Yep, it's summer. Time to start hating yourself for accidentally falling asleep while watching TV like an elderly person.
It's inevitable, but it poses the question: which shows will you watch the first 15 minutes of this summer?
We've narrowed down the summer premieres. Nice little microcosm of America we've got right here: badass doctors, terrible lawyers, too-dolled-up children singing "I Will Always Love You," our country's mascot/ambassador of hotness (Jennifer Love Hewitt), and a teenage girl who descended from cats that must protect her kind from a group of assassins that is trying to murder all catpeople.
This sounds, basically, like the 4th of July barbecue we were at last week. It's also some of the 12 best, most summery shows on TV.
12: "America's Got Talent" (NBC)
The gist: America is back to juggle fire on stilts, or whatever!
Follow it if: You don't have a child but you still love talent shows and would like to go to one without getting questioned by the authorities. Also, sometimes they do cool things like this:
But, usually, it's cute children singing 20-year-old songs by Céline Dion.
Wins for: Tron Guy.
11: "Happily Divorced" (TV Land)
The gist: Fran, a Los Angeles florist, is shocked when her husband of 18 years suddenly announces that he is gay. She rebounds astoundingly quickly and within days is cheerfully hitting on strange men and going on awkward dates. Her husband, played by the hilarious John Michael Higgins, must continue to live with her because of financial reasons, a tricky situation that exists mainly to fuel the show's relentless torrent of gay jokes. Fran's parents contribute: "We always knew he was gay... he had very nice cuticles."
Fran Drescher's iconic shrill voice, which most remember from her six seasons starring in "The Nanny," is intact, along with her tight-fitting outfits and unlikely romantic interests.
Follow it if: You're tired of hiding your longing for old-fashioned sitcoms and your yearning for canned laugh tracks. You're ready to reveal your deviant desires to the world, and to hell with what people think.
Best quote: Fran: "But we just had sex during Leno... how gay can you be?"
Wins for: Best re-purposing of a personal tragedy. In real life, Fran Drescher did actually divorce her gay husband after a couple of decades of marriage. We assume it went pretty much like this:
10: "The Closer" (TNT)
The gist: We don't know and we refuse to find out because we haven't been able to watch a sporting event on TNT without seeing Kyra Sedgwick since 1998.
Follow it if: You like stern women from Kentucky who, at midnight, turn into poisonous snakes and murder deviant children for cash, then... oh, who are we kidding, we have no idea.
Best quote: "Oh my God! I grew an extra hand! Out of nowhere! Somebody please call the police. Or am I the police? I don't even know. I don't read the scripts. Yeehaw" (Kyra Sedgwick).
Wins for: This "Sesame Street" parody, which is almost definitely better than the show.
9: "The 9 Lives of Chloe King" (ABC Family)
The gist: Another self-involved, sarcastic teenager discovers that she has superpowers. This time it's cute, conservative Chloe King, who reaches age 16 and begins to exhibit cat-like traits such as super-hearing, parcour expertise, extendable claws and, for some reason, drastically increased libido. Dogs start hating her, and cute boys/homeless men start really liking her.
In the pilot, she is stalked by a creepy, tattooed guy who pushes her out of a building. In this way, with the help of some other good-looking cat-people who go to her high school, she discovers that not only is she a descendent of a race of ancient semi-feline demigods, but she is also their savior.
Watch it if: You need something to do while waiting for the next episode of "Teen Wolf," if you are too young to have heard of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," or if you have finished all the "Twilight" books.
Best quote: Amy: "So you're telling me, like, what? Now you have all these superpowers?"
Wins for: Perkiest treatment of the themes of death, resurrection, lust, genocide and loss of innocence.
8: "Love Bites" (NBC)
The gist: As a sort of anthology, "Love Bites" is a new take on a romcom series for a generation without an attention span. Plot lines are introduced and then abandoned without clear resolution, and we're not always sure what city we're in. The cast of characters rotates, and a few of them reappear consistently and a little arbitrarily. The cute dialogue is sprinkled heavily with current pop culture references, and everything is in snack-sized morsels. It's an undemanding and modern escape, and it's OK if some of the stories kind of suck, because they're over pretty quickly, and hey, how long has it been since I checked Facebook?
Follow it if: You have trouble following anything at all, ever.
Best quote: "Eyegasm? You know what we should be focusing on? Ourgasm. Huh? Huh?"
Wins for: Most prolonged and questionable celebrity cameo. Jennifer Love Hewitt plays a version of herself that would willingly have sex with an overweight stranger in an airplane bathroom.
7: "Franklin & Bash" (TNT)
The gist: Zach from "Saved by the Bell" and one of the boys in the Jeep in "Clueless" get law degrees and talk out of the sides of their mouths.
Follow it if: You like the idea of watching something that is best described as a Brocedural. Maybe that's unfair, though. Sure, they're ambulance-chasing chauvinists, but Franklin and Bash are sort of stupidly charming.
Best quote: "We're Franklin and Bash" (Franklin and Bash). They say this roughly twice an episode.
Wins for: Look, it's the summer. You secretly want to watch a procedural where Mark-Paul Gosselaar gets drunk and makes out with someone in court. It's the exact thing you want on in the background while you sort out the recycling.
6: "Switched at Birth" (ABC Family)
The gist: Adolescent angst pours forth when two families discover that their daughters, now teenagers, were accidentally switched at birth. Adding to the drama is the fact that the two families are from vastly different ends of the income gap, and the working-class daughter is deaf. The best moments of the show explore the implications of these class distinctions, and the worst moments explore the whiny, self-absorbed, boring character arc of the wealthy family's spoiled daughter, Bay. Unfortunately, the members of the wealthier white family are oversimplified into grating archetypes when there would otherwise be potential for nuance. Daphne (played by Katie Leclerc), as the deaf teenager, counterbalances by giving a great performance and saves the show.
