If you still think summer television is a time of reruns and variety shows, look again.
While the networks take a break, the cable channels are heating up with new dramas and returning series. Along with a slew of British imports, some reality offerings and the Summer Olympics, summer season 2012 is packed.
One of the season's most anticipated offerings is HBO's "The Newsroom," which marks "West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin's return to television, following his successful detour in film ("The Social Netork" and "Moneyball").
The 10-episode drama about the inner workings of fictional cable news network ACN is Sorkin's third behind-the-scenes look at television after "Sports Night" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." It stars Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Dev Patel and Sam Waterston. And in her first major TV role, Jane Fonda will appear as Leona Lansing, CEO of ACN's parent company.
Though Fonda was once married to CNN honcho Ted Turner, Sorkin says the show takes place in a fictional newsroom and none of the characters are based on real people.
"It's entirely fictional. It's not meant to be anything on CNN, MSNBC, FOX. It's generic cable news, and it takes place in the very recent past; all the news events are real. About two-thirds of the way through the pilot -- I won't spoil it -- something happens and a date stamp comes up on a screen, and we realize it's two years ago," he said at a recent tech conference.
"The Newsroom" premieres June 24.
Meanwhile, three award-winning shows, "The Closer," "Damages" and "Breaking Bad," will take their final bows this summer.
Click through to see what shows to tune in to for summer season 2012.
If you somehow missed all the promos HBO unleashed these last few months, Russell Edgington is back from his cement grave and ready to fall in love; Tara recovers from her gunshot to the head; and Sookie appears caught in an intimate moment with Alcide. Anna Paquin, real-life husband Stephen Moyer and Alexander Skarsgard return as those sexy vampires and the woman who loves them in Season 5 of "True Blood." Premieres June 10 on HBO.
Sutton Foster, a two-time Tony winner, makes her television debut as a Las Vegas showgirl who moves with her new husband to his small town, where she becomes a ballet teacher at her mother-in-law's dance school. "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino is the mastermind behind this dramedy. "Bunheads" joins a slew of other dance-themed shows, including the CW's "Breaking Pointe," a peek at Salt Lake City's celebrated Ballet West, and Ovation's "A Chance to Dance," from dance impresario Nigel Lythgoe and his son, Simon. "Bunhead" premieres June 11 on ABC Family.
It's back to Southfork, but this time oilmen J. R. and Bobby Ewing will be joined by their squabbling sons, played by Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe, in this revival of the hugely popular nighttime soap. Back after a 21-year hiatus are original cast members Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy, as well as Linda Gray, Charlene Tilton, Steve Kanaly and Ken Kercheval, who will reprise their roles. Jordana Brewster and Brenda Strong round out the cast. The fun starts on TNT June 13.
|'Snooki & JWoww'|
What would summer be without the "Jersey Shore" gang? In this spinoff series, Snooki (Nicole Polizzi) and JWoww (Jennifer Farley) bring their own brand of terror to Atlantic City. One wonders how much trouble Snooki can actually get into following her announcement that she is pregnant -- "the fact that I can reproduce is very scary," she says on MTV's trailer. Premieres June 21 on MTV.
He's baaaack. After being booted from CBS's "Two and a Half Men," Charlie Sheen returns to television, playing another verion of himself in the small-screen adaptation of the Adam Sandler-Jack Nicholson comedy "Anger Management." Sheen plays Charlie, a baseball player-turned-therapist who helps others to calm down after anger issues derailed his baseball career. "Anger Management" is slated on FX along with new seasons of "Wilfred" and Louis C.K.'s "Louie." Premieres June 28 on FX.
After seven years, one of cable's most successful dramas will finally come to a close with its final six episodes. Kyra Sedgewick, who won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for her role as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson of the Los Angeles Police Department, will say her final farewell on Aug. 13. But don't fret, fans, Mary McDonnell, Johnson's friendly foe, will pick up as head of the division in the spinoff series, "Major Crimes," and she'll be joined by "Closer" stars G.W. Bailey, Tony Denison, Michael Paul, Raymond Cruz and Phillip P. Keene. "The Closer" premieres July 9 and "Major Crimes" premieres Aug. 13 on TNT.
|'Hit and Miss'|
With the wild success of "Downton Abbey," the number of British imports this summer is definitely on the rise. One of the more interesting ones, "Hit and Miss" stars Chloë Sevigny -- with an Irish accent and a prosthetic penis -- as a transgender assassin who learns that she fathered a son. A critic for the British newspaper New Statesman wrote that it would be "hard to overstate the initial weirdness" of the show. Premieres July 11 on DirecTV.
It's the "beginning of the end," as the promo for the fifth and final season of "Damages" plainly puts it. And, from the looks of things, one of the show's two lead characters, Ellen, played by Rose Byrne, appears to have met her end. Considering Ellen and Patty Hewes, played by Glenn Close, were embroiled in an investigation of high-level corruption at the end of last season, the viewer is left to wonder: Did Ellen jump off the ledge? Or wash she pushed? Premieres July 11 on DirecTV.
Also ending after five seasons is AMC's "Breaking Bad." And from the looks of AMC's just-released official poster, with the words "All Hail the King," Walter White, the former high-school chemistry teacher-turned-meth-cook-turned murderer, played brilliantly by Bryan Cranston, is ready to step into his role as the official meth king of New Mexico. "No longer under the thumb of a mastermind criminal, Walt now assumes the role of one himself, as he and Jesse (Aaron Paul) look to build their own empire," the show's Season 5 logline reads. The final season of "Breaking Bad" will be divided into two eight-episode sections, with the second airing next summer. Premieres July 15 on AMC.