What do "Breaking Bad," "Dexter," "Burn Notice" and "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" have in common?
They're all ending their successful runs this summer, sure. But more than that? All these shows helped their cable channels make big leaps in TV esteem.
USA's "Burn Notice" (season 7 starts June 6 at 9 p.m.) reaches 100 episodes before it wraps the saga of "burned" spy Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) and espionage pals Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and Sam (Bruce Campbell). Through its lengthy 2007-13 run, the show's droll and sexy tone fronted USA's mainstream mystery wave after "Monk." In its debt are such other stylish USA mainstays as "Royal Pains" and "White Collar." Now "Burn Notice" goes out big with final-season work from "Heroes" stars Adrian Pasdar and Jack Coleman.
Showtime's "Dexter" (season 8 starts June 30 at 9 p.m.) leveled the field with rival HBO's original series upon its 2006 arrival. The Miami-sleek saga of a vigilante serial killer soon earned the critical raves, buzz and awards (star Michael C. Hall's Golden Globe) for which the premium cabler had long been hungering. Showtime later got its first best drama Emmy with "Homeland." But after its shaky second season, that CIA-centered series may never match the longevity and fan following of steady "Dexter."
AMC's "Breaking Bad" (season 5 resumes Aug. 11) arrived in 2008, proving "Mad Men" was no quality-drama fluke. The movie channel would add to its shelf of original-series Emmys with three consecutive wins for star Bryan Cranston as the meek chemistry teacher turned meth-world kingpin, with two more for Aaron Paul as his student turned crime guide turned unlikely moral compass. These final episodes get a weekly AMC post-show ("Talking Bad").
ABC Family's "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" (final episode Monday at 8 p.m.) helped its seemingly ever-evolving channel finally stake out an identity over its five-season run. Viewership has only grown for later teen/adult dramas like "Switched at Birth" and "Pretty Little Liars."
ALSO SAYING FINAL GOODBYES THIS SUMMER
"Being Human" -- Season 5 of the original U.K. supernatural drama starts July 13 on BBC America.