Eight summer shows to catch

We're about to embark on one of the most crowded warm-weather seasons ever with a vast array of first-run fare being offered by broadcast networks and cable.

Here are eight new and returning shows that rank high on our heat index:

1. "True Blood" — Alan Ball's outrageous vampire soap opera returns for a much-anticipated Season 3 with more sex, suspense, supernatural shenanigans and even bigger problems for Sookie (Anna Paquin) and the gang. Oh, and a pack of sexy werewolves is about to hit town. (June 13, HBO).

2. "Mad Men" — Whirlwind changes appear to be in store for this critically adored, two-time Emmy winner. Hunky ad man Don Draper (John Hamm) faces life with a new startup agency and without his wife, Betty (January Jones), who flew off to Reno with another guy. (July 25, AMC).

3. "The Big C" — Behold a dark comedy that attempts to find some humor in cancer. It's a tricky challenge, but if anyone can pull it off it's actress extraordinaire Laura Linney. She plays a strait-laced suburban mom and teacher, who after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, takes a go-for-the-gusto approach to life. (Aug. 16, Showtime).

4. "Futurama" — Break out those cans of Slurm and toast the return of Bender, Fry and all their pals. Back in 2003, this far-out animated comedy from "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening appeared to be dead after Fox pulled the plug. But like "Family Guy" before it, "Futurama" found new fans via DVDs and reruns. Now, it's making a nerd-tastic return with 26 new episodes. (June 24, Comedy Central).

5. "Rubicon" — AMC, already the proud bearer of two stellar dramas ("Mad Men," "Breaking Bad"), goes for the hat trick with this intense political conspiracy thriller. James Badge Dale ("The Pacific") stars as a New York think-tank analyst who discovers that his employers are not who they seem to be. (Aug. 1, AMC).

6. "The Hard Times of RJ Berger" — Cross "The Wonder Years" with "Hung" and you might get this hilariously offbeat high school coming-of-age story about a scrawny teenage outcast (Paul Iacono) who gets absolutely no respect. That is, until his, um, anatomical gift is exposed to the entire school in a stunning moment that transforms him from "anonymous to infamous." (June 6, MTV).

7. "Hot in Cleveland" — No one is hotter than Betty White. So it's not surprising that the 88-year-old legend has landed in a new sitcom. She plays a cantankerous caretaker of a house rented by three LA-based friends (Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick) who are adjusting to life in Ohio. (June 16, TV Land).

8. "Pretty Little Liars" — This intriguing teen drama focuses on four estranged gal pals who reunite under extreme duress after their best friend suddenly vanishes. Seems that someone is sending them cryptic messages threatening to expose all their deepest, darkest secrets. (June 8, ABC Family).