Network TV this summer has been unlike any other. Aside from the typical reality fare (So You Think You Can Dance, Big Brother, The Bachelorette), there has been a plethora -- that's right, a plethora -- of scripted dramas. Rookie Blue may have been the season's staple for the past four seasons, not to mention my guilty pleasures Teen Wolf and Pretty Little Liars, but this year, there has also been Under The Dome, Motive, Crossing Lines and Mistresses.
By far, though, my favourite show this summer has been The Fosters. It's my first season-long commitment to an ABC Family/Spark show (though I have been tempted by Switched At Birth and the recently cancelled Bunheads and The Lying Game) and I'm glad I invested in it.
In case you don't know what the family drama is all about, it centres on a lesbian couple -- police officer Stef (Teri Polo) and school administer Lena (Sherri Saum) -- with a small litter: Stef's biological son, Brandon (David Lambert), with her ex-husband and partner Mike (Danny Nucci); former foster kids-now-adopted twins Jesus (Jake T. Austin) and Marianna (Cierra Ramirez); and new fosters Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Jude (Hayden Byerly).
I can see how some people might find the series forced and trying too hard to be relevant (two lesbians, one bi-racial, one white, raising a multi-ethnic mix of biological, adopted and foster children -- how novel!), but The Fosters is anything but. The show represents much more than a modern family; it's a real one. It's the way Stef and Lena interact and fight with one another, how they discipline their children and don't always agree that makes it such a relatable, watchable show. The series is often promoted as being executive-produced by Jennifer Lopez, but it's unnecessary. J.Lo or not, The Fosters is great television.
It may not be as flashy as some of the network's other programs, but that's what makes The Fosters such a pleasure to watch. Sure, it had its share of drama and touched on things like teenage sex, underage drinking and rape, but it managed to not be preachy and after-school special-like.
It's truly an ensemble drama that may centre on the moms, but the kids have gotten their time to shine. Despite how well-treated and loved Callie is, you can still see the doubt in her eyes, like she was waiting for the other shoe to drop the entire time. It might have something to do with her unhealthy attraction to Brandon, and vice versa, which came to a head in the Season 1 finale. Even though Stef and Lena told Callie and Jude that they wanted to permanently add the kids to the brood, Callie still felt the need to put it all in jeopardy when she decided to go for what she believed she deserved -- and she and Brandon got all kissy-kissy. Of course, it all went to hell when Jude witnessed it, and called out his sister for being selfish and wrecking anything good that could happen to them. The kid was right, particularly considering what went down with former "brother" Liam (Brandon W. Jones), Callie knew it, and to protect her brother, she sneaked off in the middle of the night, leaving the first real home she's known in a long time, maybe ever.
I'm not sure how the series would have addressed the kiss, so Callie skipping town with her ex, Wyatt (Alex Saxon), who was moving to Indiana to be with his mom, made sense. It also leaves a lot for future story and hopefully the next time we see her, she'll realize sweet and charming Wyatt is the guy for her (I may be in the minority but I've always found the Callie/Brandon dynamic a bit icky and even though their lip-lock was inevitable, I was still uncomfortable watching it).
The finale featured Stef and Lena finally getting married, and while Marianna didn't get a ton of screen time, she did get to dedicate the oh-so-appropriate "Same Love" to her moms, which kick-started the entire family dancing together. It could've been a cheesy moment, but it was sweet and touching and a wee bit awkward as Callie and Brandon couldn't look at each other. The saddest scene of the episode (and Polo's best) was Stef's confrontation with her dad (Sam McMurray), telling him that she didn't want her at her wedding if he didn't support her relationship 100 percent, and I was more than a little surprised that he didn't show. We also met Lena's dad (Stephen Collins), who got ordained online to marry the women (a nice nod to Rev. Camden), and it wasn't shocking that her mom, Dana (Lorraine Toussaint), didn't exactly jibe with Stef's mom, Sharon (Annie Potts). Speaking of, can Potts be on every episode? Love her.
