It wasn't long ago that summer brought the dog days of television. Viewers were bombarded with repeat after repeat of their favorite--and less than favorite--series and were force-fed an array of unsold TV series pilots and inane comedy-variety shows.
But TV's summer doldrums are over. Or at least tempered, thanks to the savvy programming of cable, PBS and the fourth network, Fox.
Cable has chosen the summer to offer new series, specials, documentaries and feature films. PBS' summer schedule is its most ambitious to date and Fox hopes to increase its ever-growing audience with new programming.
And what about the Big Three networks? Though viewers will be seeing a handful of new limited series, ABC, CBS and NBC mostly will serve up their traditional summer menu of reruns.
Here is a selective guide to what's new and interesting on TV this summer.
HBO & CINEMAX
"We purposely planned our new series for the summer," said Chris Albrecht, senior vice president of original programming/West Coast. "The summer months are historically good months."
Dream On: Filmmaker John Landis is producing this new comedy series about a baby boomer brought up on '50s TV who tries to cope with life. HBO will present four episodes in July beginning July 8 at 10 p.m., and four more in August.
Jeff Goldblum and Kristin Scott Thomas star in Framed, about an art forger involved in affairs of the heart, June 24 at 9 p.m. Anthony Edwards and Louis Gossett Jr. star in El Diablo, a Western about a young schoolteacher entering manhood, July 22 at 8 p.m.
HBO on Location: Richard Lewis: I'm Doomed: The neurotic comic returns for an hour of kvetching, July 7 at 11 p.m.
HBO on Location: Robert Wuhl: "Batman's" reporter friend brings his humor to HBO in August. Date and time to be announced.
Child of Rage: A Story of Abuse: "America Undercover" examines the effects of child abuse on a 7-year-old girl, July 2 at 10 p.m. HBO.
Crazy About the Movies: Anthony Quinn: Cinemax profiles the two-time Oscar winner, August.
Guns: A Day in the Death of America: "America Undercover" focuses on all the deaths caused by firearms in a 24-hour period, July 16 at 10 p.m. HBO.
Parole: Six parolees are examined on "America Undercover." August. HBO.
"We always saw summer as the prime time for Showtime," said Steve Hewitt, Showtime's senior vice president, original programming and production. "We always saw that the networks went into repeats, so it behooves us to put on strong programming."
Harry Hamlin takes a break from "L.A. Law" to star in Deceptions, a mystery-thriller with Nicollette Sheridan ("Knots Landing"), Sunday at 8 p.m. Ally Sheedy plays a psychic hired by the police to find a killer who also happens to be a psychic in Fear, July 15 at 9 p.m.
Just for Laughs: Montreal International Comedy Festival: Bob Newhart makes his cable debut as the host of this comedy special taped at the largest comedy festival in the Western Hemisphere, July 21 at 10 p.m.
Showtime Comedy Club All Stars IV: Woody Harrleson ("Cheers") hosts a look at five young comedians from the past year of "Showtime Comedy Network," June 23 at 10 p.m.
Jimmie Walker and Friends III: The "Good Times" comic hosts his third special for Showtime. August.
Coast to Coast: American Music: Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker, Ry Cooder and Clarence Clemmons are among those making music, July 14 at 11 p.m.
Frank, Liza and Sammy: The Ultimate Event: Repeat of the 1989 concert featuring Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli and the late Sammy Davis Jr., July 5 at 6:30 p.m.
In You're on the Air With Dr. Ruth, everyone's favorite therapist talks about s-e-x with celebrity guests on a new late-night series, July 7 at midnight. Nancy Allen and Vanity headline Lifetime's first made-for-TV film, Memories of Murder, July 31 at 9 p.m.
Brian Dennehy ("Cocoon") and Piper Laurie ("Twin Peaks") star in the family drama, Rising Son, July 23 at 5 p.m. Heat Wave looks at the Watts riots of 1965; Blair Underwood, James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson star, Aug. 13 at 5 p.m. John Lithgow, Isabella Rossellini and James Earl Jones star in the drama, The Last Elephant, Aug. 20 at 5 p.m.
Counter Strike: The new action show stars Christopher Plummer in his first series as a rich, powerful man who seeks out and destroys injustice worldwide. Simon MacCorkindale of "Manimal" co-stars, July 1 at 10 p.m.
Swamp Thing: A doctor is exposed to environmental pollutants and is transformed into a close cousin of "Creature From the Black Lagoon." No cast set yet, July 27 at 10:30 p.m.