Upcoming Debuts: Swingers, Call Girls, and Lohans

The 2007-08 television season officially ended this week, but in an era when dozens of niche networks wait to exploit any chance to attract wavering audiences, there will still be plenty of new programming to (in theory) keep people tuning in, even on the major broadcast networks. Here's a look at some of the new shows debuting over the next month, not including returning programs like So You Think You Can Dance, Nashville Star, and Weeds, which will all have season premieres in the next month as well.

Denise Richards: It's Complicated (E!, May 26): This is the show that made some news when Richards' angry ex-husband Charlie Sheen tried to put a stop to it, claiming it would be damaging to their young daughters. While it may seem hypocritical to see Sheen speaking out against the exploitation of females instead of abetting it, he might just have a point. The series aims to tell viewers what it's really like for a young divorced mother in Hollywood ... well, we'll see. Consider the show an extended audition tape for an actress who has been making more news lately in courtrooms than in network boardrooms.

Living Lohan (E!, May 26): But at least Richards can sleep soundly in the knowledge that her show won't be the most tasteless one on the E! schedule, or even the worst one debuting between the hours of 10 and 11 next Monday. Why celebrity mom Dina Lohan would be eager to drag younger daughter Ali before reality TV cameras after seeing how well older daughter Lindsay handled fame as a teenager is one of life's little mysteries. Lord help the girl, since the adults in her life don't seem to want to.

In Plain Sight (USA, June 1): USA has become a go-to network for original summer programming of the non-reality variety, and its latest entry debuts a week from Sunday. Mary McCormack stars as Mary Shannon, a U.S. marshal who works for the federal witness protection program, a potentially dangerous job made even more stressful by the fact that she has to hide what she really does for a living from friends and family. Lesley Ann Warren plays Mary's mother, and recent Dancing With the Stars hotfoot Cristian de la Fuente is her occasional love interest. This series joins Breaking Bad as a show set in the Albuquerque area, more publicity for a lovely part of America.

Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search For the Next Elle Woods (MTV, June 2): Show tunes haven't been part of the MTV mix since (dating myself here) "One Night In Bangkok" was in the Top Ten, but despite the failure of its most recent talent show Rock the Cradle, and the mass yawn that greeted NBC's search for the next stars of Grease, the network will give Broadway a go with this casting competition to see who gets to replace Laura Bell Bundy as the star of Legally Blonde. Haylie Duff is the host of the show, which doesn't argue for its seriousness. But considering the cost of a Broadway production, there's quite a bit at stake, so the contestants ought to be of decent quality.

Fear Itself (NBC, June 5): Anthology series with a suspenseful and supernatural bent go back to The Twilight Zone, and a new one seems to pop up every few years. This 13-episode frightfest sounds unusually ambitious for summer, and 10 p.m. on Thursdays is a good place to put new programming. There are some pretty big names involved on the director's end, with John Landis, Stuart Gordon (the man behind the gross and hilarious Re-Animator), Ernest Dickerson, and Mary Harron all taking turns in the chair.

Swingtown (CBS, June 5): This series, which has been kicking around for almost a year, examines a typical suburban couple in the 1970s who move to the Chicago area and discover that their new neighbors are into some of the fun alternative lifestyles of the era. This is, to say the least, unconventional subject matter for network television. Kudos, though, to the producers for recognizing that a lot of the changes people associate with the '60s actually had more to do with the '70s. Swingtown will have its work cut out matching the greatest pop culture examination of these themes, The Ice Storm, but it has a decent cast: Jack Davenport (so straitlaced in the Pirates of the Caribbean films) and Molly Parker (Deadwood) as the newcomers, and Grant Show (Melrose Place) and Lana Parrilla (who got lucky on 24 in that she got fired before she could be killed) as the swinging neighbors.

Celebrity Circus (NBC, June 11): The flaming disaster that was Secret Talents of the Stars (one episode) might give one pause when considering the appetite of the American public for seeing famous people outside their comfort zone, but NBC, undeterred, is giving this a shot for six weeks. Six stars, headlined (I guess) by Rachel Hunter, Christopher Knight and Janet Evans, will perform various circus stunts, with someone voted out every week. Sounds simple enough, as long as the lion has been well-fed ahead of time. Joey Fatone hosts as he continues his relentless effort to become universally known as the poor man's Ryan Seacrest.

Secret Diary of a Call Girl (Showtime, June 16): Showtime has pulled out all the promotional stops for this series, whose eight episodes (so far) aired last year in Britain. Call Girl stars Billie Piper as a legal secretary named Hannah who is also secretly one of the elite call girls of London, using the name Belle. It's billed as a comedy, so don't expect much in the way of hard-hitting analysis of the social cost of prostitution or the impact on the ladies themselves. But Piper has charisma to burn, and this series figures to showcase more than did Doctor Who.