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Article updated: 6/14/2013 6:29 AM

Will summer's TV lineup inspire a warm reception?

Liev Schreiber stars as the title character in Showtime's “Ray Donovan,” premiering Sunday, June 30.

Liev Schreiber stars as the title character in Showtime's "Ray Donovan," premiering Sunday, June 30.

 
Detectives (Demian Bichir and Diane Kruger) from both sides of the U.S./Mexico border investigate a serial killer in FX's "The Bridge."

Detectives (Demian Bichir and Diane Kruger) from both sides of the U.S./Mexico border investigate a serial killer in FX's "The Bridge."

 
History meets soap opera in Starz’s “The White Queen,” starring Rebecca Ferguson as Elizabeth Woodville. The drama debuts Aug. 10.

History meets soap opera in Starz's "The White Queen," starring Rebecca Ferguson as Elizabeth Woodville. The drama debuts Aug. 10.

 
History meets soap opera in Starz's "The White Queen," starring Max Irons as King Edward and Rebecca Ferguson as Elizabeth Woodville. The drama debuts Aug. 10.

History meets soap opera in Starz's "The White Queen," starring Max Irons as King Edward and Rebecca Ferguson as Elizabeth Woodville. The drama debuts Aug. 10.

 
Roselyn Sanchez, Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez and Judy Reyes are up to no good on Lifetime’s “Devious Maids,” premiering Sunday, June 23.

Roselyn Sanchez, Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez and Judy Reyes are up to no good on Lifetime's "Devious Maids," premiering Sunday, June 23.

 
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By The Washington Post

Summer's here, and the time is right for ...? Remaining absolutely still, as always. There's plenty of television to choose from, but that whole notion of summer being the most provocative and experimental TV season is losing its luster.

Looking at this summer's lineup is a little like arriving at your favorite vacation spot and noticing that the shave-ice shack burned down over the winter. (No "Louie," for example -- he's on a creative hiatus -- and, in fact, there isn't a single comedy that looks creatively alluring.) The new crop of reality shows instead feel like those old, toasted copies of Us Weekly you find in a rental cabin, but you page through them anyhow. Documentaries (especially from HBO and PBS's "POV" series) remain the soothing balm, like Noxzema on a sunburn. In any event, most of us are just here so we can get a good spot for the real fireworks: "Breaking Bad" starts its last season Aug. 11.

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Here's an annual quick-hit guide to what looks interesting. My recommendations are so noted.

Sunday, Sunday

"The Killing" (recommended): The show's stars look just as shocked as you are that this moody, elongated crime series is back for another season. The engaging and corrective return episode set Linden and Holder (the superb Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman) off on a grisly new serial-killer case, in which a death-row inmate (rejoice, pirates -- it's Peter Saaaaarrrrrsgaaaaard) might not be the one responsible for beheading his wife. I'm half-happy the show is back and hope it doesn't violate parole. Already airing at 8 p.m. Sundays on AMC

"Dexter": It's the beginning of the end for the vigilante serial killer, whose carefully plastic-wrapped life started to crumble last season when his sister, Deb, not only learned his dark secret, but also became his accomplice. As the eighth season and final 12 episodes get under way, Deb appears to fall apart, and the question remains: Will Dexter make it out alive? Starts at 8 p.m. June 30 on Showtime

"Ray Donovan" (recommended): This new drama from "Southland" creator Ann Biderman stars Liev Schreiber as a tough-guy fixer/cleanup/PR miracle man in Hollywood who must now deal with his menacing father (Jon Voight), who's just been released from prison. The pilot episode is taut and flawless. I want more. Starts at 9 p.m. June 30 on Showtime

"The Bridge" (recommended): Very loosely based on a Swedish/Danish crime series about two detectives of different nationalities pursuing a serial killer on either side of a shared border. (In our version, it takes place along the Mexican border.) Starts at 9 p.m. July 10 on FX

"The Newsroom": After last summer's (deserved!) critical drubbing, Aaron Sorkin's cable news drama is back with the sorta-promise of a cure for its characters' explosive logorrhea. (That insipidly pompous "desert" promo for the series that HBO aired last Sunday doesn't bode well for what's ahead, however.) I couldn't be more skeptical, but it is my sworn duty to keep an open mind for two or three episodes. Besides, I'm curious if "The Newsroom" can be saved. Starts at 9 p.m. July 14 on HBO

"The White Queen": A florid sudsing of the "War of the Roses" power grab in pre-Tudor England, courtesy of Philippa Gregory's historical novels. The first two episodes prove that the catchall "it's complicated" has been with us a long, long time. And there seems to be plenty of fabric softener in this version of the 15th century -- even the laundry looks sexy. Starts at 8 p.m. Aug. 10 on Starz

"Breaking Bad" (recommended): Well, Walter, how does your story end? It feels like the whole world finally caught up on the back episodes of the best TV show around, so we're ready to do this, yo. Starts at 8 p.m. Aug. 11 on AMC

Tempting trash

"Blood and Oil": I'm completely Alaska'd out, so I'm glad to see Discovery turn its attentive knack for chronicling the lives of gritty get-richers to the current oil boom in the lower forty-eight. Here we meet the members of the argumentative (and camera-craving) Cutter clan in Ohio, who are trying to stave off bigger oil companies and keep their family-run operation in the black. Starts at 9 p.m. June 18 on Discovery

"Mistresses": ABC's vacuous summer steamer follows the travails of four women (including Alyssa Milano and Yunjin Kim ("Lost") ) who seem determined to keep aghast advice columnists in business. It's one lust-filled bad decision after another. Interesting that not a one of them is technically a mistress, but don't nitpick it too much; just let it fog up your windows. Already airing at 9 p.m. Mondays on ABC

"Honey Do": This TLC show sends a crew of handsome(ish) handymen to the homes of long-suffering wives who cannot get their layabout husbands to complete even the simplest tasks -- replacing old toilet seats, fixing dimmer switches, etc. The first thing the handymen check off the list? Their shirts. Starts at 9 p.m. June 17 on TLC

"Devious Maids": Speaking of sex and housework ... Here, a "devious maid" doesn't refer to the kind who uses up an entire container of citrus-scented Clorox Wipes in a single day. This drama (produced by Eva Longoria) is about home-wrecking housekeepers who are preoccupied with other kinds of deviousness and diva-ish-ness: sex, schemes, shenanigans. Meanwhile, that vaulted foyer chandelier ain't dusting itself, ladies. Starts at 9 p.m. June 23 on Lifetime

"Below Deck": Believe it or not, Bravo has come up with a reality show that isn't about real housewives or real-estate agents. It's about the crew of a luxury yacht, working to meet their high-end clients' every need while screaming and crying in the galley. Everyone looks miserable in the process, even the rich. Viewers, let's use our collective mental powers to summon a sandbar. Starts at 9 p.m. July 1 on Bravo

"Summer Camp": This one is for all you people who will not shut up about your summer-camp memories. Sixteen grown-ups are sent back to a lovely lakeside camp where they compete for what's left of their former glory. Starts at 7 p.m. July 11 on USA

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" (recommended): Reality TV's easiest target returns for another delightful season of your critical rejection and snooty predictions of the cultural apocalypse. Which can only mean that I must once more play the contrarian and root for the Honey Boo Boo child, Alana Thompson, her mother, June, and the rest of the tribe. Because I redneck-ognize their savvy. Starts at 8 p.m. July 17 on TLC

True blue

"Love, Marilyn": A look through Marilyn Monroe's diaries, notebooks, letters, poems and other written ephemera, tenderly read by celebs. Plus rare footage and other archival material; directed by Liz Garbus. Starts at 9 p.m. June 17 on HBO

