The 1998-1999 TV season fades into an increasingly distant memory. But as the temperatures rise and we're forced into the air-conditioned indoors, wouldn't it be nice to have original programming to keep couch potatoes company?
Thank goodness for cable and PBS.
While the broadcast networks take the summer off (mostly), cable fills in the blanks, offering new TV movies and several worthwhile original series. Here's a network-by-network guide to keeping cool by the glow of the tube during the summer season:
Regis Philbin hosts a prime-time game show with the grand prize of: ONE MILLION DOLLARS! "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" premieres sometime this summer.
A documentary on the life of Playboy Bunnies, "The Bunny Years," airs at 9 p.m. June 27.
Two episodes of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" will air weekly at 11 p.m. Saturdays beginning July 10.
As Americans celebrate Independence Day, the Brits look to other notable failures of the Empire through the perspective of "Blackadder," starring Rowan Atkinson ("Mr. Bean"). All four seasons of the classic Britcom will air from 1 p.m. to 5 a.m. July 4.
Gerard Depardieu stars in "The Count of Monte Cristo," an eight-hour adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas novel. The miniseries airs June 21 through 24 at 8 p.m. in French with English subtitles.
Already busy burning off unaired episodes of "The Nanny," CBS will rid itself of remaining episodes of "The Magnificent Seven" Fridays at 9 p.m. beginning July 9.
Ewan McGregor follows his role in "Star Wars: Episode 1" with the lead in the movie "Rogue Trader" (8 p.m. June 25), based on a true story. McGregor portrays British stockbroker Nick Leeson, whose money-losing trades on the Singapore stock market led to the downfall of a distinguished British bank.
Beginning Monday, new episodes of "Strangers with Candy" and "Upright Citizens Brigade" air at 10 p.m.; "South Park" originals return at 10 p.m. Wednesday, followed by "The Man Show," which aspires to be a variety show as run by beer-swilling frat boys. It's hosted by Jimmy Kimmel ("Win Ben Stein's Money") and Adam Carolla (MTV's "Loveline").
The animated British comedy "Bob and Margaret" returns at 10 p.m. next Thursday, followed by "Comedy Central's Vs.," a game show that pits teams with different backgrounds in a face-off over questions about pop culture (i.e. basketball players vs. jockeys).
Beginning Aug. 19 "Vs." makes way for "Frank Leaves for the Orient," the allegedly comedic tale of one man's attempts to start a new life.
Around the globe and back through time, Discovery Channel looks at the creation of two great works of man in "On the Inside: Mt. Rushmore" and "Secrets of the Great Wall of China." The programs air from 8 to 10 p.m. July 5.
Katey Sagal stars as the voice of a computerized home in the new movie "Smart House" (7 p.m. June 26).
Backstreet's back. After seeing 'N Sync rise to stardom after appearing in concert on Disney Channel last summer, the Backstreet Boys will sing up a storm at 7 p.m. July 10.
Classical music can be heard on "Disney's Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra in Concert" (7 p.m. Aug. 7).
New episodes of "That '70s Show" air for five weeks beginning at 8 p.m. Monday. Repeats follow at 8:30.
"Guinness World Records: Primetime" will air a mix of repeats and originals at 8 p.m. Tuesdays beginning June 22. That same night originals of the newsmagazine "Fox Files" roll out.
Offering a male version of ABC's "The View," FX launched "The X-Show" (11 p.m. weeknights), a manly chatfest, earlier this month.
Continuing on that quest for male viewers with a Neanderthal streak, FX premieres "The World Toughman Championship" (10 p.m. July 23). The Friday night show will feature regular guys fighting using standard boxing rules.
"The Dick and Paula Celebrity Special," a half-hour animated series, premieres at 10 p.m. July 20 and features a husband and wife talk show host pair.
The network's two original comedy series, "Arli$$" and "Sex and the City," returned with their second season premieres last weekend. "Arli$$" airs at 9:30 p.m. Sunday following "Sex and the City."
