Traditionally, television graciously ceded its bid for consumer attention during the summer by running nothing but repeats. This gave entertainment like films, literature, family activities and recreational sports a chance to shine.
But TV has gotten a little selfish recently.
Last week’s second-season premiere of Fox’s reality boogie-off “So You Think You Can Dance” kicked off a surprisingly busy summer season for the tube. Here’s a look at what’s worth abandoning conventional summertime fun for:
BETTER THAN DRINKING LEMONADE
Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary), the tortured, alcoholic firefighter at the center of “Rescue Me” (tonight, FX), likes his drinks a little stiffer. Susan Sarandon and Marisa Tomei will guest star this season, the latter as a love interest for Tommy.
BETTER THAN GOING TO A MOVIE
Two critically acclaimed HBO hits, the Hollywood satire, “Entourage,” starring Adrian Grenier, and the Ian McShane-led period piece “Deadwood,” both return June 11. Word is this might be the last season for the latter.
BETTER THAN READING A BOOK
Instead of joining a book club, it’s easier to watch a reality TV show about a book club. “Tuesday Night Book Club” (June 13, CBS) focuses entirely on Scottsdale residents — seven East Valley ladies who dish about literature and their lives.
BETTER THAN A FAMILY VACATION
Disneyland again? Reject family values with the dark comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (June 29, FX). Last year’s run had plots revolving around abortion, racism and pedophilia. Danny DeVito joins the cast.
BETTER THAN PLANTING A GARDEN
It’s not legal to plant what Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker, who won a Golden Globe for this role) has growing on “Weeds,” but it’s slated to return Aug. 7 to Showtime. A month earlier, the pay channel debuts “Brotherhood” (July 9), about the Irish mob.
BETTER THAN LEARNING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Instead of broadening your horizons, why not kill a few brain cells watching the fourth season of “Reno 911!” (July 9, Comedy Central), the uproarious “Cops” spoof that spawned a movie to be released (fingers crossed) this year.
A month earlier, Comedy Central debuts fake news show “Dog Bites Man” (June 7). The network’s also bringing back “Chappelle’s Show” (July 9), although this is the abbreviated season that was so disillusioning it caused star Dave Chappelle to walk out on millions. Proceed with caution.
BETTER THAN A COMMUNITY POOL
If you want to get that close to a bunch of strangers, avoid a West Nile outbreak with these new cable shows: “Lucky Louie” (June 11, HBO), with comic Louis C.K. as an emasculated husband; “Saved” (June 12, TNT), starring Tom Everett Scott as a disillusioned paramedic; police psychic send-up “Psych” (July 7, USA); and “Blade” (June 28, Spike TV), based on the trilogy of vampire movies (Kirk Jones takes the Wesley Snipes role).
BETTER THAN A SUMMER JOB
Earning money is for suckers. That’s what the cast of “Windfall” (June 8, NBC), a rare network scripted drama premiering in the summer, learn after they win a $386 million lottery jackpot. Starring Luke Perry and Jason Gedrick as two of the 20 friends who hit it big.
BETTER THAN MAKING NEW FRIENDS
Go with these reliable and familiar returning original cable series — the sophomore season of the Kyra Sedgwickstarring police drama “The Closer” (June 12, TNT), the fifth and likely final go of “The Dead Zone” (June 18, USA) and more OCD-detective adventures of “Monk” (July 7, USA).
BETTER THAN SPENDING TIME OUTDOORS
Seriously, it’s way too hot. Physical exertion is no match for new episodes of beloved Sci Fi Channel series “Stargate: SG-1” and “Stargate Atlantis,” both coming back July 14. This is the 10th season of “SG-1,” surpassing “The X Files” as the longest-running American science-fiction series in TV history.
BETTER THAN BOARD GAME NIGHT
We’ve seen D-listers dance, cook, ice skate and box. Now they’ll play classic TV game shows. Leslie Nielsen, Tim Meadows and ex-’NSyncer Lance Bass are among the semi-notables participating in “Gameshow Marathon” (May 31, CBS). Ricki Lake hosts.
BETTER THAN SUMMER CAMP
Summer camp or alien abduction? Plenty of new experiences with both. “The 4400” (June 11, USA), about 4,400 folks who were abducted and returned to Earth. Tippi Hedren joins for this third season.
BETTER THAN PIANO LESSONS
It’s much too difficult to hone your own talents when you can live vicariously through others. Thankfully, TV has always seemed to realize that. Evidence: The debuting “America’s Got Talent” (June 21, NBC), hosted by Regis Philbin, and the second round of “Rock Star” (July 5, CBS). This time, “Rock Star” is looking for a singer to lead Supernova, a manufactured new group with Tommy Lee and ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted.
BETTER THAN FRYING ANTS WITH A MAGNIFYING GLASS
Why bother with lowly insects when you can take a close look at quasi-celebrities in VH1’s “Celebreality” crop — new “Celebrity Fit Club” and “Flavor of Love,” both tentatively scheduled for Aug. 6. Even musty old CBS summer reality standby “Big Brother” (July 6) is doing an “all-star” (past contestants) edition.
BETTER THAN USING A SLIP-AND-SLIDE AS AN ADULT
Peruse the immature antics of “The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency” (June 6, Oxygen), where the self-proclaimed “world’s first supermodel” will take aspiring models under her wing. Aspiring crime fighters will work out issues of arrested development in “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” (July 26, Sci Fi).
BETTER THAN WATCHING THE LINOLEUM CURL
“The Simple Life” (June 4), a cultural nadir when it debuted on Fox a few years back, is moving to E! (a channel often circling the drain of good taste). Except now, of course, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie hate each other, so producers had to work around that.
More new shows
“Falcon Beach” (June 4, ABC Family) “Where’s My Dogs At?” (June 9, MTV2) “The Chico & Guapo Show” (June 9, MTV2) “Extreme Championship Wrestling” (June 11, Sci Fi) “Million Dollar Listing” (June 12, Bravo) “Lovespring” (June 12, Lifetime) “Treasure Hunters” (June 18, NBC) “Kyle XY” (June 26, ABC Family) “Hustle” (July 1, AMC) “Raising the Roofs” (July 6, Spike) “The Dudesons” (July 6, Spike) “Angela’s Eyes” (July 16, Lifetime) “Driving Force” (July 17, A&E) “Eureka” (July 17, Sci Fi) “Tabloid Wars” (July 18, Bravo) “Work Out” (July 19, Bravo) “Three Moons Over Milford” (July 23, ABC Family) “Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels” (Aug. 7, A&E)
More returning shows
“Last Comic Standing” (today, NBC) “Celebrity Poker Showdown” (May 31, Bravo) “Inked” (May 31, A&E) “Criss Angel: Mindfreak” (May 31, A&E) “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List” (June 6, Bravo) “Queer Eye” (June 6, Bravo) “Celebrity Deathmatch” (June 9, MTV2) “Hell’s Kitchen” (June 12, Fox) “Pimp My Ride” (June 15, MTV) “Making the Band” (June 15, MTV) “Run’s House” (June 15, MTV) “Mind of Mencia” (July 9, Comedy Central) “The Contender” (July 18, ESPN) “The Girls Next Door” (Aug. 13, E!) “Real Time With Bill Maher” (Aug. 25, HBO)
Movies and miniseries
“Android Apocalypse” (June 24, Sci Fi) “Broken Trail” (June 25 and 26, AMC) “Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King” (July 12, TNT) “The Ron Clark Story” (Aug. 13, TNT)