After perusing the summer 2014 schedule over at TV Guide, it has occurred to me that there is a crap-ton of quality new and returning programming this summer which is continuing a year-over-year trend of the broadcast and cable networks dedicating quality content to the until recently largely under-appreciated television audience looking for new content. Gone are the days of summer being a wasteland of reruns and reality shows as the networks have finally figured out that after forty years of processed foods and decreasing exercise as a culture during the summer, we are now more likely to park our collective fat asses on the sofa and watch TV instead of doing things that require physical exertion. So, thank you network and cable television executives for encouraging our eventual physical demise as a society.
All snarkiness aside, the renaissance of the summer television schedule has its origins in the economic downturn throughout the last decade and families looking to save money on their entertainment by forgoing things like family vacations and multiple trips to the their local multiplex during the year. Families in general began to look at home entertainment as an alternative expense and began to invest for the long-term instead of spending frivolously with no return. During the late 2000s sales of large screen televisions and home theater system skyrocketed whereas other industries remained stagnant and lost ground.
This change in consumer attitude has created an opportunity for a tremendous amount of programming that would have never seen the light of day in years past. Needless to say, I’m all for it.
So, here’s how this going to work:
This is one part of a multi-part series that will post over several weeks. Some parts (like this one) will have more show recommendations than others simply for the fact that I’m trying to avoid giving you a heads-up on a show that has already begun (not much of a head’s up if it’s after-the-fact) and I don’t want to get more behind than I already am. You will notice that there is a lack of comedies on this list. The reason for that is simple: summer comedies usually are f*cking horrible. There are a few exceptions which I will note but don’t expect a lot from me in that department.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why your favorite drama or drama you’re looking forward to isn’t on the list, it’s because you probably have sh*tty taste and those shows you want to see mentioned are awful or certainly will be.
For new series, I will include commentary on what a series has going for it and what it has going against it.
24: Live Another Day (FOX – Mondays, 9:00 p.m. beginning May 5th)
Jack Bauer and IGN’s fifth greatest show of all time returned on May 5th after being canceled four years ago for what the producers have called a “limited run event.” 24 was always one of my favorite shows on television but a couple of things occurred to me after I crammed in all eight previous seasons over the course of four weeks; first, there is a lot of unnecessary filler content throughout the 24 episodes of any given season that was completely unnecessary in order to advance the story and they dragged down the series (see: the entire Kim Bauer storyline in season two). Second, the major subplots were also great but they were also used as filler to get the season through 24 episodes. That extra content could have been recrafted into an entirely different season but they crammed in no less than four major plotlines into one day and it was absurd at times. I remember watching season six thinking they could have ended the whole season at episode 18 and that was without removing the other filler that polluted that season.
This realization of all of the unnecessary content forced me to conclude that 24 is probably far better suited for 12 to 13 episodes just as 24: Live Another Day is by design. It’s simply more efficient storytelling for a very frenetic series that could use a little more structure and precision. There’s also the other issue that the reason that 24 was canceled in the first place was not because the ratings were particularly bad, it’s that the show was incredibly expensive to produce, was getting more expensive every year and the returns on the investment just weren’t there any more. You cut that order in half and you saved half the cost of your series right there and you can make your franchise profitable again.
So far, Live Another Day has been as advertised and what you would expect from the franchise, despite the fact that I was a little concerned because of the slow start (FFS, Bauer didn’t even say a word until 45 minutes into the first hour) and what was appearing to be too much time once again dedicated to filler early on. Since episode three it has picked up dramatically and I expect the remaining episodes of season nine to live up to its expectations but if they really want to impress the f*ck out of me then they need to bring back Tony Almeida and I don’t care how they do it.
