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Way back in 1992, several states and Canada attempted to boycott or outright ban the sale of Eclipse’s “True Crime” trading-card series, a hot-selling item depicting notorious serial killers instead of baseball players, replete with artful portraits and murder stats. In pre-Internet days, this was an outrage.

Fast-forward 20 years later: People can’t get enough of serial killers—books, podcasts, Etsy subcategories (go ahead, search it) and, of course, TV series. Movies? Not so much, because you can’t spell “serialization” without “serial”: Only so many murder victims can be squeezed into a two-hour flick, but a six-to-13-hour serialized TV show? Now we’re talkin’ respectable body counts.

Here are eight of the best serial-killer TV shows currently available in the streamverse (“all killer, no filler” setup not included—you’re welcome):

Mindhunter (Season 1 on Netflix): FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathon Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) team up with psychology professor Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) to learn from incarcerated murderers how to profile future serial killers—it’s 1977; this isn’t a thing yet. The individual backstories and character quirks are slowly unveiled over 10 episodes featuring the trio kicking against skeptical Bureau pricks with their “egghead” approach, but it’s the killers themselves who steal the show. Particularly, Edmund Kemper (Cameron Britton) is such an intelligent, amiable nerd that it’s almost easy to overlook that he decapitated his own mother and had sex with her severed skull. (“Head” joke goes here.) Producer/director David Fincher lends Mindhunter a tense, cinematic sheen, but he should can his music director. (Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”? Really?)

The Killing (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): Based on Danish TV series The Crime, The Killing debuted on AMC in 2011, back when the cable network was still trying to figure out how to blow all of its new Walking Dead money—turns out dark prestige crime dramas were not the way to go. As the title implies, The Killing initially followed a single case of a teenage girl’s murder, but the murder count eventually escalated—we’re still more-or-less in serial-killer territory here, so relax. Seattle Police Det. Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) is wholly unique in the cop-show genre in that she’s a real, three-dimensional person, not a “troubled genius”; likewise, The Killing is a slow, slow burn that subverts the episodic payoffs of Law and Order-type series in favor of a moody long game. (Maybe a little too long: Season 4, which went straight to Netflix, was unnecessary.)

The Fall (Seasons 1-3 on Netflix): Yes, Jamie Dornan was terrible in Fifty Shades of Grey, but to be fair, everyone was terrible in Fifty Shades of Grey … I mean, never saw it. In British series The Fall, he’s Belfast family man Paul Spector, a serial killer who stalks, strangles and then stages women after cleaning them and painting their nails—other than the whole murder thing, he’s almost boyfriend material. He meets his match in Det. Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson), who discerns his identity early on, setting up a tense, quasi-sexy twist on the psychological thriller. Dornan is effectively deadly-dreamy, but Anderson’s zero-bullshit woman-on-a-mission is the real draw here. (After this, it’s easy to see why she doesn’t want to go back to playing second fiddle on The X-Files.) The Fall wraps tidily at 17 episodes total, with little fat or filler.

Marcella (Season 1 on Netflix): If The Fall is the gold standard of contemporary British crime dramas, 2016’s Marcella takes the silver—but it’s still deeper than most American cop shows. (God, I’m such a hipster.) This one comes from producer/writer/director Hans Rosenfeldt (who created FX’s late, great The Bridge—another murder-y thriller), with Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies, The Girlfriend Experience) in the title role as a troubled London detective pulled back into the case of a suddenly-active-again serial killer. Marcella also has 99 problems: Her husband (Nicholas Pinnock) has just left her for a younger woman at his legal firm; said woman is among the killer's latest victims; Marcella suffers from rage blackouts from which she sometimes awakens covered in blood (!). Friel is fantastic; Season 2 arrives later this year.

Hannibal (Seasons 1-3 on Amazon Prime): This actually aired on primetime broadcast network television—though some NBC affiliates opted to pre-empt it after they finally figured out that Hannibal, based on not-at-all-obscure film The Silence of the Lambs, was about a serial-killing cannibal. And a dandy one, at that: Lead Mads Mikkelsen so artfully and lovingly crafts human-based dishes, an argument could be made for giving him his own Food Network show. Likewise, producer Bryan Fuller—who went on to realize, then abandon, American Gods—uses gorgeously gory imagery and psychological density that somehow thrived within standard TV constraints. Hannibal is a prequel, chronicling his pre-Lambs days assisting the FBI in tracking like-minded (but, of course, inferior) serial killers. A 39-episode work of pure art.

True Detective (Seasons 1-2 on HBO Now): In True Detective, creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto envisioned an anthology series that would introduce new plots and casts in subsequent seasons—and he screwed himself by producing an incredible first run, with stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson turning in some of their most memorable performances ever. The two play disparate detectives (Harrelson’s Martin Hart is a linear-thinking traditionalist; McConaughey’s Rust Cohle is hyper-smart profiler who monologues about the futility of existence) investigating an occult-style murder in 1995 Louisiana. The twist: The two are telling the story from their own viewpoints in the present, being interviewed by police about a similar recent killing. And don’t believe the haters about Season 2: It holds up … just not quite as well.

