Everything Old is New Again

As we head into January, we are also wading into another killzone in the world of television: the start of the Spring TV season.  This is a time when the networks sweep away the carnage of the Fall (So long, A to Z, Constantine, and such) and bring us shiny new toys to play with!  Or at least watch with something resembling interest (they hope).

The bad news for the networks is that, with one exception, I am not interested in the new series that they are rolling out.  And even that show doesn’t really qualify as new, for reasons I will get into momentarily.

So what will I be watching this Spring?  Aside from the second halves of several of my regular shows from the Fall, the list is almost all returning series.  We’ll start, however, with the one network newbie:

(All premiere date and networks are for the US.  Your mileage may vary.)

Agent Carter (January 6, ABC) As I stated above, I don’t know that this series can really be considered “new.” The Peggy Carter character was first introduced in Captain America, and she has had appearances since then in Captain America: The Winter Solider, a short film on one of the Marvel DVDs, and several appearances in flashbacks on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  This is really a spin-off rather than anything brand new.  As of this writing, three episodes of the eight episode “limited run series” (Network PR speak for “If it bombs, we can say it was only intended for eight episodes, but, if it’s a hit, you can be damn sure it will be back for a second limited run season.”) have aired, and I have to say that I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit.  It helps that we already know a bit about Carter and Howard Stark (Tony “Iron Man” Stark’s father) going in, but the show has does a wonderful job introducing Stark’s butler, Jarvis, who is helping Carter track down the people responsible for stealing technology from Stark.  Also, I’m happy to see Enver Gjokaj, one of my favorite actors from Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, playing a supporting character.  I’m also a fan of the 1940’s setting, which has been realized quite nicely on a TV budget.  The automat set is particularly well done.

Archer (January 8, FX) – While Archer is entering its 6th season, I’m a newcomer to the series.  I blew through everything on Netflix over the course of a few days last Fall and was able to get caught up before last Thursday’s premiere.  Describing the show is a bit difficult.  It’s a spy comedy, but any espionage is secondary to what’s going on with the characters, as it should be.  I have a friend who watches Archer, who finds that he much prefers the storylines happening back at the office to whatever mission Archer and Lana might be on that week.  I generally agree with him.  HR Director Pam Poovey, voiced by Amber Nash, may be my favorite comic character creation in a long time, with Cheryl Tunt coming in a close second.  Yes, the show can be oh-so-very wrong.  But it is damn funny.

Broadchurch (March 4, BBC America) – Even though Gracepoint, the US adaptation of the BBC’s Broadchurch crashed and burned on FOX last Fall, the original was a huge hit in the UK, prompting a second season.  My first concern was that, since Broadchurch was billed as a limited run series (there’s that term again), that the writer, Chris Chibnall, would have a hard time coming up with a believable and interesting story for a second season.  It appears, however, that season two is going to focus more on the trial of the person arrested for the murder that kicked off season one.  I’m hoping that I will find the new season as engrossing as the first, but David Tennant is in it, so I will be watching no matter what.

Community (March 17, Yahoo! Screen) – Also entering its sixth season, Community, which was cancelled by NBC at the end of Season 5, rises again like a phoenix online at Yahoo! Screen.  As I stated in THIS Pick of the Week, the series “…has a reputation for being a bit off-kilter…and that may be a huge understatement. While the show is ostensibly about a group of people attending a community college, uninitiated viewers flipping to the show for the first time may find themselves confronted by parallel universes, stop-motion animation in the style of Rankin-Bass’ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer television special, or a dead-on parody of Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary this time covering a war between forces supporting blanket forts versus pillow fortsSeries creator Dan Harmon has promised that the new season, while will premiere one episode a week unlike Netflix’s drop the whole season online at once model, will harken back to the feel of Community’s first season.  I’ll just be happy to be back hanging out with the study group again.

Daredevil (April 10, Netflix) – Yes, this is also a new series, but it’s not airing on any network.  Daredevil is the first of four Marvel Cinematic Universe series (soon to be followed by Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist) leading up to a Defenders mini-series.  We know very little about Daredevil  so far.  There have a been a couple of publicity photos, but no trailer.  I know very little about Charlie Cox, who has been cast as Matt Murdoch.  I did like Deborah Ann Woll on True Blood, and Vincent D’Onofrio is fantastic casting for the Kingpin.  Since this is part of the MCU, we could see appearances from or references to other MCU properties, such as S.H.I.E.L.D., but, again, nothing had been revealed.  Out of everything I’m watching this Spring, Daredevil is the biggest unknown.

Game of Thrones (April 12, HBO) – I don’t know what more there is to say about Game of Thrones, which is entering its fifth season.  It’s one of the most popular shows in the world as well as the most pirated series on the planet.  If you aren’t on board by now, starting with Season 5 is a terrible idea.  Go back and start from the beginning.  I haven’t read the original novels, but this is what I know about the new season.  First, Alexander Siddig (Dr. Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) is joining the cast.  Second, this season is likely to cover the last two novels that have been published and may involve a lot of material created for the show.  In other words, the show’s creators have reached the end of what has been published, so Write Like the Wind, George R.R. Martin!

House of Cards (February 27, Netflix) – All of the third season will hit at once, which means that you may have trouble reaching your friends that weekend.  At the end of the second season, Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood was starting a new job that should stretch his abilities to manipulate and control situations to their breaking point.  Having not read or watched the original British version of the material, I have no idea if the US version will be following the original storylines or going off in its own direction.  It is, however, just a joy to watch Spacey work as Underwood, and it puts me in a strange position as a viewer.  Underwood is not a good guy.  He’s done terrible things, but he’s just so entertaining that I want him to get away with it. 

Mythbusters (January 10, Discovery) – Mythbusters has been on the air for twelve years now, but in many ways this season is a brand new show.  Last season ended with the unexpected and oddly abrupt announcement that Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tori Belleci would no longer be appearing on the show.  Regardless of what actually happened behind the scenes (the most likely culprit is money), Mythbusters is now back to just Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, and the pair have been touting this season’s new-found focus on the science and build process (For more on this season’s changes, read THIS.).  Based on the first episode of the new look show, which covered two myths from The Simpsons, we are indeed getting just that.  I like the new pop-up text and graphics that help explain what we’re seeing.  I’m less fond of the new opening music.  Can we bring back the original theme tune?  Please???

Orphan Black (April 18, BBC America) – Let’s get something out of the way right from the start: Tatiana Maslany is absolutely amazing.  She has managed to play multiple clones and make them all distinct from each other without giving any of them a bizarre affectation or seeming forced in her performance.  Sarah, Cosima, Helena, Alison, and Rachel all feel like completely different people, and many times while watching her act against herself (thanks to the magic of special effects, I didn’t even think about the fact that I was seeing the same actress in both roles.  And watching her act as one clone pretending to be one of the others is astounding.  I’ll say it again a different way: Maslany is incredible.  But I’ll admit that I found my attention drifting a bit during the show’s second season.  The “Kira is in danger” card was played too many times, and episodes seemed to be lacking in forward momentum (Was there a point to the Tony episode?).  That said, we had what appeared to be a major clearing of the decks and turn of the story at the end of Season Two, and I am interested to see where Season Three is headed.

All of these plus the shows I’m already watching means that I have a busy Spring ahead, but on the bright side, the odds of any of them getting canceled mid-run is extremely low.  I can’t say that this bodes well for my free time, though.

Finally, I’ll leave you with THIS COUNTERPOINT to the link from the Game of Thrones entry.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter