I realize I’ve been slacking off with the ol’ blog this summer, but I have a good excuse: There’s hasn’t been much worth talking about. So far, the summer shows have been a bunch of duds.
“Top Chef” (Bravo) at one time was neck-and-neck with “Amazing Race” for the best reality show on TV. But three episodes into this season and it’s already a disaster, with annoying personalities, subpar dishes and a notable lack of drama. There are a lot of factors at work here — overexposure (between “Top Chef” and “Top Chef Masters,” the franchise has been running for an entire year almost nonstop), a change in focus more toward personalities than food, and the simple fact that this season’s crew just isn’t as talented as last season’s. And it’s tough to create drama when viewers just don’t care about any of the participants.
I had been looking forward to the return of Denis Leary’s dark firefighter dramedy “Rescue Me” (FX), but Tuesday’s season premiere was so terrible that I think I’m done with the show. It was a muddled mess with no discernible story line (half the time I couldn’t tell if it was all a dream or reality), over-exposition (the chief might as well have been explaining the season’s long-term plot when he was talking about closing down the fire house) and bizarre character developments that defied logic (Mickey driving the wrong way, Teddy walking free, Janet moving in and Colleen a budding alcoholic — wait, that one’s realistic, but not Janet’s being OK with it). I’m tired of the dreariness, I’m tired of Shelia’s craziness and I’m tired of Tommy’s self-loathing. And there was hardly any of the usual comic relief to break up the bleakness. I hated the episode so, so much. I hereby declare I’m done with it. If it gets better as the season progresses, I’ll watch the DVD set later.
Even “Burn Notice” (USA) is getting tired. I’m still a fan of the explosion-laden, breezily fun spy caper series, but the cases of the week are gumming up the works. I like the big-picture plotline, with Michael trying to find out who sprung the super-terrorist last season, and I’m even OK with the addition of Jesse, the spy who Michael accidentally burned. But their stories are so much more compelling and original than the lame lawyer threatened by bikers, or the embezzlement victim-turned hostage-taker who the team ends up helping every week. The fact that the seasons are split up isn’t helping either. The last season ended, what, two, three months ago? There wasn’t enough time to build up anticipation. Like “Top Chef,” how can we miss it if it won’t go away?
The jumble of “next-best” reality shows has been ho-hum, with “The Next Food Network Star” (Food Network), “HGTV Design Star” (HGTV) and “Work of Art” (Bravo) each OK, but not exactly appointment TV.
The summer hasn’t been a total loss though. “Deadliest Catch” (Discovery) is having perhaps its best, most dramatic season documenting Captain Phil Harris’ stroke. “Friday Night Lights” (NBC) is having a solid season, not quite as good as Seasons 1 or 3, but better than Season 2 at least. And even a weaker season of “FNL” is better than most network dramas. “Louie” (FX) premiered this week and was a welcome surprise, filthy-mouthed yet somehow endearing. On HBO, “Entourage” and “Hung” both had promising season premieres last week, and both could easily shoot to the top of my “must watch” list. But God help me for saying this, the funniest show this summer has been “The Bachelorette” (ABC). Unintentionally, of course. It’s been so over the top, so full of idiots and idiotic moments, and so full of staged melodrama (leaving Kermit the Frog stuck on an Icelandic glacier? Awesome!) that it’s been the most consistent source of belly laughs. It’ll probably settle down now that the biggest tools have been eliminated, but it’s been a good run.
There’s hope on the horizon. “White Collar” (USA) and “My Boys” (TBS) are coming back in the next few weeks, and the jewel of summer programming, AMC’s “Mad Men,” is back July 25, followed by “Rubicon” (AMC) on Aug. 1. So things might yet pick up.
Thoughts? I can’t be the only one disappointed by these shows, am I? Are there great shows that I’m missing out on? Chime in and leave a comment.