Bates Motel (Seasons 1-5 on Netflix): The origin story of young Norman Bates (played to maximum creep-out effect by Freddie Highmore) doesn’t quite end where you think it will, knowing Psycho lore, but the journey is profoundly N-U-T-S. Norman loves his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga, who was rightfully nominated for all the awards for her fiercely protective/alluringly unhinged portrayal). Like, really, really, really loves her—we’re talking Lannister-level “Incest Is Best” fan fiction. He also has blackout-and-kill episodes, not to mention the occasional tendency to become Norma, posh vintage dresses and all. Thing is, you genuinely feel for the kid, and Bates Motel’s other surprisingly fleshed-out characters as well. Even when going off the rails, the series maintains its eerie, suspenseful trajectory toward an end you only think you know.

Dexter (Seasons 1-8 on Netflix): The murderer who only takes out murderers—Dexter! Michael C. Hall’s portrayal of self-narrating Miami PD forensics specialist Dexter Morgan swept pop culture when the Showtime series debuted in 2006, and “Dexter” became shorthand for “serial killer.” The more-recent shows on this list make Dexter look like a relative lightweight in comparison, but at the time, it was dark stuff, and Seasons 1-4 are unassailable as great, twisty drama (Season 4, with John Lithgow’s acclaimed Trinity Killer turn, in particular). Dexter had a sly, underlying sense of humor as well: “It’s said there are seven stages of grief. I suppose killing someone with my bare hands in a men’s room was my way of working through the anger stage. Whatever the other six stages are … I don’t have time for them”—that’s comedy. Maybe just skip Seasons 5-8.

Bill Frost talks about television on the TV Tan podcast (BillFrost.tv) and tweets about it at @Bill_Frost.

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The Family (Thursday, March 3, ABC), series debut: ABC has only launched a single winner in the 2015-16 TV season: Quantico (aka Federal Beautiful Investigators, aka How to Get Away With Homeland—which returns March 6, if you were wondering). Everything else has been DOA, and The Family will likely be no different. The dully named “political thriller” stars Joan Allen as Maine politician Claire Warren, an aspiring candidate for governor whose campaign is rocked by the sudden return of her son Adam (Liam James), who was presumed murdered a decade ago. Is Claire’s politically prudent persona as a “survivor” in jeopardy? Will the wrongly ailed “killer” (Andrew McCarthy) seek revenge? Where the hell’s Adam been—if it’s really even him? Is the Warren family harboring even more secrets and lies than ABC’s other lamely titled drama, Secrets and Lies? Couldn’t this have all been wrapped up in a Lifetime movie? So many questions, so few mehs to give.

House of Cards (Friday, March 4, Netflix), season premiere: Speaking of political thrillers, TV’s second-most-realistic Beltway series (the first being HBO’s Veep, of course), House of Cards, is back for Season 4, and facing steep challenges: bouncing back after a relatively weak third season, the impending departure of its showrunner, and competition with the ongoing tragi-comedy that is our current presidential election cycle. President Frank (Kevin Spacey) and First Lady Claire (Robin Wright) are still at odds, and Frank’s Democratic-nomination win against Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel) is looking far less assured than Hillary Clinton’s is in real life (sorry, Bernie-acs). That’s not the end of his female problems—Ellen Burstyn and Neve Campbell are also onboard for S4—and they, thankfully, bring out the darker and dirtier sides of Fightin’ Frank that made House of Cards’ first two seasons click. And no, the news media still doesn’t come off well … at all.

Bates Motel (Monday, March 7, A&E), season premiere: After a couple of years of hinting at it, Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) finally started becoming Psycho Norman Bates last season—and occasionally Norma, even though Bates Motel already has a perfectly fantastic Norma (Vera Farmiga—why has she not won all of the awards for this role?!). As Season 4 opens, Norman’s still on the run to avoid being checked into a pricey loony bin (20 grand a month? Might as well just send him to rehab in Malibu with Andy Dick); Emma (Olivia Cooke) is closer than ever to no longer being “Oxygen Tank Girl” (though I will still insist on referring to her as such); and Norma is closer-er than ever to finally going to Bone Town with Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell). If you haven’t yet—hacky TV critic joke alert—checked into Bates Motel, do it now: There’s only one more season to come after this.

Damien (Monday, March 7, A&E), series debut: Are they sure it wasn’t a “999” on the back of the baby’s head? Easy mistake, just sayin.’ This latest take on Keeping Up With the Antichrist was created and produced by Glen Mazzara (The Shield, The Walking Dead), and features some veteran onscreen talent (Barbara Hershey and Walking Dead alum Scott Wilson), but do we really need a grown-up Damien? Star Bradley James (Merlin) has none of the devilish charisma of Fox’s Lucifer, or even a houseplant on the set of Lucifer, so all of the impressively creepy cinematography and whispery foreboding Mazzara can conjure isn’t going to make Damien the viable Bates Motel companion piece that A&E still needs. (Remember The Returned? Yeah, neither does anyone else.) Maybe try a Phantasm remake series next year.

