Swingtown Thursday, June 5 (CBS)
Series Debut: Since the Parents Television Council (True TV’s favorite moral watchdog group, right after Christians Undoing Naughty Television) began editorializing against the “evils” of Swingtown before it had even aired, I was almost prepared to give it a pass. Besides, how long can a stylized soap about wife-swapping ’70s suburbanites survive on CBS, anyway? The last time it tried to step too far out of the forensics ’n’ fluids box, we got Viva Laughlin—and that was at least mercifully short on disco abuse. That New ’70s Show, er, Swingtown, may be dressed up in polyester-period trappings (sex, drugs, un-ironic mustaches), but even gifted leads like Molly Parker (Deadwood) and Jack Davenport (Coupling—the good, British one) can’t sell this as much more than prefab “vintage” on aisle 10 at Crate & Barrel. Worst of all, it isn’t even as dirty as Two & a Half Men! So not groovy …
Fear Itself Thursday, June 5 (NBC)
Series Debut: Speaking of the ’70s, that’s probably the last time a horror anthology series worked on network TV—show of hands, who watches Night Gallery reruns on Chiller? Anyone? Anyone? Fear Itself will probably be seen by at least a dozen more people. Each week, a different director and cast will go for scares within the prim confines of network standards; first up tonight is the tale of four on-the-lam thugs holed up in a haunted fort with mysterious, sexy sirens. Now, would a real horror fan rather see an R-rated version of that story or PG-13? If you know the answer, watch this tonight, write up a fan-fiction re-treatment with more blood and boobs and send it to the Parents Television Council.
Charlie Jade Friday, June 6 (Sci-Fi)
Series Debut: After last year’s doomed launches of Painkiller Jane (had promise, began sucking, got canceled) and Flash Gordon (hit the ground sucking, became even suckier, got canceled), the Sci-Fi Channel could use a new original hit—or at least something that doesn’t, you know, suck. Charlie Jade, a gorgeously cinematic French-Canadian (wait, stay with me here) series that’s already a critical hit in Europe and file-shared by geeks worldwide, does not suck (there’s your pull-quote, Sci-Fi). Detective Charlie Jade (Jeffrey Pierce) is thrown into the Betaverse (our present reality) from the Alphaverse (a Bladerunner-y parallel universe) when corporate scientists from that plane create a wormhole in an attempt to steal water from the Gammaverse (a utopian parallel universe apparently run by hippies and Al Gore) but instead cause an explosion that ripples through all three and renders said wormhole impassable. Charlie soon learns that if the scientists succeed in reopening the wormhole, the Betaverse will cease to exist—and, of course, only he can stop it. Lost doesn’t seem like such a mindfuck now, does it?
Army Wives Sunday, June 8 (Lifetime)
Season Premiere: When Season 1 of Lifetime’s highest-rated Drama (capital D—hell, capital R-A-M-A, too) ever concluded last August, the Army Wives were about to be blow’d up in a roadside bar by a distraught soldier strapped with explosives. See? Capital D, man! But, since all of the main cast is back for Season 2, it wasn’t so much a cliffhanger as a setup for mucho stock-taking and tear-squirting for the thoroughly modern military MILFs upon return. As cable soaps go, Army Wives is surprisingly well acted and deep, walking the line between requisite “Hollywood liberalism” and sincere patriotism more skillfully than a country singer at the Grammys. Me, I’m just here for Catherine Bell …
Men in Trees Wednesday, June 11 (ABC)
Series Finale: You now have one episode to say buh-bye to Anne Heche forever. And … go!