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It's summer; time to put on shorts

06/25/2008 12:00 AM

06/23/2008 3:07 PM

Summer's wave of new TV shows is about to hit full force: a blend of reality, sexy drama and downright silliness. Once the dead zone of the year, summer has become TV's short season of experimentation. Here are five diverse programs that hold promise for the long, hot days ahead.

Debuts 9 p.m. June 24, ABC

If you've watched Japanese game shows on YouTube, you know the genre is “American Gladiators” times zany. Ten Americans, including Mary Greenawalt of Matthews and Bilenda Madison of Charlotte, are flown to Japan to compete in outrageous challenges. Among the stunts: Dangling from a harness and scooping up stuffed animals while yelling directions to the blindfolded crane operator.

Call it: Pure escape.

Debuts 10 p.m. July 17, Speed channel

Speed focuses on the Chicago O'Hare Towing & Recovery, which works in the busiest transportation hub of the Midwest and answers about 200 calls a day. At the center of the family owned business is Bill Gratzianna, who pulls no punches either at a wreck or when angry motorists come to reclaim their towed-away cars. For the Gratzianna clan, business is always picking up – dramatically.

CALL IT: Smashing.

Debuts 10 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, Tru TV

It's a race to the bottom on three competing rigs in the steaming Texas oil fields. Drillers fight breakdowns, flying chains and each other (in bars, after quitting time). This reality series shows how dirty a job it is to tap oil deposits and keep a crew of headstrong roughnecks in line. Like the Texas scrubland, the personalities are outsize.

CALL IT: Pumped.

Debuted June 16, 10:30 p.m., Showtime

This saucy British import stars Billie Piper (“ Doctor Who”) as Belle du Jour, a witty London call girl whose parents think she works nights as a legal secretary. She enjoys her work, but after a few years of leading a double life, the lines begin to blur between her daytime and evening personas. “Diary” is based on the memoirs of a British escort; the series was an immediate hit in the United Kingdom.

CALL IT: Sinsational.

Debuts 8 p.m. July 10, CBS

It was just a matter of time before the talent show genre went to the dogs. CBS will board 12 of the nation's smartest pooches and their masters in a home. Each week, the teams will learn new tricks, and the weakest will be eliminated. Best team will win $250,000. Hosting “GAD” will be zoologist Jarod Miller, co-host of Animal Planet's “PetFinder.”

CALL IT: Pet-lover's pleasure.

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