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Surviving the Summer TV Doldrums

By Bert Ehrmann
July 20, 2007

John From CincinnatiEvery Summer when the movie cineplexes are kicking into high gear the television networks seem to be shifting into low gear. Over the sweltering Summer months, these networks prefer to burn off the last few episodes of failed drama and comedy series while also releasing a slew of reality and game shows in order to fill their TV schedules. And if you're the type of person that's into these types of shows then good for you, but if you're like me and can't stand even a minute of reality TV there are some alternatives to the Summer television doldrums.

Over on HBO there are several new shows currently airing on that cable channel Sunday nights. First up at 9:00 P.M. is the new David Milch (Deadwood, NYPD Blue) drama series John from Cincinnati. It's hard to exactly pin down just what John from Cincinnati is, but essentially the show focuses on the Yost family. They’re a family of surfers living on the California coast along the Mexico border that has redefined the sport over two generations. But this fame has come at a cost, influential surfer papa Yost has given up on the sport he sees as having become overly commercialized and has become curmudgeon in the process while son Butchie saw his rise to fame saddled by an injury and in recent years has hit bottom becoming addicted to drugs.

Things are pretty bad for the clan until a stranger miraculously appears at the beach seemingly knowing everything about everyone yet from all other appearances only possessing the intellect of a small child. Is this stranger, known as” John,” a savant or something else?

Flight of the ConchordsThen, at 10:00 P.M. the fourth season of the Hollywood guy series Entourage and at 10:30 the new comedy Flight of the Conchords also airs on HBO. In Flight of the Conchords, two New Zealanders are trying to make it big in the New York City music scene but they just can't quite get their band off the ground. As the story unfolds each episode, the duo break out in song with lyrics like "I'm not crying, it's just been raining on my face" and "You could be a part time model, but you'd probably have to keep your normal job." Think Tenacious D meets Napoleon Dynamite and you'll understand where the comedy of Flight of the Conchords comes from.

All three of these HBO series are set to run from now until late this Summer/ early Fall on HBO.

AMC enters the original series fray with their new show Mad Men, that began airing July 19. Set in the cut-throat world of advertising circa early 1960s, Mad Men follows the staff of a high profile Madison Avenue advertising agency in the golden age of the medium where the ad men were real men doing battle in the board rooms and the woman were in the background and had to give up their careers at the first hint of a husband.

It's Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaThe series My Boys returns for a second season July 30 on TBS. My Boys follows a group of guy-guys who hang out together playing cards and watching sports where "one of the guys" just happens to be a girl. Oddly enough, last Winter TBS blew through the entire first season of the show in about a month meaning that many people didn't get a chance to catch the series when it first aired. No matter, TBS plans to run a marathon of the first season just before the second and you can stream season one episodes online at TBS.com.

Late this Summer the infamous It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia returns for a third season on FX. When describing the show to newbie’s, I like to compare the series to Seinfeld, if Seinfeld broke all bounds of good taste and didn't shy away from any subject no matter how taboo with episode titles such as “Charlie Has Cancer” and “The Gang Exploits a Miracle.” But seriously, It's Always Sunny is a great show and is nothing like any of the other comedies airing on television these days, or ever for that matter. Expect a DVD release of the first two seasons before the start of the third, episodes are also available online via iTunes.