Summertime television has certainly changed. For years, the broadcast networks would basically write off the summer months, filling their prime-time schedules with repeats primarily and an occasional special. The networks would also use the summer to burn off series that were canceled before all the episodes that had been shot were aired and TV movies they had little or no confidence in. PBS and the cable networks, though, took full advantage of the summer doldrums to premiere new and returning series.
Over the last few years, though, the networks finally got wise that viewers were tired of reruns and were eager to watch new programming during the summer. CBS first mined ratings' gold three years ago by premiering "Survivor" and "Big Brother." And now all the broadcast networks have joined the summer programming bandwagon.
A slew of new and returning series premiere this week on broadcast, cable and PBS, including a new talk show, a sitcom and reality shows. Also, one network is changing name and format. Here's a look at some of what's in store beginning this week.
"Charlie Lawrence": The networks still consider summer the time to shed shows that they didn't consider viable during the regular season. Such is the case with this half-hour comedy series starring Nathan Lane, the two-time Tony Award winner, which was announced as a midseason replacement. Lane plays a former TV star who is elected to Congress from New Mexico. It airs at 8:30 p.m. Sundays on CBS.
"Anything for Love": Endemol USA, the production company that created NBC's "Fear Factor" and CBS' "Big Brother," offers a new relationship series using hidden cameras, surprise guests and twists. Mark Walberg, late of "Temptation Island" and no relation to actor Mark Wahlberg, is a co-host with Claudia DiFolco. At 9 p.m. Mondays on Fox.
"Paradise Hotel": Twelve guests are given the chance to live together in a posh, exclusive resort. However, each week the guests will vote to remove one of their fellow residents to make room for a new guest. Viewers can become guests by calling a toll-free number for a chance to become a studio contestant. From there, the contestant must win a game in which the studio audience and the remaining hotel guests will decide who will be the new resident. It premieres at 9 p.m. Wednesday on Fox, then airs at 8 p.m. Mondays and 9 p.m. Wednesdays.
"The Orlando Jones Show": The African American actor-comedian, who worked as a sitcom writer before becoming a regular on Fox's "Mad TV" and a film star ("Drumline"), throws his hat into the late-night talk-show ring. At 11 p.m. Mondays on FX.
"I'm With Busey": Perhaps the most off-beat reality series of the summer. Comedy writer Adam de la Pena hangs out with his all-time movie hero, Gary Busey. The series focuses on the mentor-protege relationship between the writer and the actor who has survived a near-fatal motorcycle accident, a drug overdose and a 30-year plus film career. At 10 p.m. Tuesdays on Comedy Central.
"Boarding House: North Shore": The WB presents a new "lifestyle" series from "Survivor" creator Mark Burnett. Set on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii, home of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the series revolves around seven world-class surfers living in a gorgeous beach house who are followed 24/7 by cameras, in and out of the water. At 8 p.m. Wednesdays on the WB.
"Strong Medicine": The Lifetime medical series, starring Patricia Richardson and Rosa Blasi, returns for a new season. At 10 p.m. Sundays on Lifetime.
"P.O.V.": Television's longest-running documentary series returns to PBS for its 16th season. The series, which continues through Sept. 2, opens with "Flag Wars," which examines competing economic interests between African Americans and gays in Columbus, Ohio. At 10 p.m. Tuesdays on KCET.
"Monk": Tony Shalhoub stars in his Golden Globe Award-winning role as a brilliant detective who just happens to have an obsessive-compulsive disorder. The series' first season is the highest-rated original scripted series in the history of basic cable. At 10 p.m. Fridays on USA.
The former Nashville Network and the National Network transforms itself Monday into Spike TV! It's billed as the first network for men. Just don't tell that to ESPN or TBS.
Cover photograph by Jeffrey Thurnher.