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A few new summer TV shows worth staying inside for

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Remember when the summer was a good excuse to push back from the TV screen and spend time doing stuff like going outside instead of sitting on the couch? • No more. Thanks to cable TV's expanding wares and the broadcast networks' refusal to go dark after May, there is an explosion of new shows headed your way over the next couple of months. • But what's worth delaying a much-needed excursion to Fort De Soto or the Harry Potter Experience? Read on.

The Hard Times of R.J. Berger debuts at 11 tonight after the MTV Movie Awards on MTV

I wrote last Sunday about the dangers of a show this raunchy and funny; "aspirational" middle school viewers could easily be drawn in by this creative and dirty comedy about a 15-year-old geek whose pants and jock strap fall off during a basketball game, revealing his significant, um, gifts to the entire school. He's chased by an equally geeky, much raunchier girl, pals with a goofball Jack Black clone and fantasizes about the school beauty, a study buddy who just happens to rock a body better than your average Maxim model. You've seen it all before, but the bleeped curse words and appealing actors make this a seriously guilty pleasure for anyone old enough to enter an R-rated movie. TiVo to watch when the kids or younger siblings are asleep.

Drop Dead Diva returns to new episodes at 9 tonight on Lifetime

Some TV critic friends swear by this series, which I have always found an appealing if slight trifle, about a dead airhead model resurrected in the body of a plus-size lawyer. (I wonder about a series that lectures on beauty traps that women face, through a cast featuring a plump woman surrounded by thin, pretty people.) What's best about the new season: Much of that stuff is left behind, as Brooke Elliott's sexy, increasingly smart Jane Bingum faces disbarment proceedings, the return of a "secret" husband and blossoming love with a new boyfriend. All that and a cameo from Paula Abdul! TiVo, if you like slightly smart soap.

Last Comic Standing returns at 8 p.m. Monday on WFLA-Ch. 8

As a standup comedy geek, I love NBC's devotion to this unscripted comedy competition. But even though new judge Andy Kindler is funnier than anybody who appeared on the show last season, new host Craig "Hot Tub Time Machine" Robinson is the least funny person to hold the job yet. And it's just depressing to see former up-and-coming comics such as Guy Torre struggling to compete. TiVo, to skip the many boring parts.

Pretty Little Liars debuts at 8 p.m. Tuesday on ABC Family

Imagine the Desperate Housewives in high school getting snarky, threatening messages from their dead pal Mary Alice. That's kinda the vibe of ABC Family's new series, a murky, floundering drama about four girls united by a terrible secret involving a missing friend. Watching Chad Lowe play a schoolteacher dad having an affair with his daughter's friend is only one of the many icky moments. Ti-NO, unless there's a tween girl in the house with time to waste.

The Green Room with Paul Provenza debuts at 10:30 p.m. Thursday on Showtime

Everyone from Wanda Sykes to Chelsea Handler has learned the hard way: Just because a bunch of comics sit on a roundtable doesn't guarantee they'll be funny. But Provenza's series, airing gloriously unbleeped on Showtime, nails the spirit of hanging with a bunch of comics after hours. This week's episode is laugh-out-loud funny, with Drew Carey sniping at Larry the Cable Guy and Eddie Izzard explaining why he never did a cruise ship gig. But next week's episode is revelatory, as Roseanne explains her mercurial compulsion to offend and Patrice O'Neal complains about missing his shot at stardom. TiVo for the comedy geek in your life.

10 minutes

with Monica Raymund

Fox may have taken its time deciding whether to renew its drama about a human lie detector, Lie to Me, but that didn't keep St. Petersburg native and series co-star Monica Raymund on the sidelines. Instead, she snagged a role in a New York production of playwright Elizabeth Meriwether's Oliver Parker, where the 23-year-old Shore­crest Preparatory School grad is sharing the stage with John Larroquette. Now, as the show returns for its second season at 8 p.m. on WTVT-Ch. 13, she's sharing scenes with Oscar nominee Tim Roth as an aide to his acerbic Dr. Cal Lightman. Calling from New York for 10 minutes in between performances, Raymund caught us up:

What have you learned after a season on Lie to Me?

I learned TV is a lot harder than I thought. It's like I'm back in acting class every day. I've even followed the director around to see how an episode is put together.

Did you learn something from Tim Roth?

He's somebody who tries to do something different on every take. He's an actor who makes it interesting every time … which teaches you to take chances.

What are we going to see this season from your character, Ria Torres?

I feel like my character has settled in, got the respect of her colleagues. We find she has a sister, and Lightman has to help her out. As she learns more, the more risks she takes on the job. … Like me.

A few new summer TV shows worth staying inside for 06/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 4, 2010 8:12pm]
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