Burn Notice Thursday, July 10 (USA)
Season Premiere: Now that Season 2 of Burn Notice—one of the most geeked-about series in recent True TV history—is finally here, is the hype still to be believed? Yes and no. On the yes side, the deep-conspiracy background story of why spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) became blacklisted and dumped in Miami is advancing with the introduction of Carla (Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer), his icy new handler who also may be the one who burned him. On the no side, Carla forces Michael to do Special Ops “jobs” in exchange for, oh, not killing him and everyone he knows, which puts the series in slight danger of becoming another Case of the Week cop show. None of which really matters, because Burn Notice is simply too fucking cool to kill—witness the first 10 minutes of the season premiere and try and tell me otherwise.
Flashpoint Friday, July 11 (CBS)
Series Debut: Speaking of Case of the Week cop shows, anybody out there remember S.W.A.T.? It was a 2003 action movie based on a ’70s TV series, which was based on the 1976 hit single “Theme From S.W.A.T.” Anyway, Flashpoint is the same show, minus the catchy opening song and the fence-leaping genius of Robert Urich. Oh, and it’s Canadian. Ignore at will.
Stargate Atlantis Friday, July 11 (Sci-Fi)
Season Premiere: “Real” science fiction fans have one less Stargate series to hate on after the demise of SG-1—will they now concentrate the full force of their whining on Atlantis? Sure. Allow me to start with star Joe Flanigan’s hair: What the fuck is going on there, Cap’n? (Yes, I know he’s a Major/Lt. Colonel—back off.) Experience a little molecular destabilization in the N’Sync Nebula? Beyond Flanigan’s gel infractions, The Only TV Column That Matters™ is fairly indifferent toward Stargate Atlantis: It doesn’t have the humor that made SG-1 tolerable, but at least they had the good sense to hire Firefly/Serenity’s Jewel Staite and (spoiler non-alert) dump Amanda Tapping, who’s been doing Stargates since sometime in the mid-’50s.
Generation Kill Sunday, July 13 (HBO)
Miniseries Debut: David Simon and Ed Burns’ Generation Kill is more than just The Wire Goes to Iraq—but since HBO’s spending the summer getting hammered by Showtime’s stunningly timed original-programming onslaught, that would probably do. The seven-part series, based on embedded Rolling Stone reporter Evan Wright’s book of the same name, shares The Wire’s bare-bones realism and dark humor, but hits harder (or should) because it’s on the news 24/7 and happening right now—Iraq gets more coverage than Baltimore, after all. If HBO’s WWII-set Band of Brothers had more profanity, heavy metal (music and hardware) and no historically ordained happy ending, you’d have Generation Kill.
The Closer, Saving Grace Monday, July 14 (TNT)
Season Premieres: It was a given that TNT’s cop-soap hit The Closer would be back for another season, but Saving Grace? Really? It had a good setup: Hard-living/drinking Oklahoma detective Grace Hanadarko (Holly Hunter) gets a spiritual wake-up call from a recurring “angel,” but she has little intention of straightening up because she’s a Tortured Soul Who Lost a Loved One in a National Tragedy (the Oklahoma City bombing, shades of Denis Leary’s 9/11 demons in Rescue Me). But, despite Hunter’s balls-out performance as a functional loon/lush, Saving Grace lacks the writing and supporting cast that makes The Closer work. TNT: Kill this and partner Hunter up with Kyra Sedgwick—now there’s a cop show!
The Cleaner Tuesday, July 15 (A&E)
Series Debut: Benjamin Bratt stars as a recovering addict who helps others get “clean” from their addictions. Apparently, Bratt’s vices are stilted monologues and menacing facial hair.