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Heads up: Summer television is no longer dumbed down

Don't know about you, but I have no intention of spending the summer watching The Bachelorette (ABC, CITY-TV, 8 p.m.). For a start, our new Bachelorette, dental student Ashley ("My heart is, like, totally broken") Hebert, is a front-runner for Most Annoying Person on TV, 2011.

This Bachelorette never, ever shuts up or thinks about what she's saying. It's all yada yada: "I'm back in L.A. and I feel great." "Being given this opportunity to date 25 men and hopefully leave here with a husband, I feel like the luckiest person in the world." "I'm not going to let my insecurities get in the way of my happiness this time." On and on it goes.

Besides, last week's season opener provided what will surely be the most memorable moment. A guy named Tim got drunk and passed out, snoring, on a couch. After that, surely it's downhill to the usual scenes in hot tubs, tacky but expensive hotel suites, helicopter rides and, without doubt, Ashley shouting "woo-hoo!" when she's not explaining yet again that, like, she deserves love.

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That's nice, but the show does not deserve our attention.

Take note, the days when summer TV was a wasteland of repeats and previously unseen rubbish are over. Summer is no longer all dumbed-down TV all the time. A lot of smart TV is coming over the next few months.

At long last, the second season of Misfits arrives (Wednesday, June 1, Showcase). A wonderful British riff on the superhero genre, it presents us with characters who have superhero powers but aren't the least likely to be heroic. They're juvenile delinquents, teenagers who are annoyingly self-absorbed, shifty and unreliable. They also swear a lot, drink and smoke. It's hilarious and truly original. The second season promises "an array of new characters, and is even bigger, bolder and brasher than ever."

Also, after several postponements, the new season of Murdoch Mysteries will now start Tuesday, June 7 (CITY-TV, 9 p.m.). Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) misses Dr. Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy), consults Detective Lamb (Victor Garber) and there's a dismembered body. Meanwhile, Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris) gets the best lines.

Men of a Certain Age returns (SuperChannel, Mondays 10 p.m. starting June 6) to chronicle the situation of three middle-aged guys getting older together. If the actors were not as good as Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula are in the series, it would be much less interesting.

Something to anticipate with pleasure is Carlos, the much-praised and award-winning miniseries about Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as "Carlos the Jackal" and the dominant terrorist figure of the 1970s. The series - which was shown as a movie in different lengths at various film festivals - has Edgar Ramirez as Carlos, and it's a masterpiece.

True Blood returns, too (HBO Canada, Sunday, June 26) and in season 4, Sookie (Anna Paquin) explores her status as a fairy and has to nurse head vampire Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) while her true love Bill (Stephen Moyer) hangs around unhappily. On True Blood, all this stuff actually makes tremendous sense.

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Curb Your Enthusiasm comes back (July 10, HBO Canada). Apparently Larry David has relocated to New York and his annoying neighbour is Michael J. Fox. If you want more Breaking Bad, it comes back to AMC (July 17).

Possibly, none of these shows featuring swearing, sex and nudity interest you in the slightest. Well, just for you there's a new batch of Masterpiece Mystery! dramas starting on PBS (June 19). That means new Poirot dramas with David Suchet as the suave Belgian super-detective Hercule Poirot. And there is a new series of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple (PBS, July 10) with Julia McKenzie as the scarily incisive elderly-lady-sleuth.

But wait, that's not all - if your thing is cozy British mystery, but you like a dash of the exotic, there's a new entry - Zen (PBS, July 17) based on the bestselling novels of Michael Dibdin. Rufus Sewell plays Detective Aurelio Zen, a chap in Italy, the only honest cop dealing with corrupt politicians, mobsters and your average criminal.

Now, of course, it is actually possible that you'll be thrilled to hear about Love in the Wild (June 29, NBC), which is, we're told, about "speed dating, camping style." This is the gist: "The show will take 20 singles into the jungle and have them compete in challenges as well as hook up." But if you are tempted by such frivolity, you might as well watch The Bachelorette. Why, Ashley ("My heart is, like, totally broken") Hebert hasn't even burst into tears yet.

Just don't complain that all summer TV is brash, brainless, vulgar nonsense. It isn't. Woo-hoo!

Check local listings.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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