DRAMA

FOX (Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET)

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How to evaluate The Inside? It's stylish, suspenseful and dispiriting. Slick but sick.

Like NBC's Profiler in the late '90s and CBS's fall entry Criminal Minds, this new series concerns FBI agents who see into the minds of serial killers and such, anticipating their next evil move. Virgil "Web" Webster (Peter Coyote), the Machiavellian head of the bureau's Violent Crimes Unit in Los Angeles, adds rookie agent Rebecca Locke (Rachel Nichols) to the team because he thinks her traumatic childhood (abducted as a 10-year-old and held captive for 18 months) will make her an especially apt profiler. Paul Ryan (Jay Harrington), who considers himself the conscience of the unit, worries that Web might exploit Rebecca's scarred psyche, not to mention her good looks. Gee, ya think?

In the June 8 premiere, Rebecca sexed up her appearance and served as "fresh meat"—Web's term—to lure a serial killer who liked to slice off women's faces. In an upcoming episode, Web assigns Rebecca to the case of a seductive sadist who may well have murdered several women. After Rebecca briefly falls into the kinky suspect's clutches, a leering Web insists she return to the scene of the sexy-dangerous encounter and relate every lurid detail.

To be fair, The Inside is well made. It hooks us with cleverness as well as shocks. (A future episode features a vigilante "pre-filer" who knocks off potential serial killers before they start acting on their impulses.) But it wallows in the gory and the grotesque for no apparent purpose except to keep us staring at the screen. Are we enthralled? Appalled? Doesn't matter, as long as the network controls our eyeballs.

The Inside is hardly the only show working this territory; a monster hit called CSI comes to mind. But this one left me feeling a need to scrub down.

DRAMA

TNT (Mondays, 9 p.m. ET)

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There are times when Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick), a CIA-trained interrogator, wishes she had gone to work for the Department of Homeland Security or the FBI. But forget the federal couldas and shouldas; this is another big-city cop show. Brenda's new job is head of the Los Angeles Police Department's Priority Murder Squad, which handles what her boss (J.K. Simmons) calls "celebrity cases" involving big-name lawyers and major media coverage.

As a drawling Southerner in Southern California and an assertive woman in a department dominated by unenlightened males, Brenda has the fish-out-of-water quality that series creators favor. Sedgwick embraces the character's quirks, including a weakness for sugary snacks, while conveying her keen intelligence. Since Brenda has a special talent for eliciting confessions—hence the show's title—we can anticipate seeing the star in many a meaty interrogation scene. Unfortunately, the June 13 premiere climaxes with a stunningly improbable revelation and gives Brenda an unfair advantage: Somebody's not smart enough to hire an attorney before sitting down in a small room with The Closer.

DRAMA

WE (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)

Jada lines up six bridesmaids for her wedding and subjects them to military-style inspections. When she learns that fiancé Julius plans to have seven groomsmen, Jada fumes at the lack of symmetry and insists that one be demoted to usher.

If you're fascinated by women suffering acute loss of perspective due to prenuptial anxiety, this reality series will ring your bell. In addition to Jada, the second season premiere (airing June 12) features bridezillas Adrianna, whose favorite pastime appears to be cursing, and Thuy, who says she's popping pimples because of the stress and expresses an urge to wring her intended's neck.

In a skillfully scripted comedy, petty bickering can be funny. In a longer, more intimate documentary, it could be revealing. But watching Bridezillas' season opener is like overhearing the spats of strangers: It arouses mild curiosity mingled with discomfort. At least this isn't a competition, so there's no cash prize for the worst-behaving bride-to-be.

CBS (Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET)

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"If you've ever turned on a television, opened a magazine or gone shopping, you know who I am," boasts host Tommy Hilfiger in this series' June 9 premiere. A fashion mogul so incredibly famous shouldn't be a copycat.

The Cut might seem better were it not for its obvious similarities to Donald Trump's The Apprentice and Heidi Klum's Project Runway. Sixteen hopefuls compete for the chance to design a collection under Hilfiger's label, and the winner gets an Apprentice-level salary of $250,000. In the opener, the field splits into two teams and each has to create and put up a Times Square billboard within 48 hours. (Why the mad rush? It's reality TV!) Hilfiger calls the billboards "underwhelming"—and so's the show.

REALITYJane Goodall's When Animals Talk (Animal Planet, June 12, 8 p.m. ET) Can a dog help kids read? The famed primatologist hosts a special on animal-human communication.

Strong Medicine (Lifetime, June 12, 9 p.m. ET) The women's health clinic gets a major male presence as Rick Schroder joins the cast in the sixth-season premiere.

Vacation House Hunters Week (HGTV, June 13, 10 p.m. ET) The home-buying show goes on a five-night swing through vacation areas, starting with Palm Springs.

Britney and Kevin: Chaotic (UPN, June l4, 8 p.m. ET) The series ends with Spears and spouse revealing how they kept their wedding plans secret.

Fielder's Choice (Hallmark Channel, June 18, 9 p.m. ET) Chad Lowe stars in this TV movie as a bachelor advertising executive raising his late sister's child.

If It's summer, it must be time for a whole new wave of reality TV. Besides the return of faves like Average Joe (June 21), Big Brother (July 7) and The Surreal Life (Omarosa vs. Janice Dickinson! July 10), in the coming weeks a variety of new entries will be arriving as well. Here's some of what's ahead:

I WANT TO BE A HILTON (NBC, JUNE 21) Kathy Hilton, Mom to Paris and Nicky, plays mentor to 14 wannabe socialites. Among the challenges? Choosing the perfect hostess gift.

THE LAW FIRM (NBC, JULY 28) Famed defense attorney Roy Black puts 12 would-be legal apprentices through their paces with real People's Court-style cases.

BEING BOBBY BROWN (BRAVO, JUNE 30) Cameras follow the troubled R&B singer and his wife, Whitney Houston, as they fight with fans (and each other) and fret about his legal troubles.

THE PRINCES OF MALIBU (FOX, JULY 10) The pampered twentysomething sons of songwriter Linda Thompson meet the real world when their millionaire stepdad, music producer David Foster, cuts off their credit cards.

ROCK STAR: INXS (CBS, JULY 11) Survivor creator Mark Burnett launches a search for a new lead singer for rock band INXS.

BRAT CAMP (ABC, JULY 13) Teen terrors get sent to boot camp by their at-wits-end parents.

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE (FOX, JULY 20) From the creators of American Idol comes a competition to find the Kelly Clarkson of dance.

WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD (ABC, JULY 10) Diverse families vie for a home in a quiet suburb. The neighbors pick who moves in.

TOMMY LEE GOES TO COLLEGE (NBC, AUG. 16) Pamela Anderson's ex enrolls at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he tries out for the marching band and crams for finals with a hot tutor.

  • Contributors:
  • Terry Kelleher,
  • Amy Bonawitz.