Follow it if: You love Lifetime movies but often wish they could be drawn out over several months in periodically released installments.
Wins for: In all seriousness, for putting the deaf community in the spotlight and casting hearing-impaired actors in complex roles. Also, worst solution to an existing problem: Daphne's family moves into Bay's family's guest house at the end of the first episode.
5: "Combat Hospital" (ABC)
The gist: Canadian Major Rebecca Gordon and American Captain Bobby Trang, a pair of attractive military doctors, pitch up at a NATO medical unit in Kandahar in 2006. They encounter the usual cast of medical drama characters: the casually brilliant lothario, the hard-ass boss with a sensitive, caring interior, the sassy but gentle nurse and the wise, no-nonsense mother figure. Gordon hits the ground running, striving to prove her competence in a masochistic environment, despite the burden of a possible pregnancy and stalker behavior from a mysterious ex-fiancé. Every time she tries to relax, a new emergency situation throws the unit into a panic. Gordon invariably reacts with weary efficiency, keeping her features doe-eyed and completely deadpan. Only occasionally is there a glint of an inner resilience:
At the end of the episode, the non-stop suspense and melodrama prompt her to tell her boss: "You were right. Nothing prepared me for this place." Apparently she never watched "Grey's Anatomy."
Follow it if: You liked ABC's "Off the Map." Really -- it's pretty much identical. Or, if you kind of liked "M*A*S*H" but wished it was less funny.
Best quote: Trang: "Where were ya?"
Gordon: "I'm not allowed to pee?"
Wins for: Best casual integration of a Canadian as a major character. You almost can't tell.
4: "Misfits" (Hulu)
The gist: It's your typical superhero show to start. A bunch of delinquent kids get hit by lightning, obtain powers and remain delinquent. Here's the twist: The show is absolutely, unquestionably badass. The writing is genuinely good. The characters are dynamic. It's like "No Ordinary Family" if "No Ordinary Family" did every single thing differently.
Follow it if: You like good TV and sentences like...
Best quote: "Have you ever tried to have sex with a piece of fruit?"
Wins for: Creative British swearing. Your vocabulary will increase tenfold and entirely in the wrong direction.
3: "Suits" (USA)
The gist: Genius pot-head Mike Ross (Patrick Adams) stumbles into an interview for an entry-level position at a prestigious law firm while running from the cops during a drug deal. Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) is the successful lawyer and notorious asshole who decides to give him a chance. Mike must quickly learn to stay afloat while keeping Harvey's secrets and his own -- Mike never actually went to law school, but his photographic memory allows him to conceal that detail.
The writers try hard to make Mike, who is a career criminal, likeable by giving him a dying grandma and a crush on his best friend's girlfriend. Conveniently, all the people he screws over kind of deserve it -- when he cheats a random stranger out of a law school tour, we first hear the guy making bigoted comments.
The standout performance is from Rick Hoffman, who plays the show's villain, another attorney in the firm who competes with Harvey for promotions. As Louis Litt, he is so utterly off-putting that you root for the duo of protagonists despite yourself.
Follow it if: This show combines a lot of character tropes that we've liked before: the quirky, misunderstood genius, the expertly manipulative charmer, and the pairing of opposites in a buddy comedy. If you like law-firm shows like "Boston Legal," chances are you'll like this.
Wins for: Most continuous justification of the show's title. Every few minutes the dialogue is punctuated by a mention of suits -- why to wear them, where to buy them, how much to spend on them and what they should look like. Let's see how long they can keep that up.
2: "Wilfred" (FX)
The gist: Man dealt bad hand friends gem with hammy man's best friend.
Hot damn, that sentence was hard to write. Basically, in English, Elijah Wood is terminally depressed, so he tries to OD on some sleeping pills. Then, basically, in English, his neighbor's dog talks to him and takes him to various different Venice Beach locales to sexually harass waitresses. Actually, let's amend that: Australian. The dog is Australian. Speaks English, though.
Follow it if: Seriously? You're having doubts about this show? It's a man in a dog suit who chases after motorcycles. It's the best show we've seen that's premiered this summer.
Wins for: It's basically an entire show with this clip as a premise.
We also like that we can unabashedly be a fan of Elijah Wood now. That makes life easier.
1: "Louie" (FX)
The gist: The world's best comedian gets a half-hour to explore whatever the hell he wants to talk about, as jokingly or seriously as he well feels. The second-to-last episode of Season 1 punched us right in the heart, leaving us scrambling for tissues and our Dad's phone number. The first episode of Season 2 climaxes in a 25-second fart joke. It's an emotional, gastrointestinal rollercoaster, this one.
Follow it if: You like new forms of TV, sketch shows, saying things about your own children that you'd usually reserve for a freshly-broken toaster, being about 10 years ahead of how smart people will feel about stereotypes and language. If you have any rooting interest in brilliant people being given a chance on television, watch this show. There's no talking dog, and Jennifer Love Hewitt doesn't have sex with a fat guy in a bathroom, but it still manages to be in contention for one of the best shows on TV.
Wins for: The little bits of Louis C.K.'s award-winning, life-affirming standup sprinkled throughout the show, like a filthy "Seinfeld." We've never been persuaded to hate anything as much as we now hate milk cartons because of Louis C.K.
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