise? MTV's "Teen Wolf" may actually be one of the best new series this summer.
To be clear, this show has nothing to do with the Michael J. Fox "Teen Wolf" comedy movie other than the title and basic premise. And there's definitely a "Twilight" influence to it. But the pilot episode does show some real promise thanks to smart direction by Russell Mulcahy ("Resident Evil: Extinction") and a talented young cast led by Tyler Posey as the new werewolf, Scott McCall and Crystal Reed as his possible girlfriend, Allison.
"Criminal Minds" creator Jeff Davis is behind this reboot; and while he's stated that there will be no vampires on the show, he hinted at a broader mythology that may bring Scott into conflict with other shape-shifters, werewolf hunters and even his own kind.
Network: BBC America
U.S. Series Premiere: 6/18/11
Although "Outcasts" has already been screened in Britain earlier this year, Americans finally get to see it (legally) later this month when it comes to BBC America.
The premise is kind of an old sci-fi trope, as the show follows settlers from Earth as they attempt to start a new life on a planet called Carpathia in a not-too distant future. It sounds a little like "Earth 2" on the face of it. "Battlestar Galactia" veteran Jamie Bamber stars in a supporting role, alongside Liam Cunningham, Hermione Norris, Daniel Mays, Amy Manson, Ashley Walters, Michael Legge and Eric Mabius.
"Outcasts" will also be one of the few true sci-fi series to hit the airwaves in the near future. That alone is enough for me to check it out.
Series Premiere: 6/19/11
"Falling Skies" is one of the most heavily hyped series this summer, thanks to its pedigree as a co-creation of Steven Spielberg and "Saving Private Ryan" screenwriter, Robert Rodat.
Think of it as an alien invasion epic told by way of "The Walking Dead." Noah Wyle stars as an unlikely resistance leader struggling to survive and protect his sons against an overwhelming alien force that has devastated the planet and enslaved several children for an unknown purpose. The early episodes sent out to the press have been gripping and much darker than expected. This show is everything we hoped "V" would be and more. If you want to place your bets now, I'm willing to wager that TNT gives this an immediate second season pickup if the first episode pops in the ratings.
TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY
U.S. Series Premiere: 7/8/11
"Torchwood" isn't a brand new series. It ran for two full seasons on the BBC and as a miniseries called "Children of Earth" during a shortened third season.
But "Torchwood: Miracle Day" takes the show to a new level of scale and production, thanks to a deal between Starz and BBC. The series is almost completely reinvented for a larger audience, although John Barrowman and Eve Myles return as Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper from the original series. New cast members include Mekhi Phifer ("ER") as a CIA agent tracking down the former Torchwood team and Bill Pullman as a convicted murder who survives his own execution when everyone on Earth is suddenly rendered immortal and unable to die.
The premise is irresistible and the scope of the new ten episode season is impressive. Early word on the first few episodes seems to indicate the show delivers on its promise and more; which makes "Torchwood: Miracle Day" one of our most anticipated TV series of the summer.