A bundle of summer fare just dropped. Here are some short takes on what hits and what misses.
Mad Men (AMC, Thursdays, 9pm): You'd think that a series about the cutthroat world of Madison Avenue ad men would have a more clever title. Mad Men. Get it? Oh, never mind. You'll be too busy drooling over the stylish presentation of overt racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and bald-faced lying (cigarettes are good for you!) and realize, we've come a long way, baby. And yet, the cool execution of this series leaves me wondering: Are we supposed to feel warm nostalgia or frigid disdain for these men? Led by the dashing Jon Hamm as Don Draper, we see a hard-working ad man cornered in the corner office. His agency's biggest account is his. But how to make cigarettes sound healthy? He's stumped. It takes a hungry newbie biting at his heels (Vincent Kartheiser, Angel) for Draper to launch a Hail Mary idea at a meeting where he originally walked in with nothing (i.e., sell taste and sex appeal). Draper later returns to his suburban home exhausted but victorious. There is no son to explain himself to as in Thank You for Smoking. He did come to the defense of the sweet new secretary (Elisabeth Moss) whom the rival newbie shamelessly hit on, so maybe there is a human inside that ad man. It's definitely worth tuning in to find out.
The Kill Point (Spike, Sundays, 8pm): John Leguizamo stars with Donnie Wahlberg in this eight-hour miniseries about a bank heist gone wrong. Leguizamo and his crew of war in Iraq vets are the robbers. Wahlberg leads the cops. At the end of the first episode, Wahlberg's character is replaced by an FBI agent, leaving him time to diagram sentences. Don't ask.
Side Order of Life (Lifetime, Sundays, 7pm): Why, oh why, can't it be the bright-eyed blonde who's dying of cancer instead of the feisty gal-pal? Marisa Coughlan plays the bright-eyed blonde. Diana-Maria Riva is the gal-pal. I miss her already.
State of Mind (Lifetime, Sundays, 8pm): Lili Taylor is one of those marvelous actresses you wish would get top billing once in a while. She finally does here, playing a therapist whose life crashes when she finds out her husband is sleeping with their marriage counselor. What could be filled with classic Lifetime angst, Taylor elevates to something emotionally honest, raw, and sometimes charming.
Burn Notice (USA, Thursdays, 9pm): Curiously appealing dramedy about a lone-wolf spy who's been burned, meaning the government has cut him off cold. No money, no identity, no protection, he's forced to become an overqualified private eye to make a living while he gets to the bottom of why he was left out in the cold. He reluctantly joins forces with two other former spies, one a middle-aged slacker played by Bruce Campbell, the other a beautiful weapons expert who loves her guns and ammo (Gabrielle Anwar). Jeffrey Donovan stars.
The Bill Engvall Show (TBS, Tuesdays, 8pm): Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Greek (ABC Family, Mondays, 8pm): Lots of drinking, sexual situations, and tons of mean-spiritedness in this soapy drama about sororities and fraternities and the people who want to be in them.
On deck: My Boys (TBS), The Company (TNT), and The Business and The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman on IFC.
As always, stay tuned.
Who Says Austin Isn't Weird?
Public Access Community Television is celebrating 34 years in Austin. To mark the occasion, several of PACT's independent producers are organizing a Human Be-In on Sunday, July 29, from 2pm to 8pm. Show up, sing a song, read a poem, dance, give a shout-out ... all of it will be captured live (gulp!) for the six-hour open-mic shot in front of the PACT building at 1143 Northwestern Ave. For more information and a list of dos and don'ts, contact email@example.com or call 801-6430.