Some of TV’s biggest phenomena — “American Idol,” “Survivor,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” — all started in the summer.
But these days, the broadcast networks are more likely to fill their summer schedules with cheap, goofy reality shows. (Not that the above mentioned shows aren’t goofy, they just aren’t cheap.)
For the past several years, though, CBS has set aside a few hours each week for cheap, goofy dramas. This year’s new entrant is the asteroid-is-about-to-destroy-Earth-but-there’s-still-time-for-plenty-of-sexual-shenanigans series “Salvation” (9 p.m. Wednesday).
It follows the template set up by previous summer series with a big concept — “Extant’s” astronaut who returns to Earth pregnant after a 13-month solo mission; “Zoo’s” animals that are inexplicably attacking humans; “Under the Dome’s” residents who are living under a dome — explained through hacky dialogue.
I hate-watched “Zoo” for the first season and a half until I just began hating to watch it. (Please, Hollywood, find something better for James Wolk to do.)
“Salvation,” meanwhile, starts out ridiculous, and there’s nowhere to go but down.
“How many ways are there to die?” Darius Tanz (Santiago Cabrera), identified as a “tech pioneer,” asks a group of MIT students. “I’m talking about the big ones: pandemics, nuclear wars, global warming, fast food.”
Meanwhile, MIT grad student Liam Cole (Charlie Rowe) is creating a map of space and uses his knowledge to seduce a stranger in a bar with his talk of “celestial bodies.” If you’ve ever seen a TV show, you just know the next scene is going to involve them stumbling through a doorway while tearing off each other’s clothes. Spoiler alert: It does.
Then there’s Grace Barrows (Jennifer Finnigan), a Department of Defense public affairs liaison, who’s sleeping with her boss, Harris Edwards (Ian Anthony Dale), the deputy secretary of defense. She’s requested a transfer, though, to be closer to her college-bound daughter. “I’ll miss having you here,” Edwards tells her. “You’ll have me everywhere else,” she responds.
Tanz takes an interest in Cole — not THAT kind of interest, although it’s still early, so you never know — when Cole discovers that in 186 days an asteroid will collide with Earth, and we’re all going to die.
As Tanz — who’s like Tony Stark without any of the wit or panache — boasts of his new protege, “he arrived at the same conclusion as NASA, but his computer did it autonomously, while he was getting laid.”
I’m already rooting for the asteroid.
Shows to know for the week ahead
■ Director Allen Hughes spent three years filming Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, the unlikely partners behind Death Row Records, Interscope Records and Beats Electronics for the four-part documentary “The Defiant Ones” (9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, HBO).
■ The Rio headliners will be searching for more magicians with tricks they can’t explain in the fourth-season premiere of “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” (8 p.m. Thursday, The CW).
■ Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, Nat Faxon and Fred Savage are among those playing a group of Harvard graduates still struggling to grow up in the comedy “Friends from College” (Friday, Netflix).
■ A young William Shakespeare (Laurie Davidson) is the focus of the drama “Will” (9 p.m. Monday, TNT), a period drama with a modern soundtrack that traces the playwright’s reckless, tortured early years.
Contact Christopher Lawrence at email@example.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.