Network goobs

You've read the major headlines about the upcoming fall TV season and, as is too often the case, you wonder if the networks are being run by a tribe of chimpanzees. 

NBC (Channel 4 in Detroit) cancels Law & Order one season shy of setting the all-time record for prime time longevity (the late, magnificent Jerry Orbach was ultimately too tough to replace, especially with Anthony Anderson), but greenlights yet another spin-off, Law & Order: Los Angeles, or LOLA to its friends. Hey, wait! If they had kept the old show with its familiar characters one more year, it could have served as — oh, what do the TV people call it? — a "lead-in" to the new series! What a wild idea!

Meanwhile, CBS (Channel 62), the most popular prime time net, axes seven shows, including stalwarts Ghost Whisperer, Numb3rs, Cold Case and The New Adventures of Old Christine (which won an Emmy for Julia Louis-Dreyfus). "I'm surprised to read that you were surprised," CBS bigdome Les Moonves tells a gaggle of TV scribes, while announcing the 30-year revival of (wait for it) Hawaii Five-O, with Moonlight's Alex O'Loughlin as Steve McGarrett and Daniel Dae Kim, fresh from Lost, playing Chin Ho Kelly.

If these ridiculous fall follies are leaving you gobsmacked, let's narrow our seasonal focus a bit, shall we? Between now and the end of this month, more than 50 summer series will either debut or return across your cable box. Here are some that might pique your interest.

In other words, let's enjoy June ... before the swoon.

Are We There Yet? 9 tonight, TBS: Tyler Perry, move over. Ice Cube is elbowing onto TV's new home for blackcoms with an update of his hit 2005 family movie and several familiar faces — mountainous Terry Crews reprising his role as domineering urban dad from Everybody Hates Chris, and one-time Motown background singer Telma Hopkins (Family Matters) among them. When Cube says "Very funny" in the promo commercials, it sounds like an order. 

America's Got Talent, 9 tonight, NBC: Deal or No Deal emcee/wildboy Howie Mandel replaces David Hasselhoff on the judges' podium for summer's top-rated original amateur hour. Does Hasselhoff know this?

Burn Notice and Royal Pains, 9 p.m. Thursday, USA: TV's coolest show and the summer feel-good series about rich people getting sick in the Hamptons return back-to-back with new episodes. Bliss. Burn Notice picks up where season three's cliffhanger left off, with Coby Bell (Third Watch) as a new counterintelligence agent; Royal Pains welcomes Henry Winkler and Marcia Gay Harden as cast regulars.

Operation Repo, 9:30 p.m. Monday, TruTV: Sure, these are re-enactments, and actors often portray the aggrieved victims. ("TruTV," indeed.) Who cares? My guiltiest pleasure returns for a seventh season, and reality television seldom feels more real than watching some schmuck get his car repossessed.

Persons Unknown, 10 p.m. Monday, NBC: Summer is the season for networks to test mystery and sci-fi series, often cheesy. This one, the first TV effort from Oscar-winning writer Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), concerns seven strangers who are abducted and transported to an abandoned town where cameras monitor their every move. The show was filmed in Mexico for a Mexican television company; wonder if it will air in Arizona. 

Losing It With Jillian, 10 p.m. Tuesdays, NBC: Would you want The Biggest Loser's titanium-tummy taskmaster Jillian Michaels moving into your house? If I want to be yelled at in my own crib, I'll invite my mother-in-law over for the weekend.

Hot in Cleveland, 10 p.m. Wednesday, June 16, TVLand: Golden Girls for the millennium: Four of prime-time's leading ladies — one-time Clarkston resident Valerie Bertinelli (yeah, like you had a shot), Jane Leeves (Frasier), Wendie Malick (Dream On) and the irrepressible, resurgent Betty White (pick a show) unite in TVLand's first original scripted comedy. Can this series possibly be as good as it sounds?

Memphis Beat, 10 p.m. Tuesday, June 22, TNT: From George Clooney's Smokehouse Pictures (ribs, anyone?), an intriguing cast led by Jason Lee (My Name Is Earl), Alfre Woodard and DJ Qualls investigate crimes with a Southern flavor and a bluesy backdrop.

Hung, 10 p.m. Sunday, June 27, HBO: Still honked off about Dateline? The series that makes Detroit swell with pride, throb with anticipation and gives a new meaning to "tool and die" arrives for its second season. Thomas Jane turns Motown into hoe-town. 

The Kilborn File, 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 28, FOX2: Craig Kilborn, the irreverent airhead who launched The Daily Show and CBS's Late Late Show, returns to television after a six-year hiatus with a syndicated weekday half-hour. Why should he be the only one without a talk show?

Louie, 11 p.m. Tuesday, June 29, FX: Pushed back to June so it could use Rescue Me as its lead-in, FX's new sitcom follows white-hot Louis C.K. as he tries to balance raising two young daughters and doing standup comedy in New York. In other words, it's his life. "It's very vignette-y," he told the New York Times. "Very vérité. All those French words."

Jim McFarlin is a media critic for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]

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