In other news, we learned that Jesus' girlfriend and Marianna's best friend Lexi (Bianca A. Santos) is going to Honduras to visit her sick grandmother -- but unbeknownst to her, she and her family aren't coming back. Also, Stef told Mike what really when down when he shot Ana's boyfriend, but we still don't know what's going to happen with his job as a cop. I hope he finds a way to stick around because Mike adds an interesting dynamic to the show.
All in all, despite the cliffhanger ending, the finale mainly focused on its best quality: Stef and Lena's love story. It showcased a real, honest relationship that comes with both good and bad. And while there aren't teenage pregnancies (yet) or twins trading lives, it's the small things and quiet, subtle moments that make The Fosters so heartwarming and addictive. It might be seen as groundbreaking but when you get down to the heart of it, they're just two people who love each other. Throw in their increasingly growing, increasingly complicated family, and you can't ask for a better show, summer or anytime.
'The Fosters' returns with new episodes in January 2014 on ABC Spark in Canada and on ABC Family in the U.S.
<em>Series premieres Wed., May 1 at 8:30 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know</strong>: Starring J.K. Simmons and Kyle Bornheimer, "Family Tools" centers on a guy who returns home to take over his dad's hardware business when he finds himself jobless.
<em>Season 10 premieres Wed., May 1 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong> What To Know</strong>: This season there will be a "Breaking Bad" themed episode and the crew will tackle myths such as "Are women better than men at multitasking?" and "Which is more sanitary: drying your hands with a hand dryer or a hand towel?"
<em>Series premieres Wed., May 1 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know</strong>: Hosted by Kal Penn, this reality competition show will give contestants 30 minutes to solve a daunting engineering challenge.
<em>Series premieres Tues., May 7 at 10:30 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know:</strong> The series follows Zach (Bo Burnham), who hires a camera crew to film him throughout his daily life as a part of his quest to become an overnight celebrity - even though he possesses no real talent. From Zach's attempts to become a celebrity chef or a ring-tone recording artist to purposefully going missing, he'll try any avenue to get noticed and stop at nothing until he reaches fame.
<em>Series premieres Thurs., May 2 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know:</strong> For the legions who can't say goodbye to "Jersey Shore" just yet, the legacy continues as we follow GTLer Vinny into his sure-to-be-scintillating home life. The premise has random "celebrities" dropping by his house for impromptu interviews -- and Vinny going to visit their homes, too.
<em>Series premieres Mon., May 6 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know:</strong> Bravo's new eight-episode docu-series follows four newlywed couples and their most personal moments, from their wedding day to their first anniversary. There's bi-coastal Christian couple Kimberly and Alaska; domestic partners Jeff and Blair, who are 16 years apart; Indian pop star Tina and her modeled-turned-tech-geek husband Tarz; and suburbanites Kathryn and John.
<em>Season 2 premieres Wed., May 8 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> Because we're all so fascinated by real estate that we could never realistically afford, this show is returning for a second season. C'mon, it's fun to live vicariously.
<em>Season 6 premieres Thurs., May 9 at 8 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> With Season 5 episodes titled "Hillbilly Wipeout," "Gorillas In Our Midst" and "Hotties vs. Nerds 2.0," there can only be more magic in store for Season 6. Viewers of all stripes love watching people hurt themselves in new and remarkable ways.
<em>Series premieres Sun., May 12 at 10:30 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know:</strong> "Bridesmaids" funnyman Chris O'Dowd stars in Christopher Guest's ("Best in Show") new documentary-style series about a hapless thirtysomething trying to find meaning in his life by tracing his heritage.
<em>Season 4 premieres Sun., May 12 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> We were hoping that those nails and that hair would be around for another season -- and our wish came true! Theresa Caputo is back, communicating with the dead, for at least another 30 episodes.
<em>Season 2 premieres Sun., May 12 at10 p.m. ET .</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> Speculation and accusations about the show’s “reality” aside, “Breaking Amish” was a hit for TLC. Now, the five Amish and Mennonite rebels, who moved to New York City in the show’s first season, are headed south to Florida ... but trouble seems to follow them wherever they go.
