Reruns leaving you cold? Here's our guide to sizzling summer TV that will have you firing up the remote.

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Summer entertainment couldn’t be hotter! In the movies, Bruce Willis saves the world from a killer asteroid! In music, the women of Lilith burn up the stage! And on network TV…well, ABC debuted an Ernest movie. Yes, once again, the Big Four are on summer vacation, leaving us with reruns, newsmags, and two hours of that Southern-fried doofus. But don’t despair. There’s an alternative TV universe—a strange and wonderful world of cable, syndication, and PBS—just waiting to be discovered. here’s a travelogue to 20 offbeat TV destinations…

Rude Awakening
(SHOWTIME, AUG. 1, 11 P.M.; THEN SATURDAYS, 10:30-11 P.M.)

A cable antidote to Caroline, Susan, and the rest of network TV’s annoyingly earnest career gals, Awakening chucks the standard tribulations of a perky heroine for the much more titillating adventures of a single, slutty, alcoholic ex-teen star. Twin Peaks‘ Sherilyn Fenn plays Billie Frank, a sardonic and hard-living rich girl who can’t keep away from the booze or the boys. (After one liquor-lubricated fling she peeks under the covers and scolds herself: ”Bad genitals! Bad! Bad!”) Add some court-ordered sessions in rehab and guest appearances by the always angsty Richard Lewis and you’ve got the makings of an addiction-driven laugh- fest. ”It’s a black comedy,” explains Fenn. ”Billie thinks she’s okay. It’s ‘What the f—‘s wrong with everyone else? Have a drink. Take a Valium. Relax.’ ” Are you listening, Ms. McBeal? —Kristen Baldwin

The Crocodile Hunter
(ANIMAL PLANET, MONDAYS, THURSDAYS, AND SUNDAYS, 9-10 P.M.)

If your idea of a bitchin’ time is wading through swamps and having pissed-off crocs snap at your face, do we have a show for you. Hosted with hopped-up elan by Aussie wildlife guru Steve Irwin (the dude from Discovery’s Ten Deadliest Snakes special) and wife Terri, Hunter is an info-packed safari into the wide-ranging reptilian realm. But this is no docile croc-umentary. ”While most shows use long lenses, we get right up close so the audience feels like they’re smack in the middle of the bush,” says Irwin, who jumped his first critter at age 9. ”One time, a 10-foot saltwater croc grabbed me on the hand and—whap!—pulled me into the water. Luckily, I swung around and landed on his head, which gave him a bit of a shock and gave me just enough time to get away.” Now that’s escapist TV.—Dan Snierson

FANatic
(MTV, MONDAYS-FRIDAYS, 11-11:30 P.M.)

A younger, cooler take on the ’50s game show Queen for a Day, MTV’s sweet new series bestows upon celeb devotees a chance to ”interview” the object of their obsession. First you see part of the fans’ taped ”Pick me” campaigns—in which they profess undying, nearly stalker-like love for anyone from Susan Lucci to Shaquille O’Neal. (”I’d go Braveheart for Van Halen!” says one zealous applicant.) That’s followed by footage of the chosen ones wigging out. The resulting face-to-face gush-fest between idol and idolizer provides an oasis of kindness in today’s build-’em-up-to-tear-’em-down celebrity culture. ”These people are truly inspired by the stars they’re meeting,” explains Jeremiah Bosgang, MTV VP of original programming. ”So there’s some substance to their questions. It’s not just ‘Omigod, what was it like to blah blah blah?’ ” —Kristen Baldwin

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