Temp Check: Summer TV highs and lows

covert-affairs-gates.jpgHonestly, I thought I had moved past USA's quirky "characters welcome" formula of success.

"Burn Notice" never caught fire with me and "Royal Pains" seemed like exactly that. But then last fall "White Collar" completely won me over. So, when "Covert Affairs" came around this summer I figured I'd give it a shot. Now I suddenly have two USA original faves on my viewing schedule to go along with the "House" and various "Law & Order" marathons I get sucked into way too often.

Like all the USA shows, "Covert Affairs" is all-around good fun with not-always-the-typical sexy elements thrown in to keep things interesting. Plus, it has one of my favorite TV actresses, Anne Dudek. Throw in my new found AMC series love, "Rubicon" -- James Badge Dale where have you been all my life? -- and you have both bases covered: easy, breezy and slowly engrossing drama (how I wish my summer reading list was so well-rounded).

Also a surprise addition to the weekly rotation is Syfy's new series "Haven." However, I refuse to get attached to anything that has Eric Balfour as a regular cast member, since unless his character gets killed off ("Buffy," "Six Feet Under") chances are that show is not long for this world.

Alas, this summer also included "The Gates," which should have been a winner but wasn't. It had tons of stuff I like: vampires, werewolves, suburban secrets ... but one episode was enough to decide that when it comes to the summertime sometimes turning off the TV really is your best option.

Never a good thought to cross the mind of someone who covers it for a living.

Not wanting to feel alone in this, I sent the question to the rest of the office. What've been your summer TV pleasant surprise and unfortunate disappointment this year? Turns out one person's "yes, more please" (mine) is another person's "eh, I think I'll pass" (*** cough, cough *** Andrea *** cough, cough ***) ...

*****

In theory, "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" just shouldn't work, but in practice, the show was alternately hilarious and inspiring. I went out and bought a whole bunch of art supplies; they're stacked in a corner in my room. (I like to think of the stack as a sculpture. I call it "Potential.")

As for disappointments, I championed "Persons Unknown" at the beginning, but unfortunately, all the persons remained unknown. Even the most intriguing concept can't survive without relatable characters. -- Carina MacKenzie

*****

michaele-salahi-true-blood.jpg "True Blood" is going places this season that totally turns its primary relationships on their head. When the Sookie-Bill-Eric triangle is all I can think about all week, I know I'm high on the happenings in Bon Temps.

"Drop Dead Diva"
is always a highlight for me, but this season it has taken a great turn in moving Jane's quest from winning over Grayson to winning over the parts of her that remains Debbie to Jane. Sure, the storyline is a bit existential, but the writers have kept it easily digestible.

Being a rabid fan of trashtastic TV, "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" hasn't failed to keep the crazy train rolling. From Danielle's devious deeds to Dina's departure and then "weave-gate," this season has just been stopping at all stations and I'm staying on-board.

Unfortunately, "The Real Housewives of D.C." premiere was lukewarm at best and when it comes to the "Real Housewives" franchise, I'm looking for hot. If insider chatter means anything, then the show doesn't have much cooking other than The Salahis' gate-crashing incident.

I had high hopes for ABC's "Scoundrels," but it never quite lived up to its potential in my mind and the promise of its amazing lead casting of Virginia Madsen. In the end, it just stole time on my DVR that could be filled with something, well, good. -- Jethro Nededog

*****

I wasn't feeling last season's "True Blood" crazy maenad storyline, but the third season's return more than lives up to its undead promise. More gore. More sex. More gory sex. No show disturbs and amuses as much as "True Blood," and the addition of the werewolves like Alcide ( Joe Manganiello) sure heated up my veins like a TruBlood in the microwave. Blood type A positive for sure.

Also getting my blood pumping was the World Cup, which, like the Olymics, always makes me feel part of something ... Even if it's shared outrage over botched ref calls. Gooooal!!!!

Unfortunately, one of my favorite reality competition shows, "So You Think You Can Dance," faltered a bit for me this season at no fault of the new format. I was just so blown away by Alex Wong's hip-hop swag, I picked him to win. When he had to bow out from his devastating injury, the show never really recovered for me. Additional dancer injuries just seemed to make the usually triumphant show bittersweet. "SYTYCD," why must you hurt me so? -- Hanh Nguyen

*****

thomas-jane-mary-murphy.jpgI watched the first season of "Hung" mostly out of blind allegiance to all things HBO, but the drawn-out introduction to the world of middle-aged male prostitution started to get a little old. Pleasant surprise! Season 2 stepped up its game with warring pimps, poetry slams and dog-napping -- easily making it my favorite summer comedy.

Meanwhile, after straying from "So You Think You Can Dance" during its superfluous fall season last year, I thought the rejiggered format for Season 7 would be just what I needed to get back my "SYTYCD" groove back. Instead, the injuries, inconsistent couplings and total lack of Mary Murphy just alienated me even more. Its days on my DVR are over. -- Mikey O'Connell

*****

The best medical drama of 2010 is ABC's "Boston Med," a documentary series following the staff and patients of three prestigious hospitals in the title city -- Massachusetts General, Children's and Brigham & Women's. A single hour can be heart-wrenching (pick any patient's story), jaw-dropping (a cancer surgery that essentially involved removing a man's face to get at a tumor), funny (the various personal lives of the doctors and nurses, including an intern nicknamed "Bardouche") and uplifting. I haven't left a single episode with dry eyes.

It seemed like a can't-miss formula for a summer series: a pair of likable stars ( Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks), a proven creator ( Matt Nix of "Burn Notice") and Whitford's awesome mustache solvin' crimes and kickin' tail in Texas. But "The Good Guys" has become a classic case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts. It feels like "The Good Guys" can't decide if it's a straight-ahead (albeit humor-spiked) cop show or a parody of one, so it's stuck in a kind of weird in-between place. And, mustache aside, Whitford's accent sounds like no Texan I've ever met. -- Rick Porter

*****

"Pretty Little Liars," "The Bachelorette" and "Bachelor Pad" have far exceeded my summer expectations. While I was fairly sure they would all be light and fun summer fare, they also turned out to be very engaging. "Liars" ensnared me with mystery, "Bachelorette" captured my heart with romance and "Bachelor Pad" ... well, it's delightfully trashy. I'm also really excited how great the first few episodes of "White Collar" have been, green-screen Tiffani Thiessen notwithstanding (seriously, are those scenes shot in 1973?).

But, while I'm sticking with it, "Rubicon" got off to a slow start. I also hate to admit this (shhhh), but I'm not wild about "Covert Affairs." It just hasn't grabbed me. -- Andrea Reiher


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Photo credits: USA, ABC, Bravo, HBO, FOX