<em>Season 2 premieres Thurs., May 9 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off: </strong> In Season 1, we met the owners and employees of JJK Security in small-town Ringgold, Georgia, and Season 2 will offer more insight into the unscripted lives of this unusual group, including Dennis' ongoing journey in his gender transition from female to male.
<em>Season 10 premieres Tues., May 14 at 8 p.m. ET. </em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> After a season of intense competition, Eliana Girard and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp took home first place wins, both for ballet, while Tiffany Maher was the female runner-up for jazz and Cyrus Spencer was the male runner-up for popping/animation.
<em>Series premieres Mon., May 20 at 8:30 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know: </strong> The Fox comedy centers on estranged siblings Henry (Scott Foley), Chloe (Becki Newton) and Jimmy (T.J. Miller) as they attempt to "rediscover their lives" with the money their father left them.
<em>Season 4 premieres Wed., May 22 at 8 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> The home cook competition crowned its third consecutive female winner last season, Christine Ha. Cool fact: She is legally blind. No telling what twists they'll have this season.
<em>Season 4 premieres Thurs., May 23 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> The last time we saw the cops at 15 Division, they were all in the midst of making some serious decisions about their lives -- including career calls, a possible transfer and, for Andy, a major emotional choice.
<em>Series premieres Thurs., May 23 at 8 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know:</strong> After a near-death experience, Beth (Anne Heche) is revived only to realize she now has a direct line to God. Of course, her husband Tom (Michael Landes) is skeptical and dismissive -- but when inexplicable things begin to happen, everyone's beliefs are tested.
<em>Season 9 premieres Mon., May 20 at 9 p.m ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off: </strong> Emily Maynard of North Carolina thought she'd finally found love in Jef Holm, but after only being engaged for a short time, they broke up. Here's to hoping "Bachelor" contestant Desiree Hartsock has better luck!
<em>Season 4 premieres Mon., May 26 at 12:01 a.m. PT.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> The Bluths are finally back, but there's no telling where and how we'll actually find them. One thing we do know: Each of the nine main characters will have their own episode in this season's 15-episode order, chronicling what they've been up to the last seven years. Some may cross over, but they'll all be complimentary -- and they're all meant to set up an eventual "AD" movie. Considering the season will all be available the day it premieres, it sounds pretty perfect for a marathon viewing.
<em>Season 4 premieres Mon., May 27 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> In the Season 3 finale, Jim (Matt Passmore) proposed to Callie (Kiele Sanchez), even though she passed her board exam and may move to Atlanta. But she didn't respond yet ...
<em>Season 2 premieres Mon., May 27 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> Did Walt Longmire murder his wife's killer? Season 1 saw flashbacks of the Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, that would support the theory, but when the FBI asked him in the Season 1 finale, he simply said, "No."
<em>Season 3 premieres Tues., May 28 at 8 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know:</strong> As in the seasons before it, "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition" will center on a group of people losing large amounts of weight over the course of a year through diet and exercise.
<em>Series premieres Tues., May 28 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know</strong>: The six-part series takes viewers behind the scenes of the Brooklyn District Attorney's office. ADA Kathleen Collins (pictured) is just one of the profiled attorneys. "When you’re on trial, there’s never a day that you really go home and don’t feel stressed," she said.
<em>Series premieres Wed., May 29 at 8 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know:</strong> Based on a popular British reality competition, this new Jeff Foxworthy-hosted show features 10 home cooks vying for the title of best amateur baker in America, as well as a contract to publish their own cookbook and a $250,000 grand prize. Not bad for a couple of pies work, huh?
<em>Season 3 premieres Wed., May 29 at 8 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> Joe married Russian businesswoman Elena, but then she received a call that prompted her to fly back to Russia to testify for one of her innocent colleagues. The Season 2 finale ended with Mel -- who officiated the wedding -- and Joe toasting to the next "Mrs. Longo," wherever she may be.
<em>Season 2 premieres Wed., March 29 at 8:30 p.m. ET. </em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> Ben and Riley's friend Katie faced some major drama when they found themselves in bed together after a night of partying. The only problem with their little tryst was that Katie was supposed to get married (to someone else) the next day. Luckily, they soon find out that nothing happened, and Riley and Ben share a romantic dance.