Motive (ABC – Wednesdays, 10:00 p.m. beginning May 21st)
I saw a grand total of one episode of this show last year and I actually liked it a lot but my schedule was full and didn’t have the time to fit it in. I despise police procedurals for the most part but the concept of the series, showing different aspects of the crime from different characters perspectives, is reminiscent of the short-lived but brilliant NBC series from 2002, Boomtown. I think it’s safe to say that if Boomtown had a short-order 13 episode summer schedule it would have run for several seasons but, alas, that kind of programming didn’t exist in the early 2000s so we all lost. Motive cleverly fills that hole in for this generation of television audiences and does so nicely.
Gang Related (FOX – Thursdays, 9:00 p.m. beginning May 22nd)
Gang Related is a complex serialized drama revolving around a former gang member turned cop and the war between the police and organized crime in Los Angeles. The premise seems to ooze with clichés and recycles elements of other similar stories (see: The Departed) but it has a strong cast (Lost‘s Terry O’Quinn and The Shield‘s Catherine Dent in particular) and goddammit if those trailers don’t make it look compelling. The first two episodes are still sitting on the DVR so I can’t give an assessment but like the title of the article says, you might want to check it out.
What it’s got going for it: As noted, the series has a strong cast and it’s probably not that expensive to produce considering the shortened summer scheduling. Audience reaction has been positive thus far.
What it’s got going against it: Incredibly mixed reviews from critics noting the same problems that I expressed without having seen a single episode. It’s also on FOX and FOX has a tendency to sh*t their pants and cancel shows if they show any signs of losing their audience.
The Wil Wheaton Project (Tuesdays, 10:00 p.m. beginning May 27th)
Do you like clip shows? Well, if you do, The Wil Wheaton Project is for you! That is, of course, if you’re a big Science Fiction/Genre geek like I am. The easiest way to describe this series is to think of The Soup but specifically for nerds and when I say think of The Soup, I mean it’s EXACTLY like that series. I haven’t looked closely into it but there’s no doubt that the two series are using the same producers and writers as the style, writing and format are IDENTICAL. No, complaints here, though. This isn’t just one of those shows I suggest checking out, I highly recommend this series.
What it’s got going for it: I watched the first episode the other day and it was absolutely hilarious and done in such a manner that it doesn’t alienate a non-SciFi/Genre audience. This is an incredibly inexpensive show to produce and SyFy like cheap shows. Wil Wheaton’s ScifFi pedigree gives the series instant credibility (having Chris Hardwick make an appearance on your pilot doesn’t hurt either).
What it’s got going against it: Nothing. Shut up and enjoy it.
Rogue (DirecTV – Wednesdays, 8:00 p.m. beginning May 28th)
Wednesday marked the beginning of the second season of DirecTV’s original drama, Rogue. I only became a subscriber to DirecTV about a month ago and since I think torrenting is the equivalent of setting live puppies on fire and beating up old ladies I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, suggest anyone do anything, like say, perhaps visit a site like The Pirate Bay to get caught up. That being said, as described, the series looks pretty compelling (if not particularly original) as far as serialized detective shows are concerned with an undercover cop that gets entangled with organized crime. If, like me, you haven’t seen this series yet and you want to get caught up… oh, I’m sure you’ll find a way.
Crossbones (NBC – Fridays, 10:00 p.m. beginning May 30th)
Until recently, my only interest in pirates was the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland which to this day is my favorite ride of all time. I have seen several pirate movies over the years including the Disney films of the same title and I’ve enjoyed them but once again, I’ve had no interest in the genre. Perhaps that’s because my only exposure to Pirates has been through the fantasy colored lenses that Disney provides but honestly, after becoming immersed in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, I have really come to appreciate the history surrounding West Indies pirates. Crossbones is a series revolving around the legendary Blackbeard and stars John Malkovich in his first lead role on television. Looks like fun.
What it’s got going for it: Pirates are popular right now and John Malkovich brings a level of gravitas to the series that will get the attention of audiences.
What it’s got going against it: Mixed reviews so far and period pieces are expensive to produce. I’m not particularly comfortable with the Friday night slot during the summer, either and NBC is unpredictable with their programming choices.