Spring TV Preview: Notable New & Returning Shows

  • Publish Date: March 4, 2014
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Below, we take a look at the notable new and returning shows premiering from now through early May. Be sure to visit our frequently updated TV Premiere Calendar for a quick list of all TV premiere dates for 2014, including shows coming this summer.

Notable spring premieres

24: Live Another Day
Fox | Mondays at 9p starting May 5 (special two-hour premiere at 8p)

Fox's long-running, ticking-clock thriller returns to TV after a four-year absence (a planned theatrical spin-off has yet to pan out) as an "event series." Translation: Live Another Day will only give us 12 hours of Jack Bauer's (Kiefer Sutherland) busy day rather than the usual 24, which means Bauer will finally get to take that much-deserved nap (or at least get in a few games of Flappy Bird). The action will take place in London, where Sutherland will be joined by fellow returning cast members Mary Lynn Rajskub (whose Chloe has turned Edward Snowden and is now working against the government), William Devane, and Kim Raver, plus newcomers Yvonne Strahovski, Benjamin Bratt, Tate Donovan, Stephen Fry, and Game of Thrones's Michelle Fairley (a last-minute replacement for Judy Davis).

Believe NEW Watch trailers
NBC | Sundays at 9p starting March 16 | Special premiere Monday March 10 at 10p

What does newly crowned Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón do for a Gravity follow-up? Team up with ubiquitous producer J.J. Abrams for a new sci-fi drama series. Cuarón co-wrote (with Mark Friedman, previously of ABC's The Forgotten) and directed the first episode of Believe, with fellow director Jonas Pate taking over beginning with episode two. The show centers on a young orphan (newcomer Johnny Sequoyah) with mysterious powers that she can't quite control, and a wrongfully convicted death row inmate (Jake McLaughlin) who is sprung from prison to protect her as she goes on the run from those who seek her harm. Also starring are Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks), Jamie Chung (Once Upon a Time), and Delroy Lindo (The Chicago Code). Critics had good things to say about the pilot last year, though a mid-production showrunner change suggests that you may want to temper your enthusiasm a bit.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey NEW Watch trailer
Fox | Sundays at 9p starting March 9

Science programming on a major commercial broadcast network in primetime? It happens about as often as Halley's Comet visits. Carl Sagan's legendary 1980 miniseries Cosmos—probably science's finest moment on the small screen, though that aired on PBS—gets rebooted for a new generation thanks to some unlikely backers: the Fox network and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. The latter serves as executive producer (along with Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, and Star Trek vet Brannon Braga) for this 13-hour miniseries, which aims to provide an entertaining and informative tour of the universe and the history of scientific discovery through a blend of live action and cutting-edge graphics and animation. On-screen hosting duties, however, fall to a perfect choice: astrophysicist, podcaster, author, Pluto-demoter, and occasional Nova host Neil deGrasse Tyson. The March 9 premiere episode will be simulcast on 10 Fox-owned networks (including FX, FXX, and Fox Sports 1), while all 13 episodes will repeat with bonus footage on Mondays at 10p on Nat Geo.

Crisis NEW Watch trailer
NBC | Sundays at 10p starting March 16

While it's great to see Gillian Anderson back in her first regular TV role in over a decade (not counting her multi-episode guest arc on Hannibal)—and Dermot Mulroney in his first regular network TV gig to date—those performances unfortunately come in a show that critics are already grumbling about. (And it doesn't help that the show had its own crisis in the middle of production, when filming was halted to re-tool many of the episodes already completed.) This Washington, D.C.-set conspiracy thriller centers on a secret service agent (Lance Gross) who has a doozy of a first day on the job: the president's son and classmates are kidnapped from a school field trip, where a father (Mulroney) of one of the students is chaperoning. The criminals' plot ultimately entangles additional politicians and a powerful CEO (Anderson). Rachael Taylor (666 Park Avenue) and Max Martini (Revenge) also star, while Fred Dryer (Hunter) will recur. The series comes from Rand Ravich, who previously created NBC's Life, while the pilot is directed by Phillip Noyce (Salt).

Fargo NEW
FX | Tuesdays at 10p starting April 15

Before you dismiss this FX miniseries as an unnecessary remake of the Coen brothers' classic 1996 film, know that it shares little in common with the movie other than a title, a setting, and a darkly comedic, "Minnesota nice" approach to crime drama ... and that it comes with the Coens' stamp of approval. (The brothers are credited as executive producers, though writing falls to Bones vet Noah Hawley and the pilot is directed by Breaking Bad's Adam Bernstein.) Otherwise, this Fargo will tell (and conclude) a brand new true crime story over the course of its 10 episodes, centering on a small town insurance salesman played by Billy Bob Thornton. The cast is stellar throughout, with Martin Freeman, Bob Odenkirk, Oliver Platt, Kate Walsh, Glenn Howerton, Colin Hanks, and (in the final four episodes) Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele also starring.

