The broadcast television season has come to a close, which means die-hard viewers can gripe about the absence of their favorite shows or embrace the guilty pleasures of summer TV.
We recommend the latter. Like a good beach book, summer TV provides a chance to shift your brain to cruise control and veg out with some relatively mindless programming. It's time to stop frantically chasing down terrorists with Jack Bauer. Time to cease grappling with the complex time-travel theories of Lost.
But here's a word of warning: Summer TV can be remarkably addictive. So proceed with caution, keep shaded and limit your exposure to cathode rays.
Now here's your guide to 10 of the guiltier pleasures of the summer:
1. Wipeout : The concept is ridiculously simple: Each week, several very brave (or very stupid) contestants compete on an obstacle course seemingly designed by a sadistic mad scientist. As they crash against giant rubber balls and do face-plants in the mud, we watch from the relative safety of our couches and laugh like donkeys.(8 p.m. Wednesdays, ABC).
2. So You Think You Can Dance : We get an overwhelming urge to hit the "mute" button every time judge Mary Murphy unleashes one of her grating banshee screams. Otherwise, this show rules. We marvel at the different dance styles, and we're blown away by the incredible passion and insane moves displayed by the wannabe hoofers. Better yet: No ugly disco-ball trophies. (8 p.m. Wednesdays; 9 p.m. Thursdays, Fox).
3. Burn Notice : Now, here's a perfect crime series for the summer. It comes packed with just about everything you could want: action, humor, espionage, lots of Miami scenery and gorgeous women in bikinis. It also offers a quirky, charismatic leading man in blacklisted spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovon), who continues to impress us with his MacGyver-ish skills and witty voice-overs. It also doesn't hurt that he looks great in Armani. (9 p.m. Thursdays, USA).
4. Lifetime Movie Network: Former TV critic Gillian Flynn once claimed that watching LMN is like "looking at a glorious, overpacked menu of TV comfort food — it's a bit overwhelming, but everything's good." And what's not to like about a menu that is typically spiced up with vindictive cheerleaders, terrorized housewives, crazed killers and, of course, hapless amnesia victims? New this month: Two fabulously fashionable murder mysteries: Killer Hair (9 p.m. June 21) and Hostile Makeover (9 p.m. June 28). We're so there.
5. True Blood : You can have Twilight. We're thirsty for more True Blood. Alan Ball's fang-tastic vampire drama sucked us in during Season 1 with its red-hot romance between Bill (Stephen Moyer) and Sookie (Anna Paquin), then held us spellbound with its potent mix of lusty intrigue, suspense, sex and gore. Now we can hardly wait to see what these insatiable creatures of the night will do for an encore. (Returns 9 p.m. June 14, HBO).
6. America's Got Talent : The Britain's Got Talent/Susan Boyle phenomenon is sure to bring even more attention (and auditioners) to this offbeat talent show. We can appreciate any singer who can match Boyle's incredible pipes, but it's the freak factor that draws us in — the acrobats, the lasso artists, the rappin' grannies, the boy Shakiras. Presiding over all the lunacy is new host Nick Cannon. (Returns 9 p.m. June 23, NBC).
7. Daytime soaps: Glamour. Betrayal. Passion. Paternity suits. It might be a dying genre — say goodbye to Guiding Light in September — but there's still plenty of afternoon delight. And plenty of intrigue: Who killed Stuart Chandler on All My Children? Will Sonny and Olivia hook up on General Hospital? Who's the father of Sharon's baby on The Young and the Restless? And if the plots don't grab you, the great clothes and hot bods will. (Check listings)
8. Big Brother 11 : And you thought this occasionally tedious, tacky and voyeuristic examination of human lab rats would be so done by now. But some of us obviously still yearn to observe a bunch of scheming exhibitionists as they hang out in a big house full of cameras. The best thing about watching Big Brother? It usually makes us feel much better about ourselves. (Returns 8 p.m. July 9, CBS).
9. Ice Road Truckers : When the summer temps climb into flesh- frying territory, you can chill out with this series set in the dark heart of Alaska. It follows lots of burly, bearded macho men — and this year, a young, daredevil female driver — as they haul critical supplies in big rigs around perilous mountain cliffs and across frozen tundra and the treacherous ice roads of the Arctic Ocean. It will make you feel abundantly blessed to be just another wimpy office drone chained to a laptop. (9 p.m. Sundays, History Channel).
10. Project Runway : The legal tussle between networks that plunged the show into limbo for nearly a year is thankfully over. Now we can get back to the fashion-themed reality series that leaves us on pins and needles. We love the creative juices that flow through the show and love the fabulous — and frightening — garments. We're also not ashamed to admit that we still have a crush on Heidi Klum. (Returns 10 p.m. Aug. 20, Lifetime).