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From Entertainment.news-leader.com

Cable dramas a relief for bored viewers (Stargate SG-1 mention)

By Mike Hughes

Tuesday 20 July 2004, by xanderbnd

Los Angeles - Amid the deepest doldrums of summer TV, cable networks are adding new life.

Dramas - strong, tough, distinctive ones - are popping up. They give viewers some solid, no-rerun hours in the second half of the summer.

The prime example arrives at 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 21 with "Rescue Me" - a well-crafted drama-comedy starring Denis Leary as a firefighter - on FX. That joins a worthy list of cable dramas, which have:

• Looser standards for language, sex and violence. Broadcast networks, which use the public airwaves, face Federal Communications Commission rules that don’t apply to cable. "Everybody should be held to the same standards," argues Kevin Reilly, who helped create FX’s gritty image, before becoming NBC’s president.

• The ability to focus on one or two shows. Most cable channels fill their schedules with reruns and movies, then lavish production and marketing attention on a few originals, "Even though I never watched ’The Shield,’ I knew exactly what time it was on and what night, because you couldn’t walk around New York without seeing giant Michael Chiklis posters," Leary says of one FX series. "So I was impressed by that."

• No requirement to churn out 22 or more episodes a year. HBO is happy with 13 episodes; others range from the six-episode "The Grid" on TNT to 15 episodes for this season’s "The Shield" on FX.

• A fondness for smaller niches. The science-fiction audience is too small for broadcast but just fine for cable.

With that in mind, here’s a look at summer cable dramas:

Mondays: "The Grid," 8 p.m., TNT. The two-hour opener (July 19) set up a tense situation with agents from the United States (Julianna Margulies, Dylan McDermott) and Britain (Jemma Redgrave) facing savvy terrorists. There are two one-hour episodes coming up, followed by a two-hour finale Aug. 9.

Tuesdays: "Nip/Tuck," 9 p.m., FX. Many have praised this series, which centers on two doctors in a posh Miami plastic-surgery practice. Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon star with Joely Richardson (Jemma Redgrave’s cousin) as Walsh’s wife. Vanessa Redgrave (Joely’s mom, Jemma’s aunt, Lynn Redgrave’s sister, Natasha Richardson’s mom, Liam Neeson’s mother-in-law, etc.) has a recurring role.

Wednesdays: "Rescue Me," 9 p.m., FX. Leary’s show may become one of TV’s best dramas.

Thursdays: Nothing. Maybe that means we should turn to Comedy Central, catching "The Graham Norton Effect," a talk show, at 9 p.m., and, as always, "The Daily Show" at 10 p.m.

Fridays: "Monk," 9 p.m., USA Network; also, "Stargate SG-1," 8 p.m., and Stargate Atlantis," 9 p.m., Sci Fi Channel. "Monk" is a gem with Tony Shalhoub as an obsessive crime-solver who’s fearful of ... well, everything. The two sci-fi shows are solid enough.

Saturdays: "Missing," 9 p.m., Lifetime. Last season, this show wasn’t much fun; now it has fresh crackle with Vivica A. Fox on board. Replacing Gloria Reuben, Fox plays an experienced FBI agent with an attitude. Caterina Scorsone plays a new one who has psychic visions. Together, they make "Missing" work.

Sundays: This is the feast day for cable viewers. At 8 p.m., "The 4400" - a deeply layered sci-fi series - continues its short trial run on the USA Network. That’s the same time that the classy "Six Feet Under" is on HBO (it reruns throughout the week, however). At 9 p.m. is the battle of the deads with "The Dead Zone" on USA and the return of the witty "Dead Like Me" on Showtime. Both face off against Joely Fisher as an adoptive aunt who doubles as a private eye in Lifetime’s "Wild Card."