Of Kings and Prophets (Tuesday, March 8, ABC), series debut: Between The Family, The Real O’Neals and Of Kings and Prophets, this is shaping up to be the worst ABC midseason in years—and they haven’t even dropped Uncle Buck yet. Of Kings and Prophets was originally pitched by the showrunners as a “sexy Biblical epic,” which, naturally, means: “We set out to make a cable-caliber drama loaded with steamy sex and bloody violence … but then the network stepped in and watered it down while we updated our résumés in the breakroom.” 

Published in TV

After “Are you still writing for that paper?” and “Why did I assume you were dead?” the question I’m most often asked is: “So, what’s good on TV?”

Sure, I write a readily available weekly column about what’s good on TV (and not-so-good), and produce a podcast (TV Tan—look it up on iTunes and Stitcher) covering the same, but you can’t be expected to keep up with it all. Quality programming? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

You do, actually: Let’s pretend that daily “live” TV viewing didn’t die along with print journalism several years ago, and let’s scroll through the week with a day-by-day breakdown of what to Watch (good stuff deserving of your attention) and, for the hell of it, Hate Watch (stuff so terrible that it’s fun to mock) right now. Or DVR it all for a weekend binge—I don’t know your lifestyle.

Thursday: Even though the network tried to kill its biggest hit by moving it to Thursday nights, The Blacklist (NBC) is still a must-Watch. TV critics are divided on The Comedians, but I say it’s a worthy lead-in to Louie, and that’s all that matters (FX). On the Hate Watch front, there’s Lip Synch Battle (Spike), a “singing” competition that’s done away with singing altogether. Jimmy Fallon’s next “viral innovation”: Celebrity Naptime.

Friday: Real Time With Bill Maher and Vice (HBO) for politicos and news junkies, The Soup (E!) for pop-culture catch-upists, and The Grace Helbig Show for … well, I’m not sure who this is for yet, but Helbig’s YouTube-to-TV transition is, more often than not, as funny as it is brain-implodingly awkward (E!). Also, Childrens Hospital (Adult Swim), because even you have 11 minutes to spare. Hate Watch: The Messengers (The CW), wherein impossibly pretty CW actors fret about the rapture and a desolate Friday-night timeslot.

Saturday: Orphan Black (BBC America) is one of the rare sci-fi dramas that lives up to its hype. Don’t be put off by all of the clone characters (most played fantastically by Tatiana Maslany)—if you can follow Game of Thrones, you can follow this. Same goes for the time-jumping Outlander (Starz), the lushly-produced Scot-drama that earns its nickname Fifty Shades of Plaid. For Hate Watching, My Cat From Hell (Animal Planet), because no one seems to realize that you can find a new, less-hellish kitty, oh, anywhere.

Sunday: A busy night, with Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Veep and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO); Mad Men (AMC); Salem (WGN America); Bob’s Burgers, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Last Man on Earth (Fox); Mr. Selfridge (PBS); and now the new Happyish (Showtime) all vying for discerning eyeballs. Set aside some Hate Watch moments for A.D. The Bible Continues and American Odyssey (NBC); they’ve really earned it.

Monday: Bates Motel has cranked its simmering insanity up to full-tilt bonkers this season, while The Returned continues its supernatural slow-burn—together, they constitute the creepiest two-hour block of the week, not counting Sunday-morning news shows (A&E). Hate Watch Turn: Washington’s Spies (AMC), which is as obtuse as a tri-corner hat and somehow even duller than actual American history.

Tuesday: Catch up on your streaming—there are unseen episodes of Daredevil (Netflix) and Community (Yahoo Screen) still waiting for you. Hate Watch: Powers (PlayStation Network), the comic-book adaptation that can’t even.

Wednesday: Heard of Big Time in Hollywood, FL? It fills the sick-wrong-funny gap left by Broad City where Workaholics failed (Comedy Central). The obvious Hate Watch is CSI: Cyber (CBS), the stoopidest depiction of tech-terrorism since every “cyberpunk” movie produced in 1995. Do not, repeat, do not respond to any e-mails from your parents re: “Black Hat Hackers.”

Published in TV

True Detective (HBO): Creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto probably screwed himself by launching this mesmerizing crime anthology with stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson at the top of their respective games. Good luck following up these eight near-perfect episodes.

Banshee (Cinemax): This left-field, visceral mashup of Justified, Twin Peaks and Fight Club went pulp-gonzo harder in Season 2, expanding the world of Banshee, Penn., just enough to introduce even more Amish mobster/Ukrainian thug mayhem. It’s that weird, and that cool.

Shameless (Showtime): Things somehow got worse as they got better for the Gallagher clan in Season 4, with William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum delivering alternately heartbreaking and hilarious performances. This is America’s family.

Justified (FX): Star Timothy Olyphant put his boot down and rescued Justified from becoming entirely the show of Boyd (Walton Goggins) in its fifth and penultimate season, and brought some new colorful characters along for the ride.

Broad City (Comedy Central): Few comedies arrive as fully-realized as Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s Broad City (though it did have a head-start as a Web series); their broke Brooklynites are the female flipside of Workaholics, only smarter, funnier and occasionally grosser.