Repeats of "The Sopranos" unspool at 9 p.m. Wednesday, with new episodes of the prison drama "Oz" beginning at 10 p.m. July 14.
The History Channel
"Generation H: National History Day" (6 p.m. June 26) chronicles the work of teen-agers in this annual competition that seeks to bring history to life.
Just in time for the Will Smith movie of the same name, The History Channel offers "The Wild, Wild West Week" (June 28 to July 2) during its "In Search of History" series (8 p.m.). Subjects include frontier doctors (for all those "Dr. Quinn" fans), captives and "The Real Newton Boys."
That wacky BBC talk show host, last seen in the United States on Fox, returns in "The Ruby Wax Show" (Aug. 21).
Wendie Malick, the outrageous Nina on "Just Shoot Me," plays twin advice columnists Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers in "Take My Advice: The Ann and Abby Story" (9 p.m. July 19).
The second season of the drama "Any Day Now" begins Aug. 15. The artificial insemination comedy "Oh Baby" returns with new episodes Aug. 21.
Season No. 7 of "The Real World" kicks off in Hawaii at 10 p.m. Tuesday. The latest edition of "Road Rules," set aboard the University of Pittsburgh's Semester at Sea ship, premieres at 10 p.m. June 21.
A new set of juvenile delinquents gets sent to prison for a day in an effort to rehabilitate their wayward ways in "Scared Straight! '99" (10 p.m. Aug. 1).
Not to be outdone by ABC's game show, NBC revives "You Asked For It," which will air at 8 p.m. Sundays beginning Aug. 1.
The kids' cable network celebrates 20 years on the air this month. On June 26, Nick will air episodes from classics such as "The Adventures of Pete and Pete" and the "Rugrats" vacation special.
On June 27, from 1 to 4 p.m., Nick opens its vaults to reveal today's celebs in some of their earliest roles. Melissa Joan Hart ("Sabrina the Teenage Witch") gets her first on-screen kiss from James Van Der Beek ("Dawson's Creek") in an episode of "Clarissa Explains It All." An episode of "You Can't Do That on Television" features singer Alanis Morisette getting slimed. Neve Campbell wonders "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" and Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean appears in the first episode of "Hi Honey I'm Home."
Meanwhile, Nick at Nite will pre-empt its schedule for a block party (six episodes from a series back-to-back) weeknights beginning July 12. This summer "The Brady Bunch" will air Mondays, "I Love Lucy" takes over Tuesdays, "The Jeffersons" move on up Wednesdays, "Happy Days" are Thursdays and "The Wonder Years" jerks tears Fridays.
"WKRP in Cincinnati" will air in a marathon week (9 p.m. to 1 a.m.) beginning July 5.
"People's Century" returns at 9 p.m. June 14 with more stories about events of the 20th century, picking up in 1948 as the country emerges from World War II.
"Pets: Part of the Family," a 13-week series about people and their emotional relationships with pets, airs Sundays on WQED beginning June 20 at 7:30 p.m. Gary Burghoff (a k a Radar on "M*A*S*H") hosts the show.
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf narrates "Prostate Cancer: A Journey of Hope" (9 p.m. June 22), a look at individual cancer experiences and new procedures being tested by the medical community.
A summer of Saturday evening concerts kicks off at 8 p.m. June 26 with the return of "Evening at Pops."
WQED's Rick Sebak offers two locally produced specials that will air nationally. "A Hot Dog Program" premieres at 8 p.m. June 30, with "Great Old Amusement Parks" scheduled for 8 p.m. July 21.
"American Masters" specials look at the lives of Lillian Hellman (9 p.m. June 30) and Dashiell Hammett (10 p.m. June 30).
