The six TV shows you should catch up on this summer
As you make your summer reading list -- complete with those thicker, more challenging books you've been putting off, plus a couple of hard-boiled-mystery or chick-litty beach reads -- don't forget to consider the dramas washing ashore on your TV. There's an evolution under way in how hour-long shows' plots unfold (watching the ''story arc'' reruns of, say, ''NYPD Blue,'' usually aired out of order, now seems antiquated to the point of absurdity), and summer programming makes this sun-glaringly clear. You can relax with old classics, discover new passions (I think you're already catching on to this: Reruns of one of the shows recommended below, ''Without a Trace,'' are outdrawing ''ER'' replays), and get hooked on a guilty pleasure or two.
This season's scripted programming, to be sure, is dominated by reruns, with the notable exception of ''The Wire'' (HBO, Sundays at 9:30 p.m.). If you're looking for complex narratives with nuanced characterizations, you -- to quote Otis Redding -- got to, got to, got to get into this show, which I'm not going to sugarcoat: great characters, great acting, but damn hard to follow. Think of it as ''Ulysses in Baltimore.'' For those in search of something a little less knotty, here's a sample of the broadcast networks' second-run, first-rate fare.
(Reruns on TNT, Mondays, 10 p.m.)
When this rookie series began last fall Sundays on NBC, it got a lot of hype for its style of storytelling -- recounting a plot from several points of view, including those of Gary Basaraba's jovially tough cop and Neal McDonough's steely-eyed deputy DA, David McNorris. The show got modest ratings: You could sense viewers thought ''Boomtown'' was going to be one of those ostentatiously schmancy shows, confusing for its own stylistic sake, and who wants a headache on Sunday night? I felt the same way: The plots seemed excessively simple in order to service the storytelling gimmick.
But as the season progressed, ''Boomtown'' de-emphasized the multi-POV format and concentrated on its most interesting characters. By the time McNorris started drinking too much and got involved in a hit-and-run car accident (he ended the season headed to the Betty Ford clinic), I was hooked. You'll be too, if you start watching now and follow ''Boomtown'' into its second, presumably migraine-free season in the fall, when it moves to Fridays at 10 p.m. on NBC.