Helix (Syfy): This Arctic Andromeda Strain/Walking Dead hybrid from Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) crept up with no big splash, but it did earn a second season for 2015—catch up on Netflix now.

The Americans (FX): Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys continued to out-spy Homeland while still stuck in Cold War 1981, facing down more danger (and wigs) than Carrie and Brody could ever imagine.

Archer (FX): Meanwhile, Archer (code-named Archer Vice) blew up its spy premise and dove face-first into cocaine and country music. Literally.

House of Cards (Netflix): Vice president Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) delivered a shocking twist in the first episode of Season 2, and the train didn’t stop a-rollin’ from there. As with actual D.C. politics, it’s best not to think too hard about the machinations en route to the presidency

Fargo (FX): Lorne (Billy Bob Thornton), Lester (Martin Freeman) and Deputy Molly (Allison Tolman) shut down the “You can’t touch that movie” doubters from frame one with this dark, funny adaptation that faltered fewer times than True Detective. Oh, you bet’cha.

From Dusk Till Dawn (El Rey): Another film-to-TV transition that defied the haters, From Dusk Till Dawn expanded the 1996 cult classic into an even crazier, racier 10-episode ride where the definition of “the good guys” is subjective.

Game of Thrones (HBO): Like anyone’s going to make a list without Game of Thrones. Get real.

Silicon Valley (HBO): Mike Judge finally, if not intentionally, created the sequel to Office Space with Silicon Valley, a hysterically profane (and tech-jargoned, at least at first) saga about programmers in waaay over their heads. If only Halt and Catch Fire had been half this much fun.

Veep (HBO): Speaking of profane: VP Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her team continued to fail upward in Season 3, from WTF? to the brink of POTUS. Pray for your country.

Bates Motel (A&E): Murder, drugs, love triangles, commercial zoning disputes—Bates Motel has it all! Norman (Freddie Highmore) became as intriguing as mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) in Season 2, no small feat, as did some of the supporting players. Why wait for Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival? It’s already here.

Mad Men (AMC): Splitting the final season in half was a lousy idea (the Mad Men buzz is pretty much nil at this point), but those first seven episodes provided a course-correcting jolt that should make for a hell of a 2015 finale, whenever that happens (hopefully, not in the ’70s).

Orphan Black (BBC America): See Game of Thrones.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO): Sure, it’s a Daily Show knock-off with F-bombs—but those rants! Corporations, media, condiments—suck it! Everything the overblown Newsroom attempted over three seasons, Oliver nailed in 30 minutes.

Legit (FXX): Poor Jim Jefferies. His Louie-like Legit finally got good by the end of its first season, then FX exiled it to the untested FXX for Season 2: no promotion, no viewers, just yelling into a vast, empty room. See what you missed on Netflix (along with Jeffries’ stand-up specials).

Playing House (USA): Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham as almost-uncomfortably close BFFs failed on network TV, but found a niche on cable with Playing House, which could be the first series ever to make pregnancy play funny and inclusive.

Parks and Recreation (NBC): While as excellent as ever, Season 6 probably should have been the last (maybe even halfway through), but at least we’ll get a proper sendoff for NBC’s last great Must-See comedy in 2015.

Rick and Morty (Adult Swim): Few “get” Community, but Dan Harmon’s other TV project, the animated, and simultaneously brainy and crude Rick and Morty—imagine Back to the Future with more universes, booze and malicious aliens—clicked immediately on Adult Swim.

Louie (FX): Louis C.K. made us wait two years for a new season, then delivered 14 arty-if-not-always-funny installments of Louie, which were rightfully hailed as “brave,” “experimental” and “mostly free of black T-shirts.”

Maron (IFC): Marc Maron didn’t stray too far from the formula of his debut season in his second go-round—regarding how difficult it is to be Marc Maron, specifically, and a middle-aged white dude with a podcast in general. Still brilliant.

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix): Season 2 leaned more dramatic than comedic, and pulled killer performances from everyone in (and out) of Litchfield Penitentiary. Creator Jenji Kohan is well on her way to achieving the heretofore-thought impossible: Topping her previous series, Weeds.

The Leftovers (HBO): Life sucks when you’re not Raptured, and The Leftovers was the ultimate summer-bummer wallow, not to mention the vehicle that finally made Justin Theroux matter.

Rectify (Sundance): And while we’re on the topic of dramas filmed in Depress-o-Vision … damn.

Longmire (A&E): In its third season, Longmire fully broke away from its Justified Out West trappings and became a gripping, dusty crime drama in its own right. A&E rewarded this creative triumph—and high ratings—with a cancellation notice in order to make way for more Duck Dynasty. Fortunately, Netflix came to the rescue, and Season 4 will be streaming by late 2015. I’m beginning to understand you cable-cutters …

Coming next week: Part 2—even more shows!

