The 2011-2012 television season is technically over, but not even the big networks go quiet for the summer these days, stacking their schedules with reality shows and new (if frequently flimsier) scripted series. And summer is really cable's time to shine — while "Game of Thrones," "Mad Men" and "Girls" wrap up their seasons in the next few weeks (on June 3rd, 10th and 17th, respectively), new and familiar shows and documentary broadcast premieres fill the next few months, including the return of two of the best shows on air, "Breaking Bad" and "Louie." Here's a look at the highlights from the next three months on the small screen:
Sunday, June 3 on Hulu (U.S. Series Premiere)
U.K. TV stalwart and "Pirates of the Caribbean" villain Tom Hollander plays the Reverend Adam Smallbone in this BBC 2 sitcom about an Anglican priest who's moved from a small rural parish to chaotic East London, where he tries to adjust to the issues of running a church in the city. Hollander was nominated for a 2011 BAFTA for male performance in a comedy role for the series.
Sunday, June 3 at 10pm on A&E (Series Premiere)
A&E's bid for a "Justified"-style regional crime drama is set in the fictional Absaroka County in Wyoming, where Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) keeps the peace while trying to recover from the death of his wife a year ago. Katee Sackhoff, who's bounced around the small screen without finding a satisfying role since the end of "Battlestar Galactica," will play Walt's new deputy, a Philly transfer not used to rural life — Lou Diamond Phillips and Bailey Chase are also in the cast of the show, which is adapted from Craig Johnson's mystery novel series.
Sunday, June 3 at 11pm on MTV (Season Premiere)
MTV's transformation of the 1985 Michael J. Fox comedy into a broody supernatural drama populated with pretty people with minimal body fat returns for a second season on June 3rd right after the MTV Movie Awards before settling into its regular Monday at 10pm timeslot on June 4th.
Monday, June 4 on Hulu (Series Premiere)
The tagline of Kevin Smith's new half-hour movie review show on Hulu is "Tell Me What You REALLY Think," which is amusing, given how sensitive the "Clerks" filmmaker has been about critics' takes on his own work. In promos for the series, Smith has promised that he and the 50 fans he'll take with him to see a new blockbuster and then discuss it will "revere" movies rather than review, which seems to presume they're going to like everything they see. Smith, at least, has always been good at talking, and it'll be interesting to see how he balances all the critiques he's leveled at critics against being on that side of the equation himself.
Monday, June 4 at 10pm on the Sundance Channel (Series Premiere)
A "Sex in the City" for the wheelchair-bound, the Sundance Channel's new nonfiction series follows four beautiful, ambitious women living with paralysis in Hollywood. The half-hour show, produced by Gay Rosenthal of "Little People, Big World," promises to challenge expectations of portrayals of disabilities on television.
TNT's "&" buddies series return, with the female-led procedural "Rizzoli & Isles" now getting paired with the bro-lawyer dramedy "Franklin & Bash" on Tuesday nights. Both shows have the watchabe but disposible quality of USA network knock-offs, though "Rizzoli & Isles" has attracted some extra attention for the way it teases the extremely close but apparently platonic friendship between its central characters (played by Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander), who've been labeled "TV's gayest non-gay couple."
In honor of LGBT Pride Month, Showtime's airing a trio of docs that deal with gay, lesbian and transgender themes on the night of the 7th, some of them U.S. broadcast premieres — like "Orchids: My Intersex Adventure" (7pm), an auto-biographical 2010 doc about Australian filmmaker Phoebe Hart's discovery that her parents kept secret from her that she was born intersex. "No Look Pass" (8pm) profiles Harvard basketball player Emily Tay, a first-generation Burmese immigrant who's hiding her homosexuaity from her parents. And "Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston" (9:30pm) looks into the life of the legendary '70s designer.
