Here's everything you need to know about summer television:
1. It is still dominated by cable.
2. The broadcast networks are no longer turning the lights off in May and have dedicated themselves to programming the summer.
3. All the good shows are on cable.
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4. It's hard to tell just how dedicated the broadcast networks are to summer programming, since putting on scripted fare after May always meant "burning it off" — but at least most of them are trying.
5. There are plenty of big-name scripted cable series airing between June and August — Mad Men, True Blood, etc. — but cable also has managed to find success with lots of lesser-known series (Royal Pains, Drop Dead Diva) because fans know they've got a good chance of sticking around, unlike what the networks are tossing out there.
Here then, a condensed guide and calendar of shows to keep an eye on during the hot months. Note: There is an onslaught of non-scripted and reality programming during the summer months — 57 new ones at last count, and 65 returning. Of the new ones, two involve cupcakes, one features little people wrestling (Half-Pint Brawlers on Spike) and another is about bratty rich kids who get their money cut off. Returning shows include — God help us — Jersey Shore, Toddlers & Tiaras and 19 Kids and Counting. Most of these are cheap and heinous, of course, so you'll have to track down and savor those on your own.
One series that is bound to get attention (positive or negative) is The Real L Word from Showtime. The fictional series morphs into the reality realm to follow "a group of real-life, hot and happening lesbians in their daily lives at work and play in Los Angeles."
Returning series of note
Burn Notice, USA, June 3. A popcorn-good spy thriller that has stayed strong for its entire run.
Royal Pains, USA, June 3. Perhaps one of last summer's most surprising series, about a "doctor for hire" in the Hamptons. Co-starring University of Kentucky alumna Reshma Shetty.
Flashpoint, CBS, June 4. The third season of this solid Canadian series proves CBS is committed to returning summer series each year if they perform.
Drop Dead Diva, Lifetime, June 6. Even more surprising than the out-of-nowhere Royal Pains hit, this series about a shallow woman who ends up in the body of a plus-size woman really drew in fans and critical praise last summer.
Lie to Me, Fox, June 7. Fox is barely a player in the summer scripted game. And it makes you worry about this fine series. But it looks as if Lie to Me does have a future; better to be confused about Fox's strategy than accept this as a burn-off.
True Blood, HBO, June 13. Vampires + sex = hit.
Leverage, TNT, June 20. Probably not something you'd watch in the fall, but perfect summer fare.
Saving Grace, TNT, June 21. The goodbye to Holly Hunter's series.
Hawthorne, TNT, June 22. Cable has mediocre hospital shows, too.
Futurama, Comedy Central, June 24. A nerd-tastic return of 26 new episodes.
Entourage, HBO, June 27. If you must.
Hung, HBO, June 27. You must.
Rescue Me, FX, June 29. The question here is whether you still care.
Warehouse 13, Syfy, July 6. Better than expected.
Eureka, Syfy, July 9. See: Warehouse 13.
The Closer, TNT, July 12. Still a top cable hit.
White Collar, USA, July 13. More proof that summer launches work
Psych, USA, July 14. Not great, but playful.
Mad Men, ABC, July 25. Can. Not. Wait.
Weeds, Showtime, Aug. 16. Gave up last season.
New series of note
Are We There Yet?, TNT, June 2. A new sitcom based on the movie.
The Hard Times of RJ Berger, MTV, June 6. Cross The Wonder Years with Hung.
Persons Unknown, NBC, June 7. A mystery series from Oscar-winning writer Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects).
Pretty Little Liars, ABC Family, June 8. Teen drama based on the best-selling novels.
Hot in Cleveland, TV Land, June 16. The white-hot Betty White strikes again.
The Gates, ABC, June 20. A drama about unusual behavior in a gated community. ABC is being aggressive with its summer slate.
Scoundrels, ABC, June 20. A comedy-drama starring Virginia Madsen about "a family of small-time criminals" who have to adapt when their father goes to prison.
Memphis Beat, TNT, June 22. A cop series starring Jason Lee and Alfre Woodard. There's good pedigree here, so we'll see how it shapes up.
Rookie Blue, ABC, June 24. Another cop series, this one about five newbies trying to figure out life on the force.
Louie, FX, June 29. A new sitcom starring comedian Louie C.K.
Haven, July 9, Syfy. A supernatural story about a small town based on a Stephen King novella.
The Bridge, CBS, July 10. Yet another cop series, but this one is from Canada (which has a history of good work) and a connection with CBS that could keep it coming back if it works.
Rizzoli and Isles, TNT, July 12. Based on the Tess Gerritsen mysteries and starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander.
The Glades, A&E, July 13. Would you believe another police procedural? A Chicago homicide detective gets demoted and ends up in a bucolic Florida town.
Covert Affairs, USA, July 13. A young CIA trainee gets a rapid promotion — into intrigue and some strange ties to her past at the Agency.
Rubicon, AMC, Aug. 1. The next big drama from AMC, this one is a government conspiracy thriller starring James Badge Dale from The Pacific.
The Big C, Showtime, Aug. 16. Billed as a "dark comedy" — the channel is specializing in those — this series stars Laura Linney as a "wife, mother and teacher" who gets terminal cancer. It co-stars Oliver Platt and Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe.