Summer television has become associated with low-cost reality programming, some of which occasionally catches the national fancy in a major way. The top three reality series right now, American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, and Survivor, all got their starts in the summer. While a few of the top summer reality series have already debuted (So You Think You Can Dance, Wipeout), here's a list of some of the others yet to come. For scripted series, check out part one of our Summer TV Preview.
June 10: Top Chef Masters (Bravo): Not a bad way to kill time between traditional Top Chef seasons, this spin-off brings together already established chefs in a competition that features the usual $100,000 first prize, although it will be donated to a charity of the winners' choosing. Since these cooks have reputations to uphold, expect things to be very heated from the word go.
June 23: America's Got Talent (NBC): The big change on what has been the top-rated summer series in recent years: Jerry Springer is out as host, replaced by actor/singer/spouse Nick Cannon. All the attention given to the saga of Susan Boyle on the British counterpart of this series figures to give AGT its highest profile ever, but the show has yet to produce a true national phenomenon in three years.
June 23: The Superstars (ABC): This shapes up as something of a combo of the 1970s series of the same name, which featured athletes competing outside their specialties, and the specials that it spawned, Battle of the Network Stars. Eight teams made up of one athlete and one celeb compete in offbeat games, with one being eliminated every week.
June 29: Dance Your Ass Off (Oxygen): Call it Dancing With the Stars, except that none of the competitors are stars and all are in about as good a shape as Steve Wozniak. A dozen dancers compete on the dance floor (teamed up with pro dancers) and in weekly weigh-ins. Ex-DWtS performer Marissa Jaret Winokur hosts.
July (TBA): The Real Housewives of Atlanta (Bravo): DeShawn was deemed not enough of a train wreck to bring back for a second season, and she has been replaced by singer/songwriter Kandi Burruss. Kandi is the latest cast member from the franchise who is unmarried, and thus technically not a housewife. Yeah, this probably bothers me more than it does most people.
July 7: Blonde Charity Mafia (CW): Did you know that the Washington social scene is dominated not by diplomats and friends of Barack, but by hot blond twentysomething women? Neither did anyone else, but you have to be hot and blond to get on the CW, so there you have it.
July 7: Great American Road Trip (NBC): Seven families of four traverse old Route 66 from Illinois to California, seeing the zany sites and competing in weekly games, with one family a week being eliminated. This sounds all too reminiscent of the misbegotten family edition of The Amazing Race.
July 9: Big Brother 11 (CBS): Have they really been doing this for 11 seasons now? We don't know yet what this year's gimmick is going to be, but the two most recent editions have ramped up the nudity and sex to previously unheard of levels, so hopefully Julie Chen won't be exposing her fetus to sights and sounds unfit for tender eyes and ears.
July 20: Dating in the Dark (ABC): When you get right down to it, aren't we all simply dating in the dark? On this show, single men and women are allowed to meet, chat, and even canoodle in a pitch-black room, before the lights are turned on. Will the singles still be turned on themselves once they get a good look at the face of their new partner?
July 21: Hell's Kitchen (Fox): Danny was just crowned as Gordon Ramsay's latest discovery a mere two weeks ago, but the series has reloaded quickly and is back in its original summer slot. Contestants have not yet been announced, but if it's like every other season, we'll see about four people who can really cook and ten others who don't know their risotto from a hole in the ground.
July 28: More To Love (Fox): Bachelor impresario Mike Fleiss is at the helm of this dating show, which features a big guy choosing from among several plus-sized women. This being television, you have to wonder if this show's idea of what constitutes a "fat" woman is something like 130 pounds. And the notion that overweight people need their own ghetto, as if it goes without saying that they could never compete on a real dating show, is somewhat offensive. Still, I'll give it a chance.
August 20: Project Runway (Lifetime): Fans of this show are known to be demanding, so expect scrutiny to be high for the first season on a new network and with new producers. There's also a new setting, at least for season six, as Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, and the designer wannabes relocate to Los Angeles, which no one has ever accused of being a fashion-conscious town. Will we see Tim in a t-shirt at some point?