"Annie: It's the Hard-Knock Life, From Script to Stage": In a new approach to the usual "behind-the-scenes" doc, this film follows the blocking, choreography and fine-tuning of a single number from the Broadway revival of everyone's favorite sunshiny Depression-era orphan musical. Guess which number? (No, not "Tomorrow.") Starts at 9 p.m. June 28 on PBS

"Gasland Part II": Provocumentarian Josh Fox ("Gasland") returns to the raging debate over hydraulic fracturing for natural gas -- aka "fracking." Starts at 9 p.m. July 8 on HBO

"Americans in Bed": Ten couples, young and old, give interviews from their beds about sex, relationships, intimacy and how it all works -- and how it sometimes doesn't. Starts at 8 p.m. Aug. 12 on HBO

At random

"Futurama" (recommended): I'm as guilty as you for being a fair-weather friend to "Futurama," which had a great and resilient run. Let's let bygones be bygones and enjoy one last bender with Bender, et al., before the animated series rockets away for good. Starts at 9 p.m. June 19 on Comedy Central

"Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda": The famed tightroper walks a wide portion of the Grand Canyon, 1,500 feet high without a net or a harness, on live TV. 7 p.m. June 23 on Discovery

"American Ninja Warrior": Will this be the year that an American with adequate upper-body strength and parkour reflexes finally conquers Mount Midoriyama? Fingers crossed -- and abs clenched! 7 p.m. June 30 on G4; July 1 on NBC

"Orange is the New Black" (recommended): Jenji Kohan, the skewed genius behind Showtime's hit "Weeds," streams her entire new series, about a Brooklyn socialite (Taylor Schilling) who must do time in a federal women's prison. Based on Piper Kerman's memoir. Starts July 11 on Netflix

"Clear History": A well-disguised Larry David stars in Greg Mottolla's comedy film about an embittered startup guy who mistakenly walks away from a fortune. Warning: We hear that the film is almost entirely improvised. Co-stars Jon Hamm, Bill Hader, Kate Hudson and more. 9 p.m. Aug. 10 on HBO

When will your favorite shows return?

"American Ninja Warrior" (NBC) Monday, July 1

"America's Next Top Model" (CW) Friday, Aug. 2

"Big Brother" (CBS) Wednesday, June 26

"Bizarre Foods America" (Travel) Monday, July 1

"Breaking Bad" (AMC) Sunday, Aug. 11

"Breaking Pointe" (CW) Monday, July 22

"Celebrity Wife Swap" (ABC) Sunday, June 23

"Copper" (BBC America) Sunday, June 23

"Covert Affairs" (USA) Tuesday, July 16

"Dexter" (Showtime) Sunday, June 30

"Drop Dead Diva" (Lifetime) Sunday, June 23

"The Exes" (TV Land) Wednesday, June 19

"Franklin & Bash" (TNT) Wednesday, June 19

"Futurama" (Comedy Central) Wednesday, June 19

"Giuliana & Bill" (Style) Tuesday, July 16

"Hell on Wheels" (AMC) Saturday, Aug. 3

"Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" (TLC) Wednesday, July 17

"Hot in Cleveland" (TV Land) Wednesday, June 19

"Interior Therapy With Jeff Lewis" (Bravo) Thursday, July 9

"The Newsroom" (HBO) Sunday, July 14

"Perception" (TNT) Tuesday, June 25

"The Pitch" (AMC) Thursday, Aug. 15

"Rizzoli & Isles" (TNT) Tuesday, June 25

"The Soul Man" (TV Land) Wednesday, June 19

"Suits" (USA) Tuesday, July 16

"Top Chef Masters" (Bravo) Wednesday, July 24

"True Blood" (HBO) Sunday, June 16

"Unforgettable" (CBS) Sunday, July 28

"Web Therapy" (Showtime) Monday, July 22

"Wilfred" (FX) Thursday, June 20

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