By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Jul 06, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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Cable TV has made summer viewing less bleak than it used to be, using the broadcast network's downtime to launch some of their better offerings.

The finest, in my opinion, is AMC's "Mad Men," and we still have a few weeks until its fourth season starts on July 25.

But even with these cable bright spots, summer is a good time to catch up on shows you've missed -- or in the case of one new DVD release -- a different version of a show you miss. 

One of the shows I still hear about from readers is ABC's failed version of "Life on Mars," a sci-fi twist on a cop show in which a modern-day New York City detective has an accident and awakes in 1973. That series ended its run in April 2009, but questions about it still come in from time to time.

It's not coming back. Ever.

But one option for fans of that show is the British original "Life on Mars," which ran for two seasons -- or, as British television describes it, two "series."

The complete collection is available in a new release from Acorn Media. It retails for $80, but is available for substantially less at Internet outlets like Amazon, and, of course, there's always rental.

In the case of the British "Life on Mars," you have a self-contained 16 episodes to fill a sweaty summer weekend of TV viewing. Crank up the air conditioning, turn down the lights and let the high-quality, well-crafted drama unfold.

And if you really really like"Life on Mars," there's a spinoff, "Ashes to Ashes," to look forward to.

On TV: Speaking of British TV, the BBC says talk of a "Doctor Who" movie with Johnny Depp in the title role is untrue. The sci-fi site got a "no plans" comment from the Beeb.

  • NBC has decided to delay "Love Bites," the one-hour romantic comedy anthology, taking it off the 9 p.m. Thursday schedule this fall and replacing it with the non-celebrity version of Donald Trump's "Apprentice."
  • Fox is testing a daytime talk show with former Arkansas Gov. and presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee. It's trying out on Fox-owned stations.
  • The numbers are out for Jay Leno's first full quarter back behind the desk of "The Tonight Show," and they're the lowest since 1993, when David Letterman launched his NBC show. Letterman is down, too, with only ABC's "Nightline" showing growth.

Happy 30th for "Airplane!": This weekend was the 30th anniversary of the release of "Airplane!"

To mark the event, here are Shorewood's own Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker talking about one of the funniest scenes in their very funny movie:


Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.