Summer TV Makes Me Feel Fine

"A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken." -- James Dent

A perfect summer evening is when the sun has gone down, the air conditioner is blowing, the birds are quiet, and the TV is in fine working order.

So what is there to watch? All the good shows go off the air in the summer, leaving us with reruns and cruddy shows that weren't good enough for a fall or spring lineup.

But that's less and less the case. More networks -- especially on cable -- are programming shows specifically for the summer. And the big three (CBS, ABC & NBC) are finally getting in on the act too. Overall, viewing may go down during the summer months, but there's still an audience out there clammoring for quality.

So while you might not get new episodes of Lost, Desperate Housewives, Survivor or Prison Break, there a host of good shows worth checking out.

If reality is your bag -- you can't miss the new season of Top Chef on Bravo. 12 of America's best budding chefs compete for $100,000 and bragging rights as they cook head-to-head trying to impress a panel of judges and gastronomical guests. Last season was terrific from the first filet to the final fricassee -- as good if not better than Project Runway, the Bravo show that inspired Top Chef and a slew of other career-oriented reality programs. Top Chef 3: Miami premieres June 13th at 10pm on Bravo.

But before that -- don't miss Top Chef: 4-Star All-Stars. Four finalists from season one and four from season two compete in a $20,000 cook-off for charity. Harold, Stephen, Tiffany and Dave go up against Ilan, Elia, Sam and Marcel. (Just when you thought you'd never have to see Marcel again!) Top Chef: 4-Star All-Stars airs June 6th at 10pm on Bravo.

Another reality show generating a lot of "Arrrgghhhs" is CBS's Pirate Master. 16 contestants will search for hidden treasure in the Caribbean in a presumably Survivor-style competition. Before you know it, you'll be saying "Ahoy Mateys" and "Avast ye scurvy dogs!" around the watercooler. Pirate Master debuts May 31st at 8pm on CBS.

If it's a good drama you're looking for, there's a plethora for your viewing pleasure on some of basic cable's mainstays. TNT is offering a new season of The Closer starting on June 18th at 9pm. Kyra Sedgwick puts a quirky and likeable spin on the whole profiler/detective genre.

Also coming to TNT this summer -- two new dramas. Heartland featuring Treat Williams as a heart-surgeon with a... well... a heart. And Holly Hunter becomes the latest movie star hoping to jump to TV in Saving Grace about a mid-west police detective who gets a little divine assistance. Heartland premieres June 18th at 10pm on TNT. Saving Grace a month later on July 18th at 10pm.

USA is taking another chance on Jeffrey Donovan. After his show -- the American version of Touching Evil -- lasted just a single season, he's coming back in Burn

Notice, a dramedy about a spy who finds out he's been fired after the agency takes out a contract on his life. I thought Donovan was great in Touching Evil (alongside new Hollywood "it" girl Vera Farmiga from The Departed) but the show is now relegated to the ranks of Brilliant But Cancelled. Burn Notice is "coming in June," but USA hasn't set an exact date.

Speaking of USA, that's where you'll find two more returning shows to get you through the summer. The Dead Zone is back in June. So is a new season of The 4400. If you haven't ever seen Dead Zone, it's simple enough to follow. Based on Stephen King's novel, it's about a psychic who has visions of the future when he touches people. The 4400 might be a little harder to follow if you haven't seen previous seasons. But USA is showing past episodes now -- on Wednesday nights (Thursday mornings) at 1am, or you can learn a lot by visiting The 4400 web site. New seasons of The Dead Zone and The 4400 both kick off on Sunday June 17th.

Ethan Morris: "Not always right, but never in doubt." Go ahead and write me.