May is traditionally the month where movie theaters stop showing low-budget horror movies and would-be Oscar bait and start showcasing blockbusters meant to make as much money as possible.

What happens on your television screen in the summer, however, tends to be the exact opposite.

The summer television season is synonymous with reality TV and pilots deemed unfit for the more buzzed-about fall premiere slots. This isn’t to say that no shows that premiere in the summer ever become successful — History Channel juggernaut “Pawn Stars” had a July premiere, and ABC’s massively popular “Dancing With the Stars” started out as a summer show — but they tend to be guilty pleasures whose high Nielsen ratings belie deep critical contempt.

This summer, for the most part, looks to generally be no different than the others. Interesting projects such as NBC’s “Crossing Lines,” a show starring Donald Sutherland about the International Criminal Court that premieres June 23; a 13-episode adaptation of Stephen King’s Under the Dome that premieres the next day on CBS; and the return of “Who’s Line Is It Anyway” are outweighed by a CSI-themed competition show (“Whodunnit” on ABC) , something called “Toxic Office: Does Someone Have to Go” (a FOX reality show about firing coworkers) and a new Nick Lachey-hosted NBC singing competition called “The Winner Is … .”

Thankfully, a much brighter picture is painted by the returning options. Fan favorites “Pretty Little Liars,” “Wilfred” and “Suits” all have impending season premieres, as does more divisive programming such as “The Newsroom,” “Magic City” — now with James Caan and the Teflon Don himself, Rick Ross — and “The Killing.” And “Dexter,” a show that I had left for dead but surprised me last year with an often-excellent Season 7, is wrapping up its run in its last season, which premiers June 30.

Three returning series, however, stand out above all of the rest. The first is “The Venture Bros.,” whose upcoming fifth season, premiering June 2, is the show’s first since 2010. The crown jewel of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup, “The Venture Bros.,” is ostensibly a parody of Hanna-Barberaadventure shows like “Jonny Quest,” but that definition doesn’t do justice to the intelligence and heart central to the show. Despite the sometimes ridiculous subject matter, the show’s emotional aspects are still very human, with failure and inadequacy as central themes. In addition, no other show — apart from possibly “The Simpsons” — has such a fully realized supporting cast, ranging from middle-aged superheroes and supervillains to the adolescent friends of the titular siblings.

Even more highly anticipated is the return of “Arrested Development.” Ever since its prematurecancellation in 2006 due to low ratings, word of mouth has given the series new life on DVD and Netflix, and the show’s return — broadcast exclusively on the latter platform beginning May 26 — will be sure to draw a much larger audience than it did during its original run. Simply put, “Arrested Development” is one of television’s greatest sitcoms, a perfect storm of writers unafraid to wait two seasons to give a joke its punchline without neglecting the episode-to-episode storyline and top-to-bottom fantastic cast. And while it is unfortunate that the only character to appear in all Season 4 episodes will be Jason Bateman’s Michael Bluth, that the season exists at all is impressive given the cast members’ busy schedules.

Equally anticipated to the “Arrested Development” return is the end of AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” Despite the show’s all-time high popularity, the final eight episodes of the critically acclaimed drama will begin airing Aug. 11. Bryan Cranston, primarily known as the goofy dad from “Malcolm in the Middle” before the show, has won three straight Emmys for best lead actor in a drama as Walter White, the formerly cancer-stricken chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin. The main star, however, is creator, writer and director Vince Gilligan, who purposely decided to end the show after 62 episodes — something that I wish a lot of other showrunners, like Greg Daniels of the zombified “The Office,” had the power to do. What makes “Breaking Bad” so good is how the intensity of the story itself is supplemented and enhanced by every other aspect of the show’s production, from the acting to the cinematography (both the best on television). Factor in Gilligan’s willingness to avoid the all-too-common TV trope of stagnating his characters and his story, and you have what some critics, like The Atlantic’s Richard Lawson, consider the best television show ever created.

Even in the desert of quality television that is the summer exists an oasis of worthwhile programming. But when it’s all said and done, there’s nothing wrong with plopping down on the couch, turning on the air conditioning and watching a couple hours of “Wipeout.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *