Spring TV Preview: The Best New & Returning Series

  • Publish Date: March 8, 2012
  • Comments: ↓ 1 user comment

We'd say that spring is the new fall, but that might be an insult to the upcoming spring television season, which (unlike last fall's lineup) looks to be loaded with some of the best programming airing all year. On this page, we run down some of the top new shows as well as the most anticipated returning programs; on page 2, you'll find a full calendar of spring premiere dates.

The most promising newcomers (including miniseries)

NEW Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 Watch trailer
ABC, Wednesdays at 9:30p starting April 11

ABC won't say it, but we will: Bitch. That's the "B" hiding in both new soap GCB and this comedy coming later in the spring, when it will get the plum post-Modern Family timeslot (temporarily displacing Happy Endings in the process). In Apartment 23, a naive young woman (Dreama Walker) moves to Manhattan to start her dream job—with a company-provided apartment—only to be thrown out on the street when her employer unexpectedly goes under. After finding employment at a coffee shop, she quickly meets another young New Yorker (Breaking Bad's Krysten Ritter), who swindles her, sleeps with her fiancé, and, naturally, becomes her friend and roommate. Oh, and her best friend is James Van Der Beek, who plays himself. Despite that convoluted setup (and more than a passing resemblance to fellow newcomers 2 Broke Girls and New Girl), the early buzz on the show is fairly good.

NEW Game Change Watch trailer
HBO, airs Saturday, March 10 at 9p

Does the current presidential campaign make you nostalgic for the 2008 election? Then HBO's Emmy-bait Saturday movie, Game Change, should be right up your alley. Based on the best-selling book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, the film focuses on the McCain campaign, particularly senior strategist Steve Schmidt, played by Woody Harrelson. But you'll really be tuning in to see Julianne Moore's Sarah Palin impersonation, which looks to be about as spot-on as possible. Ed Harris also stars as John McCain, and reviews suggest that, unlike the candidate, the film is a winner.

NEW Girls Watch trailer
HBO, Sundays at 10:30p starting April 15

Writer-director-star Lena Dunham's debut feature Tiny Furniture 71 was somewhat divisive, but it certainly has its fans (including Criterion, which just released the film on DVD). Count Judd Apatow among those who consider Dunham a rising star; he's serving as one of the producers of her new HBO comedy series, which follows the lives of a group of women in their early 20s (including Dunham herself) struggling to live in New York City. In other words, expect a slightly more realistic look at modern urban life than the one presented in Sex and the City. EW critic Ken Tucker notes that Girls "offers the most distinctive tone of any new show thus far this year."

NEW Great Expectations Watch trailer
PBS, airs Sunday, April 1 and Sunday, April 8 at 9:00p

Gillian Anderson stars as Miss Havisham in this PBS Masterpiece adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, which airs in two, two-hour blocks in April. Other recent Dickens adaptations co-produced by the BBC and PBS (including 2008's Little Dorrit and 2005's Bleak House, which also starred Anderson) have been exceptional, so our hopes are certainly high for this oft-filmed rags-to-riches tale, even if Anderson seems a bit too young for her role. Reviews from the British press were generally positive when the series aired there in December.

NEW Frozen Planet Watch trailer
Discovery, Sundays at 8p starting March 18

The producers of the acclaimed Planet Earth return with another nature documentary miniseries, again a joint production of Discovery and the BBC. Narrated by Alec Baldwin (at least on U.S. television), the six-part, beautifully photographed Frozen Planet examines animal and plant life living in the extreme environments present in the Arctic and Antarctic. A "controversial" seventh episode dealing with the impact of climate change was originally going to be omitted from Discovery's run, but it will now air as it did in the UK, with narration by David Attenborough.

