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Surfin' Summer TV

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When it’s as disgusting outside as it’s been the past few days, no one can blame you for shunning the outdoors, parking yourself next to fans and air conditioners, and sitting in a half-coma watching TV. But is anything on worth watching?

Unfortunately, very little. While networks keep making lip-service to offering year-round programming, they never really claim that what they’re able to slap together and throw on during the summer is any good. Usually, they use whatever is cheapest to produce — meaning lots of reality shows. Not that all reality shows are bad (man, do I love Top Chef!), but when a new bumper crop of them air all at the same time, you really notice how indistinct they are from one another.

But, in a pinch, there are a few non-reality bright spots on the summer schedule. So set these to record on the DVR, and the next time the heat/humidity begins to look miserable, crank up the A/C and have a marathon of one of these three shows:

Mad Men
Sundays, 10 p.m., AMC
Don Draper, everybody’s favorite fictional Westchester resident, returns to scandalize 1960s America with his steamy exploits on July 25. And we can’t wait! So, what’s in store for the fourth season, now that Draper is leaving both his job and his marriage? According to Entertainment Weekly, creator Matthew Weiner says this season is “about stripping away the things these people think define them… Once they’re taken away, they just may have to look at who they really are.” Need more? Check out the (coy) teaser clip:

Futurama
Thursdays, 10 p.m., Comedy Central
Good news, nerds! This animated sci-fi comedy — from Simpsons creator Matt Groening — was underrated, then canceled, then half-revived as a series of direct-to-DVD movies, and now it finally makes its triumphant return to Comedy Central (where it can be a little more risqué). The good thing about the show’s slow cancellation/rebirth process is that it was hardly ever gone, so the writers and animators never had a chance to stop fully thinking about Futurama, so it’s still as mind-bending, brainy, funny, and silly as it ever was.

Party Down
Fridays, 10:30 p.m., Starz
This show, which wrapped up its second season this week, has received rave reviews — among people who have actually seen it. Given that it’s on Starz, though, that number is few. But — more good news! — if you have a Netflix account, you can catch it on Netflix Instant Watch. (No need to order Starz or figure out what channel it is.) The show follows a Hollywood catering company comprised of wannabe-stars or failed actors. You might not recognize the names of the actors in the ensemble — Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Ken Marino, Ryan Hansen, and Martin Starr — but you probably recognize them from movies and TV shows like Stepbrothers, Mean Girls, Veronica Mars, and Freaks & Geeks. The result has kind of an Office vibe, where it’s funny but keeps a straight face most of the time (and it can get a little uncomfortable).

What’s your favorite summer series? Let me know in the comments.

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