Sorkin, Hemingway, Snooki: It’s a mixed TV summer
Television isn't taking the summer off anymore, and networks fervently hope viewers won't either.
To make the remote control as key to the season as sunblock and barbecue, cable and broadcasting are pumping out a variety of shows and specials, both scripted and reality. And NBC's "America's Got Talent" and Howard Stern are not the standard-bearers: Welcome back to TV, Aaron ("The West Wing") Sorkin!
Here are highlights of what's on tap as the temperature rises:
"Duets," ABC, debuted May 24. Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Robin Thicke and Jennifer Nettles serve as mentors and singing partners for would-be pop stars.
"Hemingway & Gellhorn," HBO, Monday, May 28. Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman star as the great writer and the strong-willed war correspondent who proved his match.
"Hatfields & McCoys," History, May 28-30. A three-night miniseries about the epic feud between clans stars Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton.
"Dogs in the City," CBS, May 30. New York dog expert Justin Silver helps canines and their humans mend relationship fences.
"Breaking Pointe," CW, May 31. A peek at the demanding life of dancers with the respected Ballet West in Salt Lake City.
"The Choice," Fox, June 7. A shameless takeoff on NBC's "The Voice," this contest gives celebrities including Dean Cain and Joe Jonas the chance to win a blind date.
"Bunheads," ABC Family, June 11. Broadway star Sutton Foster joins with "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino in this tale of a dancer trying to regain her footing.
"Dallas," TNT, June 13. J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), the great white-collar villain of his day, is back and in the company of a new generation of Texas oilmen and schemers.
"Falling Skies," TNT, June 17. The alien invaders are back for season two and so are Noah Wyle and the stalwart Earthling resistance.
"The Glass House," ABC, June 18. A houseful of people vying for a $250,000 prize are in the audience's control. More drama: CBS has sued to stop the show, claiming it violates its "Big Brother" copyrights.
"The Soul Man," TV Land, June 20. Cedric The Entertainer and Niecy Nash star in a sitcom about a former R&B singer who finds a new calling as a preacher.
"Snooki and JWoww," MTV, June 21. "Jersey Shore" BFFs Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi and Jenni "JWoww" Farley get their own show, just in time for Snooki's pregnancy.
"The Great Escape," TNT, June 24. Three teams are put into action-adventure movie situations in this reality series and must get out; cash awaits.
"The Newsroom," HBO, June 24. After dabbling in films (such as the Oscar-winning "The Social Network"), Sorkin returns to series TV with cable news in his sights.
"Anger Management," FX, June 28. With "Two and a Half Men" debacle behind him, Charlie Sheen is looking for laughs playing an unconventional therapist.
"Brand X with Russell Brand," FX, June 28. The actor-comedian offers his perspective on politics, pop culture and more in a new late-night show.
"Queen & Country," PBS, July 1. As Queen Elizabeth II marks 60 years on the throne this summer, here's a primer on the customs surrounding the British monarchy and a tour of sites central to royal history.
"Episodes," Showtime, July 1. "Friends" star Matt LeBlanc won a Golden Globe for this satire of the Hollywood sitcom machine, returning for season two.
"Masterpiece Mystery!," PBS, July 8. The showcase offers "Endeavor," about Inspector Morse's years as a rookie constable, and returning "Inspector Lewis" with Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox.
"The Closer," TNT, July 9. It's season seven and out for law woman Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick), but the drama bequeaths us an Aug. 13 spinoff, "Major Crimes" with Mary McDonnell.
"Trust Us With Your Life," ABC, July 10. Fred Willard hosts this new improv show, aided and abetted by Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie, Jonathan Mangum and celebrity guests.
"Breaking Bad," AMC, July 15. The drama about a teacher (Bryan Cranston) who turns to meth-making airs its fifth and final season, broken into two with eight episodes now and the rest in 2013.
"Top Chef Masters," Bravo, July 25. A dozen chefs compete for glory and $100,000 for their charity, with judging by experts and celebrities including Sugar Ray Leonard and Dita Von Teese.
Summer Olympics, July 27-Aug. 12. NBC and sister cable channels. It's reality, it's scripted, it's sports, it's a cheap armchair trip to London; the Summer Games have it all, and just once every four years.
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