NEW Loiter Squad Watch trailer
Adult Swim, Sundays at 11:30p starting March 25

If you know what the initials OFWGKTA stand for, you are likely already looking forward to Adult Swim's new live-action variety show. The creation of L.A. hip-hop collective Odd Future, Loiter Squad stars OF members such as Tyler, The Creator and features 15 minutes of pranks, sketches, other filmed segments, and music each week, and looks indeed to be odd enough to fit right in with other Adult Swim programming; trailers suggest a middle ground between Tim & Eric's Awesome Show and Jackass.

NEW Missing Watch trailer Watch 15-minute clip
ABC, Thursdays at 8p starting March 15

Ashley Judd brings some star power to ABC (in her first TV role since NBC's Sisters in the early 1990s) as a single mother—and former CIA agent—determined to find her son after he vanishes under suspicious circumstances while studying abroad. Shot on location in Europe, this twist-filled, 10-episode serialized drama from Gregory Poirier (National Treasure: Book of Secrets) also stars Sean Bean (Game of Thrones) as her late husband (he appears in flashbacks) and Cliff Curtis (Trauma) as a CIA agent who assists her search.

NEW NYC 22 Watch trailer
CBS, Sundays at 10p starting April 15

On paper, it's just another crime drama about rookie police officers. But take a closer look at the people behind NYC 22 (formerly known as The 2-2), and it becomes much more promising. Created by writer Richard Price (novels Clockers and Lush Life, also a writer for The Wire and movies like The Color of Money), the New York-set series—which follows six first-year cops in Harlem's 22nd precinct—is produced by Robert De Niro, and the pilot is directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line, Cop Land). The ensemble cast includes Leelee Sobieski and Adam Goldberg.

NEW Titanic Watch trailer
ABC, airs Saturday, April 14 at 8p and Sunday, April 15 at 9p

James Cameron's mega-hit remains the gold standard of Titanic films, but ABC's new four-hour miniseries of the same name (timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the iceberg's triumph) boasts its own pedigreed auteur: Julian Fellowes, creator of the Emmy-winning PBS hit Downton Abbey 92 and the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Gosford Park 90. The influence of both of those works can be felt in Titanic, which encompasses a huge range of characters (nearly 90 in all) from varying levels of society, including passengers in different classes and the ship's servants and officers. The first three hours of the miniseries are set for Saturday, April 14 beginning at 8p, with a concluding hour airing the following night at 9p.

NEW Touch Watch trailer
Fox, Thursdays at 9p starting March 15 (new episodes start March 22)

Its pilot received good but not great reviews when it aired as a special sneak preview in January, but Fox still has high hopes for this ambitious new Kiefer Sutherland series, which will have plenty of chances to succeed given all the openings in the network's schedule next year. Sutherland stars as the father of an autistic boy who has a gift for seeing patterns that no one else can see, which will gradually reveal a mystery that links seemingly unrelated characters across the world. The cast also includes Danny Glover and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Undercovers), and the show comes from Heroes creator Tim Kring. New episodes pick up on the 22nd after that pilot episode is repeated next Thursday.

NEW Veep Watch trailer
HBO, Sundays at 10p starting April 22

Here's one to watch for. Julia Louis-Dreyfus moves to cable for her newest adventures in comedy, with a political satire created by Armando Iannucci (In the Loop 83). Like that Oscar-nominated film, Veep is loosely based on Iannucci's acclaimed UK series The Thick of It, and it finds Louis-Dreyfus playing the newly elected (and foul-mouthed) American vice president, though the job isn't quite what she expected it to be. Tony Hale (Arrested Development), Anna Chlumsky (In the Loop), and Matt Walsh (Upright Citizens Brigade) also star.

