Finale finish for summer TV

Bob Taylor

“The 4400,” “The Dead Zone,” “Monk”

In a summer when reality TV ruled, it’s refreshing to see USA, along with sister network Sci-Fi, releasing original dramatic programming that isn’t half bad.

After four years, “The Dead Zone” continues to find ways to make variations on its original concept, and, with the exception of the season premiere and finale, distanced itself from its sometimes inane driving mythology.

“The 4400” returned for a dozen episodes instead of the original miniseries’ six, and the results were great fun: ancillary characters were given the spotlight more often instead of the two-dimensional leads and more excellent stand-alone episodes were thrown into the mix.

Tony Shalhoub continues to give such a magnificent performance in “Monk” that it remains easy to overlook the pedestrian mysteries and predictable twists. Taylor Hackford’s Natalie was finally fleshed out after an uneven first half season with the show, and viewers now embrace her. One major fault is that USA separates the season so that we only get eight episodes before “Monk” takes a break until January, not giving us enough time to become more involved in the supporting characters or the mythology of the show.

“Big Brother”

CBS, Saturdays and Thursdays at 8, Tuesdays at 9

As an admitted “Big Brother” junkie, I jumped for joy at the beginning of the sixth season when producers added new races and got rid of the annoying old people that were a hallmark of previous seasons. Then Beau (the black guy) and Ivette (the fiery Latina) turned into two of the most disgusting characters in the history of the show, along with April, Jennifer and Maggie, who together formed the elitist bullying group The Friendship.

I kept rooting for the show’s first Iraqi player, Kaysar, because he was the smartest, funniest character to play the game since Danielle from “Big Brother 3,” but he was backstabbed by the disgusting players again and again until he got evicted. Now there are only two good guys, Janelle and Howie, left in the house, and both are on the block. This might be the first time CBS will have to shut down the show early because if all that is left are the evil backstabbers, ratings will tumble so fast it will be lucky to get six viewers.

“Brat Camp”

Did anyone else watch this crap? ABC put a dozen underage “drug users,” “liars” and “angry punks” in the wilderness to fend for themselves for 60 days and learn that they are walking along a dangerous path. That’s all well and good, but no one will sympathize with characters who don’t want to be liked. Though there were one or two characters who you really felt made a change in their life as a result of the program, when the cameras did a “six week update” on the children I felt like most of the parents were stretching the truth about how much their son or daughter’s life had changed forever.

“Hell’s Kitchen”

I’ll admit it, I got addicted to “Hell’s Kitchen.” The show started out with the most nasty, venomous reality star of all time, Gordon Ramsey, and some of the most boring contestants ever.

But then, at midseason, something happened. Ramsey became human and began to dish out surprisingly good advice to the wannabe chefs, and the remaining contestants became interesting. By the two-hour season finale, where only the interesting eliminated contestants came back to help out the final two, I was screaming at the screen in anticipation. This is a great example of a show that got better as it went along, and I can’t wait until next summer to check out the second season.

Contact ALL correspondent Bob Taylor at [email protected].