The TV Set: Who Shot Nancy Botwin? Was It JR?

4 June 2012 | 1:38 pm | Andrew Mast

The US cables are unleashing their summer programming with an Aussie sheriff, a chance to play with LMFAO and the return of a very angry Charlie Sheen standing in for Adam Sandler.

With all the excitement of the US broadcast networks Fall line-up dealt with, the reality is settling in that their promises are as believable as a hooker agreeing to swallow. For every gulp of a Mindy Kaling comedy there will be a dozen gobs of Chuck Lorre-wannabes landing at our feet.

Best then to just pleasure ourselves with a look at what the US cable networks are offering in the northern hemisphere summer. Every year as the broadies unload their summer schedules of "unscripted" series and talent competitions, the cables continue to stimulate subscribers. Old faithfuls return and fresh talent attempts to turn our heads.


A&E pride themselves on turning mundane realities into high-octane drama, creating hits out of bail enforcement (Dog The Bounty Hunter) and storage repossession (Storage Wars). They now hope to regain their reputation for quality scripted programming. In the pre-Kardashian era of TV, A&E commissioned epic dramas like Horatio Hornblower.

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This week they premiere Longmire, based on a series of mystery novels set in Wyoming. It stars the obligatory Home And Away graduate, this time Robert Taylor playing a widowed sheriff. Not a lot of chop behind the scenes (all trained up on police procedurals) but the cast also includes Katee Sackhoff (BSG), Bailey Chase (one of The Initiative in Buffy) and... ahem, Lou Diamond Phillips.


The Mad Men-made network now also houses the much-torrented Breaking Bad (final season begins there on July 15) and The Walking Dead (which returns in October without show runner Frank Darabont - hopefully that means no more ten-minute scenes of soapie dialogue guaranteed to be used in a clip on the Emmy awards broadcast). But they are looking to do an A&E and will attempt to make the real-life day-to-day operations of a family-run rural security firm into a hit by piggy-backing it onto Breaking Bad. Here's hoping one of the Small Town Security company's clients is a Los Pollos Hermanos franchise.

If that fails: AMC have greenlit Thief Of Thieves, based on The Walking Dead author Robert Kirkman's comic and a Ridley Scott 'diamond trade drama'.


In case you hadn't noticed, in between Kardashian spin-offs and True Hollywood Stories about the Kardashians, E! supply quality camp comedy with The Soup, Chelsea Lately and Fashion Police (where else are guests like Shannon Doherty encouraged to bitch on everyone she'll never work with again?). So just in case Kim K can't keep her libido up for an eternity of mating with celebrities, E! have a fall-back plan. Opening Act is their entry into the world of singing competitions. Launching July 9, it stars Mary J Blige and country singer Jason Aldean (can't wait for the inevitable duet there) looking for someone to win a tour support slot with, wait for it... Rod Stewart, Nicki Minaj, LMFAO, Jason Mraz and/or Gym Class Heroes. This has Rock Star Supernova written all over it.


With no date yet set for season eight of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Sons Of Anarchy not returning until September, FX have done what anyone in search of a surefire success would do - hire Charlie Sheen to star in a spin-off of a little seen Adam Sandler film. Anger Management lands June 28 and just might be the best move Sheen's made since method acting his way into our hearts as a drug addict in 1986's Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The new show has been developed by Bruce Helford, a former Roseanne writer who went on to create The Drew Carey Show and, most importantly, The Norm Show. And, it co-stars Selma Blair who proved her worth as Ursula Udders, the lady with the indecent exposure fetish in John Waters' A Dirty Shame.

If that fails: Season three of Louie starts June 28 alongside season two of Wilfred. FX have also set the Entourage production team onto adapting Anthony Kiedis' Scar Tissue autobiography (may we suggest they do a 'Kevin Dillon' and cast another '80s hasbeen Hollywood sibling - Emilio Estevez as Blackie Dammett).


