Undoubtedly, if I had to pick a Network of the Year, it would be a tough call between FX and AMC.
On the one hand, FX wrapped up one of the best cop shows in the history of TV with a riveting final season of "The Shield;" is in the midst of a great comeback season with "Rescue Me"; debuted the very underrated "Sons Of Anarchy"; and got another tour de force performance from Glenn Close in "Damages."
On the other hand, what AMC lacks in quantity, it sure makes up for in quality. There simply isn't a better tandem on TV right now than "Mad Men," last year's Emmy-winner, and "Breaking Bad," featuring Best Actor Bryan Cranston. With a remake of the '60s sci-fi classic "The Prisoner" set for later in the summer and starring Jim Caviezal and Sir Ian McKellan, it looks like another home run for the network.
FX, by sheer virtue of making more series than AMC, had some flops in there, such as "Testees," and it continues to foist "Nip/Tuck" on us, but I'll take that bad to go with the good listed above any day.
At the end of the day, I'd have to give a slight nod to AMC, which gets an A-plus. FX scores an A-minus. I hope they continue to meet these standards.
TNT: It's created a distinctive brand, focusing on strong women with the likes of "The Closer," "Saving Grace" and the new "Hawthorne," but I'm not bowled over by most of their offerings, such as "Raising The Bar." Though my favorite TNT show, "Leverage," returns next month, the uneven "Trust Me" didn't secure a second season. Still, TNT does very well in the ratings. GRADE: C.
USA: Growing from the likes of "Monk" and "Psych," USA has expanded with a strong lineup that includes the superfun "Burn Notice," "In Plain Sight" and the brand-new "Royal Pains." GRADE: B-plus.
SCI-FI: Soon to be SyFy, one of the high points of the entire TV season was the finale of "Battlestar Galactica," which will hopefully (finally) get a deserved Emmy nomination for both the show and the cast. "Caprica," the spinoff prequel, looks to be of similar level of quality. But there's a big dropoff after that on the network, which seems to rely more heavily these days on the likes of "Ghost Hunters." In addition, the network isn't bringing back "Doctor Who" or "The Sarah Jane Adventures" from the BBC. GRADE: C-plus.
BBC AMERICA: The BBC -- in England -- has great TV. Unfortunately, it isn't always shown on BBC America. The network dropped the likes of "Robin Hood" and "Ashes To Ashes" rather than air the new seasons. Still, there's a lot of quality with "Torchwood" and "Primeval" among dramas and "Top Gear," "Dragon's Den" and the Gordon Ramsay cooking shows among the reality offerings. GRADE: B-minus.
LIFETIME: "Army Wives" has built up a pretty solid following, and the network scored a major coup in picking up "Project Runway." GRADE: B
BRAVO: What once was all about the arts and quality has become reality heaven for the likes of Top Chef, Top Design, Real Housewives, etc. It's not my cup of tea, but you have to say the network knows its audience. GRADE: C-plus.
HBO: What once was the network that set the benchmark for cable offerings has seen better days. HBO has never matched its heyday of series like "The Sopranos" and "Sex & The City." Though "True Blood" is a big step in the right direction, HBO is clearly behind Showtime these days. GRADE: C-
SHOWTIME: Last, but not least, Showtime offers an excellent and varied set of programs. Returning shows like "Dexter" and "Weeds," coupled with new offerings like "Nurse Jackie" and "United States of Tara," make Showtime the choice among the pay cable offerings. Grade: A-
MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Wimbledon serves it up, beginning this morning at 7 a.m. on ESPN2.
ABC delivers a two-hour "Bachelorette" at 8 p.m., followed by "Here Come The Newlyweds" at 10 p.m.
NBC unfortunately gives us "I'm a Celebrity..." at 8 p.m.
On cable, there's a new "Weeds" (Showtime, 10 p.m.), followed by "Nurse Jackie."
TNT offers new installments of "The Closer" at 9 p.m. and "Raising The Bar" at 10 p.m.
Finally, though I am loathe to promote it, there's supposed to be a major announcement on "Jon & Kate Plus 8" (TLC, 9 p.m.) Could this be a divorce, making it Jon minus Kate? Tune in to find out if you are interested. Ratings for this series have dropped significantly since its season debut a couple of weeks ago.
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