Above: Joanne Kelly and Eddie McClintock in Warehouse 13
Photo courtesy of SyFy
Article by Kara Gheldof

Royal Pains
Returned: June 3; Thursdays at 10PM

Making waves on USA Network's Thursday nights, summer hit Royal Pains has already returned for its second season almost a full year after its highly rated debut last summer. The show—which chronicles the newfound calling of disgraced altruistic doctor Hank Lawson as a concierge doctor to the rich and private in the Hamptons—picked up right where it left off last season, with Hank's ne'er-do-well brother having lost all of the fledgling company’s money to their chronically absentee father.

The show struck a chord with this key bit of casting that is sure to bring in more viewers in the sophomore season. With any luck, it may pave the way for an arguably much-needed overhaul. While the first season was delightful and entertaining, it was a far cry from the quality of USA Network's other shows. The characters are nice and pleasing to watch, but not terribly interesting, and the worst offender is Hank's supposed love interest, with whom the chemistry is entirely lacking. There's still much that needs to be fixed on Royal Pains, and perhaps it may even be dropped entirely, but until that compromise is reached, it’s still a fun way to spend a Thursday night.

Returns: June 24; Thursdays at 10PM

Five years off from the cancellation block, Matt Groening's other show, Futurama, makes its triumphant return with new episodes on Comedy Central this month, bringing joy to millions of sci-fi geeks worldwide. Futurama hasn't been absent from TV sets all these years; it enjoyed a rich second life as part of Adult Swim’s former late night lineup until their syndication rights ran out and the show was sold to Comedy Central. Its unexpected rebirth was precipitated by four direct-to-DVD movies released over the course of two years, the success of which allowed the network to revive the show—which last aired on Fox in 2005—for at least 26 brand new episodes.

It's difficult to sum up a show as delightfully convoluted as Futurama, as the history is constantly altered to fit newer, more colorful storylines. The plot revolves around Philip J. Fry, a pizza delivery boy in the 20th century who is accidentally cryogenically frozen, only to wake up in the 30th century, where he resumes life as an intergalactic package delivery boy in a distant nephew's company, Planet Express. It is full of vibrant and offbeat characters. Fry finds himself fitting in with the crew of Planet Express and the rest of the future, forging a new, more meaningful life for himself than he ever had in the 20th century.

In its all-too-brief first life, Futurama offered just about all a cartoon could offer—clever wit, intelligent plotlines, utterly indulgent sci-fi references for the geek set, emotional impact atypical of its breed, and of course, laughs aplenty. Here's to hoping its second life outlives its first.

Warehouse 13
Returns: July 6; Tuesdays at 9PM

SyFy original series Warehouse 13 was a big hit for the cable network last summer, and it returns after a long absence for its much-anticipated sophomore season. The show, a lighthearted offspring of The X-Files and the steampunk genre, is about two former U.S. Secret Service agents who are unwittingly recruited to work for Warehouse 13, a rather sizeable, secret government warehouse housing an infinite number of mystical, unexplained objects. Each week, the agents are sent out to recover a new errant piece and return it safely to the warehouse.

What worked best about the first season was the chemistry between the actors, particularly the two leads, Joanne Kelly, who plays Myka, the no-nonsense brains of the partnership plagued by her past mistakes, and Eddie McClintock, who plays Pete, the more playful, less responsible partner who was recruited because of a yet unexplained, elevated sense of intuition that guides him. Pete and Myka surmount any clichés inherent in their character archetypes because they just work so well together that one cannot help but root for them. They are joined by a host of other equally entertaining characters, not to mention some quality guest stars, including upcoming appearances by several former cast members of Fox's short-lived Firefly, a show which shared several production crew members with Warehouse. If the second season can manage to build on the story set in motion in the first while retaining its whimsical tone, then SyFy ought to be ordering a third season soon.

White Collar
Returns: July 13; Tuesdays at 9PM

Also returning for a second season on USA Network is White Collar, the show about con-artist-turned-FBI-consultant Neal Caffrey, who now works as a partner to Peter Burke, the agent who chased him for almost a decade, solving white-collar crimes. The plot is simple and could almost be overlooked as another crime procedural, if not for the clever dialogue and extraordinary characters. Neal Caffrey and Peter Burke (played by Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay, respectively) have wonderful chemistry on screen as the charming rogue and the no-nonsense straight man.

White Collar's supporting cast is almost as enticing as the main duo, with Saved By the Bell's Tiffani Thiessen playing Peter's sweet wife, Elizabeth, who doubles as a sounding board, Willie Garson as a conspiracy-theory nut and confidant to Neal, and Diahann Carroll as June, the elderly widow who allows the charismatic Neal into her house as a guest.

The first season ended, quite literally, with a bang, and there's no way of telling where the second season will pick up, but it's a good bet we'll get some answers to the show's central mysteries, while also gaining new questions. In any case, so long as Neal and Peter are in place, it's hard not to look forward to their continuing partnership when the show returns in July.

Returns: July 14; Wednesdays at 10PM

USA Network has had a run of luck with their original series ever since Monk debuted in 2002, always presenting their viewers with their own unique spin on the procedural drama buzz. Psych was another take on the detective show, presenting us with a crime of the week, fully encased in a single episode and always with a happy ending, and it enters its fifth season this summer.

Psych has and should always attribute its success to its vivacious characters and speedy, reference-laden dialogue and sight gags that hit all the right nostalgia buttons. James Roday plays Shawn Spencer, the directionless, hyperactive jokester with a photographic memory who uses his skills and some leftover know-how from his retired cop father to solve crimes with his private investigative service, Psych. He is aided along the way by his best friend, straight man to his wild card, uptight pharmaceuticals representative, Burton "Gus" Guster, played by Dulé Hill. The entire cast plays off each other brilliantly, and every season elicits so much glee that it's always a shame when the show ends for the year.

The fourth season saw some dramatic turns for the usually lighthearted show. In the season finale, Shawn faced his nemeses, a pair of serial killers that is targeting him and appears to be connected to his past, and the lack of resolution promises an even greater conclusion to the approaching season. The good thing about Psych is that pretty much anyone can tune in at any time, as there are few overarching plotlines. It's the kind of show that's definitely worth tuning into at any time of the year; it just happens to feel most at home in the summertime.

© Kara Gheldof, 2010