''Stargate: SG-1,'' ''The Contender,'' and ''Life on Mars'' are just some of the shows hitting the air this month

By EW Staff
June 02, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

sci fi | july 14 | 9 p.m.

GateWorld.net is to Stargate followers what the ancient circular rings are to the premise of the show: a portal (duh!). Back in 1999, SG-1 fanatic and recent college grad Darren Sumner founded the fansite out of his tiny apartment. Since then, it’s become the most respected Stargate gathering spot on the Web — 19,000 people are registered members. ”Many of our fans have literally grown up with our show,” says executive producer Brad Wright. ”They call themselves ‘gaters’.” Indeed, without its rabid following, SG-1 would not have seen the light of day, much less its 10th anniversary. The little sci-fi show that could pulls in an average of 2.2 million viewers on a budget half the size of series on the major networks. (Following SG-1, most viewers stay tuned for its spin-off Atlantis, returning for season 3).

So what’s kept fans coming back? ”I really think of this show as a comedy,” reveals Wright. You wouldn’t know it from all of that defending-the-Earth-from-hostile-forces stuff. But really, how funny was it in season 8 when Maj. Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) deadpanned the line, ”Look, I know this plan isn’t exactly foolproof. I have never plotted an intergalactic course before.”

The yuks keep coming: This season’s premiere practically plays like an SNL skit — one series of scenes has SG-1 members portrayed by marionette puppets as they flash back to alternate realities. ”There’s been a number of Wizard of Oz references over the years,” says executive producer Robert Cooper. ”We have a sequence that pays tribute.”

The in-joke should please fans, who can be a contentious bunch. One hotly debated topic: whether Carter and Maj. Gen. ”Jack” O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson, known to most of the world as MacGyver, is back this season for a few episodes) should meld minds. ”It’s a huge issue,” says Tapping. ”I don’t want to be just pining away for the lead guy.” Anderson agrees: ”I think there’s something sort of rewarding about them maintaining the friendship and the comradeship.”

Mixing business with pleasure may be a wedge issue for Stargate fiends, but the point is, on any universe they ”are perfectly normal men and women,” says Sumner. ”The typical picture of a sci-fi fan is a socially maladjusted 25-year-old who lives in his parents’ basement and takes his lightsaber to work.” Hey! Nothing wrong with that — as long as they carry the green one. — Vanessa Juarez

spike tv july 6 | 10 p.m.

How best to describe this Jackass-y ”extreme stunt comedy” that has assaulted Finnish TV audiences for years? Well, it’s…hold on — one of the show’s stars is calling from the Arctic Circle, and his name is Jukka. We’ll let him explain. ”Human dartboard, testicle mousetrap — these are the things that describe the Dudesons the best,” says Jukka, noting that the boys also hang out with their 600-pound pet porker named Britney. ”Still, at the end of the day, you can see the friendship and brotherhood between them. It’s a love story between four guys and a pig.”