Ah, summer entertainment. At the movies, Batman saves the day! In music, Sonic Youth rocks Lollapalooza! And on network TV…um, well, there’s always ABC’s Jim Thorpe Pro Sports Awards. Yes, on the Big Four, the next two months mean rerun hell peppered with the occasional snore-inducing special. So now seems the perfect time to explore the lesser-known reaches of the cable box, to boldly scout out alternative shows, from strange to smart, from sexy to thoroughly cheesy. To start you off, here are EW’s picks from TV’s outer limits:
1 Suzanne Somers did it in bed. Corbin Bernsen did it in a storage room. And soap star Vanessa Marcil did it in the bathtub. On fX’s Breakfast Time — a fast-and-loose retort to snoozy morning talk shows — celebrity guests often desert that boring old couch to do their interviews in more adventurous places. It’s an easy trip. The show’s set is actually a seven-room apartment, complete with working shower and washer-dryer. And as befits the unorthodox setting, hosts Tom Bergeron and Laurie Hibberd are joined by an unusual partner: Bob, a sarcastic, wart-covered puppet who’s not nearly as annoying as you might imagine. Boasts Bergeron, ”We’ve got a montage of celebrities — both male and female — planting a good wet one on Bob’s felt lips.”
2 As if the words cubic zirconia aren’t funny enough: On QVC, host Kathy Levine rivals Roseanne as the most amusing woman on the tube, hawking everything from fake diamonds to pantsuits with a heavy dose of shtick. The chatty, pearl-laden peddler will accuse a cameraman of drooling on the equipment. She’ll tell a hirsute crew member he appears to be wearing a mohair blanket on his chest. She’ll show viewers her ideal cookware — a pot with a built-in phone for ordering out. ”I am a Ph.D. in the sizzle sell,” says Levine, who can now be seen on the channel’s cross-country tour, The Quest For the Best. ”It’s where you’re so adorable, people don’t realize you’re selling something.”
3 Saturday Night Live may be a Chris Farley-size mess, but if you know where to look, the night’s not a total wasteland. For a record-breaking 32 years, jowly actor Mario Kreutzberger (a.k.a. Don Francisco) has been hosting Sabado Gigante, a four-hour Spanish-language variety show, on Univision. And we do mean variety. You’ll see high-heeled balladeers, wacky Benny Hill-esque skits, game shows, travel segments, even tear-jerking confessionals à la Oprah. ”I got the idea from watching American television — Jack Paar, Art Linkletter, people like that,” Kreutzberger says, referring to shows he has far outlasted. Although the program is English-free, this spectacle transcends all languages.
4 USA’s Silk Stalkings has the most attractive corpses on television. None of that unpleasant NYPD Blue-style grit for this show. No, this guilty pleasure of a drama follows two gorgeous cops (Mitzi Kapture and Rob Estes, real-life husband of Melrose Place‘s Josie Bissett) as they solve murders among Palm Beach’s champagne set. Luckily, the lush scenery and mysteriously expensive police wardrobes aren’t blotted by messy murders: The victims always seem to die well-coiffed and in cheesecake-revealing positions. ”People say to me, ‘You know that episode where there’s that blond girl and she’s in a Jacuzzi and she’s with that senator and she dies?”’ says Kapture. ”And I always say, ‘Yes, but which one?”’