Those who think summer TV is a programming wasteland aren’t paying attention. Even if the airwaves are overrun with reality and popcorn TV (welcome back, “White Collar”!), there are plenty of gems popping up during the season, especially on cable. Summer is a great time to catch up on shows via marathon DVD sessions, it’s true, but that isn’t your only option. From returning favorites — “True Blood” (9 p.m. Sunday, June 10, HBO); “Louie” (11 p.m. ET Thursday, June 28, FX); “Weeds” (10 p.m. ET Sunday, July 1, Showtime); “Breaking Bad” (10 p.m. ET Sundays starting in July, FX); and “Boss: (10 p.m. ET Friday, Aug. 17, Starz) — to potential trainwrecks (Charlie Sheen’s “Anger Management,” 9 p.m ET Thursday, June 28, FX) to shows your grandparents will love (the rebooted “Dallas,” 9 p.m. ET Wednesday, June 13, TNT), there will be something this summer for everyone.
Here are some of the highlights among the new series/miniseries/movies:
“Hatfields & McCoys,” Monday, 9 p.m. ET May 28, History: The six-hour miniseries chronicles the legendary post-Civil War feud between the two American families and comes with a huge cast, headed by Kevin Costner as Devil Anse Hatfield and Bill Paxton as Randall McCoy. With it, The History Channel is stepping into the original programming game like never before. One of the writers, Ted Mann, hails from “Deadwood,” so here’s hoping he brought some of the flavor from that brilliant Western along.
Hemingway & Gellhorn (movie), 9 p.m. Monday, May 28, HBO: Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman star as Ernest Hemingway and his third wife, war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. The film follows their relationship from meeting at a Key West, Fla., bar in 1936 through their experiences during both the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Expect plenty of drinking, fighting and incredibly long sentences.
“Longmire,” 10 p.m. ET Sunday, June 3, A&E: Billed as a contemporary crime thriller/Western, A&E’s new drama features Australian actor Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire, a recently widowed sheriff in Absaroka County, Wyoming. With the encouragement of his new deputy, Vic (“Battlestar Galactica’s” Katee Sackhoff), friend Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) and daughter Cady (Cassidy Freeman), he works to rebuild his life in the wake of tragedy, not to mention an election against newcomer Branch Connally (Bailey Chase). You had me at Starbuck as a sheriff.
“Comedy Bang! Bang!,” 10 p.m. ET Friday, June 8, IFC: Scott Aukerman brings his podcast to IFC with a mix of sketches and interviews. Along with music leader Reggie Watts, he’s got all your favorites: Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Poehler, Andy Samberg, Adam Scott, Paul Rudd, Ed Helms, etc.
“Bunheads,” 9 p.m. ET Monday, June 11, ABC Family: “Gilmore Girls” creator Amy Sherman-Paladino is back with another small town and presumably more fast-talking, eccentric characters. Her star is Tony Award-winning Sutton Foster as Michelle, a Las Vegas showgirl who marries a stranger (Alan Ruck) on a whim and moves with him to a sleepy coastal town. There, she’ll find herself and teach young girls to be ballerinas and … make out with Alan Ruck? Interesting.
“The Newsroom,” 10 p.m. ET Sunday, June 24, HBO: After spending time in the film world with The Social Network and Moneyball, Aaron Sorkin (“Sports Night,” “The West Wing”) is back on the small screen with his look at a cable TV newsroom. It’s a perfect setting for his rapid-fire dialogue, often delivered during long tracking shots of people walking and talking, and the cast is amazing: Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Sam Waterston, Alison Pill, John Gallagher Jr., Dev Patel and Jane Fonda, to name a few. Set in the recent past, expect real-life events such as the Arab Spring and Wisconsin’s union rallies to play a role, but not overtake, the tales of the newsroom inhabitants.
“Perception,” 10 p.m. ET Monday, July 9, TNT: This procedural doesn’t exactly have a unique premise: A crazy, brilliant and eccentric professor, Daniel (Eric McCormack), is recruited by a former student, Kate (Rachel Leigh Cook), to help the FBI solve crimes. But in the way “Castle” is comfortingly predictable with a charismatic lead, “Perception” could be a decent filler — with the recurring appearance of Jamie Bamber being more than decent — for summer nights. Plus, it also stars LeVar Burton!
“Political Animals,” 10 p.m. ET Sunday, July 15, USA: The six-part series from “Brothers & Sisters” producer Greg Berlanti stars Sigourney Weaver as divorced former First Lady Elaine Barrish who loses her party’s primary to the man who becomes president (Adrian Pasdar) and now is serving as U.S. Secretary of State and in no way resembles Hillary Clinton (she resembles Hillary Clinton). Also starring Carla Gugino as a journalist she befriends as well as James Wolk, Ellen Burstyn and Cirian Hinds, “Animals” has the potential to return as a regular series if it becomes a hit. A trailer for the drama made it online after last week’s upfronts but has since been pulled.
London 2012 Olympic Games, July 27-Aug. 12, NBC and other NBC Universal channels: You know you love them. You know you’ll watch them and very soon talk to your friends as if you’re an expert in swimming, not to mention find yourself debating whether those Chinese gymnasts meet the qualifying age of 16. (No way.) The Summer Games attract us all, and when the athlete montages before events aren’t making us wish we had achieved more in life (or at least worked out a little more, if at all), they’re filling us with a level of awe that is hard to describe. Here are 30 top Olympic moments to get you ready.
“Copper,” 9 p.m. ET Sunday, Aug. 19, BBC America: Created by Tom Fontana (“Homicide: Life on the Street,” “Oz”) and Will Rokos (“Monster’s Ball,” “Southland”), “Copper” marks the channel’s first foray into original programming. Tom Weston-Jones leads the cast of the 10-part drama as Kevin Corcoran, an Irish-American cop working New York City’s notorious Five Points neighborhood in the 1860s. Along with fighting crime, Corcoran tries to uncover the truth about the disappearance of his wife and the death of his daughter.
Sarah Carlson is a TV Critic at Pajiba. She lives in Texas.