A solution for the deluge of summer TV: "Replacement watching" new series in place of old favorites in reruns
If you think there was a lot of TV in your life before, just wait until you wade into this summer season.
My own unscientific listing of new and returning shows coming over the next three months reveals a staggering amount of fresh content headed for screens big and small, from Breaking Bad, Burn Notice and Dexter starting their final seasons, to John Oliver taking over the Daily Show for a couple months, a CBS miniseries based on Stephen King’s novel Under the Dome, Netflix uncorking two more series online and the return of shows I thought were dead, like AMC’s The Killing and CBS’ Unforgettable.
In fact, there so much new stuff coming – about two dozen new and returning TV shows just this week – I’m here to suggest a strategy for consuming it all.
We’ve already got binge-watching and hate-watching. So let’s call this habit “replacement-watching.”
Even TV critics only have room for so much television in their lives. So I suggest adopting a new summer TV show to replace one you may already like, which isn’t airing right now. That way, you’re not making a bunch of extra commitments to new shows, but you’re still getting the entertainment you’re used to experiencing.
Here’s my suggestions for handy substitutes
The Fosters, debuts at 9 tonight on ABC Family; subbing for: ABC Family’s Secret Life of an American Teenager: American Teenager, which ends its run after five seasons at 8 tonight, was always a knowing, sensitive drama that treated its teenage subjects like real, complex people. I’ll confess I stopped watching it with my teen daughters a while ago, but always loved its combination of offhand humor and respect for its young subjects.
The Fosters, executive produced by none other than Jennifer Lopez, features a lesbian couple leading a household packed with three foster children and a biological child of one mom from a previous relationship. Each kid faces a challenge – one is trying to decide if she’ll meet her biological mother, another is trying to reunite with a brother in another foster home. And they’re all trying to cope in the most traditional non-traditional household you could imagine, with one mom working as a school counselor and another working as a cop.
Mistresses, debuts at 10:01 tonight on WFTS-Ch. 28 (ABC); Subbing for: Desperate Housewives. Yeah, it left the air a year ago, but Housewives was once a crackling source of female-centered drama based on the friendships of grown-up women. ABC’s new drama, adapted from a British series of the same name, pushes the same buttons, centered on four female friends of a certain age touched by infidelity in different ways.
The real find here is Alyssa Milano, who shines as a centered, practical attorney slipping into an affair with a co-worker, almost by accident. She’s joined by Lost alum Yunjin Kim, as a therapist who slept with a married patient; Rochelle Aytes as a widow who is told her husband fathered a child out of wedlock and Jes Macallan as the wild child sister to Milano’s character.
The first episode gathers steam slowly. But the bond between the characters could grow into some compelling storylines.
America’s Got Talent, debuts at 9:01 p.m. Tuesday on WFLA-Ch. 8 (NBC); subbing for: American Idol. The always-brilliant James Poniewozik at TIME magazine noted that variety-based reality TV shows such as Idol and The Voice have become the new family television; the only shows outside sports which can get young and old in front of the same screen. Certainly, that been the case with my daughters, aged 8 to 18 and me; unless I’m willing to endure a Vampire Diaries or Dance Moms marathon, these shows are among the few we can stand to sit through together.
America’s Got Talent is rarely watchable as Idol, even the lame-o edition we sat through this year. But the show is breaking in new judges Mel B. and Heidi Klum alongside the two Howies, Mandel and Stern; watching Klum resist giving her patented Project Runway kiss-off to rejected contestants may be worth a few hours alone.
Burn Notice, debuts at 9 p.m. Thursday on USA; subbing for: NCIS or NCIS: LA. Once a rollicking, surprisingly fun spy drama, this series about a “burned” CIA operative stuck in Miami missed a step or two as it got more tangled in serious storylines about agent Michael Weston’s murdered brother and his estrangement from longtime girlfriend/assassin Fiona.
But its last season unspools this summer, as Weston discovers getting his job back at the CIA may have been the worst thing that happened to him and his friends. Time to jump back in for a final ride, especially since NCIS is in reruns for the next three months.
In the Flesh, debuts at 10 p.m Thursday on BBC America; subbing for: The Walking Dead. Imagine all the post-apocalyptic zombie blood letting and carnage from AMC’s The Walking Dead. Then imagine that scientists figure a way to curb the zombies’ craving for human flesh, via regular injections of medicine which slowly rebuild their brains. Could they return to live with the humans they once hunted as food?
That’s the premise at the heart of BBC America’s In the Flesh, an engaging new series which takes the world of Walking Dead a step further. Here, there’s a militia of vigilantes who saved a small English village who refuse to accept the newly undead, referred to as suffering from partially deceased syndrome.
As a young teen who killed himself tries to reunite with his family – including a sister who is a member of the militia – he considers joining a group of militant zombies who don’t trust the living and a militia member discovers he may have his own relative among the undead. It’s a perfect, European style substitute for the Walking Dead; like chomping on a great platter of fish and chips when a bacon cheeseburger isn’t available.