Summer TV Review: ABC's Ghoul-ash of New Drama

It's no longer news that summer is among TV's busiest seasons - but this year, cable is getting more competition than usual with scripted fare from the networks. The difference being that cable channels (USA, FX, TNT, Syfy, ABC Family and the pay giants, to name a few) tend to put their best foot forward with critically championed signature shows. The networks? Not so much.

Still, ABC is going unusually gung-ho, launching three new dramas of varying quality and distinction within a single week. Its Sunday combo of the whimsical Scoundrels and the sinister The Gates at least aims for something a bit different, while Thursday's Rookie Blue misfires with a tired arsenal of generic cop-show clichés.

Rookie doesn't try hard enough to stand out, while the Sunday shows may be guilty of trying a bit too hard. Scoundrels, in particular, strains to be madcap. Based on a series from New Zealand, this family saga is the anti-Sopranos, about a small-time clan of Palm Springs grifters whose code of conduct abhors violence.

Virginia Madsen is the best reason to watch. As Cheryl West, an all bark and little bite Ma Barker, she wearily tries to keep her annoyingly wacky kids in line - including twin sons (Patrick Flueger), one a straight-arrow lawyer and the other a doltish thug - as she watches her man (David James Elliott in a sheepish change of pace) go off to prison. The premise of Scoundrels finds Cheryl trying to get the family to go straight, but for this group, acting normal appears to a crime against nature.

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