Unlike the bountiful lineups of fall, summer TV offers slimmer pickings. That makes it easier to decide what’s worthy of your time after a day of summer fun. Here are the most high-profile new and returning shows, from most to least promising.
Premieres July 17 on AMC
Chemistry teacher-turned-meth-cooker Walter White (Bryan Cranston) has gone deeper into a moral nadir over the course of three seasons. Season four looks to see if he can continue to compromise his own morality (and mortality) for his murderous enterprise.
Premieres July 11 on TNT
It will be bizarre to see a summer season without Kyra Sedgwick’s southern drawl as she plays the preternaturally persuasive police officer Brenda Johnson. The seventh season of the Los Angeles crime procedural will be its last, although a spin-off starring Mary McDonnell has already been planned.
“Ludo Bites America”
Premieres July 18 on Sundance
Acclaimed and classically-trained French chef Ludo Lefebvre explores the country with his wife and business partner to reinvent classic American dishes by helping out struggling eateries hungry for fresh ideas.
“Take the Money and Run”
Premieres Aug. 2 on ABC
Details on this new competition reality series are scant at the moment (the show was held from an April premiere date), but the log line alone is intriguing enough to at least catch the premiere: contestants do as the title says, try to outwit and outrun investigative professionals for a plum cash prize.
“Torchwood: Miracle Day”
Premieres July 8 on Starz
Transported from its original home on BBC to America, the cult sci-fi drama, starring the never-aging alien Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), portends to be as surprisingly mature in its storytelling as it has always been. When everyone in the world stops dying, causing massive overpopulation problems, Harkness and his team are dispatched to investigate.
Premieres June 23 on FX
Based on an Australian series, Elijah Wood stars as a depressed loner who takes an interest in his beautiful neighbor but sees her dog as a pot-smoking, wisecracking man in a suit. Is Frodo going crazy? This promising comedy intends to find out, but it will be even more impressive if the show manages to sustain such a high-concept premise.
“America’s Karaoke Challenge”
Premieres Aug. 8 on ABC
This is not the next “American Idol” knockoff. Instead, this reality show appears to be a slightly more humble chronicle of the Karaoke World Championships USA, where a king and queen of karaoke will be crowned.
Premieres June 19 on TNT
This Steven Spielberg-produced, post-apocalyptic alien-invasion thriller starring Noah Wyle (“ER”) boasts creepy child exposition, grungy generals barking orders “to do whatever it takes” and alien-human shootouts. It might be the best video game you’ve ever watched.
“Unleashed by Garo”
Premieres Aug. 9 on Sundance
If Bravo still had a reality show about a “Project Runway” contestant, it would be like this. The show follows couture fashion designer Garo Sparo, who in 2003 designed a gown for a Vatican wedding, as he takes on three clients per episode to design clothes that match their personal stories. Sequins have a co-starring role.
Airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on MTV
Based on the 1985 Michael J. Fox film, this modern retelling of an unfortunate teen’s run-in with a werewolf applies more hair gel, abs and swaps out basketball for lacrosse. It could either be a pop culture-savvy exploration of lycanthropy as a metaphor for raging teenage hormones or a shameless cash-in on the supernatural teen melodrama craze.