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TODAY

Thursday, April 18

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Airbags

A recent New York Times article (registration required) quoted a woman who "likened her [May television] sweeps viewing habits to a cocaine binge" and another who "tried to cope by reading, renting movies, watching her daughter's cheerleading practice. But it's not the same." Ah, yes. The end of the traditional viewing season is indeed a time of mourning for couch potatoes and TiVo junkies. But wait! There's plenty of summer TV. Too much, actually; the mind boggles at the options. Why go outside and live life when one can worship at the altar of teacher, mother, secret lover? I offer a few new and returning series for your perusal. Note: My use of the term best goes far beyond its usual definition. It could mean genuinely good, genuinely cheesy, or genuinely awful. Just so we're clear.

Best New Drama:

Hex, BBC America, Thursdays 9pm
It's being hailed as the British version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. OK, so the heroine is a blonde outcast with supernatural powers, whose best friend is a lesbian (even though she's outed after four minutes instead of four seasons) and who is stalked by an immortal man several centuries her senior. However, this series is sexier and darker, and even though it takes itself too seriously at times, it's refreshing to see teenagers acting like teenagers, talking smack about teachers and each other, shagging the wrong bloke or drinking too much at a party. Heroine Cassie (Christina Cole) falls into trouble fairly quickly, but it's not her fault. It's destined, you see. Isn't it always? As Azazeal, Michael Fassbender out-Boreanazes Angel with brooding humor as well as with a generous amount of eyeliner and loving lighting from the DP. Evil looks good, as do most of the young actors in the cast.

First Runner-Up: Windfall, NBC, Thursdays 9pm. An impossibly ethnically diverse cast wins $386 million in the lottery. Half of the pilot showed the characters reacting to the news of their new fortune, and the other half was dedicated to affairs, fraud, a teenager marrying a Russian bride and Luke Perry wrinkling his forehead.
Other Notables: Saved, TNT, Mondays 9pm, (premieres June 12); Life on Mars, BBC America, Mondays 9pm, (premieres July 24); Brotherhood, Showtime, Sundays 9pm, (premieres July 9).

Best Returning Drama:

Deadwood, HBO, Sundays 8pm (premieres June 11)
About m0th3rf4cking time, c0cksuck3rs! The profane-yet-lyrical Western drama is back for its third and final season. One of the most original shows on television, Deadwood's dialogue has been compared with Shakespeare's, although the bard didn't pepper his conversation with such salty language (one website even tracks the rate of certain obscenities used). It's sure to be a rough go for Bullock, Swearingen, Alma, Trixie and the rest of the residents as they try to recover from last year's hardships of death, corruption and deception and move forward to deal with the upcoming hardships of... er, death, corruption and deception. Over the past several weeks, there was plenty of speculation about the show's future. After a very public back-and-forth negotiation process, HBO and show creator David Milch finally agreed on a four-hour miniseries to wrap up the series. It's not as good as a full season, but it's better than nothing! Catch Deadwood while you can.

First Runner-Up: Entourage, HBO, Sundays 9pm, (premieres June 11). The Hollywood boys return for a third season in this cult fave. Perhaps Chicago native Jeremy Piven should take the advice of the sleazy agent he portrays instead of getting into public pissing matches with other lesser-known actors. Hug it out, bitch, indeed.
Other Notables: Rescue Me, FX, Tuesdays 9pm; The 4400, USA, Sundays 9pm, (premieres June 11); Weeds, Showtime, Mondays 9pm, (premieres August 18).

Best New Reality Series:

The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, Oxygen, Tuesdays 9pm
I love the self-declared World's First Supermodel. Janice doesn't have a filter, and that's what makes her both great and cringe-worthy. I've read all three of her books (mostly autobiographical, with health and fashion tips thrown in), and although I don't always agree with her advice — Botox, yay! The best way to get a man is to be a bitch and/or ignore him — I do like her no nonsense take on the fashion industry and how it messes with women's minds. Her blunt honesty on the first four seasons of America's Next Top Model often overpowered Tyra Banks's "fierceness" and helped Dickinson get booted from the show. Her stint on The Surreal Life was unfortunate, to say the least. But my Janice love returns as television cameras document the start of her new business. She'll represent both men and women, and unlike ANTM's obvious "home improvement" style–candidates, these people have a shot at being actual models. "Eat your heart out, Tyra!" indeed.

