This summer, TV fare really is going to look different. And already I'm as nervous as a Geraldo Rivera fact-checker and as pessimistic as Ruben Studdard's personal trainer.
For the next few months, prime time is going to be different. But it won't exactly be better, unless you happen to think that 'Temptation Island' is right up there with the greatest shows of all time.
Every summer, the networks make a point of saying they're going to put on fewer reruns, more 'special' programs (that is, if anything with bloopers or blunders in the title can be considered special) and a few summer replacement series that might last until the Fourth of July.
And every summer, it's obvious that the networks are blowing smoke up our remotes.
But this time around, it looks as though the networks really are doing something new: telling the truth. So expect fewer repeats of sitcoms and dramas, fewer episodes of series that had been placed on 'hiatus' months ago and fewer summer series that Ñ despite what the networks say Ñ were simply too awful to air in the fall and risk ruining a sweeps period.
In their place? Welcome Ñ once again Ñ a bloated schedule of reality shows.
My gut reaction? Bring back the reruns. Especially these days, because:
• There are more good drama series than ever before.
• Some of these good drama series may have been missed the first time around because of all the competition out there in our multichannel universe.
If the 'Law and Order' and 'ER' franchises have proved anything, it's that all the reruns on cable haven't weakened those series in the least.
But if you're the networks, why not stick with what works? Such shows as 'Joe Millionaire,' 'American Idol' 'The Bachelor' and, of course, 'Survivor,' were megahits in the just-completed season, proving that reality is alive and healthy. Networks love reality shows because they're fast and cheap to put together,Êunlike series that take longer to cast and are more costly to produce.
Lest we forget, some of the most successful reality shows were launched during the summer months, including CBS' 'Survivor,' Fox's ' American Idol,' NBC's 'Fear Factor' and the recently departed entry that started it all Ñ ABC's 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire.'
Already, Fox has debuted 'American Juniors,' the kiddie spin-off of 'American Idol,' and in the next several weeks will offer 'Anything for Love' and 'Paradise Hotel.' NBC will air 'Last Comic Standing' and 'The Restaurant.' And even CBS, which prides itself on dramas, will roll out 'Amazing Race 4' and 'Cupid.'
But it could be worse: Back on cable, E! plans to air something called 'Nearly Famous 2: More Vegas Showgirls' and 'Celebrities Uncensored.'
It's going to be a hot summer, all right. That 'R' you used to see in your TV listings used to stand for rerun. But now, the big 'R' is 'reality.'