<em>Series premieres Wed., May 29 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know: </strong> The half-hour comedy clip show, hosted by "Baby Daddy" star Melissa Peterman, features the funniest, most outrageous and memorable dances caught on camera. The dancers from the top two clips of the week compete on stage for a chance to win $10,000.
<em>Season 3 premieres Sun., June 2 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> Season 2 ended with Rosie Larsen's Aunt Terry being arrested for her murder. Detectives Linden (Mireille Enos) and Holder (Joel Kinnaman) got a call about a new case, but Linden wanted no part of it. Season 3 picks up a year later, with Holder searching for a runaway girl and discovering a string of murders connected to one of Linden's old cases. Though Linden is no longer a detective, she inevitably gets pulled back in.
<em>Season 5 premieres Sun., June 2 at 8 p.m. ET.</em> <strong> Where We Left Off</strong>: The "Housewives" were fractured -- to say the least -- but the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy brings new beginnings for the first ladies of the Garden State. Of course things could certainly go sour yet again.
<em>Series premieres Sun., June 2 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know</strong>: The reality series follows six college-educated women from affluent areas of Long Island who are still living with their families.
<em>Season 8 premieres Sun., May 20 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> Kim and Kanye’s relationship was just breaking the Internet, and now we’ll see it all on screen -- including their baby drama. Khloe’s fertility issues continue, but new “castmember” Brody Jenner -- Bruce’s son from a previous marriage who is no stranger to reality TV -- looks to be this season’s biggest diva.
<em>Series premieres Mon., June 3 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know:</strong> Soapy drama "Mistresses" stars Alyssa Milano, Yunjin Kim, Rochelle Aytes and Jes Macallan as four friends all struggling with different issues in their love lives, with men (including Jason George) and other women complicating matters. And as the title suggests, some of them are flirting with disaster and becoming mistresses themselves.
<em>Series premieres Mon., June 3 at 9 p.m. ET. </em> <strong>What To Know: </strong>This new one-hour drama from executive producer Jennifer Lopez follows a multi-ethnic, blended family, being raised by two working moms, as they welcome another troubled child into their home.
<em>Season 3 premieres Mon., June 3 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> At the end of last season, Allison broke up with Scott, Peter warned Isaac and Derek that a new pack made up entirely of Alpha werewolves was coming, and said Alphas trapped Boyd and Erica in the woods, leaving viewers uncertain of their fate. Season 3 will pick up four months later, and focus on the introduction of the Alpha pack and the havoc they wreak.
<em>Season 2 premieres Mon., June 3 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off: </strong> Throughout Sesaon 1 we got to know Auti, Mia, Tiphany and Chelsie, four women living in Hollywood who also happen to all be in wheelchairs. Season 2 will follow the foursome's new loves and new adventures, including 21-year-old Chelsie's decision to move out of her parents' home.
<em>Season 8 premieres Tues., June 4 at 9 p.m. ET</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> Last season, traveling dog act Olate Dogs was crowned the winner. This year, a new crop of performers will compete for the $1 million prize. Spice Girl Mel B. and Heidi Klum join the judging panel with Howie Mandel and Howard Stern.
<em>Season 7 premieres Thursday, June 6 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> In an effort to get more information on Riley, Michael sent Bly to tail her to a meeting with the cartel kingpin, but a cartel member disguised as security blew up Bly's car, killing him and destroying the evidence they collected on Riley. Michael later incapacitated Riley and got her to agree to confess. Then, Fiona, Madeline, Sam and Jesse were released from their prison cells. Michael explained he "did what [he] had to do," but Fiona corrected him, saying, "You did what you wanted to do."
<em>Series premieres Thurs., June 6 at 8 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know:</strong> Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is producing this competition series to test the strength, courage and integrity of a diverse group of nine individuals. Each week, the contestants will be challenged physically, mentally and morally as they try to prove that they truly deserve the title of "The Hero" and the life-changing grand prize that goes with it.
<em>Series premieres Thurs., June 6 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know:</strong> Contestants on this "Survivor"-esque reality show are dropped into the wilderness with only a bottle of water and a GPS device on a mission to find a briefcase filled with $100,000.
