A Survival Guide to Summer TV: 'Political Animals' and more

When the going gets tough the tough get cable television.

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Now that every recap, wrap-up, and reflection from last week's slew of season finales has been read, a sense of panic begins to swell: What the heck am I going to watch for the next three months?

While summer has the reputation of being the season for terrible television—with The Choice, a reality dating show contest rip-off or the reality singing contest show The Voice, perhaps scraping rock bottom—some diamonds emerge from primetime programming rough as cable and premium channels try to capitalize on the success of some of this year's biggest network TV hits (all times are EDT):

If you danced along to Smash, try Bunheads (Mondays, 9 pm, ABC Family)

The small-town-girl-tries-to-make-it-in-the-big-city formula of Smash is reversed in Bunheads, created by Gilmore Girls' Amy Sherman-Palladino. True Broadway fans will appreciate Tony award winner Sutton Foster playing a classical ballerina turned Vegas show girl who follows a suitor to his small coastal town. There she must deal with his overbearing mother, a ballet teacher herself, with plenty of dancing and witty banner along the way. (Started June 11, the pilot can be seen here.)

If Revenge was your guilty pleasure, try Dallas (Wednesdays, 9 pm, TNT)

The money, backstabbing, and family drama that made the Hamptons-set Revenge a hit is transplanted to Texas in this reboot of the iconic 1980s primetime soap. The original Ewing family, played by Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, and Larry Hagman, returns, joined by a new generation of oil tycoon trouble makers. (Starts with a two-hour premiere June 13.)

If West Wing made you fall in love with politics, try The Newsroom (Sundays, 10 pm, HBO)

Aaron Sorkin is back: Expect lots of snappy dialogue, the "walk-and-talk," and political idealism in his new HBO show Newsroom, in which Jeff Daniels stars as a cable news anchor who must rediscover what it means to be a journalist in today's the hyper-partisan, 24-hour media mudfest. (Starts June 24.)

If you loved The Office back when it was British, try Twenty Twelve (Thursdays, 9 pm, BBC America)

Making its way across the Atlantic, the BAFTA-nominated comedy Twenty-Twelve follows the Olympic Deliverance Commission, the bumbling team of organizers in charge of planning the 2012 London Olympics. They must deal with tricky infrastructure, difficult athletes, and PR disasters; imagine Dunder Mifflin trying to pull off the largest athletic event in the world, all while drumming up excitement for this summer's Olympic Games. (Starts June 28.)

If The Good Wife kept you glued to your couch, try Political Animals (Sundays, 10 pm, USA)

Sigourney Weaver plays a secretary of state and a former first lady (sound familiar?) who must juggle the stresses of her job, a hungry press, and the needs of her family. This six-part miniseries promises the politics, scandal, and power recognizable in both The Good Wife and in Washington today. (Starts July 15.)

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  • Tierney Sneed is associate editor of U.S. News Opinion. E-mail her at tsneed@usnews.com.