HBO just landed themselves another hit with the post-hipster, Sex And The City-referencing Girls (we look forward to Adam and Hannah's awkward middle-age sex acts on the big screen in a decade). They also just figured out that they can make out like China by fast-tracking medieval fantasy Game Of Thrones to screen around the globe at the same time it does in the States. Really? They just figured that out. Had no one at HBO ever attended a fan convention?

So can getting Alan Sorkin to rehash his pre-fame series Sports Night as The Newsroom give the HoBO's their very own West Wing (ie, something to make Packed To The Rafters fans feel like they are watching 'quality' TV that a 'critic' might like)? In Sorkin's favour? Scroll past the Big Names in the cast and hope that The Newsroom can do for Olivia Munn what Sports Night did for Felicity Huffman. [Oh, and just like Game Of Thrones, there's someone from Skins too - this time Dev Patel.]

If that fails: HBO can still squeeze some life out of the True Blood franchise now that fans know they can get utterly bladdered playing the Sookie Shots drinking game. Guaranteed disability before scene two if you take a shot of Fernet every time Sookie changes her mind about who she really loves. But they do have Darren Aronofsky on stand-by to fill the gap once True Blood-lust fades - the Black Swan director is working on World War ll, fantasy horror Hobgoblin. Hitler and magicians could be the new vampires and werewolfs.


Season eight of Weeds returns July 1 and promotional material is missing one of the stars, so the finale bullet may have been fatal. Season seven of Dexter is not back until September 30, that gives the writers a lotta time to get their way out of last season's icky, icky twist ending. Best solution: bring back Julia Stiles. Homeland season two returns with Dexter, and will have to work hard to sustain suspense without spiralling into a 24-scenario of demanding ever-increasing amounts of disbelief-suspension. And it must be written in GREEN PEN.

If that fails: Showtime has ordered up big on comic book adaptations - with 100 Bullets, The Damned and Chew all on the way in 2013. Plus they have locked into a TV series based on Australian film Animal Kingdom - they are holding onto director David Michod but no word on Jacki Weaver reprising her role (anyway surely she has signed onto Prisoner-remake Wentworth by now - playing Smurf Cody was just a dress rehearsal for becoming the new Freak.)


The TNT formula doesn't translate to Australia for some reason. In the US, cop drama Southland is lauded by critics, here it's 'that show with the kid from The OC'. And crime-fighting duo Rizzoli & Isles are consistently USA cable's top-rating drama, here we think it's a continental burger with side salad. Can't imagine much changing with Perception (kicks off July 9), which sees a Grace-less Will, Eric McCormack, go FBI medic with a creative team who worked together on Star Trek: Voyager. On August 13 they roll out Major Crimes, a spin-off of The Closer but with BSG's Mary McDonnell instead of Kyra Sedgwick.

Their hopes are pinned on the return of Dallas, June 13, remade by the '80s supersoap's original creators. Plus, there's a retirement village of original cast, including Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy (please bring back his Man From Atlantis next). A far more exciting prospect though would be a Knot's Landing sequel with original cast members Alec Baldwin and Nicollette Sheridan - that would be crazier than a Nick Nolte/Gary Busey double bill.

If that fails: Todd Haynes is on call to produce Seconds Of Our Lives and there's Snatched, a remake of Relic Hunter (yes, just what we all wanted). Also, Holly Hunter is set to star in American Flesh, a drama about the porn industry (tame after her turn in car accident fetish and amputee sex film Crash).

TV Land

The network where sit-coms go to die. And where Betty White retired to with Hot In Cleveland. On June 20 they deliver The Soul Man. It's only worthy of a mention to clarify that it is not the return of the '90s sit-com where Dan Ackroyd played a priest. Instead it's a HIC spin-off with Cedric The Entertainer as an R&B star turned minister. Speaking of Will And Grace, this is executive produced by Sean Hayes ("Just Jack!"), who also produces tame science fantasy police procedural Grimm. Anyone else find that odd?