It’s almost summer, which means it’s time to hit the beach, barbecue with friends and watch your favorite television shows. Seriously though, TV is not only for the cooler weather. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to get into the summer mood than watching an episode of USA’s “Royal Pains,” a medical drama set in the oceanside, luxurious atmosphere of The Hamptons (and the fourth season premieres this week!). And while network channels pretty much dominate the fall, winter and spring seasons, summer is unofficially reserved for cable. Just after ABC airs its season finales, shows on its sister cable network ABC Family are just premiering.
While I’m excited for the return of favorites like “Pretty Little Liars,” “Breaking Bad,” “True Blood” and “Louie,” cable channels are giving TV lovers a lot of new shows to look forward to as well. Two star-studded series in particular seem to have popular potential, HBO’s “The Newsroom” and USA’s “Political Animals.”
Aaron Sorkin, most recently known for penning the award-winning films “The Social Network” (2010) and “Moneyball” (2011), is revered in television for creating the seven-season series “The West Wing” (1999-2006). “The West Wing” first premiered on NBC in 1999 and ran until 2006, picking up three Golden Globes and 26 Emmy Awards along the way. The show was an astounding success with critics and audiences due to its realistic portrayal of the inner workings of the White House. After a failed TV attempt with “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” in 2006, Sorkin marks his return to television this summer with HBO’s “The Newsroom.”
The new show is a behind-the-scenes look at a fictional cable news channel, following anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and his staff as they manage day-to-day commercial, corporate and personal obstacles. The series also stars Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn and Jane Fonda as Will’s fellow employees.
The show’s previews depict Will as a well-liked anchorman, confronted by an interviewer as being “popular because you don’t bother anyone.” Prompted to voice his actual opinions, Will gains his news network much unwanted attention and many dramatic changes occur at the station. With his proven proficiency at realistically weaving personal and political stories in a highly dramatic setting, “The Newsroom” looks like another success for Sorkin, and very entertaining quality TV for us.
Greg Berlanti, another prolific television creator and writer, also returns to the small screen this summer with the USA show “Political Animals.” Berlanti wrote for “Dawson’s Creek” from 1998-1999, “Brothers and Sisters” from 2006-2008 and created some amazing network shows like “Jack & Bobby” (2004), “Eli Stone” (2008-2009) and most successfully “Everwood” (2002-2006). This is Berlanti’s first foray into cable television, and he didn’t do too badly, having landed a spot on USA — the No. 1 Cable Channel. This is also Berlanti’s first series that strictly deals with politics, coming on the heels of HBO’s new political comedy “Veep.” Though most of his stories center on characters’ dramatic personal lives, the short-lived “Jack & Bobby” provided a great mixture of personal and political themes, showing that Berlanti is clearly capable.
“Political Animals” stars Sigourney Weaver as the divorced former First Lady Elaine Barrish, who currently serves as Secretary of State. The show also follows the former adulterous president, Bud Hammond (Ciaran Hinds), his two sons played by Sebastian Stan and James Wolk, mother-in-law Margaret (Ellen Bursten) and reporter Susan Berg (Carla Gugino). In the preview, the show’s characters talk to the camera, interview-style, showing how the series will take an inside look at this broken presidential family.
At one point Susan states, “There is no difference between the personal and the political,” which seems to sum up the show’s theme: portraying a very modern look at American politics. “Political Animals” promises to be fun, fast-paced and character –driven. It couldn’t hit U.S. screens at a better time than in the current controversial election climate. If Greg Berlanti’s past work is any indication of his television aptitude, this new USA show (and its talented cast) will really resonate with American viewers.
So while you’re busy enjoying the beautiful weather this summer, don’t forget to set your DVRs to record “The Newsroom,” which premieres June 24 at 10 p.m. on HBO, and “Political Animals,” which premieres on USA in July.