Game of Thrones Watch trailer Watch 15-minute preview
HBO | Sundays at 9p starting April 6

While winter is perpetually on the verge of arriving in HBO's Game of Thrones, it is the end of winter in our world that signals the arrival of a new batch of episodes. April brings season four, which is taken (loosely) from the second half of the third book (A Storm of Swords) in George R.R. Martin's series. Expect an action-packed year that will reportedly see more characters killed off than any previous season (and that's saying something). As always, there will be plenty of new faces, with newcomers including Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) as Tycho Nestoris, Michiel Huisman (Treme) as Daario Naharis (replacing last season's Ed Skrein), Pedro Pascal (Graceland) as Oberyn Martell/Red Viper, and Indira Varma (Rome) as Ellaria Sand, while Icelandic indie rockers Sigur Rós will guest in one episode. Martin himself scripted his customary one episode per season, which this year will be the second episode, "The Lion and the Rose."

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver NEW
HBO | Sundays at 11p starting April 27

When Jon Stewart took a summer break from The Daily Show last year to direct a feature (the upcoming Rosewater), he left longtime correspondent John Oliver in the anchor's chair. Oliver proved to be a hit with fans and critics, and the British comedian and podcaster was quickly snapped up by HBO, where he'll host a weekly look at current events. (Something like The Daily Show, but even less daily.) Little is known about the show other than the title and April premiere date, but Oliver will have former Daily Show head writer Tim Carvell on board as his showrunner. The network has committed to 24 episodes.

Mad Men
AMC | Sundays at 10p starting April 13

After six seasons of mostly wowing critics as it progressed through the 1960s, AMC's first hit original series Mad Men will finally draw to a close with this upcoming seventh season. Of course, AMC isn't quite ready to say goodbye yet; half of the season's 14 episodes will be held back until 2015. So, while this spring really won't seem like the end of Mad Men, it will be a much shorter season (at just seven episodes) than we are accustomed to. One thing hasn't changed: absolutely no details about the coming season have been released in advance.

Orphan Black Watch trailer
BBC America | Saturdays at 9p starting April 19

Forget Star Wars; this is where the real clone wars will play out. BBC's under-the-radar sci-fi thriller pulled in a growing following (among both viewers and increasingly appreciative TV critics) as last year's first season progressed, thanks to its nifty plotting and especially to its thrilling lead performances (yes, plural) by Tatiana Maslany, who plays clones with vastly different personalities. (Just how many clones there are—and how they came about—remains one of the major mysteries of the series, though it is increasingly clear that they aren't all on the same side.) Joining the cast for season 2 are Michiel Huisman (Treme), Peter Outerbridge (Nikita), and Michelle Forbes, and cast and crew have been hinting at an even wilder ride this season (which producers envision as the middle chapter in a three-season story).

Penny Dreadful NEW Watch trailer
Showtime | Sundays at 10p starting May 11

There's plenty of talent on both sides of the camera for Showtime's newest big-budget original series, a psychological thriller set in Victorian London featuring reimagined origin stories of classic literary horror characters like Dracula and Dr. Frankenstein. The series comes from the pen of Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan (Hugo, Skyfall), who also serves as producer along with Sam Mendes, while the pilot was directed by Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible). Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, and Rory Kinnear head the cast.

Playing House NEW
USA | Tuesdays at 10p beginning April 29

USA's lineup of original programs has been missing one thing up to this point, at least officially: comedies. That changes this spring when the network launches two half-hour sitcoms, Denis Leary's Sirens (see below) and this newcomer from Upright Citizens Brigade (and Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast) veterans Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham. While the duo's first attempt at translating their real-life friendship to the small screen, NBC's Best Friends Forever, was a short-lived failure, we're more optimistic about Playing House, even with its all-too-sitcom-y premise of two friends who move in together to raise a baby (after the unborn baby's mother separates from her husband when he cheats on her). The main reason for optimism is the cast: Keegan-Michael Key and Zach Woods (The Office) co-star, Jane Kaczmarek is set for a multi-episode arc, and Jason Mantzoukas, Andy Daly, Bobby Moynihan, and John Lutz will guest.

Resurrection NEW Watch trailer
ABC | Sundays at 9p starting March 9

No, it's not an Americanized remake of The Returned (though such a thing is in development at A&E); it only seems like it is. (And it doesn't help that the source material here is a novel that is also titled The Returned, though the book also has no ties to the French series.) What all of these projects have in common is a basic premise: a small town (this time, in Missouri) where long-dead people suddenly come back to life looking like they haven't aged a day and unsure of how or why they have returned. Omar Epps (House), Devin Kelley (Covert Affairs, The Chicago Code), Frances Fisher (Titanic), Matt Craven (A Few Good Men), and Kurtwood Smith (That '70s Show) star for creator/producer Aaron Zelman, whose resumé includes The Killing, Criminal Minds, and Damages. ABC is hedging its bets by billing Resurrection as an eight-episode event series, but the story is designed to be open-ended in the event it is picked up for another season.