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Bad Judge, A to Z (Thursday, Oct. 2, NBC), series debuts: On second viewing, The Only TV Column That Matters™ has revised its assessment of Bad Judge: Kate Walsh is still great as a party-animal judge, but this sitcom is an underdeveloped mess, even compared to NBC’s own Mysteries of Laura, the fall TV season’s designated Underdeveloped Mess. With better writers and a home on cable (Walsh’s smart, wicked comic streak would kill on FX or Showtime), Bad Judge could have been a contender. (Scroll down to see the trailer.) Rom-com A to Z, on the other hand, is more focused and on-point with the network’s recent Less Weird/More Sweet comedy mandate. Plus, Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother’s mother) and Ben Feldman (Mad Men’s Ginsberg) have an easy, if somewhat vanilla, chemistry. Only one of these shows is likely to make it out of October alive—guess which?

Gracepoint (Thursday, Oct. 2, Fox), series debut: Do you like the British crime series Broadchurch, but wish it were more ’Merican and dull? Here’s Gracepoint, with Broadchurch star David Tennant reprising his detective role with questionable haircut 2.0 and a faint air of, “Haven’t I already done this?” Joining him is Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn, and the pair will work a single murder case for 10 episodes—like The Killing, but with a (promised) conclusion. Tennant and Gunn work the dialogue and trench coats effectively, but there’s about as much reason for Gracepoint to exist as any subsequent season of, well, The Killing.

Mulaney (Sunday, Oct. 5, Fox), series debut: It’s already out there that Mulaney is the worst new sitcom of the season, but the question was posed to my TV Tan podcast (available on iTunes and Stitcher, kids) recently: Is it worth hate-watching, or at least a drinking game? My theory is that quality hate-watching requires at least one redeeming element in a show, something not-eye-gougingly-heinous on which to focus. In Mulaney’s case, that would be ex-Saturday Night Live player Nasim Pedrad, who must have paid someone off to the get the only funny lines in the pilot (though the cranked-to-11 laugh track begs you to believe that it’s all funny). As for a drinking game, just take a shot every time star John Mulaney, who possesses all of the acting skill of a young Seinfeld, recites a cue card like it’s a Chinese takeout menu; tomorrow morning, you won’t remember this ever happened.

Homeland (Sunday, Oct. 5, Showtime), two-hour season premiere: It’s now The Carrie Mathison Show (iffy idea, Showtime), as our precarious heroine is deployed to the Middle East. The first hour of Homeland’s Season 4 premiere doesn’t offer much hope for a post-Brody future; it’s a deadly dull slog of exposition and bad jazz livened up only by the sight of guest star Corey Stoll free of his hilarious wig from The Strain. The second hour makes a better case for Claire Danes carrying the series—if you make it that far.

The Flash (Tuesday, Oct. 7, The CW), series debut: Fox’s Gotham has all the marketing muscle, but this high-gloss Arrow spin-off is the season’s most comic-booky series of the DC Comics wave. The Flash, about Central City CSI investigator-turned-Fastest Man Alive Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), is closer to the early years of Smallville than the dark and growly Arrow; even though there’s some darkness in his past, nerdy Barry is having more fun here than broody Oliver Queen is back in Starling City. At the very least, it’s better than CBS’ 1990 attempt at a Flash TV series, back when televisions were square, and the best Marvel Comics movie was Howard the Duck (!).


DVD ROUNDUP FOR OCT. 7!

Bates Motel: Season 2

As Norman (Freddie Highmore) becomes weirder and more blackout-y, Norma (Vera Farmiga) makes new allies to save the motel, and Dylan (Max Thieriot) gets deeper into the local drug trade. White Pine Bay really does have it all. (Universal)

Edge of Tomorrow

Actually re-titled Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow, not that anyone should need to be tricked into watching this movie about alien-fighter Tom Cruise being killed over and over again. Good sci-fi action flick, dumb name. (Warner Bros.)

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Seth MacFarlane directs, co-writes and plays Albert, a farmer who falls for a woman (Charlize Theron) who teaches him how to be a gunslinger, thus pissing off her outlaw husband (Liam Neeson). More plot than a Family Guy episode. (Universal)

Obvious Child

When struggling Brooklyn comedian Donna (Jenny Slate) finds herself jobless, dumped and pregnant, she decides to get an abortion on Valentine’s Day—now that’s comedy! More bodily function jokes than a Family Guy episode. (Lionsgate)

Rick and Morty: Season 1

Boozehound scientist Rick (the voice of Justin Roiland) takes his nephew Morty (also Roiland) on adventures into other dimensions, few of which end well—hence, the best new Adult Swim cartoon in years, courtesy of Community creator Dan Harmon. (Warner Bros.)

More New DVD Releases (Oct. 7)

American Horror Story: Season 3, The Following: Season 2, Hemlock Grove: Season 1, Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, Million Dollar Arm, Psych: The Complete Series, Sharknado 2: The Second One, Vikings: Season 2.

