Singing, dancing, cooking, costumes, and killing
A quick glance at the upcoming premiere schedule reveals that anyone clinging to the notion that the television season is pretty much played out by March has something to learn about the modern TV business. From HBO dramas Game of Thrones and Treme to reality competitions Dancing with the Stars and The Voice, and costumed intrigue in The Borgias and Camelot to an ongoing murder mystery in AMC's latest drama The Killing, the upcoming months have something to offer every TV fan.
Below are our most anticipated new and returning shows arriving between now and the end of May, followed a complete calendar of spring TV premiere dates.
Key new and returning shows
Body of Proof
(ABC, Tuesdays at 10p starting Mar. 29)
Why waste two hours watching separate crime and medical procedurals when you can get both in a single hour-long program. Like Quincy, Body of Proof centers on a medical examiner, but this time, the ME is a driven, brilliant, though somewhat arrogant woman (Dana Delany), who turns to crime solving after a car accident ends her career as a successful neurosurgeon. It certainly doesn't threaten to be original, but with Delany in the lead, it could turn out to be decent entertainment. Jeri Ryan co-stars.
(Showtime, Sundays at 10p starting Apr. 3 at 9p)
The Tudors may be done, but filling its soapy costume drama slot on Showtime's schedule is promising newcomer The Borgias, created by film director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Ondine), who wrote every episode in addition to directing the first two. The series follows the rise of the powerful Borgia family in Renaissance-era Italy, so expect plenty of political and romantic intrigue and criminal activity. Jeremy Irons stars as the scheming Cardinal Borgia; the cast also includes Colm Feore and Derek Jacobi.
(Fox, Wednesdays at 9:30p starting Apr. 6)
Christian Slater at his smarmy best leads a team of "oddball geniuses" who run a high-tech security firm (think a nerdier version of the A-Team) in this single-camera comedy produced by Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions. Only seven episodes were ordered, which doesn't suggest a lot of confidence in the show, but the series is created by Fanboys co-writer Adam F. Goldberg and The King of Kong director Seth Gordon (who also helms the pilot), and the cast includes Reaper's Bret Harrison.
(Starz, Fridays at 10p starting Apr. 1)
The Arthurian legend comes to the small screen in this epic, character-oriented, 10-episode drama, which focuses on the conflict between Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) and his sorceress sister Morgan (Eva Green) and takes a darker, less fantastical approach than previous versions of the story. Joseph Fiennes also stars as a scheming version of the wizard Merlin.
(CBS, Fridays at 8p starting Apr. 1)
This Brett Ratner-produced hour boasts an above-average cast in Freddy Rodriguez, Tim Blake Nelson, Kurtwood Smith, and Eric Close, who star as members of a group of rogue CIA spies charged with handling high-risk missions around the globe. It's more comedic in tone than the network's other procedurals, which could be a big plus if producers can find the right balance between action and laughs.
Dancing with the Stars
(ABC, Mondays at 8p starting Mar. 21)
As always, it's the "stars" that will make or break a season of DWTS, and the twelfth season's roster includes the requisite mix of washed-up actors (Kirstie Alley, Ralph Macchio), professional athletes (Hines Ward, Sugar Ray Leonard), reality show stars (Kendra Wilkinson), and child rappers-turned-USC benchwarmers (Percy "Lil' Romeo" Miller). Expect to see even more clips than usual on The Soup, since Joel McHale favorite Wendy Williams is also a contestant.
(BBC America, Saturdays at 9p starting Apr. 23)
Season 6 of the revived Doctor Who comes to America in April, and so does the good Doctor himself, in a two-part season premiere that takes him across the USA in the 1960s. (It's the first time the program has ever been filmed in the States.) Matt Smith -- the youngest Doctor ever -- returns for his second season manning the TARDIS, with Steven Moffat (Sherlock) returning as head writer and executive producer, so expect a lot of continuity from the well regarded previous season. And also expect a "game-changing" cliffhanger in the mid-season finale -- which also means, frustratingly, that you won't get to see the second half of the 13-episode season until fall.
Friday Night Lights
(NBC, Fridays at 8p starting Apr. 15)
Many die-hard fans already watched the fifth and final season of this acclaimed drama when it first aired on DirecTV last fall, but if you haven't seen it yet, expect a very satisfying conclusion to one of television's best (though little-seen) scripted programs in recent years. We won't give away any details, but expect a mix of new and old characters, including some appearances from previously departed cast members. (Read the reviews for Season 5 from when it aired in the fall.)
Game of Thrones
(HBO, Sundays at 9p starting Apr. 17)
Fantasy fans have been eagerly awaiting the premiere of HBO's big-budget adaptation of the best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels by George R.R. Martin (though not as badly as they have been anticipating the next book in the series, which is finally arriving in July). But while it may be a fantasy, people averse to the genre should still find plenty to like in this dark and violent epic filled with plot twists and well developed, very human characters. The story is set in a medieval land where seasons last for decades, with the opener hinting at the arrival of winter, and, with it, a new threat to the throne. Tom McCarthy (Win Win, The Station Agent) directed the pilot, and the cast includes Peter Dinklage (also of The Station Agent).
(ABC, Wednesdays at 10p starting Apr. 13)
This latest attempt to recreate the Friends formula (though in a single-camera format) follows a close-knit group of New York friends who are suddenly divided when the core of the group -- long-time couple Dave and Alex (Zachary Knighton and Elisha Cuthbert) -- split up after finally agreeing to get married. One sign of encouragement is that the producers include Anthony and Joe Russo (Community), who also directed the pilot.
(Discovery, Sundays at 8p starting Apr. 10)
This six-part documentary series is a co-production of the BBC and Discovery, and comes from the producers of the acclaimed series Life and Planet Earth. Unlike those predecessors, this new program examines the human race and our relationship to nature, including our ability to survive in the planet's most extreme environments; each hour of the series focuses on a different habitat, from rainforest to island to desert. Expect plenty of great-looking HD footage, shot in over 70 locations over the past four years.
(AMC, Sundays at 10p starting Apr. 3 at 9p)
AMC hasn't had a dud yet (though the canceled Rubicon didn't meet with commercial success) in its lineup of original shows. Next up for the network is a dark crime drama based on the popular Danish mystery series Forbrydelsen, though it certainly has echoes of Twin Peaks as well (but without the quirk and the pie). Mireille Enos (Big Love) stars as a Seattle detective leading an investigation of the kidnapping and murder of a teenage girl, an event that has implications for city politics in addition to the girl's family and the detectives assigned to the case. Billy Campbell and Michelle Forbes also star.
Law & Order: Los Angeles
(NBC, Mondays at 10p starting Apr. 11 at 9p)
NBC's latest Law & Order spinoff was clearly not a hit when it debuted in the fall (though critics didn't hate it). Rather than cancel the program, the network has given the show an extreme makeover for its spring return (which begins with two back-to-back episodes on Monday, April 11, at 9p). Cast members Skeet Ulrich, Regina Hall, and Megan Boone have been jettisoned, while Alana De La Garza has been imported from the original L&O series. And, improbably enough, Alfred Molina's character is moving over from law to order, shedding his DA duties to pursue a new career as a police detective. Will those changes, plus a shift from Wednesdays to Mondays, be enough to draw a wider audience? We'll know in a few weeks.
(HBO, Sundays at 9p starting Mar. 27)
Set in Depression-era Los Angeles, James M. Cain's novel Mildred Pierce was previously adapted for the big screen in the 1940s, with Joan Crawford winning an Oscar for her performance in the title role. Stepping into those shoes now is Kate Winslet, who plays the struggling but ambitious single mother in this new adaptation, a six-hour, five-part, made-for-HBO miniseries, which will air over three consecutive Sunday nights. There is impressive talent in front of and behind the camera; the cast also includes Guy Pearce, James LeGros, Melissa Leo, and Evan Rachel Wood, and the entire series is written (with Jon Raymond) and directed by Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, Velvet Goldmine).
(Showtime, Mondays at 10p starting Mar. 28)
Season 2 of the Showtime dramedy ended with drug-addicted Nurse Jackie (Emmy-winning Edie Falco) facing an intervention, her ongoing web of lies finally starting to crumble around her. So, will anything be different in Season 3? The early glimpses revealed by Showtime seem to suggest few, if any, major changes in upcoming episodes, though the season begins just moments after the events of last year's finale. Jaimie Alexander (Kyle XY) will appear in multiple episodes as Jackie's sister-in-law, Tunie.
Sports Show with Norm MacDonald
(Comedy Central, Tuesdays at 10:30p starting Apr. 12)
Arguably, comedian Norm MacDonald was never better than when he was behind the desk on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update. So the thought of him getting behind a news desk once again has us excited, even if the show -- which, as the title suggest, deals exclusively with sports news -- threatens to be a bit too close in concept to another recent Comedy Central program, Onion SportsDome. While that latter program fabricates its stories, however, MacDonald's show will deal with actual events, with each episode taping a day before it airs to ensure timeliness.
