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Preview: Summer television becomes a battleground

Sunday, June 08, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Summer TV on the broadcast networks is historically a wasteland of reruns and burned off series even network executives have no faith in. Seeing an opportunity to woo viewers, cable television leapt into the fray in the '80s and '90s and made summer its own.

TV Preview
The broadcast networks seem determined to make more of summer television lineups than in seasons past, taking a cue from the cable networks about the value of original -round programming.

After making noises about year-round programming for years, the broadcast networks finally started to look as if they meant it last summer. This summer, original programming on many of the broadcast networks is in full swing, even if much of it is still more "reality" shows.

Network executives say they can't afford to ignore summer anymore. If they do, they risk ceding more of the audience to cable networks. Having original programming in the summer also provides a platform to promote new series that will launch in the fall.

Already, NBC launched "For Love or Money," Fox unveiled "American Juniors" and "Keen Eddie" and CBS began to unspool the fourth edition of "The Amazing Race." Here's a look at some of the additional original series, movies and specials that will air in the coming months:

Series
Based on the calls, letters and e-mail I receive, the return of HBO's "Sex and the City" (9 p.m. June 22) isn't what most viewers are clamoring for. They want more "Monk," and USA Network is happy to provide when Tony Shalhoub returns as the "defective detective" in new episodes beginning at 10 p.m. June 20.

Season two of USA's "The Dead Zone" continues with seven new episodes beginning at 10 p.m. July 6.

For fans of "Third Watch" wondering what actress Amy Carlson will do after her character, Alex Taylor, got blown in half on the season finale, the answer can be found in USA's "Peacemakers" (10 p.m. July 30). Carlson plays a medical student in this new Western that stars Tom Berenger as a grizzled federal marshal.

Showtime's "Dead Like Me" (10 p.m. June 27) follows a young woman (Ellen Muth) who dies and becomes part of a cadre of grim reapers who help her find a sense of purpose she lacked while living.

ABC's tired "The Drew Carey Show" returns for a summer run of original episodes at 9 p.m. Wednesday starting June 25. For real laughs, BBC America repeats the first season of "The Office" at 10 p.m. June 16-21, with three episodes airing each night.

On Sci Fi Channel, "Stargate SG-1" kicks off its seventh season at 9 p.m. Friday with the return of Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks). New episodes of "Tremors: The Series" and "Scare Tactics" return June 20.

Cartoon Network unveils two new animated series, "Teen Titans" (9 p.m. July 19), about young superheroes led by Robin the Boy Wonder, and "Duck Dodgers" (11:30 a.m. Aug. 23), which tells new stories featuring classic Looney Tunes characters Daffy Duck and Porky Pig in the 24 1/2 th century.

Game Show Network puts cameras on one of its hosts for a new reality show, "Chuck Woolery: Naturally Stoned" (8:30 p.m. June 15). Cameras follow him as he tapes the second season of GSN's "Lingo."

NBC looks for laughs with "Last Comic Standing" (9 p.m. Tuesday), a talent search for comedians hosted by Jay Mohr.

In a bizarre co-mingling of the comedy and reality formats, comedian Adam de la Pena learns life lessons from his hero, Gary Busey, in Comedy Central's "I'm With Busey" (10 p.m. Thursday).

Fox debuts an all-reality Monday night schedule, beginning with "Paradise Hotel" (8 p.m. June 16), which follows six single men and six single women living in a hotel. Each week they vote someone off and viewers can call a toll-free number to attempt to register to take the evictee's place. "Anything for Love" (9 p.m. June 16) chronicles real-life breakups and makeups.

"American Idol" judge Simon Cowell executive produces CBS's "Cupid" (10 p.m. July 9), in which a single woman, with help from two friends, auditions men across the country for the role of her boyfriend. CBS also will bring back "Big Brother," with a fourth edition slated to launch at 8 p.m. July 8.

Taking a cue from the success of sister network TLC, last week Discovery Channel launched "Full Throttle Mondays" with series that take a more macho approach to the "Trading Spaces" concept. At 8 p.m., "Monster House" renovates an occupant's home into their fantasy abode in just seven days. It's a "brand extension" of Discovery's "Monster Garage," which follows at 9 p.m. Tomorrow, host Jesse James and his crew transform a Ford Bronco into a rock crawler. At 10 p.m., Discovery follows a father and son team that build unique motorcycles as their family business in "American Chopper."

Movies/miniseries
Showtime revisits the painful memory of the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. in "Jasper, Texas" (8 tonight), which chronicles the events that took place in that town five years ago immediately following the hate crime. Jon Voight, Louis Gossett Jr., Joe Morton and Bokeem Woodbine star.

TNT's latest miniseries stars Jeremy Sisto ("Six Feet Under") in the title role as "Caesar" (8 p.m. June 29 and 30).

Now that Hilary Duff and Disney Channel have gone their separate ways, the network needs "Even Stevens" more than ever, which makes the timing right for "The Even Stevens Movie" (8 p.m. Friday). Shia LaBeouf ("Holes") and Christy Carlson Romano ("Kim Possible") reprise their roles as the Stevens kids as the family wins a trip to an island hideaway. But the Stevens don't know they're being surreptitiously taped for a reality TV show ... and a TV movie!

Not to be outdone, Nickelodeon's "The Brothers Garcia" star in a film of their own, "Mysteries of the Maya" (8 p.m. June 21).

Specials
USA Network honors the people who do all the dangerous stuff in movies in the third annual "Taurus World Stunt Awards" (8 p.m. tomorrow).

Pax TV will air the 46th annual "America's Junior Miss" national finals at 9 p.m. June 28 with host Leanza Cornett (a k a Miss America 1992).

Bravo airs a week of Cirque du Soleil's best performances beginning at 8 p.m. tomorrow and leading up to the premiere of "Varekai" on Friday.

Lifetime gets a Southern drawl, airing a "Designing Women" reunion special at 8 p.m. July 15.


You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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