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Portlandia (Thursday, Feb. 27, IFC), season premiere: The biggest changes for Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s Portlandia in Season 4? It’s now on Thursdays (dunno why—comedy void?), and the guest-star lineup is ridicu-lectic (Olivia Wilde, Kirsten Dunst, Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, Grimm’s Silas Weir Mitchell, Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Saturday Night Live’s Vanessa Bayer, Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan, the Portland Trailblazers and even sex columnist Dan Savage from Portland’s mortal enemy, Seattle, to name a few). While Netflix is a fine place to start, The Only TV Column That Matters™ recommends catching up on Portlandia via AKidsGuideToPortlandia.com, written by 7-year-old Ezra (yes, really).

Vikings (Thursday, Feb. 27, History), season premiere: Speaking of the writings of 7-year-olds … I kid; lighten up. Vikings was one of 2013’s more out-of-left-field hits, a period drama that somehow combined the sensibilities of Game of Thrones and Sons of Anarchy without being anywhere near as smart as either, and a cast (including Travis Fimmel, Gabriel Byrne and Donal Logue) working their asses off to sell it. Oh, and it’s probably the least-disputable “history” series on the History Channel, because, as a showrunner has said, “Hey, no one knows what happened in the Dark Ages.” (Argue with that, college brainiacs.) Game of Thrones returns April 6; Vikings will do for now.

Hollywood Game Night (Thursday, Feb. 27, NBC), spring premiere: Since NBC only has two comedies left (the new About a Boy and Growing Up Fisher don’t count, as you’ve just asked yourself, “What the hell are About a Boy and Growing Up Fisher?”), this is what you get after Community and Parks and Recreation: Hollywood Game Night, because selling the slot before Parenthood to Shark Rocket vacuum infomercials would just look like giving up. On Hollywood Game Night, honest-to-god, possibly blackmailed celebrities play party games to win money for charities and unattractive civilian contestants. For an hour. On primetime American television. Why are we rooting for NBC again?

Hannibal (Friday, Feb. 28, NBC), season premiere: Oh yeah—because of a handful of ballsy calls like Hannibal. Along with The Blacklist, Hannibal (a prequel to Silence of the Lambs) is one of the few recent NBC series that lives up to the network’s oft-referenced plan to make “cable-quality” dramas. (Dracula, which used to reside here on Fridays, was another, but that didn’t quite work out.) If creator/producer Bryan Fuller’s gorgeously—and gorily—filmed twist on the Quirky Outsider Assists Cops procedural were on cable, the performances of Mads Mikkelsen (as Dr. Hannibal Lecter) and Hugh Dancy (as FBI profiler Will Graham) would get more notice. Moving Hannibal to Fridays might also do the trick: What else is on?

Bates Motel, Those Who Kill (Monday, March 3, A&E), season premiere and series debut: Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) has a sassy new hairdo, a successful (for now) motel, and son who’s at the midpoint between petulant teenager and blackout serial killer—welcome to Season 2! Norman (Freddie Highmore) has taken the murder of his sexy teacher hard, whether he did it or not, and there’s plenty more going down in White Pines Bay: His crush Bradley (Nicola Peltz) has gone off the deep end over her father’s death; his brother Dylan (Max Thieriot) is up to his neck in the local weed trade; and Norma just wants to stop the damned highway overpass project from putting her out of business. (Murder, drugs, love triangles, commercial zoning disputes—Bates Motel has it all.) Stick around for Chloe Sevigny’s Those Who Kill afterward—it’s not great, but it’s important to support the handful of original dramas surrounded by A&E’s ocean of crap reality shows.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR MARCH 4!

Big Bad Wolf

An abusive stepfather (Charlie O’Connell) hunts down his three teen stepdaughters, who’ve run away with the drug money he was going to use to retire in Mexico with his mistress. Yes, it is a dark take on The Three Little Pigs—how’d you guess? (Kino)

Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor

The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) rush to save the universe, avert a new Time War and get all timey-wimey-weepy in the holiday-ish 800th (!) episode that introduces the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi). (Warner Bros.)

Mexican Sunrise

A south-of-the-border bachelor party goes bad when a local drug kingpin (Armand Assante!) takes the bros hostage in order to collect a debt—imagine Very Bad Things with more strippers and tequila. Based on a true story, far as you know. (Maverick)

Oldboy

A wrongly-imprisoned man (Josh Brolin) spends 20 years plotting his revenge against The Stranger; ultra-violence (yay!), incest (ew!) and a wholly unsatisfying remake of the 2003 Korean cult classic ensue. A Spike Lee Film, not Joint. (Sony)

The Venture Bros.: Season 5

The fifth season of The Greatest Animated Series of All Time consists of only eight episodes, but with “A Very Venture Halloween” and “The Shallow Gravy Story” as bonus features, things kind of even out. All this, and “Spanakopita!” (Warner Bros.)

More New DVD Releases (March 4)

12 Years a Slave, The Best of Men, Blast Vegas, Blood Rush, Breaking Amish: Season 1, Children of Sorrow, Cold Comes the Night, The Facility, The Grandmaster, Hours, Hysterical Psycho, The Knot, The Last Days of Mars, Rabid Love, Wicked Blood

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Arrow (The CW): The comic-book superhero series that got it right in its first year has been on fire in Season 2, jacking up the action to thrillingly visceral levels, as well as giving both our hero’s allies (love that Felicity) and enemies (hate that Malcolm) generous chunks of screen time. Oh, and the Flash!

