The arrival of TNT's "Dallas" (Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET) has forcefully reminded me of an important truth: You've got to be flexible in the criteria you use to judge TV shows.
Normally, I don't like to be able to predict what'll happen next on a TV, but with "Dallas," it's not difficult to discern what may be coming down the road for members of the battling Ewing clan. Even if I don't know the specifics of what's to come in a particular episode, there are bound to be betrayals and a revelation or two on my TV screen each week. Halfway through the show's summer run, those staples of melodrama continue to arrive like clockwork.
I usually enjoy fairly complex characters who often have ambiguous or conflicted motivations, but most of the characters on "Dallas" are about one thing, maybe two. They want more money. They want to save the family. They are bent on revenge, etc. What makes them tick is as large and unmissable as their hats and their hair.
And if I were to use my usual scripted-drama criteria to judge the show, I would be depriving myself of a whole lot of escapist enjoyment. I love that there's so much good Serious Television out there, but not everything has to be Serious. Having said that, I don't mean to imply that the show is in any way a guilty pleasure (I will never, ever feel guilty about watching J.R. Ewing cackle as he manipulates and deceives his family. That would be un-American).
Far from it, I'm quite happy to broadcast my love for all things Ewing. And I would argue that it's not exactly as easy as it might look to make such soapy froth. Shapeless, flailing soaps are a dime a dozen, but this show is anything but lazy. For the driven, purposeful "Dallas" to have come up with as many turnabouts and betrayals as it has and still remain in some kind of recognizable reality is a feat, and I truly enjoy how efficiently and speedily the show burns through stories. It may not be the deepest show on my DVR, but so what? Isn't that something to celebrate?
There are four more weeks of Ewing fun to enjoy this year, but we do have Season 2 to look forward to. In this week's edition of the Southfork Follies, Rebecca once again attempts to get back in Christopher's good graces, but Christopher's got other problems. You will not be surprised to know that John Ross is connected to them.
In HuffPost TV's exclusive sneak peek above, Christopher and John Ross start arguing over J.R. and things get pretty heated. "If you say anything about me not being a real Ewing, I'm gonna knock that cheesy grin off your face," Christopher warns.
Enjoy the drama. Yeehaw!
"Dallas" airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on TNT.
Mon., July 9: "Bunheads"
(9 p.m. ET on ABC Family) Michelle tries out a new living arrangement that gives her some distance from her new mother-in-law. And Fanny is beside herself when the Joffrey Ballet threatens to move Summer Program auditions to another city because the dance floor studio is not up to par.
Mon., July 9: "The Closer"
(9 p.m. ET on TNT) <em>summer premiere</em> The long-running drama returns for its final batch of episodes. Kyra Sedgwick stars as Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, whose investigative and interrogation skills have resulted in countless confessions and convictions. Mary McDonnell, who will continue her role as Captain Sharon Raydor in TNT's upcoming spin-off "Major Crimes," also stars. Followed by the series premiere of Eric McCormack's "Perception." (Read an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/perception-eric-mccormack_n_1654869.html?utm_hp_ref=tv" target="_hplink">interview with Eric McCormack</a> and <a href="www.huffingtonpost.com/maureen-ryan/perception-review-eric-mccormack_b_1654962.html?utm_hp_ref=tv" target="_hplink">a review of "Perception."</a>)
Mon, July 9: "The Bad Girls Club"
(10 p.m. ET on Oxygen) <em>season premiere</em> The show moves to sunny Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, marking the first time this series is set in an international location. This season will bring new alliances, new enemies and new attitudes as a fresh group of girls takes on a different city.
Tues., July 10: "Destination Truth"
(9 p.m. ET on Syfy) <em>season premiere</em> Season 5 opens with two special back-to-back episodes, as Josh Gates and his team lead viewers on a chase into one of the world's biggest caves in the jungles of Vietnam to search for Bigfoot. Then, at the overwhelming request of fans, they'll travel to Romania for a return visit to the haunted Hoia Bachu Forest, the site of their most terrifying investigation to date, and then explore the reportedly haunted Mayan ruins of Tikal in pursuit of a monster known as the Belize Goblin.
Tues., July 10: "White Collar"
(9 p.m. ET on USA) <em>season premiere</em> The unique partnership between con man Neal Caffrey and FBI agent Peter Burke was upended in the Season 3 finale when Neal fled the country with Mozzie. The series returns for a dramatic fourth season exploring Burke's fate with the FBI, the whereabouts of Caffrey and whether or not their relationship will ever be the same again. Followed by the season premiere of "Covert Affairs."