More new shows coming this spring:

NEW Bent NBC, Wednesdays at 9p starting March 21 Watch trailer
Kicking off with back-to-back episodes on the 21st is this single-camera comedy from former Scrubs producer Tad Quill. Amanda Peet (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) stars as a type-A divorced mom who finds herself attracted to the "surfer-dude" contractor (David Walton) who is remodeling her kitchen. Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development), JB Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm), and Jesse Plemons (Friday Night Lights) help round out the above-average cast, while Marcia Gay Harden will guest in an episode.
NEW Best Friends Forever NBC, Wednesdays at 8:30p starting April 4
Upright Citizens Brigade alumni Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair write and star in this single-camera comedy about a recently divorced woman who re-starts her life by moving in with her best friend in New York, much to the consternation of her friend's live-in boyfriend. NBC still hasn't released any trailer or clips, which we take to be a bad sign.
NEW Betty White's Off Their Rockers NBC, Wednesdays at 8p starting April 4 Watch full episode
Sort of a nonagenarian take on Punk'd, Rockers finds White enlisting a group of senior citizens to pull a series of hidden-camera pranks on younger folks. It's based on a hit Belgian series (presumably featuring Tintin and waffles, though we can't be certain).
NEW The Client List Lifetime, Sundays at 10p starting April 8 Watch trailer
Lifetime's 2010 original movie about a struggling single mother who becomes a prostitute at a local massage parlor to make ends meet has been turned into an ongoing drama series starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Cybill Shepherd.
NEW Common Law USA, Fridays at 10p starting May 11 Watch trailer
When two dysfunctional homicide cops are put on probation for failing to get along with each other as partners, they turn to couples therapy in an attempt to save their careers. Michael Ealy, Warren Kole, Jack McGee, and Sonya Walger star.
NEW Fashion Star NBC, Tuesdays at 10p starting March 13 (at 9:30p) Watch trailer
Elle Macpherson hosts NBC's new fashion design competition, which adds a few minor twists to the Project Runway formula: viewers will be able to purchase the winning looks the day after each episode airs, and Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos will serve as celebrity mentors to the contestants.
NEW Magic City Starz, Fridays at 10p starting April 6 Watch trailer
The latest Starz original drama is set in and around a Miami Beach luxury hotel during 1958, with a large cast that includes Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kelly Lynch. Think Mad Men with more bikinis and fewer Emmys.
NEW On Death Row ID, Fridays at 10p starting March 9
This four-part companion series to Werner Herzog's recent documentary Into the Abyss focuses on five additional inmates awaiting execution.
NEW Scandal ABC, Thursdays at 10p starting April 5 Watch trailer
Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes returns with a drama centering on a woman (Kerry Washington) who works as a professional "fixer" to the rich and powerful. Each week, the soapy procedural finds her and her team dealing with a new crisis, racing against the clock to avert a disaster while simultaneously dealing with their own personal issues. Henry Ian Cusick (Lost) and Tony Goldwyn also star.
NEW Unchained Reaction Discovery, Sundays at 10p starting March 18 Watch trailer
Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame produce and serve as on-air judges in this reality competition show, which pits two teams against each other each week in an attempt to build an elaborate contraption.

Key returning shows

Bob's Burgers Watch trailer
Fox, Sundays at 8:30p starting March 11

Fox's animated comedy proved to be a grower (though not in the ratings) in its increasingly funny first season last year, and the network has enough confidence in the series that its upcoming second season has been extended to a full 22 episodes. Joining returning cast members H. Jon Benjamin (Archer), Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, and Kristen Schaal will be guests such as Cyndi Lauper, Megan Mullally, Kevin Kline, Sarah Silverman, and Parks & Rec's Aziz Ansari and Nick Offerman. At press time, the first few reviews for the second season are encouraging.

Check it Out ! with Dr. Steve Brule
Adult Swim, Sunday nights at 12:30am starting March 18

It's obvious now that the comedic sensibility of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim is not for everybody, but with Awesome Show off the air for good, this spin-off (now entering its second season) is all that fans have left. Plus, it's hard not to enjoy the performance of John C. Reilly as the doofus but endearing host of an early morning, cheaply produced, local newsmagazine show.

