Once upon a time, summer was a TV dead zone, a vast expanse of reruns, game shows and leftovers infomercials that drew the paltry numbers it deserved.
That all started to change about 15 years ago, when the influx of scripted shows on cable began creeping into the post-Memorial Day period. It took a while, but the broadcast networks eventually took note, and began expanding their programming strategy to include all 12 months of the year.
CBS drama "Under the Dome," with an average 11.2 million viewers in 2013, was the first real broadcast scripted summer success. That year, the network even proclaimed that the words "midseason" and "summer" were no longer part of its vocabulary.
Of course, warm-weather programming hasn’t been enough to stanch the overall ratings decline for the networks. But stepping to the plate with more original scripted summer options at least indicates to advertisers that the "Gone Fishin’" sign has been retired. And the chance of a potential new hit offers a stronger promotional platform for the fall. It never hurts to be aggressive.
There are a number of promising entries among the broadcasters this summer, scripted and non-scripted alike. Here are eight worth checking out (listed in order of premiere date).
"Still Star-Crossed" (ABC) – Premieres Monday, May 29, 10 p.m. ET
Considering ABC pushed this sequel of William Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet" from midseason to summer, you might assume it’s not all that worthy. But with Shonda Rhimes at the helm, and "Grey’s Anatomy" and "Scandal" fans probably hungry for a new soapy option, this bit of 16th century intrigue could be just the trick. Bonus: It leads out of "The Bachelorette," providing a seamless flow for female fans.
"I’m Dying Up Here" (Showtime) – Sunday, June 4, 10 p.m. ET
This half-hour "drama about comedy" stars Melissa Leo as the proprietress of "Goldies," a gritty LA comedy club. Set in the 1970s, when the comedy scene was exploding, "I’m Dying Up Here" follows a cadre of young performers as they pursue that ultimate goal: A guest spot on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." Jim Carrey is an executive producer.
"Claws" (TNT) – Sunday, June 11, 9 p.m. ET
If you have ever wondered what really happens at a nail salon, this dark comedy may be for you. The story focuses on a diverse cast of treacherous manicurists working at the Nail Artisan of Manatee County, Fla. Meow! Niecy Nash, Carrie Preston, Harold Perrineau, Jenn Lyon and Judy Reyes are featured in the ensemble cast.
"I’m Sorry" (truTV) – Wednesday, June 21, 10 p.m. ET
In attempt to show there is more to the network than "Impractical Jokers" and "Billy on the Street," truTV offers this half-hour comedy about a seemingly confident comedy writer, wife and mother—played by "Episodes" star Andrea Savage—who exposes her immaturity and neuroses through unexpected life situations. Will Ferrell and Andy Samberg ("Brooklyn Nine-Nine") are among the series producers.
"GLOW" (Netflix) – Season one available for streaming Friday, June 23, 3:01 a.m. ET
Inspired by the true story of the 1980s female wrestling league "The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling" (or "GLOW"), GLOW is full of big hair and body slams. This dramedy follows a struggling out-of-work actress (Alison Brie) who finds work on a weekly series about female wrestlers. Betty Gilpin co-stars as a former soap star who returns after taking time off to have a baby, while comedian Marc Maron plays a washed-up B-movie director who tries to lead this group of women to wrestling stardom.
"Battle of the Network Stars" (ABC) – Thursday, June 29, 9 p.m. ET
If you are of a certain age, you will remember this guilty pleasure from the 1970s and 1980s, in which stars like Farrah Fawcett, Heather Locklear and Gabe Kaplan represented their networks in a series of goofy athletic competitions (Howard Cosell hosted). The campy specials became a minor cultural touchstone, meaning millennials will now get to see their own favorite stars don skimpy bathing suits and climb into the dunk tank.
"Midnight, Texas" (NBC) – Tuesday, July 25, 10 p.m. ET
Based on the book series by "True Blood" author Charlaine Harris and described as a supernatural version of "Twin Peaks," "Midnight, Texas" follows a town full of vampires, witches, psychics and hit men that band together to fight outside forces. François Arnaud ("The Borgias") stars as Manfred, a charming, powerful psychic who can communicate with spirits and finds safety in Midnight.
"The Defenders" (Netflix) – Eight episode miniseries available for streaming Friday, Aug. 18, 3:01 a.m. ET
A veritable smorgasbord of action heroes, Marvel’s "The Defenders" follows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. All are burdened by their own personal challenges, but realize they might be stronger if they team together to try to save New York City. The heroes are played by Charlie Cox (Daredevil), Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones), Mike Colter (Luke Cage) and Finn Jones (Iron Fist).