With less than three weeks before the official start of the new TV season on Sept. 25th, let’s take a look back at the best—and the worst—shows of the summer.
Once a breeding ground for repeats and leftovers, the months between Memorial Day and Labor Day now offer plenty of new shows. But there was a glut of dreadful non-scripted entries (a new version of "The Gong Show" hosted by Mike Myers in disguise—really?) and not enough substance amongst the scripted newbies and returnees.
Compiling the worst of the summer was more of a challenge, because there was so much more to choose from. But there were a few gems in the mix, one of which has been a summer staple now for 12 consecutive years. With that in mind, drumroll please…
"America’s Got Talent" (NBC)
Digital is sexy, digital is enticing and, as a bonus, you can create your own schedule. But week in and week out, NBC warhorse "America’s Got Talent," the most-watched show of the summer, was the place for arguably the best acts in the history of the reality/competition genre, under the watchful eyes of judges Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum and a kinder and softer Simon Cowell. As a bonus, new host Tyra Banks filled the shoes of Nick Cannon and was a big improvement.
Set in 1985 Los Angeles, former "Community" star Alison Brie is now struggling actress Ruth Wilder, who ends up on a female wrestling TV show in this comedy inspired by the 1980s professional wrestling league. Packed with a stellar supporting cast (including comedian Marc Maron), timely commentary on gender and racial stereotypes, a nostalgic ‘80s soundtrack and characters with names like Welfare Queen, Fortune Cookie and the Old Biddies, "GLOW" pulls out all the punches—phony as they may be—for a fun and escapist half-hour unlike anything currently on the airwaves.
Set at a nail salon in Manatee County, Florida, and focused on a diverse and treacherous group of five manicurists (led by Niecy Nash) who dabble in criminal activity, "Claws" is a modern day "Thelma and Louise," plus three. As an edgier version of "Steel Magnolias," perhaps, it tells the underlying tale of this group of women marred by mediocrity who will do what it takes to succeed. And the result is the highest-rated TNT series launched under the new regime last year, and an average audience age younger than anything currently airing on the network.
"Impractical Jokers" (truTV)
Brain surgery this is not. But in today’s world, a show like "Impractical Jokers," where you can sit back, kick off your shoes and forget about your troubles with some rip-roaring laughter, is worthy of attention. And, this fall, is a live tour featuring the quartet—Brian "Q" Quinn, James "Murr" Murray, Joe Gatto and Sal Vulcano—on the road ready to prank some unsuspecting people. Count me in, and you shouldn’t miss it either!
"Candy Crush" (CBS)
Given ABC’s respectable track record with its roster of Sunday night summer game shows, you might have assumed CBS would strike a chord with "Candy Crush." It benefits from the lead-in support of "Big Brother," and the first episode even featured contestants from both "BB" and "Survivor." But viewers fled in droves after that premiere, a result of obvious confusion watching that massive touch screen. Even host Mario Lopez seemed perplexed. Note to Mario Lopez: Keep your day job on "Extra."
"Still Star-Crossed" (ABC)
As ABC "golden girl" Shonda Rhimes heads to Netflix for, in her words, "the opportunity to build a vibrant new storytelling home for writers with the unique creative freedom and instantaneous global reach provided by Netflix’s singular sense of innovation," she does so on the heels of her biggest flop to-date, "Still Star-Crossed." Originally slated for midseason, the warning bells were ringing when ABC delayed this monotonous period drama of post-Romeo and Juliet until the summer. Then the network unceremoniously dumped it to Saturday as a burn-off measure.
"Twin Peaks" (Showtime)
Revivals can be awkward, they can be embarrassing, and more often than not they are just plain unnecessary. But when the benchmark of comparison is one of the most talked about dramas in the history of television that opened with over 30-million viewers way back when, here is my suggestion: don’t do it! Nothing, not even this update of "Twin Peaks" from filmmaker David Lynch, could live up to the hype. And not even this revisit with the bizarre occupants of the quirky fictional town of Twin Peaks, Washington was enough to rejuvenate interest in Showtime, which is in need of a fresh and creative new hit, not a retread.
"The Battle of the Network Stars" (ABC)
Yes, I know. I was the one who originally touted this idea, thinking a blend of current day celebrities and favorites from yesteryear would be a fun attraction in the dog days of summer. Then I tuned in, and I was aghast to see some of the stars I grew up with compete in the genres they are known for (and peppered with footage from their original appearances). One look at this mishmash and I felt just plain old.