The newest ventures into alt-comedy from the network that brought you "Portlandia" are based around satirical takes on talk and game shows. "Comedy Bang! Bang!" (10pm) is adapted from Scott Aukerman's much-beloved podcast of the same name, and features Aukerman as the host of a surreal talk show alongside his band leader Reggie Watts. "Bunk" (10:30pm), hosted by Kurt Braunohler, pits a panel of comedians against each other in inane challenges to win completely strange prizes, and is the first-ever comedy from the New York Television Festival to be greenlit to series.
Saturday, June 9 at 10pm ET on Ovation (U.S. Series Premiere)
The six-part UK mini-series kicks off on June 9th as part of Ovation's "The Best You've Never Seen" programming block, an adaptation of novelist Martina Cole's "tale of star-crossed lovers struggling for redemption against a background of crime and corruption" set in '60s and '70s London and starring Joanna Vanderham and Jack O'Connell, with Keith Allen, Ken Stott and Alan Cumming (playing colourful transvestite Desrae) fill out the cast.
Sunday, June 10 at 9pm on HBO (Season Premiere)
HBO's glorious guilty pleasure is back for a fifth season, the final one as showrunner for creator Alan Ball and one that promises to find Bon Temps, Louisiana in even more magical chaos than before. Last season ended with the apparent death of several characters, but the show's never been shy about introducing more, and early spoilers have promised the addition of more vampires and other impossible creatures to the cast, some of whom will inevitably end up in some kind of love triangle with waitress-turned-supernatural investigator Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin).
Monday, June 11 at 9pm on ABC Family (Series Premiere)
"Black Swan" it is probably not, but this new ABC Family series set at a dance school could be interesting anyway — it's the creation of Amy Sherman-Palladino of "Gilmore Girls." Broadway star Sutton Foster plays a Las Vegas showgirl who ends up heading up dance classes in a quiet coastal town after impulsively marries a man and moving there with him.
David Morrissey (recently cast as the Governor on "The Walking Dead") plays Detective Inspector Tom Thorne in this pair of U.K. mini-series based on the novels of Mark Billingham. A great detective but a haunted man, Thorne faces up against two brutal serial killers in the series, one obsessed with leaving young women paralyzed, the others seemingly working in tandem. Eddie Marsan, Aidan Gillen, Natascha McElhone and Sandra Oh all appear in the series, which has an ominous air unlike your usual crime dramas.
Wednesday, June 13 at 9pm on TNT (Series Premiere)
Who isn't at least a little bit curious about this revival of the primetime soap? It is, after all, a continuation of the original series that will introduce new Ewings while bringing back original castmembers Larry Hagman (as J. R.), Linda Gray (as Sue Ellen), Patrick Duffy (as Bobby) and others — which shows an impressive devotion to continuity, or a commentary on certain post-"Dallas" careers.
"We Were Here"
Thursday, June 14 at 10pm on PBS (U.S. Broadcast Premiere)
David Weissman's heart-wrenching doc about how the AIDS epidemic affected San Francisco plays as part of the tail-end of this season of doc series Independent Lens. Check out our interview with the director here.
Saturday, June 16 at 9pm on HBO (Broadcast Premiere)
Directed by Jeffrey Roth ("The Wonder of It All"), George H. W. Bush documentary "41" is produced by old friend of the family Jerry Weintraub and is slated to air two days before the former president's 88th birthday, so you shouldn't expect anything other than fondness in the film, which will at least offer the so far unheard tale of his life in his own words — he hasn't yet written a memoir.
"One Nation Under Dog: Stories of Fear, Loss and Betrayal"
Monday, June 18 at 9pm on HBO (Broadcast Premiere)
HBO's summer doc season kicks off with this look at our complex relationship with man's best friend from trio of filmmakers Jenny Carchman, Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Amanda Micheli, which goes from shelters to the horrors of a puppy mill to a Florida couple who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to clone a beloved pet.