Silicon Valley NEW Watch trailer
HBO | Sundays at 10:30p starting April 6

Best new comedy of the year? While no official reviews have been published yet, critics have been hinting that they loved the two episodes they had a chance to see in January. And it's hard not to be optimistic about a new series that skewers the billionaire- and TED-talk-filled world of high-tech start-ups, especially when the series comes from Office Space writer-director Mike Judge, who himself worked in Silicon Valley in the late 1980s. His cast here includes Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr, and Zach Woods.

Turn NEW Watch trailer
AMC | Sundays at 9p starting April 6 (special 90-minute premiere)

With Breaking Bad gone and Mad Men soon to follow, AMC needs to re-stock. One of two new AMC dramas launching in the first half of this year (the second, Halt & Catch Fire, arrives in June), Turn is set in 1778 during America's war for independence, and is based on Alexander Rose's book Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring. The focus is on the relatively unheralded Culper Ring, a group of unlikely spies led by a cabbage farmer (Billy Elliot's Jamie Bell) who help to drive the British out of New York. The show comes from Craig Silverstein (Terra Nova, Nikita), and the pilot is directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Season one brings 10 episodes, with plenty of story left to fill out subsequent seasons if needed.

Veep Watch teaser
HBO | Sundays at 10p starting April 6

Big changes are in store for season three of HBO's acclaimed comedy series: Vice President Selina Meyer will be running for President. What's not changing is a terrific cast headed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale, who each picked up Emmy awards last season for their work on the show. Season 2 newcomer Kevin Dunn has been elevated to a series regular this year.

In brief

The 100 NEW Watch trailer
CW, March 19

The CW's latest sci-fi tale is set nearly a century after nuclear war has wiped out most of civilization, with a small number of human survivors residing on a group of derelict space stations. From there, 100 telegenic juvenile delinquents are dispatched back to Earth to see if the planet can be re-colonized. Eliza Taylor (Neighbours), Paige Turco (Person of Interest), Henry Ian Cusick (Lost), Kelly Hu (Arrow), Thomas McDonell (Suburgatory), and Isaiah Washington (Grey's Anatomy) star.

Bad Teacher NEW
CBS, April 24

Ari Graynor takes over for Cameron Diaz in this sitcom spin-off from the 2011 feature film. Kristin Davis, Sara Gilbert, Ryan Hansen, and David Alan Grier also star.

Black Box NEW Watch trailer
ABC, April 24

This new medical procedural centers on a brilliant but bipolar neurologist (Kelly Reilly) who works in a high-tech facility known as "The Cube." (Presumably, it's also painted black.) Laura Fraser and Vanessa Redgrave also star.

Californication
Showtime, April 13

Yes, it's still on, though not for long; this David Duchovny comedy will finally conclude after this upcoming 12-episode 7th season. Guests this season will include Heather Graham, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Michael Imperioli, and a returning Rob Lowe, while the story will find Duchovny's Hank joining the writing staff of a new TV series that is based on his recent movie.

Da Vinci's Demons
Starz, March 22

David S. Goyer's historical fantasy series returns for a second season that will include a storyline about exploration of the New World.

Deadbeat NEW
Hulu, April 9

Hulu's latest original is a half-hour supernatural comedy series—starring Tyler Labine as a medium—from former writers on FX's Wilfred and director Troy Miller (Mr. Show, Arrested Development).

Doll & Em NEW Watch trailer
HBO, March 19

HBO series seem to fall into high- or low-profile categories, with no middle ground. Like last fall's Getting On, this short series falls squarely in the latter group, with the network airing the six episodes over just three weeks (with back-to-back episodes each week). The semi-improvised comedy stars Emily Mortimer (The Newsroom) and Dolly Wells (The Mighty Boosh), and is based loosely on their real-life friendship, though here Wells serves as Mortimer's personal assistant.

Friends With Better Lives NEW Watch trailer
CBS, March 31

James Van Der Beek's (Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23) latest attempt at sitcom fame stars the Beek and Kevin Connolly (Entourage) as part of a group of six friends (naturally) who covet each other's lives; the former's a successful gynecologist (whose ex-wife just cheated on him), while the latter plays a happily married dad who longs for the days of less responsibility. The premiere episode will follow the finale of How I Met Your Mother.

