The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Television Collision: Transitioning Into Summer TV

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

Every June I face the same problem: it’s time to change gears from “regular” TV to summer programming and every year this transition gives me trouble. Not only does my viewing schedule thin out in quantity (I refuse to watch reality programming, so I am left with only the cable shows), but it also feels a lot lighter in impact and quality. Every year I struggle to scale back the expectations I have of TV when the summer season rolls around.
Summer shows as a whole have to be approached with a different attitude, one of optimism, carefree-ness and possibly a light buzz from drinking one too many cocktails by the pool.

The shows that populate our televisions in the hot months don’t trade in gravitas. The likes of Leverage, Burn Notice, Royal Pains, The Glades etc. are meant to be breezy, light, fluffy, colorful popcorn TV, which is a taste I am never particularly looking forward to after the hefty meals of steak, vegetables and potatoes the regular season has served, but eventually I ease back into enjoying the sweet nothings flickering across my screen mid-year.

There are only very few exceptions to the “Summer TV is meant to be light” rule and with the fifth season of Mad Men tragically delayed to possibly even 2012, there are even less exceptions this year. Perhaps some would claim that HBO vamp drama True Blood is anything but light summer fare, and with all the bloodshed, sex and (quasi-)drug use (blood really just is another drug on that show), I would almost agree. Except for the fact that it also has fairies and vampires and werewolves, which removes it so far from the every day, the only time to air it is summer, when we are all taking a break from “regular life”. The disconnect with fare like True Blood would be all too great in the regular Fall and Winter season.

Luckily, there’s still a few more weeks of Game of Thrones and The Killing left to help me with my transition from heavy-duty TV fire to light TV artillery and it really eased my pain that one of my favorite summer pastimes was the first to come back: So You Think You Can Dance kicked off its eighth season immediately following May finales. I know, this borders on “reality programming”, which I claimed not to watch, but really, there is no denying the magic of dance. Even though this competition show clearly favors those with lots of training and experience and is therefore a different cut of show than American Idol or The Voice pretend to be (as in “Anyone can make it big here, only talent is required”), I am just thankful that for eight years now SYTYCD has shone a light on the wonderful world of dance in all its variety. Because especially styles like contemporary and jazz and ballet are often easily dismissed as being “too elite”, “too high concept”, “too artsy”, “too inaccessible to the common people”, but SYTYCD proves that when you open your heart, we all understand each other on some level.

Another summer show I eventually learned to enjoy last year also returned this past Sunday on A&E, The Glades. It has a less than intriguing premise, really, with a homicide detective being transferred from Chicago to Florida because of a “disagreement” with his boss, but it still manages to deliver on most things you could want from a summer procedural. Lead actor Matt Passmore, whom I knew from Australian show McLeod’s Daughters, does his best to mimic an American accent, which jumps around between sounding nothing like a Chicagoan to nothing like an American, but it’s really the humor that saves this show, because his character, Jim Longworth, is sarcastic, daredevil-ish and defiant as well as ideally suited to live in Florida, because he loves to play golf.
Never mind the fact that we have seen the “will they – won’t they” dynamic this show inevitably features done to death on crime procedurals even during the regular season (Bones and Castle are just latest examples) and the cases are often convoluted and not very interesting, the interaction between the main characters nevertheless provides enough entertainment to stick around. Plus, The Glades finally did away with the voiced-over opening credits, in which Jim tells you his life story, and got an actual opening credits sequence. The show is all sunny and bright and features Latino-inspired happy, summer music. What more do you really want?

The number one stereotypical Summer Show (set in a sunny location dealing with the eccentric, rich and famous, having no lasting impact whatsoever) Royal Pains is also returning in June, on USA, the channel that has perfected the summer formula (see Burn Notice, the actual number one of Summer TV, as in “most-watched show”). However, I am not particularly looking forward to Royal Pains coming back. Even in its first season it was more “required viewing” for me than “desired viewing” and all these lost male relatives that keep showing up on the show don’t really make things any better. A few female Lawsons would go a long way in increasing the pleasure derived from Royal Pains, which will also make its way to German television this summer, meaning it is bringing in some bucks for USA. (Curiously, I have yet to meet a single fan of the show, online or in real life. Hit me up if you are one, I would love to meet you!)

It was also recommended to me I should catch up on the summer fun that is White Collar, but I have queued that one behind the three seasons of Sons of Anarchy, FX’s biggest hit I have so far been missing out on, which I regard as a huge oversight on my part, so I need to correct this before I devote any more time to fluffy seasonal shows that don’t stand a chance at the Emmy Awards. And I imagine by the time I have caught up with Samcro, it will be time for Season 4 of Breaking Bad, another savior from the weightless summer fare (you can trust premium cable to come to your rescue at any time during the year, really).

Yes, to this TV Editor, summer is a hard time. I don’t easily subscribe to brightly-lit escapism and prefer to gnaw my teeth on the nitty-gritty dramas, the high-concept shows, the tightly-worded dialogs, the dire consequences of actions and the gravity that keeps all our feet firmly on the ground. It’s just that though, a preference. It is not a judgment on Summer TV or those who love the hell out of it. And as I have stated above, it usually takes me couple of weeks to ease into it, but then I can commit to enjoying summer programming, keeping in mind that it won’t last forever. So just give me another week or two to muster my enthusiasm and pull myself out of this #FreeNed gloom I have gotten stuck in, then I’ll be sipping Pina’s, wearing flip flops and loving Leverage with the rest of you.



Need more TV coverage? Listen to a new “Television Collision: Podcast Extra”, Episode 8 below.

Topics include The Killing, Franklin & Bash, So You Think You Can Dance and Game of Thrones (natch!).



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