It’s hard to beat the price of broadcast, over-the-air television: free.
That’s particularly welcome in the midst of an economic downturn brought about by a global pandemic. But what’s new this summer, and when will long-running TV favorites be back?
First, the good news: Some original episodes of new and returning shows are airing this summer. Keep reading to find out where to locate these needles in the networks’ haystacks.
The bad news: Most broadcast networks will air fewer original scripted shows this summer than they have in about a decade. The pandemic either shut down production of summer shows or networks are holding back summer series so they have something new to air in the fall.
Now the worse news: There’s probably going to be something of a fresh programming drought on some broadcast networks in the next few months, and so far no one can say with any certainty how long that drought will last.
Originally, television executives were hopeful fall series would return to production in July, but more recently talk has turned to an August restart even as coronavirus infections continue to rise, particularly in the entertainment production center of Los Angeles.
CBS daytime soap “The Bold and the Beautiful” attempted to restart production but shut down only a few hours into the effort in mid-June, blaming several false positives in faulty COVID-19 testing (production resumed again June 24). CBS’ “The Young and the Restless” and ABC’s “General Hospital” are aiming to restart filming this month. NBC’s “Days of Our Lives” is the only daytime soap still airing new installments, having stockpiled enough episodes to keep it in originals into the fall.
Here’s what’s new this summer in prime-time broadcast TV:
ABC’s “Summer Fun & Games” lineup of rebooted classic game shows offers new episodes (and a few reruns scattered in) of “To Tell the Truth” (10 p.m. Thursdays), “Celebrity Family Feud” (8 p.m. Sundays), “Press Your Luck” (9 p.m. Sundays) and “Match Game” (10 p.m. Sundays).
NBC has its reality competitions: “Titan Games” (8 p.m. Mondays), “The Wall” (9 p.m. Mondays), “America’s Got Talent” (8 p.m. Tuesdays) and “World of Dance” (10 p.m. Tuesdays), featuring James Ades of Kent and Harris Weiskopf of Bellevue.
ABC is airing the final season of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (10 p.m. Wednesdays) and, even in a pandemic, it opted to burn off a completed family sitcom, “United We Fall” (8 and 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays beginning July 15), rather than save the show for fall. Ouch.
NBC reunites the cast of “30 Rock” (8 p.m. July 16) for an hourlong, commercial-free reunion special that will double as an “upfront event” promoting shows planned for the 2020-21 TV season across NBCUniversal’s portfolio of networks (NBC, Telemundo, Bravo, E!, USA, etc.). NBC is also airing the final season of “Blindspot” (9 p.m. Thursdays).
Newer reality competitions
Now in its second season, ABC’s miniature golf competition series “Holey Moley” (8 p.m. Thursdays) is a hoot as contestants compete on a wild obstacle course.
In June, ABC introduced a new game show created by comic actor Ryan Reynolds, who’s also the show’s announcer, and hosted by actor Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation,” “Big Little Lies”). In each episode of “Don’t” (9 p.m. Thursdays), contestants are tasked with doing their best to master challenges such as “Don’t Blink,” “Don’t Get Tired” and “Don’t Get Clocked.”
Fox’s “Ultimate Tag” (8 p.m. Wednesdays through July 29) takes the grade school playground game and adds a “Wipeout”-style obstacle course. Fox is also airing a woman’s search to pick a man to father her future children, “Labor of Love” (9 p.m. Thursdays through July 16).
In May, CBS introduced “Game On!” (9 p.m. Wednesdays), an American adaptation of British sports-themed trivia and challenge competition series “A League of Their Own.” Keegan-Michael Key (“Brain Games,” “Key & Peele”) hosts “Game On!” with tennis champ Venus Williams and former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski as team captains.
“Game On!” has been joined on CBS by “Tough as Nails” (8 p.m. Wednesdays), a competition series created and hosted by “The Amazing Race” star Phil Keoghan that features contestants — including Tara Davis of Elk Plain, Pierce County — working at real-world, heavy-labor job sites.
The CW comes out swinging
Of all the broadcast networks, The CW offers the most original scripted series, including action-thriller “Bulletproof” (9 p.m. Wednesdays), teen superhero drama “DC’s Stargirl” (8 p.m. Tuesdays), the final season of sci-fi drama “The 100” (8 p.m. Wednesdays) and the broadcast premiere of borrowed-from-CBS-All-Access show “Tell Me a Story” (9 p.m. July 28).
New programs include “Killer Camp” (8 p.m. July 16), a British murder-mystery competition series (shot in Lithuania!) that’s part-“The Mole” and part-“Friday the 13th” as camper contestants try to guess who among them is a “killer.” Each episode ends with one contestant “dying” in a bloody manner cribbed from horror movies.
In addition, The CW is airing its regular summer series “Masters of Illusion” (8 p.m. Fridays) and “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (8 p.m. Mondays) and introducing several new shows next month.
Top chefs compete using leftovers and ingredients commonly found in your refrigerator in Canadian import “Fridge Wars” (8 p.m. Aug. 2). British reality competition “Taskmaster” (9 p.m. Aug. 2) stars comedian and Welsh actor Greg Davies (“The Inbetweeners”) in the title role, issuing commands to five contestants to complete bizarre tasks.
Canadian drama “Coroner” (9 p.m. Aug. 5) is about a recently widowed woman (Serinda Swan of “Ballers”) who investigates deaths in Toronto.
Docuseries “Being Reuben” (9 and 9:30 p.m. Aug. 7) follows a Welsh teen influencer in his daily life.
A trio of friends obsesses over an online fantasy game in the British comedy “Dead Pixels” (8 and 8:30 p.m. Aug. 18).
PBS offers some originals
PBS drama mainstay “Masterpiece” continues to roll out new episodes of the fifth season of “Grantchester” (9 p.m. Sundays through July 19) and one-season-and-canceled “Beecham House” (10 p.m. Sundays through July 19), set in 18th-century India. The seventh season of detective drama “Endeavour” launches at 9 p.m. Aug. 9.
As part of PBS’ commemoration of the women’s suffrage centennial, “American Masters” debuts “Unladylike2020” (9 p.m. July 10), a special about female trailblazers of the 20th century, including the first women to earn an international pilot’s license, become a bank president and open a film studio.