First Runner-Up: Treasure Hunters, NBC, Mondays 8pm, (two-hour premiere Sunday, June 18). Teams of three work together to follow clues and decipher codes in a race to find a treasure hidden somewhere on the globe. Most likely, this is the summer's "smart" reality show, a la The Amazing Race.
Other Notables: Game Show Marathon, CBS, Thursdays 7pm; Who Wants To Be A Superhero?, Sci-Fi, Thursdays 8pm, (premieres July 27); Breaking Up with Shannen Doherty, Oxygen, TBA (August).

Best Returning Reality Series:

Big Brother 7: All Stars, CBS, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays (premieres Thursday, July 6, 7pm)
The biggest timewaster/addiction of the year. The Chenbot will lead us through another summer of secrets... no, wait, that was last year. This time, the contestants are all returning houseguests. The Top 20 semi-finalists (announced on Wednesday, June 21, 7pm) will be culled to a Dirty Dozen by viewer votes. Last year's America's Choice winner Kaysar will most likely be voted in, but I am praying and hoping for "Evil" Dr. Will, winner of Big Brother 2, to be chosen and show everyone how to really play the game. If the thrice-weekly airings aren't enough, sites such as Hamster Time and Joker's provide live recaps from the 24-hour feeds. Yes, really.

First Runner-Up: Project Runway 3, Bravo, Wednesdays 9pm, (premieres July 12). I admit it: I have a crush on Tim Gunn. His soothing voice and no-nonsense-yet-supportive advice to the candidates on this designing series counteracts the harsh (but often necessary) criticism from Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. Heidi Klum returns as host.
Other Notables: Hell's Kitchen, Fox, Mondays 8pm, (premieres June 12, 7pm); Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Bravo, Tuesdays 8pm; Laguna Beach, MTV, TBA (August).

Best New Talent Show:

America's Got Talent, NBC, Wednesdays 8pm, Thursdays 7:30 pm starting July 13 (premieres June 21, 7pm)
Because what The Oughts really need is its very own version of The Gong Show. Brought to you by the same people who produce juggernaut American Idol, this extravaganza promises to be either a riveting showcase or terrible trainwreck — or maybe both. Judged by singer/actress/Moesha Brandy, David Hasselhoff (a.k.a. The Hoff) and Piers Morgan, the resident token Brit, the stage is set for wannabes, famewhores and the truly bizarre to compete for their 15 minutes as well as a cash prize. And just like Idol, viewers will pick the eventual winner. Let's hope The Unknown Comic doesn't make a special appearance.

First Runner-Up: Master of Champions, ABC, Thursdays 7pm, (premieres June 22). This showcase is a Japanese import, and it promises "the world's most unique talent." I promise it will be a freak show. Whee!
Other Notable: The One, ABC, TBA.

Best Returning Talent Show:

Rock Star: Supernova, CBS, Tuesdays 8pm, Wednesdays 7pm, (premieres July 5)
Unlike last year's installment, rockers this year will be chosen to front a new band rather than replace an '80s icon, which has to be less pressure. The biggest name in Supernova is former Motley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, who is no stranger to reality TV himself; first with his notorious honeymoon video with then-wife Pamela Lee and also with last summer's Tommy Lee Goes To College. Former Metallica guitarist Jason Newsted and former Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke round out the band. Brooke Burke continues her wooden hosting ways, and Dave Navarro will undoubtedly hit on female contenders in a creepy manner. Here's hoping there will be fewer J.D.s and more Martys in this year's pool.

First Runner-Up: So You Think You Can Dance, Fox, Wednesdays 8pm, Thursdays 8pm. Dance for your life! We're now down to the final 20: 10 female, 10 male. Initially, the contestants work with partners, but in the end, can be only one. Dance, MacLeod! Riverdance!
Other Notables: Last Comic Standing , NBC, Tuesdays 8pm; Making the Band 3, MTV, Thursdays 8pm, (premieres June 15).

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About the Author(s)

As a child, Dee Stiffler was only allowed to watch one hour of television a day. She usually chose Sesame Street. Today, she overcompensates by knowing far too much about the WB's lineup as well as pop culture in general. Email her at pop@gapersblock.com.

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