Wednesday, June 20 at 9pm on BBC America (U.S. Series Premiere)
This four-part British heist series stars Steven Mackintosh, Ashley Walters and Warren Brown as a trio of men working in a cash counting house who decide they want their own piece of the action — written by Tony Basgallop (of "Being Human") "Inside Men" differs from the usual crime dramas in being about everyday workers who have to figure out how to be criminal and what it means to cross that line.
Wednesday, June 20 at 10pm on Comedy Central (Season Premiere)
Matt Groening's delightful animated sci-fi comedy returns for a seventh season on what's been an erratic run spanning networks, cancelations and TV movies. This season will be split into two, with the first 13-episode half kicking off with a double-feature on June 20th and the second half set to air in 2013. Not confusing at all!
Thursday, June 21 at 10pm on PBS (Broadcast Premiere)
The new season of PBS doc series POV kicks off with Jennifer Fox's film about exiled Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and his Western-born son, Yeshi. While both POV and Independent Lens have faced scrutiny for schedule changes this year that have made the series hard to find, the line-up of films POV has on offer make it well worth seeking out, wherever it's ended up on your local station.
Sunday, June 24 at 10pm on HBO (Series Premiere)
Some of us may not have realized quite how much we missed the rhythms of Aaron Sorkin's small-screen dialogue until we started seeing trailers for his new HBO series "The Newsroom," which stars Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy, anchor of an embattled cable program called "News Night." Sure, the relationship between Daniels and Emily Mortimer, who plays the show's executive producer Mackenzie MacHale, looks right out of "Sports Night" — so what? "Sports Night" was great, and any promise of more Sorkin workplace walk-and-talk is more than welcome. It'll be interesting to see how Sorkin uses the freedom afforded him on a premium cable network, and how he takes on the world of cable news — one in need of closer examination and one ripe for drama.
"Me @The Zoo"
Friday, June 25 at 9pm on HBO (Broadcast Premiere)
The age of internet celebrity gets explored via the life and times of Chris Crocker, who attained viral stardom when he entreated the world to "Leave Britney alone!" in a YouTube video. Named for the first video ever to be uploaded to YouTube, Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch's doc premiered at Sundance earlier this year. Take a look at Indiewire's interview with the filmmakers and their subject here.
Thursday, June 28 at 9pm on FX (Series Premiere)
Whether or not the world wants a new Charlie Sheen show, that is what the world is getting. After a spectacular public meltdown last year leading to his firing from "Two and a Half Men," Sheen is back on the small screen in this series adapted from the 2003 movie of the same name, with the star taking on the role played by Jack Nicholson, that of a "non-traditional" therapist. "The Drew Carey Show" co-created Bruce Helford will serve as show-runner and executive producer, while Shawnee Smith and Selma Blair will co-star.
Thursday, June 28 at 10:30pm on FX (Season Premiere)
What sad, surreal and funny adventures will Louis C.K.'s alter ego get up to in the third season of his innovative single-camera comedy? As the writer, director and star, C.K. has been able to broadcast as clear and distinctive a voice as TV contains right now in his show about a divorced single dad living in New York and working in comedy. Last season offered a range of creative highs, from Louie received showbiz advice from Joan Rivers to his being kept safe while on a USO tour in the Middle East by a duckling his daughter packed, with his knowing, in his bag. It's hard to think of how C.K. will top that in this season, but we have high hopes.
Friday, June 29 at 9pm on Reelz (U.S. Series Premiere)
Stuart Townsend plays the enigmatic title character in this Franco-Canadian series based on a Belgian graphic novel (got that?) about an amnesiac secret agent trying to figure out his past. Aisha Tyler and Virginie Ledoyen co-star in the series, which has recently been renewed for a second season back in Canada with Roger Avary attached to write the season premiere.
Sunday, July 1 at 10pm on Showtime (Season Premiere)
Now on its eighth season, Jenji Kohan's comedy about widowed mother Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), who starts selling weed to support her family, has come a long, crazy way from its suburban roots, with its characters having gone on the run to the Mexico border, then to Seattle and into the Midwest. Characters have murdered, have gone to jail and have relocated to Europe, which really means that anything could (and probably will) happen when it returns to take up with the family in their new home in Connecticut.
"Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present,"
Monday, July 2 at 9pm on HBO (Broadcast Premiere)
Matthew Akers' documentary follows the Serbian performance artist as she prepares for a retrospective of her work at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, one that became a sensation thanks to the title work, in which Abramović sat silent and immobile in the atrium of the museum as visitors lined up to sit with her.
Sunday, July 1 at 10:30pm on Showtime (Season Premiere)
Matt LeBlanc returns to the role that nabbed him a Golden Globe Award last year — playing himself — in this showbiz satire about a happily married pair of British sitco creators (played by Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig) who are disastrously hired to remake their own series for an American audience.
"The City Dark"
Thursday, July 5 at 10pm on PBS (Broadcast Premiere)
Filmmaker Ian Cheney explores the physical and spiritual consequences of light pollution in this documentary (airing as part of POV) that marries poetic visuals of the night sky to score that won a prize at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival.
"Hit and Miss"
Wednesday, July 11 at 10pm on Direct TV's Audience Network (U.S. Series Premiere)
Chloë Sevigny plays a pre-op transsexual contract killer in this British series. Really, what else do you need to know? The series is from Paul Abbott, creator of "Shameless" and "State of Play."
Sunday, July 15 at 10pm on AMC (Season Premiere)
When we last left Walter White (Bryan Cranston), he and Jesse (Aaron Paul) were finally freed from the clutches of Giancarlo Esposito's ominous Gus Fring, though it came at a new low for Walter, who has slowly and brilliantly transformed from antihero to genuine bad guy over the course of Vince Gilligan's brilliant series. July 15th marks the start of the fifth and final 16-episode season of the series (like "Futurama," it will be split in two, with the second half airing in 2013), and raises the question of whether we'll see redemption for Walter or a further spiraling down into self-deluding villainy. Either way, it's going to be great to watch.
Sunday, July 15 at 10pm on USA (Series Premiere)
Sigourney Weaver plays a Hillary Clinton amalgam Elaine Barrish, a divorced former First Lady turned Secretary of State in the USA network's prestige bid, a six-episode mini-series created by Greg Berlanti (of "Everwood" and "Jack & Bobby"). The rest of the cast is impressive, too — Ciarán Hinds as Elaine's ex husband, Adrian Pasdar as the current president who defeated Elaine in the presidential primaries, Dylan Baker as the V.P. and Ellen Burstyn as Elaine's one-time showgirl mother.
Saturday, August 11 on Hulu (U.S. Series Premiere)
Peter Kosminsky (“White Oleander”) wrote and directed this four-part mini-series about a young British girl (Claire Foy) who travels to Israel/Palestine to retrace the steps of her grandfather (Christian Cooke ), a British soldier stationed there as part of the peace-keeping force in the 1940s. For the most part well-reviewed in its native U.K., the series was also responsible for some controversy from a few who thought it anti-Israel in sentiment.
"Hell on Wheels"
Sunday, August 12 at 9pm on AMC (Season Premiere)
It's not on the level of "Mad Men" or "Breaking Bad," but AMC's western "Hell on Wheels" attracted enough of a following to earn a second season about the journeys of former Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) as he tries to track down the men who murdered his wife. The show certainly is due a salute for most unusual cast, with Common, Colm Meaner and Tom Noonan among the regulars.
Sunday, August 19 at 9pm on BBC America (Series Premiere)
BBC America, better known as a home for imported U.K. programming, tries an original scripted series of its own — the network's first — with "Copper," a "Gangs of New York"-style period drama set in 1860s New York City and centered around an Irish-American policeman (Tom Weston-Jones) working in Five Points. The show was co-created by Tom Fontana (the man responsible for "Oz"), is executive produced by Barry Levinson and also stars Franka Potente as the madam of a brothel.