It used to be that summer TV meant three months of reruns with the occasional Summer Olympics to break up the repeat routine.
But the broadcast networks retired the “Gone Fishin’ ” sign about a decade ago when cable networks started drawing viewers away.
Now that every cable network wants its own scripted series for prestige value, there are more original TV shows airing in the summer months than ever before. Here are some of the season highlights.
Unmasking reality TV
Last summer’s critical hit “UnReal” (9 p.m. June 6, Lifetime) returns for another season set behind the scenes of the fictional dating series “Everlasting.” In Season 2, producer Rachel (Shiri Appleby) gets promoted to showrunner, and executive producer Quinn (Constance Zimmer) attempts to scale back her work schedule and concentrate on dreaming up ways to spend her exorbitant paycheck.
“UnReal” continues to explore gender politics as “Everlasting” creator Chet (Craig Bierko) tries to reclaim his power, and the show adds a layer of racial politics as “Everlasting” casts its first African-American bachelor (B.J. Britt).
Michelle and Robert King, creators and executive producers of “The Good Wife,” lean more heavily into comedy for their latest one-hour scripted series, “BrainDead” (9 p.m. June 13, CBS), a comic thriller about a Capitol Hill staffer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, “Mercy Street”) who discovers bugs are eating the brains of members of Congress.
Fans of FX’s “The Bridge,” take note: That series was a remake of a Danish TV show, which was also remade as “The Tunnel,” which debuts on PBS at 9:30 p.m. June 19.
A body is found in the Channel Tunnel between England and France, and detectives Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dillane, “Game of Thrones”), the Brit, and Elise Wasserman (Clemence Poesy), who is French, investigate.
PBS’ “Masterpiece” brings back “Endeavour” (8 p.m. June 19) and “Inspector Lewis, The Final Season” (8 p.m. Aug. 7).
And PBS will air Britcom swan song “Vicious: Series Finale Special” (7 p.m. June 19).
Game show comeback
ABC got ratings traction last summer with “Celebrity Family Feud,” hosted by Steve Harvey, so this year the network is going all-in with game show revivals on Sunday nights.
“Celebrity Family Feud” returns at 7 p.m. June 26. It will be joined by a new version of “The $100,000 Pyramid” (8 p.m. June 26), hosted by Michael Strahan (“Good Morning America”), that once again pairs celebrities with non-celebs. Celebrity guests will include Martha Stewart, Snoop Dogg, Rosie O’Donnell, Zachary Levi and Kevin Pollak.
Following those two shows, Alec Baldwin will host a revival of “Match Game” (9 p.m. June 26), which features contestants attempting to match the answers of six celebrities in a fill-in-the-missing-blank game.
In addition, ABC has a revival of “To Tell the Truth,” hosted by Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”), premiering at 7 p.m. June 14.
The family that breaks laws together …
TNT’s “Animal Kingdom” (8 p.m. June 14) stars Ellen Barkin as the matriarch of a crime family in this series based on a 2010 Australian movie of the same title.
“It’s not merely a crime show,” said executive producer Jonathan Lisco (“Southland”) during the Television Critics Association winter press tour in January. “It is a show about a riveting, dysfunctional family led by an intense matriarch, the kind of matriarch you haven’t seen much on television, if at all, who has an emotionally incestuous relationship with her four very interesting, alpha boys who drip with a kind of sexual danger. … We know it’s going to be about character, and the emotional plot in the story is going to be of equal worth and value as the concrete plot.”
“Animal Kingdom” also stars Scott Speedman (“Felicity”) and Shawn Hatosy (“Southland”).
A ‘Star Wars’ comedy
Imagine the humor of “The Lego Movie” transported to the “Star Wars” universe and you’ll get a sense of “Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures” (10 a.m. June 20, Disney XD).
Set between the events of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” the action-comedy follows the Freemaker siblings, who run a salvage business. Youngest sibling Rowan is a seemingly ADHD-addled, Force-sensitive 12-year-old who gets older siblings Kordi and Zander into all sorts of scrapes.
So far the scripted series on cable’s OWN have been critically reviled Tyler Perry productions, but that changes with the debut of “Greenleaf” (9 p.m. June 21, OWN), which has already been renewed for a second season.
Written by Craig Wright (“Six Feet Under,” “Brothers and Sisters”), “Greenleaf” is a thoughtful soap that’s willing to explore questions of faith. After the death of her sister, disillusioned preacher Grace “Gigi” Greenleaf (Merle Dandridge, “The Night Shift”) comes home to the family mansion built by her father’s 4,000-member church ministry.
A dinnertime conversation about faith might bring to mind CBS’ “Blue Bloods” for some viewers, and while “Greenleaf” is soapy — an opinionated family member makes it clear she knows her husband is cheating on her, she just wants him to be less obvious — it’s more grounded than, say, Fox’s “Empire.”
Oprah Winfrey has a recurring guest star role as Grace’s Aunt Mavis, who reveals a family secret in the “Greenleaf” pilot that prompts Grace to stick around the family’s Tennessee homestead.
Discovery’s annual “Shark Week” programming event returns June 26-July 3 with new programs, including a show devoted to the hostile relationship between sharks and dolphins, a program about great white sharks traveling farther north to the Pacific Northwest and the eighth installment of “Air Jaws.”
For fans who prefer their sharks cheeky and fake, Syfy debuts “Sharknado: The 4th Awakens” (7 p.m. July 31), set five years after the events of the third installment. This time the sharks (and tornadoes) will be joined by a roster of reality show stars, including Cynthia Bailey (“The Real Housewives of Atlanta”), Robert Herjavec (“Shark Tank”), Kym Johnson (“Dancing With the Stars”), Duane Chapman (“Dog the Bounty Hunter”), Todd Chrisley (“Chrisley Knows Best”) and Patti Stanger (“Millionaire Matchmaker”).
TBS debuts the second season of cop show spoof “Angie Tribeca” (8 p.m. Monday), and Comedy Central brings back its “Downton Abbey”-like satire “Another Period” (9 p.m. June 15).
ABC debuts a TV spinoff of the 1989 John Candy “Uncle Buck” (8 p.m. June 14) — CBS already made one short-lived attempt in 1990 — and this one stars Mike Epps (“Survivor’s Remorse”) as the unreliable manny.
At 9 p.m. June 26, Showtime debuts “Roadies,” a half-hour comedy from writer Cameron Crowe (“Almost Famous”) about assistants for a successful rock band. The series stars Luke Wilson and Carla Gugino.
HBO premieres the second season of football-themed comedy “Ballers” (9 p.m. July 17) and introduces “Vice Principals” (9:30 p.m. July 17), a dark comedy from the creators of “Eastbound & Down” about a high school’s junior administrators played by Danny McBride and Walton Goggins (“Justified”).
If any cable network pioneered summer scripted drama, it was USA, which helped accustom viewers to switch away from the broadcast networks every year during pool season.
While its programming has darkened considerably since the blue sky heyday of “Psych” and “Monk,” USA managed a critical hit last year with hacker drama “Mr. Robot,” which is back at 9 p.m. July 13, the same night the sixth season of “Suits” (8 p.m.) debuts.
FX returns a quartet of series that includes Denis Leary’s “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” (9 p.m. June 30), “Tyrant” (9 p.m. July 6), “The Strain” (9 p.m. Aug. 28) and “You’re the Worst” (9 p.m. Aug. 31).
TNT brings back “Rizzoli & Isles” (8 p.m. June 6) for a final season, along with “Major Crimes” (9 p.m. June 13).
For political junkies, the well-made Showtime docuseries “The Circus,” about the current presidential election cycle, resumes at 7 p.m. July 10.
Freelance writer Rob Owen: RobOwenTV@gmail.com or on Facebook and Twitter as RobOwenTV.