<em>Season 2 premieres Sunday, April 21 at 9 p.m. </em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> According to series lead Rachel Nichols, Season 2 is all about responsibility. Kiera, Alec and even the terrorists at Liber8 all have to make intense choices that could change the very fabric of their worlds.
<em>Season 8 premieres Sun., June 30 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off: </strong> Deb finally learned the truth about Dexter's dark secret, and took a page out of her step-brother's book in the shocking season finale. Can she live with what she did? And can Dexter escape the series without being brought to justice in this final season?
<em>Season 5 premieres Sat., June 8 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> Our favorite supernatural threesome is back from across the pond for their fifth and final season where they'll finally confront the Devil, once and for all. No biggie.
<em>Series premiere Sat., June 8 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know:</strong> The 12-episode British series follows the epic sea journey of the flawed hero Sinbad (Elliot Knight), who embarks on a quest to rid himself of a curse and embrace his destiny. Look for "Lost" alum Naveen Andrews as Lord Akbari.
<em>Series premieres Sat., June 8 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong> What To Know</strong>: The 13-episode first season follows a team of animal experts and scientists that investigate paranormal events.
<em>Season 3 premieres Sun., June 9 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> Last season ended with the arrival of a new species of alien, and Anne became pregnant with Tom's child. Season 3 will explore whether the new alien is on the side of the humans or has another dark purpose in mind. We'll also learn what happened to Hal while he was unconscious, and what that might mean for the rebellion.
<em>Season 2 summer premiere Mon., June 10 at 8 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off</strong>: "Switched At Birth" left on a big cliffhanger: Daphne struggled to keep the Carlton School for the Deaf open, John's campaign for office came to a startling halt and Emmett told Bay about Daphne and Noah's kiss.
<em>Season 2 premieres Mon., June 10 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off</strong>: Rusty became a ward of the state to the delight of everybody, and Captain Raydor continued to gain the trust and respect of the Major Crimes unit.
<em>Season 4 premieres Tues., June 11 at 8 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> Red Coat, who looked a whole lot like Ali, saved Emily, Aria, Hanna and Mona from a fire, while Spencer looked on in shock. The first episode of Season 4 is titled "A Is For A-L-I-V-E" and <a href="http://www.eonline.com/news/394204/spoiler-chat-scoop-on-pretty-little-liars-once-upon-a-time-revolution-new-girl-and-more" target="_hplink">E! News reports that viewers will meet Marion, Toby's mother</a>, who was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jaimie-etkin/pretty-little-liars-recap_b_2673316.html" target="_hplink">revealed to be dead in Season 3, Episode 18, "Dead To Me."</a> "All of the questions fans have will be answered," <a href="http://www.wetpaint.com/pretty-little-liars/articles/pretty-little-liars-star-sasha-pieterse-dishes-on-season-4-questions-will-be-answered-exclusive" target="_hplink">star Sasha Pieterse told Wetpaint Entertainment recently</a> of Season 4.
<em>Series premieres Tues., June 11 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>What To Know</strong>: 16-year-old Danny Desai (Avan Jogia) returns to his hometown after killing his aunt five years prior. While trying to rekindle old relationships (Denise Richards plays Danny's mother) and fit in with his judgmental peers, Danny becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a fellow classmate. Though the pilot already aired after the "Pretty Little Liars" Season 3 finale, ABC Family is re-airing it to kick off the season.
<em>Season 5 premieres Wed., June 12 at 9 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off: </strong> Evan and Paige's bachelor and bachelorette parties both ended up being in Vegas, making for a comical Season 4 finale. Now, after recuperating from brain surgery all winter, Hank is ready to get back to work this summer, but HankMed is busier than ever. "Go On" star Laura Benanti recurs.
<em>Season 3 premieres Wed., June 12 at 10 p.m. ET.</em> <strong>Where We Left Off:</strong> In the dramatic Season 2 finale, Rex came out as gay. When the Hawks found out, it stirred up a huge amount of controversy, but Rex eventually gave an inspiring speech that led the team to victory.
Follow Denette Wilford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DenetteWilford