Top Chef Masters
(Bravo, Wednesdays at 10p starting Apr. 6 at 11p)
Like its sister competition program Top Chef but with less drama and better food, Top Chef Masters pits established, well-known chefs against each other as they attempt to win money for charity. In the past, the Masters program used a slightly different scoring system that awarded stars to each competitor each week, but for the upcoming third season, Top Chef-style judging will be used instead, with the judges (including newcomer Ruth Reichl) selecting one chef to go home each week. The show also has a new host: celebrity chef Curtis Stone.
(HBO, Sundays at 10p starting Apr. 24)
David Simon's critically-acclaimed drama set in post-Katrina New Orleans returns for a second season, with virtually all of its stellar cast (including new Oscar winner Melissa Leo) intact. David Morse (who appeared briefly last season) is now a regular, while Jon Seda (Homicide: Life on the Street) joins the cast as a real estate developer. And Travel Channel star and chef Anthony Bourdain has been added to the writing staff to beef up (so to speak) the show's depiction of the New Orleans restaurant scene. The upcoming season, which is set during 2006-07, will also deal with issues related to crime and education.
(NBC, Tuesdays at 9p starting Apr. 26)
Here's a wacky idea: take a popular European amateur singing competition series and bring it to America. Based on The Voice of Holland, NBC's new talent show at least has some star power with reality vets John de Mol (Big Brother) and Mark Burnett (Survivor) among the producers. Four music celebrities -- Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton -- will serve as mentors to the contestants, who will be competing to win a recording contract, while Carson Daly hosts. Another departure from the American Idol format: judges will turn their backs to the singers during auditions, so they can eliminate singers based on what they hear rather than what they see. Perhaps you can do the same at home.
Calendar of premiere dates
|Sun 3/20||9p||Shark Tank||Reality||ABC|
|Moves to Fridays at 8p starting 3/25|
|Mon 3/21||8p||Dancing with the Stars||Reality competition||ABC|
|Mon 3/21||9p||American Pickers||Reality||History|
|Tue 3/22||10p||The Fabulous Beekman Boys||Reality||Planet Green|
|Tue 3/22||10p||Marcel's Quantum Kitchen||Cooking||Syfy|
|Wed 3/23||10p||Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files||Reality||Syfy|
|Thu 3/24||11p||The Hard Times of RJ Berger||Comedy||MTV|
|Moves to Mondays at 10p starting 3/28|
|Thu 3/24||Midnight||John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show||Comedy||Comedy Central|
|Fri 3/25||6:30p||Batman: The Brave and the Bold||Animation||Cartoon|
|Fri 3/25||8p||Suite Life on Deck||Comedy||Disney|
|Sat 3/26||8p||It's Me or the Dog||Reality||Animal Planet|
|Sun 3/27||9p||Mildred Pierce [Miniseries]||Drama||HBO|
|Mon 3/28||8p||The Secret Life of the American Teenager||Drama||ABC Family|
|Mon 3/28||9p||Make It or Break It||Drama||ABC Family|
|Mon 3/28||10p||Nurse Jackie||Drama/Comedy||Showtime|
|Mon 3/28||10:30p||The United States of Tara||Drama/Comedy||Showtime|
|Tue 3/29||10p||All on the Line||Reality/Fashion||Sundance|
|Tue 3/29||10p||Body of Proof||Drama||ABC|
|Wed 3/30||8p||Web Soup||Comedy||G4|
|Wed 3/30||10p||Coal||Reality||Spike TV|
|Wed 3/30||10p||Tyler Perry's House of Payne||Comedy||TBS|
|Fri 4/1||10p||Say Yes to the Dress: Randy Knows Best||Reality/Fashion||TLC|
|Sun 4/3||7p||Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom||Documentary||Animal Planet|
|Sun 4/3||8p||The Kennedys [Miniseries]||Drama||Reelz|
|Sun 4/3||10p||The Borgias||Drama||Showtime|
|Note that the 4/3 premiere will include two episodes, with the first beginning early at 9p|
|Sun 4/3||10p||The Killing||Drama||AMC|
|Note that the 4/3 premiere will include two episodes, with the first beginning early at 9p|
|Sun 4/3||10p||Strange Sex||Reality||TLC|
|Sun 4/3||Midnight||Superjail!||Animation/Comedy||Adult Swim|
|Mon 4/4||8p||Home Takeover with Simon & Tomas||Reality||OWN|
|Mon 4/4||8p||Tough Enough||Reality competition||USA|
|Mon 4/4||9p||Kidnapped by the Kids||Reality||OWN|
|Mon 4/4||10p||Kate Plus 8||Reality||TLC|
|Tue 4/5||10p||Addicted to Food||Reality||OWN|
|Tue 4/5||10p||Auction Hunters||Reality||Spike TV|
|Tue 4/5||10p||Billy the Exterminator||Reality||A&E|
|Tue 4/5||10p||Pregnant in Heels||Reality||Bravo|
|Wed 4/6||9p||Extreme Couponing||Reality||TLC|
|Wed 4/6||9:30p||Breaking In||Comedy||Fox|
|Wed 4/6||10p||Glamour Belles||Reality||Lifetime|
|Wed 4/6||10p||Tori & Dean: sTORIbook Weddings||Reality||Oxygen|
|Wed 4/6||10:30p||Workaholics||Comedy||Comedy Central|
|Wed 4/6||11p||Top Chef Masters||Reality competition||Bravo|
|Moves to Wednesdays at 10p starting 4/13|
|Thu 4/7||10p||The Bear Whisperer||Reality||Animal Planet|
|Thu 4/7||10p||Mounted in Alaska||Reality||History|
|Thu 4/7||10p||The Real Housewives of New York City||Reality||Bravo|
|Thu 4/7||10:30p||Secret Diary of a Call Girl||Comedy||Showtime|
|Sun 4/10||8p||Human Planet||Documentary||Discovery|
|Sun 4/10||9p||The Judds||Reality||OWN|
|Sun 4/10||10p||Khloe & Lamar||Reality||E!|
|Sun 4/10||10p||River Monsters||Reality||Animal Planet|
|Sun 4/10||10:30p||The Dance Scene||Reality||E!|
|Mon 4/11||10p||Law & Order: Los Angeles||Drama||NBC|
|Two episodes air back-to-back on 4/11, beginning one hour early, at 9p|
|Tue 4/12||8p||Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution||Reality||ABC|
|Tue 4/12||9p||Deadliest Catch||Reality||Discovery|
|Tue 4/12||10:30p||Sports Show with Norm MacDonald||Comedy/Sports||Comedy Central|
|Wed 4/13||10p||Happy Endings||Comedy||ABC|
|Fri 4/15||8p||Friday Night Lights||Drama||NBC|
|Fri 4/15||9p||Killer Outbreaks||Reality||Animal Planet|
|Fri 4/15||10:30p||The Whitest Kids U Know||Comedy||IFC|
|Sun 4/17||8p||Mob Wives||Reality||VH1|
|Sun 4/17||9p||Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe [Movie]||Drama||USA|
|Special two-hour prequel movie|
|Sun 4/17||9p||Game of Thrones||Fantasy||HBO|
|Sun 4/17||9:30p||Saddle Ranch||Reality||VH1|
|Tue 4/19||10p||16 & Pregnant||Reality||MTV|
|Tue 4/19||10p||Dresscue Me||Reality/Fashion||Planet Green|
|Thu 4/21||9p||Call Me Fitz [U.S. premiere]||Comedy||DirecTV|
|Sat 4/23||9p||Cinema Verite [Movie]||Drama||HBO|
|Made-for-HBO movie starring Diane Lane, Tim Robbins, and James Gandolfini|
|Sat 4/23||9p||Doctor Who||Sci-fi||BBC America|
|Tue 4/26||9p||The Voice||Reality competition||NBC|
|Wed 4/27||10p||South Park||Animation/Comedy||Comedy Central|
|Thu 4/28||11p||Son of a Gun||Reality||MTV|
|Fri 4/29||9p||Say Yes to the Dress: Big Bliss||Reality/Fashion||TLC|
|Sun 5/1||9p||Law & Order: Criminal Intent||Drama||USA|
|Sun 5/1||10p||In Plain Sight||Drama||USA|
|Sun 5/22||9p||Jesse Stone: Innocents Lost [Movie]||Drama||CBS|
|Seventh in made-for-TV film series starring Tom Selleck|
|Mon 5/23||9p||4th & Forever||Reality/Sports||Current TV|