‘Tis the season for networks to sweat

How could it possibly be summer? My car’s tires haven’t melted to the driveway yet, and the tailor is still working overtime letting out my Speedo.

Well, with NBC running low on original programming, the network has declared today the start of its "All-American Summer." And despite trying to include the rest of the country, it has a distinct Las Vegas feel.

Local mixed martial arts fighter Gina "Crush" Carano is among the returning spandex-clad warriors on "American Gladiators" (8 p.m. today, KVBC-TV, Channel 3).

Be on the lookout for Vegas rounds during "America’s Got Talent" (returns 9 p.m. June 17) and "Last Comic Standing" (returns 9:30 p.m. May 22), the latter of which will offer the winner a spot in "Jubilee!" at Bally’s.

And "Celebrity Circus" (9 p.m. June 11) — which will teach the likes of Antonio Sabato Jr., Christopher Knight and Rachel Hunter to perform such feats as the German wheel, the Chinese poles and the wheel of death — brings to mind a certain French-Canadian company that has overtaken the Strip.

Over on Fox, there will be a Vegas round on "So You Think You Can Dance" (returns 8 p.m. May 22, KVVU-TV, Channel 5), and you can almost count on seeing our fair city on "Cops" and "America’s Most Wanted," which promise new episodes throughout the summer.

Away from Vegas, Fox also has new episodes of "The Moment of Truth" (8 p.m. May 27, Channel 5) and "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" (8 p.m. June 12). CBS will continue to flog "Big Brother" (8 p.m. July 13, KLAS-TV, Channel 8). ABC is dusting off "The Bachelorette" (9 p.m. May 19, KTNV-TV, Channel 13) and "The Mole" (10 p.m. May 26). And NBC has raided cable’s USA for "Nashville Star" (9:30 p.m. June 9, Channel 3).

But it’s on the summer’s new reality shows where things get strange.

Six contestants will compete each week for $100,000 on "Dance Machine" (8 p.m. June 27, Channel 13). "Imagine a 70-year-old grandmother," the press release says, "in a dance-off with a 25-year-old gravedigger to the tune of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller.’ "

Contestants will risk permanent injury for a chance at $50,000 on "Wipeout" (8 p.m. June 24, Channel 13). ABC promises its obstacle course will cause "the most crashes, face plants, impacts and wipeouts ever seen on television."

There’s no telling what the prize is on "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" (9 p.m. June 24, Channel 13), which will send 10 Americans to Japan to compete on one of the country’s over-the-top game shows — think the Chris Farley sketch with the jumper cables hooked to his groin — to see who best adapts to Japanese culture.

Compared to those three, CBS seems stuck in a time warp with the Regis Philbin-hosted "Million Dollar Password" (8 p.m. June 1, Channel 8). Promising appearances by "some of the hottest stars," the network delivers … Betty White. In the only modern touch aside from the prize money, Monique Coleman from "High School Musical" tags along for the kiddies.

You could watch someone play a parlor game with a "High School Musical" star, or you could watch someone become a "High School Musical" star. Or something like that. "High School Musical: Get in the Picture" (8 p.m. July 20, Channel 13), hosted by Nick Lachey, is looking for someone to appear in a music video at the end of "High School Musical 3: Senior Year."

Nick’s brother, Drew Lachey, is among the celebrities trying to win money for charity by betting on the outcome of what sound like "Stupid Human Tricks" knockoffs on "Wanna Bet" (9 p.m. July 21, Channel 13).

People won’t be the only ones forced to perform stupid tricks. "Greatest American Dog" (8 p.m. July 10, Channel 8) will put 12 owners and their pets in the same house, where they’ll compete in weekly challenges.

And all the tricks in the world probably won’t make people care about the jingle-writing competition creatively known as "Jingles" (9 p.m. July 27, Channel 8).

But easily the summer’s what-were-they-thinking?-est series, the one sure to have you wondering what’s on cable, is "The Baby Borrowers" (8 p.m. June 25, Channel 3). The series, which was supposed to air months ago, puts five teen couples, described by NBC as "nervous" and "fumbling," in charge of caring for honest-to-God babies. A few days later, they’ll trade the babies for toddlers, then pre-teens, then teens and, finally, senior citizens.

The teens are supposed to learn about parenting, so here’s their first lesson: Keep your "kids" away from pretty much all of this mess.

Christopher Lawrence’s Life on the Couch column appears on Mondays. E-mail him at

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