The documentary series "P.O.V." returns to WQED at 11 p.m. July 8 with "Golden Threads," the story of an 80-year-old woman who founded an international network for older gay women. Other films include "In My Corner," about teens seeking refuge in a South Bronx gym, and "Rabbit in the Moon," about the experiences of Japanese-Americans in World War II internment camps.
Actor Stacy Keach narrates "Savage Seas" (8 p.m. July 11-12), a look at the oceans and the violent storms they unleash.
New episodes of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" air the week of July 26.
Slow to join the original quality series fray, Showtime plays catch up this summer with two promising programs. "Beggars and Choosers" (10 p.m. June 19) goes behind the scenes of a ratings-starved TV network to depict the inanities that lead to the scheduling of tripe like "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer."
Another new series, "The Hoop Life," chronicles the ups and downs of a fictional pro basketball team beginning 10 p.m. July 4. Mykelti Williamson, Dorian Harewood, Rick Peters, Cirroc Lofton and Dan Lauria star in this production from Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana ("Homicide: Life on the Street").
Returning Showtime series include the comedies "Linc's" (10:35 p.m. Sundays) and "Rude Awakening" (10 p.m. June 26).
Showtime begins airing a monthly documentary series about life "In the 20th Century" as seen through the eyes of famous filmmakers (Barry Levinson on the future, Robert Townsend on sex, Norman Jewison on comedy, etc.). The first installment, "Garry Marshall on Marriage in the 20th Century: In Search of a Happy Ending," airs at 10 p.m. Monday.
Turner Classic Movies will air 48 films as part of its "Bowery Boys of Summer" festival, beginning with a marathon showing June 21 and continuing with a triple feature at noon every Sunday through Sept. 23.
The Learning Channel teaches viewers about the lives of chorus girls and exotic dancers in "Showgirl Stories" (9 p.m. Sunday), narrated by Anjelica Huston.
Equally dubious education comes at 11 a.m. June 19 with the live broadcast of the royal wedding of Edward Windsor and Sophie Rhys-Jones. TLC will simulcast coverage by the BBC in its entirety.
If you're hankering for corn-fed sitcoms from yesteryear, look no further than The Station Formerly Known as The Nashville Network. TNN will air reruns of "Alice" and "The Real McCoys" beginning June 28.
Two episodes of "Alice" will air back-to-back at 6 p.m., with a double shot of "The Real McCoys" at 4 p.m.
TNN will also air the "Music City News Country Awards" at 8 p.m. Monday with host Jeff Foxworthy.
The sci-fi series "Crusade" is already airing at 10 p.m. Wednesdays.
Promising TV movies include "The Pirates of Silicon Valley" (8 p.m. June 20), about the feud between Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Apple's Steve Jobs, and "The Hunley" (8 p.m. July 11), a Civil War story about the Confederacy's first submarine.
Reruns of "Maude" highlight TV Land's summer. "Maude," starring Bea Arthur, will air at 10:30 p.m. weeknights after a week-long marathon that begins Aug. 2.
The little network that couldn't shows it can air original shows in the summer.
UPN will broadcast 13 episodes of the Canadian series "Power Play" beginning at 9 p.m. Monday. The drama follows the story of a former New York sports agents who returns to his Canadian hometown to run its professional hockey team.
Christine Lahti stars in "Judgment Day: The Ellie Nesler Story" (9 p.m. June 23), about a mother who shot the man accused of molesting her son.
A couple of bounty hunters engaged in battles of good vs. evil are the leads in the drama series "GvsE" (8 p.m. July 18), starring Clayton Rohner and Richard Brooks ("Law & Order"). That same night new episodes of "Pacific Blue" (9 p.m.) and "La Femme Nikita" (10 p.m.) begin airing.
The sitcom "Movie Stars," with Harry Hamlin as a Sylvester Stallone-like action star married to a Meryl Streep-like actress, airs twice a week, Sundays and Mondays at 9 p.m. beginning July 11.
After a long absence, Robert Townsend's "The Parent 'Hood" has returned to burn off remaining episodes at 7 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday.