Fun With Pop Culture

Happy Returns: Summer Shows to Get You To The Fall (June 3)

Summer’s here, and a lot of our favorite shows are taking a break.  But, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing new on TV until September.  There’s the same mixture of good, bad and ugly you’ll see come fall, really.  And we at spunkybean want to help you make some viewing choices that will reward you with either quality entertainment or the opportunity to feel vastly superior to the freaks you’re watching.  See?  It’s a win-win.  And we’ve saved the best show (in our humble opinions!) for last.  Read on:
The Venture Brothers (returns/returned June 1, Cartoon Network)

At last! The crown jewel in Adult Swim’s, well, crown returns! For the uninitiated, this series may appear to be nothing more than a demented take on Jonny Quest, but those who hold that misconception are fools to be pitied. Sure, it’s pretty dense satire, combining Hanna-Barbera cartoons, 80’s Euro-pop, Star Wars, and 1960’s Marvel Comics, among about a thousand other things, but the characters themselves are original and hilarious. Venture Brothers is proof that hilarity and carefully plotted character arcs need not be mutually exclusive, and any excuse you have to not watch it is woefully inadequate.

Burn Notice (returns July 10, USA)

Burn Notice may well be the perfect summer series.  It’s a lighthearted spy drama set in Miami.  Everybody’s hot and is dressed for the summer and lots of things happen.  It’s just what the season is asking for.  Michael Weston is a former CIA agent who’s been blacklisted for reasons unknown.  Trapped in Miami, he puts his training to use helping the locals while staying one step ahead of the various intelligence agencies who want him dead.  With last season’s finale, the conspiracy deepened, so now there’s a compelling arc running through the season in addition to all the fun things you can learn about how adult toys can block a parabolic microphone.  All this and a regular role for Bruce Campbell, too!

I Survived a Japanese Game Show (premieres June 24, ABC)

In case you didn’t know, Japanese game shows are insane.  They don’t worry about accidentally hurting people or anything.  In fact, if somebody falls off a remote-controlled propeller-driven toilet and bonks their head, so much the better.  In this show, ABC sends ten Americans who’ve never lived outside the country to compete on a Japanese game show.  The only thing better than a Japanese game show is said game show with competitors who are just as confused as we are.  I imagine every episode will be like the Japan episode of The Simpsons.  And with challenges titles “Why is this Food so Hard to Eat?” and “Chicken Butt Scramble”, this is set to be mind-blowingly awesome.

Greatest American Dog (premieres July 10, CBS)

It’s like Big Brother, only with puppies.  Dog owners and their pets live in the same house as they compete to see who is the Greatest American Dog.  This will probably be really stupid, but I will watch dogs for hours.  If CBS is going to put a bunch of dogs on my TV, I have no choice but to watch them.  Who’s a good boy?  Who’s a good boy?  Yes, I will praise the dogs on my TV the entire time.

America’s Got Talent (returns June 24, NBC)

OK, I’ve never actually seen this show.  Televised talent shows tend to depress me, and judge David Hasselhoff is no longer funny, even as an ironic pop-culture reference.  But I’m on board for this season.  Know why?  Celebrity Apprentice winner and notorious pineapple fan Piers Morgan is the head judge.  My affection for Piers may be a case of Stockholm Syndrome after spending an entire season with those lunatics, but he was funny and mean, and I’m glad that I get a second chance to watch him being funny and mean.  Now, if only Stephen “Flea” Baldwin could be persuaded to try out…

Living Lohan (premiered May 26, airing Sundays at 10:30 starting Jun 1 on E!)

Well, it has been threatened for a while, and now the Dina Lohan reality show has hit the airwaves.  It’s enough to make you want to puke, really.  The conceit is that the show is meant to do two things: “set the record straight (which now may have a double meaning) about Lindsay and chronicle the burgeoning music career of her 14-year-old sister Ali.  Too bad the kid talks like she chain smokes Marlboro Reds and wants to emulate her older sister right down to her sartorial choices.  It’s all just a sad commentary on the state of the entertainment industry, what with all the talk in the first episode of Ali following her  “dream” of singing.  I’m sure her name had nothing to do with her landing a recording contract whatsoever. 

Denise Richards: It’s Complicated (premiered May 26, airing Sundays at 10 starting Jun 1 on E!)

First the good news:  for all those concerned about Denise Richards pimping out her toddlers for this show, they were in about 90 seconds of the show’s first episode, and they were adorable.  Also, Denise’s dad Irv, now living with her since her mom’s death from cancer, seems like a nice enough guy.  The bad news, however, is that this show is basically going to revolve around Denise Richards being a self-absorbed twit, swearing like a sailor and getting Mystic Tanned before she goes on dates.  I don’t think she’s any better or worse than her notorious ex-husband (she raves about liking hot guys with big d&%!s), but this show won’t make me feel sorry for her either.

The Mole (premiered June 2, ABC)

What a nice surprise to see that one of the most sophisticated reality shows ever to grace the airwaves is coming back!  I’ll confess that I would positively suck at this game, but it’s fun to watch.  Unfortunately, original host Anderson Cooper has his own show every night on CNN, so he won’t be back, but it should be entertaining anyway.

Million Dollar Password (premiered June 1, CBS)

Sweet!  There was nothing better growing up in the 80s than spending a sick day on the couch watching Super Password. That announcer whispering the answer (“The password is…table”), the wacky celebrity guests, and host Bert Convy.  Or, if you go wayyyy back, Allen Ludden.  Well, they’re both gone, so now we’ve got Regis grabbing the reigns.   Regis?  Giving away a million dollars?  That’s original!  This version is a little more like $100,000 Pyramid, with a dash of Password and a hint of Millionaire, but it’s fun regardless.

Celebrity Family Feud (premieres July 1, NBC)

Did you know that even though it’s been on the air in some form or fashion for over 30 years, Family Feud has never aired in primetime?  Survey says, not acceptable!  The network has go-to guy Al Roker hosting, and the teams will consist of celebs like Mr. T and Kim Kardashian (she of the big ass and sex tape) playing with their families to win $50,000 for charity.  Should be at least worth a peek, but here’s hoping there are some bigger names in store, since it’s for charity, after all!

Swingtown (premieres June 5, CBS)
At one point this was on CBS’ fall schedule, and then it was going to be a midseason replacement.  Now, it’s airing in the summer, so I wouldn’t make any major purchases if I was in the cast.  But, the idea of show set in the 70s and following people into the swinger culture is still an intriguing premise, at least until we get through the first episode and realize it’s all just ooky people and bad acting covered in bulletproof polyester, right?

Gong Show (premieres July 17, Comedy Central)

Dave Attell is hosting this game show revival and one can only hope he’ll have Chuck Berry’s fedora handy.  But can we ever really recapture the glory days of Jaye P Morgan, Jamie Farr, Gene Gene the Dancing Machine and the Unknown Comic?  Not bloody likely, but there as sure as hell enough kooks and weirdos dying to get on TV that we can give it a shot.

Big Brother (returns July 15, CBS)

Can we all just agree to pretend the Winter edition of this show never happened?  Good.  Then, let’s get back to the vacuous summer fun, and let’s hope there’s at least one or two people to genuinely root for this time around.  Oh, and maybe more than one person over the age of 30.  Thank you.

The Two Coreys (returns June 22, A&E)

If you missed this last summer, and you’re thinking, “Oh, wow!  Haim and Feldman, together again!  I’ll watch that!”  Don’t.  Really.  Go back and find The Lost Boys or License to Drive on DVD or video or, better yet, grab a copy of Lucas to see Corey Haim at his finest, before drugs addled his brain and made him a leech who makes Feldman the stable Corey by default.  It’s loosely scripted from what I hear, and the house the Feldmans supposedly live in doesn’t belong to them either.  I honestly can’t believe this is even getting a second season.

Mad Men (returns July 27, AMC…after a marathon of the entire first season airs on July 20 )

Do you wish the world was the way it once was?  That men had jobs, women stayed home, men could have affairs, women were objects, smoking wasn’t bad for you, and homosexuals were closeted and shamed?  Who doesn’t, right?  As much as Rush Limbaugh and 70 percent of the Bush Administration would like nothing more than the return of simpler times, the 50s and 60s aren’t ever coming back.  But we can look in on the Manhattan advertising world of the mid 1960s and maybe take a little solace in the fact that it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops.  Mad Men is one of the top-10 shows on TV, and it ain’t just me saying it.  If you missed the first season, set your Tivo for a Season Pass the week of July 20 as AMC airs a Mad Men marathon, or pick up the complete first season on DVD when its released in early July, then join in the Mad Men madness for season 2.

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