- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2008

Shoring up summer

Not so long ago, summer TV viewing meant a never-ending sequence of reruns, the occasional telecast of sporting events and no inkling of original programming.

That all changed, of course, with the first season of “Survivor,” which debuted on CBS in late May 2000. From there, it was a reality-show bonanza, with dozens of series premiering in the summer months. Soon, cable TV followed suit. Several series including Showtime’s “Weeds” and “Californication” and Lifetime’s acclaimed “Army Wives” all bowed over the summer. (“Californication” fans take note: It’s first season arrives June 17 on DVD, but the second season premiere has been delayed until fall.)

While cable still offers the bulk of new summer fare, broadcast networks are also getting into the act. Here’s a look at some of the shows premiering in the coming weeks:

New

Sundays:

In Plain Sight (10 p.m., USA). Mary McCormack (“The West Wing”) plays a marshal for the federal witness-protection program in this original drama. The series premiered Sunday with an estimated 5.3 million viewers - USA’s most-watched series premiere since “The 4400” in July 2004, the Wall Street Journal says.

Wednesdays:

She’s Got the Look (10 p.m., TV Land). Contestants 35 and older compete for a contract with the prestigious Wilhelmina Modeling Inc. and a photo spread in Self magazine.

Thursdays:

* Swingtown (10 p.m., CBS). The much-talked-about series (which bowed Thursday revisits the sexually liberated ‘70s and the heyday of wife-swapping through the eyes of two couples in an upscale Chicago suburb. Music from the era - such as Gary Wright’s “Dreamweaver” and David Bowie’s “Golden Years” - swirls throughout.

* Fear Itself (10 p.m., NBC). A horror anthology series with more than a dozen genre writers (including Joe Gangemi, Steve Niles and Dan Knauf) and directors such as Brad Anderson (“The Machinist”), Darren Bousman (“Saw II, III and IV”) and Ronny Yu (“Bride of Chucky”). The first of 13 episodes premiered Thursday.

Ahead

June 16: Secret Diary of a Call Girl (10:30 p.m., Showtime). The premium cable network imports this British hit about Belle (real name Hannah Baxter, as played by Billie Piper), a 27-year-old college grad who secretly makes her living in the world’s oldest profession - and struggles to keep the sordid details from her conservative parents.

June 18: Black Gold (10 p.m., TruTV). From the makers of “Ice Road Truckers,” “Deadliest Catch” and “Ax Men,” this show chronicles the tough-guy genre of oil fields and wildcatters.

June 29: The Factory (10 p.m., Spike). The cable channel’s first original comedy series offers a blue-collar take on “The Office,” centering on four characters at a drab small-town assembly-line job.

July 15: Hurl (9 p.m., G4). How do we describe this reality show? Five contestants stuff themselves with various combinations of America’s favorite foods - including chicken pot pies, New England clam chowder, fish sticks, hot dogs, blueberry pie and more - then are immediately subjected to a series of challenges designed to make them regurgitate. According to Multichannel.com, the one holding down his or her food the longest claims bragging rights, the show’s Iron Stomach Award and walks away with a cash prize.

Returning

Sundays:

* Army Wives (10 p.m., Lifetime). The Emmy-nominated series ended its first season with a bomb on the base and the perfect cliffhanger. Returning this Sunday.

* Design Star (9 p.m., HGTV). The cable network brings back its popular reality series - which lets viewers vote for the winner among 10 budding interior designers - for a third installment beginning this Sunday. To the victor: a brand-new car plus the chance to follow in the footsteps of past winners David Bromstead and Kim Myles as the host of his or her own HGTV series.

June 16: Weeds (10 p.m., Showtime). Now in its fourth season, the acclaimed black comedy is nearly as addictive as the cannabis for which it’s named. The fast-paced series follows the ongoing adventures of Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), a single, widowed mom in an upscale California suburb, and her secret life as a pot dealer.

July 10: Burn Notice (10 p.m., USA). Jeffrey Donovan is Michael Westen, a spy on the lam who survives on wit, sex appeal and charm to find his way out of any perilous situation.

July 14: The Closer (9 p.m., TNT). Golden Globe winner and Emmy nominee Kyra Sedgwick is back as the Georgia gumshoe who heads a Los Angeles police team that solves high-profile murder cases.

July 27: Mad Men (10 p.m., AMC) - Set in the 1960s, the period drama ceters on the fictional goings-on at Sterling Cooper Advertising agency on New York’s Madison Avenue and its high-powered exec Don Draper (Jon Hamm). Need to catch up? AMC will air a “Mad Men” marathon of the entire first season July 20, Variety reports.

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