Tues., July 10: "NY Med"
(10 p.m. ET on ABC) <em>series premiere</em> For a full year, ABC News cameras had unprecedented access to document the mayhem and the miracles that occur daily inside the walls of Columbia and Weill Cornell Medical Centers -- the crown jewels of the prestigious New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City -- for an eight-part series, "NY Med." Lutheran Medical Center also participated, adding a Brooklyn dimension to the series. In the premiere, cameras follow a mother of two as she undergoes brain surgery -- while awake.
Wed., July 11: "Dogs in the City"
(8 p.m. ET on CBS) <em>season finale</em> Dog guru Justin Silver partners with Edie Falco ("Nurse Jackie") to help renovate a shelter that is close to her heart and, while there, works with a dog who has been scaring off potential adopters.
Wed., July 11: "Beverly Hills Nannies"
(9 p.m. ET on ABC Family) <em>series premiere</em> Play dates on Rodeo Drive, ironing the baby's Burberry, personal chefs and over-the-top parental demands are only just the tip of the iceberg for a group of nannies that work for high powered families living in the most exclusive zip code in the country.
Wed., July 11: "Damages"
(9 p.m. ET on DirecTV) <em>season premiere</em> The fifth and final season centers on the timely and controversial subject of government and corporate transparency, focusing on how the ever-changing digital landscape shapes the way in which information is obtained and shared. Ryan Phillippe joins the cast as a series regular. Followed by the series premiere of "Hit and Miss."
Thurs., July 12: "Big Brother"
(9 p.m. ET on CBS) <em>season premiere</em> 12 new houseguests compete to be the last contestant standing. In a series first, four of the most successful players to ever enter the "Big Brother" house, will return to play their own game and for their own separate prize. The identities of the four returning players and details surrounding their mission inside the house will be revealed during the season premiere.
Thurs., July 12: "The Choice"
(9 p.m. ET on Fox) <em>season finale</em> Actor Dean Cain, American fashion model and actor Tyson Beckford, NFL defense tackle Ndamukong Suh and Beverly Hills plastic surgeon to the stars Dr. Robert Nettles vie for love on the season finale of the dating show.
Thurs., July 12: "The Real L Word."
(10 p.m. ET on Showtime) <em>season premiere</em> New cast-members from the New York lesbian scene join the show for its third season, as well as returning LA fan favorites. Although the series straddles both coasts, it will continue to depict these ladies in their passionate (mis-)adventures, both at work and play. Fans can also expect some big surprises and special guest star appearances throughout the season.
Fri., July 13: "Can You Survive A Horror Movie?"
(9 p.m. ET on Chiller) <em>special presentation</em> Have you ever watched a horror film, reveling in the gruesome deaths of twenty-something teenagers, and thought that you could do better? This special will put those thoughts to the test as it explores the best tips and tricks for conquering the classic death-dealing scenarios. Combining cinematic reenactments with expert strategy, the show will also highlight the three unsuspecting hosts, putting them through a blood-soaked series of challenges deviously designed to test the likelihood of their continued living.
Sat., July 14: "The Firm"
(10 p.m. ET on NBC) <em>series finale</em> Chances are you'd forgotten this low-rated legal drama was still on the air, but on the off chance you kept up with the series while NBC burned it off on Saturdays, it comes to a close tonight. On the day of Ray and Tammy's wedding, a new enemy threatens to destroy the joyous family occasion. As Patrick Walker's trial begins, Mitch makes a startling discovery that the conspiracy surrounding the case goes deeper than just the mob.
Sun., July 15: "Leverage"
(8 p.m. ET on TNT) <em>season premiere</em> Television's coolest gang of thieves, grifters and con artists are back in the fifth season of this fast-paced, light-hearted caper series.
Sun., July 15: "Breaking Bad"
(10 p.m. ET on AMC) <em>season premiere</em> The fifth and final season begins. As Walt deals with the aftermath of the Casa Tranquila explosion, Hank works to wrap up his investigation of Gus' empire.
Sun., July 15: "Political Animals"
(10 p.m. ET on USA) <em>series premiere</em> Adrian Pasdar stars as President Paul Garcetti, who defeated Elaine (Sigourney Weaver) in the presidential primary and then appointed her as his Secretary of State. A smart man who uses every resource at his disposal to his advantage, he deftly employs Elaine's popularity to deflect unwanted attention. Elaine tries to keep her family together while simultaneously dealing with crises of the State Department and a hungry DC journalist (Carla Gugino) who is bent on destroying her.