By Paula Hendrickson
Some books make for light, fun summer reads. The same is true of some TV shows. Whether it’s ex-spies chasing bad guys in a tropical setting in USA’s returning hit Burn Notice, or an unlikely pair of cops handling super-low priority investigations in FOX’s new series The Good Guys, one thing many summer shows have in common is fun.
It’s not often that (non-sci-fi) summer series involve complex mythologies or serialized story lines (an exception being NBC’s 13-episode psychological thriller Persons Unknown, in which a group of apparently abducted strangers awake in a deserted town). You can miss an episode or two of most shows, tune in, and still follow along.
That said, Burn Notice does have an underlying plot tying all seasons together: Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) is trying to clear his name and get his old life back. Each season, he pieces together more of the puzzle of who burned him and why, but whatever he learns leads to more questions. Still, most people I know watch the show for its quirky client-of-the-week storylines and how Michael juggles those with his own ongoing quest.
USA’s Royal Pains, which benefits from a solid lead-in from Burn Notice, is really growing on me this season. Mark Feuerstein is great as Dr. Hank Lawson, a New York physician who fell into being a “concierge doctor” to some very wealthy Hampton residents—including mega-billionaire Boris (played by Campbell Scott) who has a rare and deadly genetic illness Hank is trying to treat. There’s plenty of comic relief from the supporting cast, including Paulo Costanzo as Hank’s brother and CFO of HankMed.
TNT’s returning series Leverage reminds me a lot of Hustle, a fun show AMC aired a couple years back. Hustle followed a team of grifters out to con ruthless or morally bankrupt scoundrels on behalf of their innocent dupes. The characters on Leverage—led by Timothy Hutton—provide the same type of service, with a slightly higher-tech twist. What Leverage offers is a little more insight into why these characters do what they do, so the action and excitement can be tinged with a little darkness at times, resulting in a stronger story.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all this summer is seeing Bradley Whitford—best known for dramatic roles, including The West Wing’s Josh Lyman—do comedy. Add in the receding hairline and mustache, and Whitford reminds me of Dabney Coleman. (Nine to Five was on TV a few weeks ago, so perhaps Coleman’s 1980s look is fairly fresh in my mind.) While Whitford’s stuck-in-the-past Detective Stark can be a bit over-the-top at times, Colin Hanks’ Detective Bailey helps even things out.
You might not think the oddball cop comedy and the stylish Burn Notice would have anything in common, yet both series were created by Matt Nix.
Each of these shows offers a different type of summer escapism, but be forewarned, they may keep you coming back for more.
The Good Guys airs Mondays on FOX at 8 p.m.
Persons Unknown airs Mondays on NBC at 9 p.m.
Burn Notice airs Thursdays on USA at 8 p.m.
Royal Pains airs Thursdays on USA at 9 p.m.
Leverage returns Sunday June 20 on TNT at 8 p.m.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the June 16-22, 2010 issue