Justified (FX): Despite the guns, guns, guns promos, Justified is all about the consequences and the dialogue, and Season 4—which had to follow a landmark “just try and top that” season—had plenty for Marshal Raylan, Boyd and anyone unlucky enough to be attached to them. FX’s best drama, period.

Banshee (Cinemax): This gritty-weird series about an ex-con assuming the identity of a small-town sheriff to reunite with his former lover/partner—and their loot—should have been a pulp-crime mess, but the deepening story (and the hyper-violent action) can’t be denied.

Shameless (Showtime): The Gallaghers continued their grimy reign as America’s Family, and Season 3 injected all-too-real drama and fallout for their many, many questionable actions. No other series can match Shameless for sheer volume of yeah-it’s-cable-but-they-can-get-away-with-that?! situations.

Bates Motel (A&E): Sure, it seemed a like terrible idea at first, but the subtle, creeping terror of Psycho: The Wonder Years worked, thanks to Vera Farmiga’s sympathetic but wildly unpredictable Norma Bates. We know where it’s all going, but the ride so far is addictive.

Archer (FX): Season 4 kicked off with a hysterically blatant nod to star voice H. Jon Benjamin’s other series, Bob’s Burgers, and ended with a tribute to obscure Adult Swim series Sealab 2021. The characters are idiots, but Archer’s scripting is stoopid-smart.

Veep (HBO): Speaking of hapless dumbasses guided by comedic genius, Veep’s second season stayed the course of Vice President Selina Meyer’s slog through deflating beltway politics and worse PR. It’s funny, profane and probably closer to the truth than C-SPAN.

Breaking Bad (AMC): Obviously. Breaking Bad’s final season may have tied up more neatly than logically, but a drama this perfectly executed over five years earned more than a few last Wile E. Coyote outs. Go back and re-watch the whole series without the weekly critical media over-over-analysis; you’ll enjoy it even more.

The League (FXX): Even a gonzo throwaway episode dedicated entirely to peripheral characters Rafi and Dirty Randy couldn’t distract from the scarily consistent and ruthless comedy of The League’s fifth season. It’s finally a viable heir to the Sunny in Philadelphia crown—or Shiva.

Ray Donovan (Showtime): Gigantically-noggin-ed Liev Schreiber is an unlikely leading man, but his portrayal of Ray Donovan, a Hollywood “fixer” with a family from hell (Bah-ston, actually), kills. Even better is Jon Voight’s giddy, nothing-to-lose performance.

The Blacklist (NBC) After two years of empty talk, NBC finally made good on the idea to produce “cable-quality” programming, first with Hannibal, then the superior crime serial The Blacklist. The series doesn’t shy from intensity and violence, and James Spader is, well, James Spader.

Parks and Recreation (NBC): On the flipside, now that NBC has discovered the ratings gold of ineptly staged musicals, smart underperformers like Parks and Recreation are likely doomed. Too bad; Seasons 5 and 6 have been the comedy’s strongest yet, even with the impending losses of Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe.

Masters of Sex (Showtime): A semi-factual ’50s period piece with the warm look (and contentiously slow pace) of Mad Men, Masters of Sex delivered on the years-building Lizzy Caplan hype and, even though it’s as much soap opera as historical document, radiated raw humanity. The (purely clinical) nudity and sex didn’t hurt, either.

13 Runners-Up: The Americans, American Horror Story: Coven, Bob’s Burgers, Eastbound and Down, Grimm, House of Cards, Maron, New Girl, Orange Is the New Black, Raising Hope, Rectify, Sons of Anarchy, Trophy Wife.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR DEC. 31!

CBGB

The story of Hilly Kristal (played by Alan Rickman) and the legendary ’70s punk club that launched thousands of bands. Also starring Taylor Hawkins as the worst Iggy Pop ever, and Opie from Sons of Anarchy as, natch, a biker. (Xlrator)

Don Jon

Porn aficionado Don Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and rom-com lover Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) try to make a relationship work despite unrealistic expectations on both sides and the fact that she’s Scarlett Goddamn Johansson. (Relativity)

Hell Baby

When an expectant couple (Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb) moves into a cursed house, it’s up to a pair of Vatican exorcists (Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon) to vanquish the evil. It’s Reno 911! meets The Exorcist meets House Hunters. (Millennium)

InAPPropriate Comedy

A tablet full of offensive apps becomes the excuse for a random series of comedy sketches starring Adrien Brody, Rob Schneider, Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan and others. Directed by the ShamWow guy, so you know it’s funny. (Freestyle)

Sweetwater

An ex-prostitute (January Jones) makes a new life for herself and her husband in 1800s New Mexico, only to have it ripped away; bloody, horrific vengeance and Jones’ bloody horrific acting ensue. Yet it’s still better than The Lone Ranger. (Arc)

More New DVD Releases (Dec. 31)

Angel of the Skies, Black Angel, Cassadaga, Last Love, Love Marilyn, Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear, Percentage, Sanitarium, Shaolin Warrior, Sister, When Calls the Heart, Zombie Hamlet.