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series NEW Watch trailer
El Rey, March 11

El Rey is a new-ish cable network founded by Robert Rodriguez, and the director's own 1996 film serves as the inspiration for the network's first original scripted series. He'll direct three episodes of this supernatural crime drama, with Eduardo Sánchez (The Blair Witch Project) also directing an episode. The large ensemble cast includes D.J. Cotrona, Robert Patrick, Wilmer Valderrama, and Don Johnson.

Inside Amy Schumer Watch trailer
Comedy Central, April 1

Schumer's raunchy comedy series, which blends sketches with interviews and stand-up bits, returns for a second season—and will likely be picked up for a third, given that Schumer is set to head the cast of Judd Apatow's next directorial effort (Trainwreck) in 2015. Guests this season include Paul Giamatti, Parker Posey, Michael Ian Black, Reggie Watts, Zach Braff, Josh Charles, Mike Birbiglia, and Janeane Garofalo.

Métal Hurlant Chronicles NEW
Syfy, April 14

The sci-fi anthology series based on the Heavy Metal comics makes its U.S. premiere. Each 30-minute episode is a self-contained story with a different cast set on a different planet, linked only by the fact that the same asteroid passes by in each story. The international cast includes James Marsters, Rutger Hauer, and Michael Jai White. Both seasons will be shown this spring (12 episodes total).

Nurse Jackie
Showtime, April 13

The Edie Falco dramedy's sixth season will be short one cast member, with Eve Best (who played Dr. O'Hara) departing the series. Julie White (Go On) will join the show in a recurring role as Jackie's AA sponsor, while last season's love interest Frank (Adam Ferrara) is now a series regular.

Review NEW Watch trailer
Comedy Central, March 6

Comedian Andy Daly stars as critic Forrest MacNeil in an adaptation of Australian comedy series Review with Myles Barlow. Rather than reviewing restaurants or movies, MacNeil rates life experiences—including addiction, road rage, orgies, and being a racist—on a 5-star scale. (We'll convert that to 0-100 as needed.) James Urbaniak, Jessica St. Clair, and Fred Willard co-star, while guests include Andy Richter, Jason Mantzoukas, and Lance Bass.

The Real History of Science Fiction NEW
BBC America, April 19

This four hour documentary miniseries explores the greatest minds and works in science fiction history across books, television, and film.

Saint George NEW
FX, March 6

This new George Lopez comedy received the same 10/90 deal that sent Anger Management to a 100-episode order. Lopez plays a recently divorced entrepreneur, while Danny Trejo and David Zayas (Dexter) co-star. Roseanne creator Matt Williams is the executive producer.

Salem NEW Watch trailer
WGN, April 20

Not content with airing endless reruns of Walker, Texas Ranger and America's Funniest Home Videos, cable staple WGN is getting into the original programming game for the first time this year. First up is this 13-episode supernatural drama set during the era of the Salem witch trials; the show posits that the witches were in fact real, though not necessarily what they seem. Janet Montgomery (Entourage) and Shane West (Nikita) star.

Sirens NEW Watch trailer
USA, March 6

USA's other new comedy series (along with Playing House, above) is an adaptation of the British series of the same name from writer-producers Denis Leary and Bob Fisher (Wedding Crashers). The series revolves around three EMTs in Chicago played by Michael Mosley, Kevin Daniels, and Kevin Bigley.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Watch trailer
Netflix, March 7

The canceled Cartoon Network series gets a sixth (and final) season, debuting exclusively on Netflix. The streaming service will also have the five previous seasons available for viewing, with some episodes in newly expanded form.

Surviving Jack NEW
Fox, March 27

$#*! My Dad Says creator Justin Halpern tries once again to adapt his own material, though this time it's a memoir (I Suck at Girls) rather than a Twitter feed. The period comedy, exec-produced by Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence, centers on a stay-at-home father (Christopher Meloni) raising his teenage son during the 1990s. Fox cut the season to just 8 episodes, not exactly a ringing endorsement.

TripTank NEW
Comedy Central, April 2

This new animation anthology series features an assortment of one-off and recurring shorts written and/or voiced by the likes of Zach Galifianakis, Larry David, Kumail Nanjiani, Tom Kenny, Bob Odenkirk, Curtis Armstrong, Brett Gelman, Nat Faxon, and more.

The Writers' Room
Sundance, April 14

The Jim Rash-hosted roundtable series will feature the writing staffs of House of Cards, Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead, Scandal, The Good Wife, and more.

Years of Living Dangerously NEW
Showtime, April 13

This documentary miniseries from producers James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, and Arnold Schwarzenegger (as well as a pair of former 60 Minutes producers) explores the various impacts of climate change on the planet and its inhabitants. A mix of actors and journalists serve as correspondents, including Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Lesley Stahl, Thomas Friedman, Michael C. Hall, Harrison Ford, Ian Somerhalder, and Jessica Alba.

What's on your must-watch list?

Do any of the new spring shows sound good to you? Let us know what you'll be watching in the comments section below.

 

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