Monday, June 06, 2005

Looking Ahead (and Way Ahead)

Summer used to be the relaxed, rerun-heavy part of the TV season, and that wasn't such a bad thing. It's a nice time to get out of the house, especially when things don't cool off until late in the day. And at the House of Heldenfels we're trying to catch up with shows that didn't get watched much during the regular season -- because we were watching something else at the time.
But there's also new TV to watch. When the networks did embrace reruns more, cable saw an opportunity to attract viewers with new programs. And as viewers began going to cable and not coming back to broadcast in the fall, the networks realized they had to keep a hook out and started programming summer more. In addition, they learned that summer shows could become fall hits; ''Survivor'' first found an audience during the summer.
So on Sunday you could have found my review of HBO's ''Entourage'' and ''The Comeback'' and TNT's ''Into the West,'' and today I have an interview tied to the second season of TBS's ''The Real Gilligan's Island.'' I expect to have a review of Fox's ''The Inside'' in tomorrow's paper (sneak preview: very disturbing, but also uneven) and a look at the season premiere of Lifetime's''Strong Medicine'' on June 12 and at ABC Family's ''Wildfire'' on June 19. (If nothing else, I thought it was worth a mention because people have been seeing a trailer for it at ''Star Wars Episode 3'' screenings.)
And I've already gone through three new episodes of FX's ''Rescue Me,'' which is back on June 21, for a review near the premiere. I just couldn't wait. And, after seeing those three new episodes, I still love the show.
But even as the summer shows are filling time, I'm thinking about the fall.
Not long after the announcements of the fall season (which you can find in this blog's May archive), the networks send out pilots of their new shows for the fall. This is a precursor to the summer TV critics tour, when the cast and producers of the new shows will be available to talk; seeing the pilots gives us a way to ask better questions than you can from a printed description of a show.
Of course, some of those shows will bear scant resemblance to those pilots by the time they get on the air. Casts will change (in fact, some already have), concepts will be tweaked, tone adjusted. Last year, for example, ABC sent out a version of ''Desperate Housewives'' with different music than was in the telecast that fall -- with the change in the music making the show more obviously comedic than the old music had indicated.
Because of that, the copies of the shows also come with warnings not to review them yet, since the show you eventually see may not be the one I'm judging now. So for the moment I'll resist the urge to tell you which sitcoms I sat through without laughing and which dramas left me cold.
But I am at least guardedly optimistic about NBC's ''My Name Is Earl,'' UPN's ''Everybody Hates Chris'' and Fox's ''Kitchen Confidential'' -- all comedies, by the way.
I haven't dipped into the dramas much, partly because a busy weekend of garage-cleaning and the like made me want to kick back with some laughs. But also because I've put my drama-watching energy into ''Rescue Me'' and three episodes of ''The Inside.''

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