But TV has grown up and so have we. Now we can plant our butts firmly on the couch all summer, smug in the fact that were watching NEW shows. Heres a peek at seven shows thatll save you from the trauma of all those camping and kayaking trips.
1. ITS ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA (FX, Thurs., 10 p.m., Season 2 premieres June 29). Last summers witty comedy is back, bringing its unique breath of fresh air to the airwaves once again. It tells the story of four slacker friends who run a bar in Philly called Paddys Irish Pub. Theyre always close to losing the bar. Theyre always getting into scrapes. And theyre always really funny. Its Friends without the drama. Its Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm all rolled into one. Its ok, I cant think of any other descriptors, so youll just have to watch it yourself and see what I mean.
2. HELLS KITCHEN (Fox, Mon., 9 p.m., Season 2 premieres June 12).
Sick of all those namby-pamby cooks on the Food Network? Tune into this show and youll see where the rubber spatula meets the pan. Yes, you too can watch 12 aspiring young chefs be worked over by the, ahem, highly-opinionated chef Gordon Ramsay. Hes the culinary equivalent of Simon Cowell, dashing any hopes of glamour or stardom from their dreamy heads. Hey, its not like they dont know what theyre getting into. Plus, the winner gets their own restaurant! As for we viewers, Ramsays boot camp style will either make you say Check, please! after the first ep, or you wont be able to divert your eyes from this train-wreck of a show.
3. RESCUE ME (FX, Tues., 10 p.m., Season 3 premiered May 30). Denis Learys tour de force returns with the added bonus of Susan Sarandon as a love interest for Franco (can you blame her?). This gritty series stars Leary as Tommy Gavin, an emotionally-scarred NYC firefighter whose life makes mine seem like an episode of Lassie. Hes an alcoholic. Hes separated from his wife and children. Hes had a string of Fatal Attraction-like affairs. And he lost friends on 9/11. But somehow, this show is also really funny, thanks to the sad-sack people who surround Tommy every day. Theyre flawed, complicated,
4. THE 4400 (USA, Sun., 9 p.m., Season 3 premieres June 11). Kids grow up so fast these days. One minute, Isabelles a naked 2-year-old standing in a doorway. The next, shes all grown up, a beautiful 20-year-old played by Megalyn Echikunwoke (youve seen her before as the Presidents daughter on 24). And she just may be the savior of The 4400. This series delves into the lives of people who disappeared during the last few decades only to be returned in a group of 4400 by forces from the future. To get up to speed, catch Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD or watch The 4400 Marathon: The Essential Espisodes on Sunday, June 4; 13 pivotal episodes start at 9 a.m.
5. ENTOURAGE (HBO, Sun., 10 p.m., Season 3 premieres June 11). Lets hug it out, b**ch! This hit comedy executive produced by Mark Wahlberg takes a look at the life of Vince (Adrian Grenier), a hot young actor navigating the vapid terrain of Hollywood with help from his trusty agent (Jeremy Piven) and close circle of friends: manager Eric (Kevin Connolly), half-brother Drama (Kevin Dillon), and friend Turtle (Jerry Ferrara). This show is the realistic yin to all the fake yang found in the gossip rags. And oh yeah, its really funny.
6. DEADWOOD (HBO, Sun., 9 p.m., Season 3 premieres June 11). Yowza! If youre the least bit offended by foul language, youd best skip this series. But if you can get past that, this gritty show from NYPDs David Milch brings a #$&% realism to the western genre that makes Gunsmoke pale in comparison. Set in the late 1800s, it revolves around the characters of Deadwood, South Dakota, where theres gold in the streams, liquor in the heads, and pistols in the hands of all the black hats who stake a claim there. And lots of swearing. I mean lots. As in, Guiness Book of Records amounts of swearing.
7. THE CLOSER (TNT, Mon., 9 p.m., Season 2 premieres June 12). Oh no, not another cop show! Yeah, that was my first thought, too. But this show is surprisingly entertaining and a good alternative to TNTs tired Law & Order reruns. Kyra Sedgwick plays Brenda Johnson, a crime-solver in a special LAPD murder squad. Shes an Atlanta native, brought to L.A. by assistant police chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons, using about 30% of his talent). She shares some history with this guy. But the other detectives, including prickly Capt. Taylor (Robert Gossett) are not at all happy about this new P.I. in their midst. Look for TVs best mom, Frances Sternhagen, to guest star as Brendas finger-wagging mother.