Networks Uncork Summer Reality Flood

Get ready for Tommy Lee (search) as an undergrad, two separate dance contests and apprentice rock stars, apprentice chefs, apprentice fashion designers, apprentice scholars, apprentice slackers and apprentice Hiltons.

With your favorite television series hibernating for the summer, television networks are uncorking a flood of reality programming.

Broadcast networks want to do more than show reruns all summer — but they don't want to spend much money, either. The result is reality-clogged schedules. If the networks are lucky, one or two might capture the public imagination.

Summer starts soon; the WB began its heavily promoted "Beauty & the Geek (search)" on Wednesday. As the title suggests, the series takes some socially challenged smart guys and couples them up with dimwitted lookers. The couple that works best together in various contests could share $250,000, and who knows what else?

"I wouldn't call it a reality show so much as a social experiment," said Jason Goldberg, who produced the series with Ashton Kutcher (search).

Other new series:

— "Hell's Kitchen (search)" stars tightly wound British chef Gordon Ramsay, who's opening a new Los Angeles restaurant and chooses between contestants who want to cook there. Premiered Monday night on FOX.

— "Dancing With the Stars (search)" pairs six celebrities, like boxer Evander Holyfield, with professional dancers to compete in a ballroom dancing contest. Premiered Wednesday on ABC.

— "Hit Me Baby (search)" exhumes has-been music stars who try to show a live audience they still have what it takes. The Knack, Vanilla Ice, Cameo, Tiffany, Wang Chung, Loverboy and Arrested Development are among the acts competing for charity in the NBC series, which premieres Thursday.

— "The Scholar (search)" will feature bright students competing for a college scholarship they might not otherwise be able to afford. No, they won't have to eat bugs: they have to show book smarts, compete in oral exams and defend themselves to an Ivy League scholarship committee. Starts June 6 on ABC.

— "Fire Me ... Please (search)" films two people starting new jobs on the same day doing everything they can to be fired by midday. The person who wins will earn more than he could ever hope for from the job. Starts June 7 on CBS.

— "The Cut (search)" brings 16 aspiring fashion designers to compete for a job with Tommy Hilfiger. The winner gets the opportunity to design a fashion collection under Hilfiger's label. Starts June 9 on CBS.

— "I Want to Be a Hilton (search)" FOX still has Paris, but NBC has matriarch Kathy Hilton guiding 14 young contestants through the New York society scene. Whoever emerges as the winner of Hilton's contests gets to live the live of a rich person for a year. Debuts June 21.

— "The Princes of Malibu (search)" is an Osbournes-style show that follows music producer David Foster, his new wife and adult stepsons Brandon and Brody Jenner, who move into Foster's 22-acre waterfront estate. The FOX series premieres July 10.

— "Rock Star: INXS (search)" Super-producer Mark Burnett is behind this contest, where amateur singers compete for a job with the Australian rock band INXS, whose former singer Michael Hutchence died in 1997. The winner goes on tour and records an album with the band. Premieres July 11 on CBS, which will air the show three times a week until it's done.

— "Brat Camp (search)," a remake of a popular British series, send six out-of-control teens to a boot-camp style program in the Oregon wilderness. The ABC series premieres July 13.

— "So You Think You Can Dance (search)" FOX failed miserably with an attempt to hold a junior version of "American Idol," so now that show's creators are trying a dance version. You know the drill: embarrassing tryouts, pressure-filled performances and, finally, a winner. Starts July 20.

— "The Law Firm (search)" on NBC is produced by David E. Kelley, who with "The Practice" and "Ally McBeal" is familiar with fictional lawyers. This show takes actual lawyers trying actual cases in front of judges and juries. Trial attorney Roy Black is the host for the series, which starts July 28.

— "Meet Mister Mom (search)" sends stay-at-home moms on vacation and leaves clueless dads in charge of the house. Mom gets to watch the fun on closed-circuit TV. NBC, premieres Aug. 2.

— "Tommy Lee Goes to College (search)" trails the photogenic rock star as he enrolls in the University of Nebraska — trying out for the marching band and cramming for exams. It starts Aug. 16 on NBC.

— "Welcome to the Neighborhood (search)" brings prospective new families into a suburban cul-de-sac. The white families who live there now have their preconceptions tested with potential neighbors that include gay, minority and heavily tattooed couples. The winning family gets to move in. The ABC series doesn't have a premiere date yet.

— "R U the Girl (search)" chronicles the search for a new partner for Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, the two surviving members of TLC after the death of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. They're looking to start a new group, and the search will be seen on UPN. No premiere date has been set.

If that's not enough, existing reality series like "Renovate My Family" (FOX), "Big Brother" (CBS), "Average Joe" (NBC) and "Wife Swap" (ABC) return with new episodes.

New scripted series will be scarce. However, ABC has the six-hour period piece "Empire," about ancient Roman rivals trying to succeed Julius Caesar starting June 28.

And FOX's "The Inside" is a new cop drama focusing on the Los Angeles violent crimes unit.