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Summer Review / Fall Preview: My Summer Highlights and Fall Foretells

(Check out my TV ratings website, www.seriesmonitor.com)

It's hard to believe it's a mere 28 days until the 2014-2015 US television season gets underway.

Summer is a strange time for television, chiefly because it's actually winter where I live. That often isn't a bad thing because there's nothing of the outdoor variety to distract me so I can actually get some work done.

I'm by no means the biggest television fan at the best of times, so there's normally enough time in my schedule to accommodate the dozen or so series that I frequent anyway, but until this year, I had never paid any real attention to the US's summer offerings.

I guess I paid more attention this summer because the genre currently in fashion is my favorite: high octane serial dramas, and several of them have debuted this year.

My summer (winter) began with NBC's freshman medical drama The Night Shift. This series was a lot better than I expected and was well worth my time. Also on network television was CBS's Extant, which, though I'm watching every week, am finding it hard to like despite the hype. CBS's summer hit in 2013 was Under the Dome, and like Extant, that's been a bit of a disappointment. Both series still have a few episodes up their sleeves so things could change, but in all honesty, it may be too little, too late.

Interestingly, it was cable series which have garnered most of my attention over the summer. More specifically, TNT, massively innovative rebranding and all. Third season drama Perception ended its ten episode first half of its third season last week with a sizable boom that I didn't see coming. Maybe that rebranding has had an effect after all. I've also been keeping an eye on freshman series The Last Ship, which is good to blob out in front of given character investment is tricky.

However those two can't eclipse the third of TNT's dramas that I've been watching. Sean Bean's Legends kicked off a fortnight or so ago and it's provided a much-needed boost to my schedule. There's some interesting storytelling to come in the next few weeks that I'm really looking forward to watching.
FX's acclaimed series Tyrant ends its first season tonight. I saw the screener for this earlier in the year and knew it would be my kind of series. I wasn't wrong, though the series has veered towards a couple of unnecessary storylines in recent episodes. The cast is strong but the execution has missed the mark on occasion. Despite this, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if Tyrant's finale steps things up a notch.

Another surprisingly good series I came across by way of screener is Lifetime's The Lottery. It's just over halfway through its 10 episode freshman season and I don't think its 5.8 IMDb rating does it justice. Like any series, there's the odd plot hole, but the concept is rock solid, and the execution has been of a high standard also. Its run home to the season finale will be intriguing.

On the side, Discovery's Mythbusters is a must-watch for me, though I have to admit the decision to scrap the build team, Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara, came out of the blue and will surely go down as one of the best kept secrets in a long time. They’ve been part of the one-of-a-kind series for a decade, but the series is getting back to its grassroots with co-hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman now holding the fort on their own.

Despite the universal disappointment from the show's fans, I for one am in favour of the change, but not because I dislike the trio at all. Mythbusters has always interested me because of the science and the process, not necessarily the result. The airtime freed up will enable much more exploration of those aspects, and the short clip shown at this year's ComicCon looks really good. In the end, from my perspective it’s a change for the better. I shelled out some serious dollar for backstage VIP tickets to the Mythbusters Live Show's Auckland leg in under 2 weeks, which I'm probably too excited about!

Missing from my schedule this year is Cinemax's fifth and final season of Strike Back. Filming and scheduling were pushed back after main cast member Sullivan Stapleton was injured. By all accounts it's returning in 2015, which I'm looking forward to. Bear Grylls seems to be doing ok on NBC, with his present series Running Wild with Bear Grylls a good pick during or after dinner.

Summer is always a good time to sample some of the series that have aired during the previous season but haven't managed to squeeze in. It's also a good time for reruns galore. I've finally managed to see James Spader at his finest in Boston Legal, and I've also picked up the stunning Showtime series Masters of Sex. One of my all-time favorite series, Hugh Laurie's House M.D. finally made its way onto Netflix - something I wish would happen to Boston Legal along with a heap of ended or current series. A random number generator set to spit out a number between 1 and 178 is a fine way to make the choice of which House episode to watch a much easier one.

Fall is fast approaching, so the next few weeks will be dedicated to watching a few season finales to ensure I'm up with the play when September 22 arrives. It's also only a matter of days until more episode titles, press releases and promotional material make its way online. I'm can't contain my excitement for the return of CBS's Person of Interest, the best series on television in my opinion. The fallout from Decima's actions will no doubt play out in true POI style. ABC's Scandal left us after a shortened 18 episode third season at an interesting point in time for OPA. It gets a new timeslot and leads in freshman series How To Get Away With Murder, which will tie up my Thursdays.

Elementary, Castle and The 100 premiere a little later than normal but I'll be there for their premieres. All three did some daring stuff in their season finales, so their recoveries should be worth a look. Criminal Minds changes up the cast and will always be my pick on an otherwise barren Wednesday night.

I'll be picking up several freshman dramas this season. Aside from How To Get Away With Murder, on the cards currently are State of Affairs, Scorpion and Stalker. I'm planning on picking up Odyssey, which is my pick of the freshmen series from what I've seen thus far via screener, and Allegiance, when they hit our screens later in the season. Of the screeners I've seen, State of Affairs and Scorpion look good while Stalker didn't really work for me. Ultimately, a few thousand Americans will have the final say there.

I'm also really looking forward to FOX's new social experiment series, Utopia. I'm curious to see where it will lead, and how it will be produced. Utopia kicks off online in a couple of days with the series premiere airing September 7.

So that's my summer and fall rundown. What are your highlights of the summer, and what are you most looking forward to this fall? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Thanks for reading.

About the Author - Jimmy Ryan
Jimmy Ryan lives in New Zealand. He is an avid follower of drama television and has a keen interest for television ratings and statistics. Some of his favorite shows right now are Person of Interest, Scandal, House of Cards, Orphan Black, The Blacklist, The 100, and Castle. You can visit his television ratings website, www.seriesmonitor.com or follow him on Twitter, @SeriesMonitor.
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