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Robocroc (Saturday, Sept. 14, Syfy), movie: It may be a summer leftover, but this cheese-saster flick has the best title after Sharknado. In Robocroc—see what I mean?—a minding-its-own-business crocodile accidentally becomes infected with military nanobots, transforming it into a “metal killing machine” (note to self: future band name) bent on chomping bikini babes at a nearby resort, because there are always bikini babes and a nearby resort. Robocroc is all the awful you’ve come to expect from Syfy, and now that every animal mash-up has been explored, it’s a perfect scene-setter for Sharkborg.

Under the Dome, Siberia (Monday, Sept. 16, CBS and NBC), season finales: One is a heavily-promoted Summer Event watched by millions every week; the other is overlooked Summer Filler forgotten by even its own network—the “huh?” look on your face suggests that you have no idea what Siberia even is. Under the Dome started off strong, but went sideways at the midpoint of what was supposed to be its only season: After promising one-and-done, CBS picked the series up for a second run next summer, presumably titled Still Under the Dome. Meanwhile, Siberia, a faux Survivor-type reality show loaded with wacko plot twists and a mounting body count, has at least remained consistent, if not great. And, since there’s zero chance of a second Siberia season, The Only TV Column That Matters™ is looking forward to even more dead contestants. (If only So You Think You Can Dance worked the same way.)

Sleepy Hollow (Monday, Sept. 16, Fox), series debut: Thanks to a spell cast during the Revolutionary War, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is transported 250 years into the present—but, surprise, so is the Headless Horseman! Turns out HH is but one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Crane must stop him while adjusting to this crazy new world of laws, technology and SuperCuts. Mison is intense and broody, and Sleepy Hollow’s production is dazzlingly high-dollar and chilling. If the show doesn’t flinch and commits to going full-tilt bizarre, it might avoid becoming this year’s The Mob Doctor.

Dads, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Tuesday, Sept. 17, Fox), series debuts: Seth MacFarlane’s live-action sitcom is already catching heat for a stereotypical depiction of an Asian woman in a schoolgirl outfit, but come on—there’s sooo much more to hate about Dads. One: The setup (cranky fathers move back in with their wisecracking 30-something sons) is straight out of TV Land. Two: So is the grating laugh track, which is completely at odds with the rest of Fox’s comedy lineup. Three: It’s an unfairly terrible lead-in for the far-funnier Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Despite being about cops and starring Andy Samberg (if you’re an Andy-hater, prepare to be impressed—or at least not annoyed), the show captures the effortless, single-camera comedy of Tuesday-night compatriots New Girl and The Mindy Project, with more than a little Adult Swim edge. But really, it’s all about Terry Crews.

New Girl, The Mindy Project (Tuesday, Sept. 17, Fox), season premieres: Speaking of Jess and Mindy, Fox’s funniest non-animated ladies return for Seasons 3 and 2, respectively, on the same night. On New Girl, Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) are not only still a thing; they’re also taking a “romantic” trip to Mexico that will end just as you imagine. Later, Mindy (Mindy Kaling) and her … cute? … new haircut are already back from Haiti, just in time to meet the practice’s new oddly-named OB/GYN, Dr. Paul Leotard (guest star James Franco). Oh, James …


DVD ROUNDUP FOR SEPT. 17!

Bates Motel: Season 1

Mom Norma (Vera Farmiga) and son Norman (Freddie Highmore) open the Bates Motel, and it’s soon apparent from where the kid will eventually get his Psycho motivation. (Spoiler: Mom is batshit loony.) One of the best series of 2013. (Universal)

The Bling Ring

The true-ish story of Hollywood teens (including one played by Taissa Farmiga—Vera’s little sis!) who robbed celebrities of more than $3 million and, even smarter, bragged about it and got caught. And now they’re famous. Hmmm. (LionsGate)

Nashville: Season 1

Drama! Sequins! Country music! Two outta three ain’t bad: A country queen (Connie Britton) faces a tiny, tiny upstart challenger for her crown (tiny, tiny Hayden Panettiere) and a whole lot more. They occasionally find time to sing. (ABC/Buena Vista)

Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven

Las Vegas stripper Penny Slot (Rena Riffel) sets out to become a star dancer on a TV show in the Showgirls parody sequel no one asked for—yet it was funded on Kickstarter. Lessons: Fame costs, and no good can come of Kickstarter. (MVD)

World War Z

A good-lookin’ hippie (Brad Pitt) and his family escape a worldwide zombie outbreak and reluctantly team up with the military to find the source in order to create a vaccine—but is it too late for the planet? Vaccine Kickstarter! (Paramount)

More New DVD Releases (Sept. 17)

Arrow: Season 1, Ashamed, Bank Roll, Behind the Candelabra, CSI: Season 13, Cybornetics: Urban Cyborg, Death by VHS, Grimm: Season 2, The Haunting of Helena, Leverage: Season 5, Lionhead, Machete Language, The Mentalist: Season 5, Shanghai Calling, Simon Killer, Vegas: Season 1.

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