Community Watch trailer
NBC, Thursdays at 8p starting March 15

All of you die-hard Community fans can finally relax; the third-year show's indefinite hiatus is definitely over next week, when the season's final 12 episodes kick off on March 15. And if you can't wait until then, you can check out the gang in a trio of animated shorts called Abed's Master Key that just launched on Hulu. Meanwhile, on the main show, a major development is in store for Shirley in the premiere, a future episode will spoof Law & Order, another will revolve around video games, and one will take place almost entirely in Abed, Annie, and Troy's "Dreamatorium." Guest stars Rob Corddry and John Goodman are also slated to return. The only downside to Community's return is that Parks and Recreation will go on hiatus for a month until Up All Night finishes out its season.

Game of Thrones Watch trailer
HBO, Sundays at 9p starting April 1

HBO's adaptation of the first book in George R.R. Martin's still ongoing fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire proved to be everything fans were expecting and more in its first season last year, even winning over viewers who were unfamiliar with the novels (as well as plenty of critics, who placed the series on numerous year-end top-10 lists). You don't even have to be a fan of the fantasy genre to enjoy Game of Thrones' dark and complex drama of politics, power, family, and dragons (well, being a fantasy fan helps with the latter) that rivals The Sopranos for its twists and shocking violence. Stephen Dillane (John Adams), Natalie Dormer (The Tudors), Liam Cunningham (Outcasts), Gwendoline Christie, and Gemma Whelan are among the actors joining Emmy winner Peter Dinklage for the show's 10-episode second season, which will introduce the character of Stannis Baratheon to the proceedings and feature an epic battle sequence later in the season. And, yes, the dragons will return.

The Killing
AMC, Sundays at 9p starting April 1 (at 8p)

If you aren't one of the people who vowed never to watch the show again after the disappointing second half (and answer-less finale) of season one, you might be happy to know that the identity of Rosie Larsen's killer will finally be revealed during The Killing's upcoming second season. Actually, make that at the end of the second season; you'll need to get through another dozen episodes first. (Spoiler alert: expect some rain.) Newcomer Mark Moses (Desperate Housewives) joins the excellent returning cast of Mireille Enos, Joel Kinnaman, and Michelle Forbes for this once-promising murder mystery, which earned strong reviews when it debuted last year. Like Mad Men, which will follow the show in AMC's Sunday lineup, The Killing will kick off its season with a two-hour premiere episode.

Mad Men Watch trailer
AMC, Sundays at 10p starting March 25 (at 9p)

After an unprecedented 17-month hiatus, Mad Men finally returns with new episodes, which will see Don Draper and company ... well, we're not exactly sure what they'll be doing. Few people in the industry are as tight-lipped as showrunner Matthew Weiner, and he's been particularly stingy with details about the show's upcoming fifth season (other than suggesting a general theme of "every man for himself"), which kicks off in two weeks with a two-hour premiere directed by star Jon Hamm. The good news is that contentious off-screen contract negotiations are a thing of the past; the series will run for two more seasons after this one.

Nurse Jackie Watch trailer
Showtime, Sundays at 9p starting April 8

Will Edie Falco's Jackie finally face some consequences for years of drug addiction, lying, and adultery? That's the promise from producers heading into season four of Showtime's hit dramedy, which has teased viewers in the past with the promise of a dark turn in Jackie's life only to repeatedly hit the reset button. Guests this season will include Bobby Cannavale, Rosie Perez, Joel Grey, and Falco's Sopranos co-star Aida Turturro.

Sherlock Watch clip
PBS, Sundays at 9p starting May 6

The BBC's acclaimed, modern-day retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories (which airs in the U.S. on PBS' Masterpiece series) is back for a second run of three, two-hour episodes. The excellent Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, next year's Star Trek sequel) stars as the brilliant but drug-addled detective, while Hobbit-sized Martin Freeman (The Office) is his friend and co-investigator Dr. Watson. This time, the mysteries will be drawn from Doyle's stories "A Scandal in Bohemia," "The Hound of the Baskervilles," and "The Final Problem," and a third season will follow next year.

