by Ron Wynn
While the broadcast networks have mostly been in their usual summer funk, it has been a remarkably successful time for various cable outlets. Both AMC and A&E have seen record ratings for the return of Breaking Bad and Duck Dynasty, while Rizzoli and Isles and Major Crimes have been steady winners for TNT. (Their Falling Skies also regained critical respect for its latest run, if not big audiences.) But USA could make the case for seasonal supremacy, based on the reception being enjoyed by its slate of periodic dramas.
Burn Notice is nearing the end of its seven-season run this Thursday with both improved episodes and ratings, while Suits and Royal Pains remain steady favorites. The latest crime drama Graceland isn't exciting many folks, but it hasn't been a disaster, just another formulaic undercover-cops-in-jeopardy outing. Necessary Roughness has also ended its season but will definitely return. The addition of John Stamos has had its positive effects, particularly in terms of a boost in both young and female viewers.
But USA (like the rest of us) is now looking ahead to the fall and new developments. The network has announced the return of two popular dramas as well the arrival of a reality show — along with a special edition of Psych, which is also approaching the end of a very long tenure.
White Collar's fifth season starts Oct. 17 with a key character in peril. Last year's cliffhanger concluded with Peter (Tim Dekay) under arrest for murder. Though viewers know he didn't do it, the frame that got him arrested was an intricately plotted one, which should keep his various friends and associates busy throughout the early part of the new season.
And while the internal intrigue and spy vs. spy machinations now occurring on Covert Affairs (Tuesdays, 8 p.m.) will take a four-week breather after Sept. 17's episode, the final six episodes of the fourth season also return on Oct. 17.
USA plans to re-enter the reality sweepstakes, bringing on board its version of a British TV show called It Takes A Choir (known in England as The Choir). Whether the world needs, wants or will support another musical competition program is anyone's guess. For those interested, the star will be choir director Gareth Malone.
On a much different note, Psych: The Musical airs Dec. 15. The one-night special features co-stars Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dule Hill) on the hunt for an escaped insane playwright (Anthony Rapp). Broadway star Rapp's biggest theatrical hit was Rent, which was later turned into a moderately successful film.
The series, which has become USA Network's longest-running comedy, will begin its eighth (and most likely final) season later than expected. Rather than returning in October, the show won't be back until 2014. Tom Arnold, Mira Sorvino, Cary Elwes and Kristy Swanson are on the guest list for the latest 10-episode run.
Under The Dome over the moon
It debuted to a huge audience, and few anticipated CBS' summer mini-series Under the Dome would continue drawing 25-30 million viewers a week. But it's done well enough to be the summer's No. 1 show overall and give CBS an unexpected foothold on Mondays at 9 p.m. (WTVF-5 locally).
CBS surprised no one when it recently announced there would indeed be a second season of Under The Dome next summer, even as they promised the 15-18 million faithful still watching that this season's finale Sept. 16 will indeed tie up all the loose ends.
But the biggest news from the announcement was Stephen King signing on to write the second season's opening episode. It will also be a 13-week series, and presumably have the same arrangement with Amazon as its predecessor. The current deal allows episodes to be streamed on Amazon four days after they air on CBS. The show has quickly become Amazon's biggest seller. It's also enormously profitable for CBS, due to both that arrangement and the enormous popularity it enjoys overseas.
Look for the finale to break audience records for a summer show. Interestingly, judging from some of the comments I've seen, there are just as many folks unhappy about a Season Two as there are those anticipating it.