June 1, 2010 / 4:37 AM / 7 years ago

Networks seek elusive summer hit

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Broadcast networks are betting on familiar faces and a few scripted wild cards this summer as they try to break a postseason losing streak.

Save ABC's "Wipeout," which debuted in 2008, the networks have not scored a summer hit in recent years. The three biggest freshman titles during the coming months could be considered spin-offs of existing hits.

NBC's "Losing It With Jillian" (debuting June 8) stars "The Biggest Loser" trainer Jillian Michaels in an attempt to extend the network's reality hit into summer. ABC's "Bachelor Pad" (August 9), which brings together contestants from "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" to hang out in a house "Big Brother"-style, expands the network's franchise into a year-round event. Fox's "Masterchef" (July 27) isn't a direct spin-off (it's based on a U.K. format), but it stars chef Gordon Ramsay, of Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares," taking on a new culinary battleground.

Also new to the summer reality menu are ABC's skyscraper game show "Downfall" (June 22) and the resurrection of NBC's "Last Comic Standing" (June 7).

Tuesday nights will see the most ferocious fighting: "Downfall" and "Masterchef" have been stacked against NBC's heavy hitter "America's Got Talent" at 9 p.m., and "Jillian" will go up against top contenders "Wipeout" and "Hell's Kitchen" at 8 p.m.

But about half the new titles are scripted shows, an increasingly prevalent trend on broadcast summer schedules over the past couple of years as networks explore low-cost programing options like international co-productions.

Such efforts haven't seemed to catch viewer interest, however, with the lone exception being CBS' airing of the Canadian cop drama "Flashpoint," which debuted two years ago.

So far, a recent preview of Fox's summer series "The Good Guys" (June 7) and the premiere of NBC's comedy "100 Questions" on Thursday performed poorly in the ratings.

ABC is investing the most in scripted fare, unveiling three drama series during the summer. First up are the soap "Scoundrels," starring Virginia Madsen, and supernatural crime drama "The Gates," starring Frank Grillo, airing Sundays beginning June 20.

The perception remains that the best scripted programing is found on cable during the summer, and the biggest entry on that front is USA Network's latest breezy procedural, the CIA drama "Covert Affairs" (July 13). USA has become the CBS of cable, mastering the art of replicating a specific brand of drama series that consistently draws a large audience, and the industry will be watching to see whether the network can continue its streak.

Rival TNT counters with the George Clooney-produced cop drama "Memphis Beat" (June 22), starring Jason Lee as a Tennessee cop who moonlights as an Elvis impersonator.

Other summer notables debuting on cable include MTV's teen comedy "The Hard Times of RJ Berger" (June 6), Comedy Central's "Futurama" revival (June 24), FX's Louis C.K. comedy "Louie" (June 29), Syfy's Stephen King procedural "Haven" (July 9), AMC's political thriller "Rubicon" (August 1) and Showtime's cancer-themed comedy-drama "The Big C" (August 16).

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