More returning shows coming this spring:

The Big C Showtime, Sundays at 9:30p starting April 8 Watch trailer
Susan Sarandon joins the cast of Showtime's dramedy for its third season, playing a cancer survivor who counsels Laura Linney's Cathy. Recurring star Gabourey Sidibe has also been elevated to series regular.
The Borgias Showtime, Sundays at 10p starting April 8 Watch trailer
The R-rated costume drama returns for a second season in which Rodrigo Borgia (Jeremy Irons) faces conflicts within and outside of his family (including a French invasion) after becoming the new Pope.
Dancing with the Stars ABC, Mondays at 8p starting March 19
Singers Gladys Knight and Gavin DeGraw, actress Melissa Gilbert, tennis legend Martina Navratilova, View host Sherri Shepherd, and Urkel Jaleel White are among the celebrities who will be cha cha-ing their way through the show's 14th season.
Punk'd MTV, Thursdays at 10p starting March 29 Watch trailer
Last seen in 2007, MTV's practical joke comedy series is back from the dead, though Ashton Kutcher's hosting job has been given to a rotating group of celebrities that will include Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. In other words, you're probably too old to be watching this now.

On the next page ...

Continue reading for our full calendar of spring premiere dates.

Comments (1)

  • cristane  

    Thumbs up for this guide

New in Metacritic Reports

  1. What to Watch Now on HBO Go and HBO Now Image
    Published: September 20, 2019
  2. What to Watch Now on Starz Image
    Published: September 20, 2019
  3. 2019 Emmy Award Predictions from Experts & Users Image
    Published: September 19, 2019
  4. What to Watch Now on Netflix Image
    Published: September 18, 2019
  5. What to Watch Now on Prime Video Image
    Published: September 16, 2019
  6. Top Albums, Games, Movies & TV
    Best of August 2019: Top Albums, Games, Movies & TV Image
    Published: August 31, 2019
  7. September 2019
    DVD/Blu-ray Release Calendar: September 2019 Image
    Published: August 29, 2019
  8. 14 TV Shows to Watch in September Image
    Published: August 27, 2019

What Our Users Are Talking About

  1. /feature/predictions-for-who-will-win-2019-emmy-awards Image
    2019 Emmy Award Predictions from Experts & Users
    September 19, 2019 - 1 comment
    1. Cassio13 : Chernobyl not winning with the experts in every category is outlandish, its a bloody masterpiece. Read »
  2. /feature/best-of-august-2019 Image
    Best of August 2019: Top Albums, Games, Movies & TV
    August 31, 2019 - 2 comments
    1. MaedaRuinedFE : I know it's kinda unrelated but people have begun review bombing FE3H and Astral Chain just for being Switch... Read »
    2. MaedaRuinedFE : I know it's kinda unrelated but people have begun review bombing FE3H and Astral Chain just for being Switch... Read »
  3. /feature/top-movies-to-see-in-september-2019 Image
    16 Films to See in September
    August 30, 2019 - 1 comment
    1. YellowJuice : nice Read »
  4. /feature/metacritic-must-see-movies Image
    New on Metacritic: Must-See Movies
    June 11, 2018 - 5 comments
    1. HelghastMarchKZ : Cooool Read »
  5. /feature/major-upcoming-video-game-release-dates-xbox-ps4-pc-switch Image
    Notable Video Game Releases: New and Upcoming
    September 16, 2019 - 13 comments
    1. locutor99 : We are dubbing like videogames . Samples: https://www.locutortv.es Read »
  6. /feature/now-streaming-on-amazon-instant-video Image
    What to Watch Now on Prime Video
    September 16, 2019 - 12 comments
    1. behamilton : Love these lists. But how about when you hover over a title, instead of the cast, you got the plot summary? That... Read »
  7. /feature/tv-premiere-dates Image
    2019 Fall TV Premiere Calendar
    August 12, 2019 - 210 comments
    1. Iwatchtvalot : Teen Mom 2 - Tuesday - Mtv Read »
    2. Sjberke : Also Sanditon (from Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel) starting Sunday, January 13, 2020. Read »
    3. Sjberke : PBS just put The Press on the Masterpiece schedule starting Sunday, October 6. Read »