CVIndependent

Fri12132019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Bill Frost

Aquarius (Thursday, June 16, NBC), season premiere: When last we (meaning me; I’ve yet to meet anybody who watched Season 1) left Aquarius, it was spring of 1968; Det. Hodiak (David Duchovny) and the Los Angeles Police Department were possibly going under an internal affairs investigation; and milquetoast messiah Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) was finally starting to show some psycho-spunk. (Remember, it took Axl Rose a couple of albums to get there, too.) In keeping with history, the two-hour Season 2 premiere of Aquarius sees the Manson Family moving in with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson (Andy Favreau), as Hodiak becomes caught up in another missing-girls case while still making time to snark at hippies; and beat cop Tully (Claire Holt) gets in over her head in a dangerous case again because, you know, even the late ’60s still sucked for women. Aquarius may never achieve its five-season plan, but it has more swagger and grit than most current cop dramas, and features as much sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll as, well, FX’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. (Seriously, the ’60s music rights and oregano budgets must be staggering.)

Orange Is the New Black (Friday, June 17, Netflix), season premiere: Netflix has put so many “No Spoilers!” review restrictions on Season 4 of Orange Is the New Black that there’s not much left to say besides: There’s a busload of new characters (literally); Piper (Taylor Schilling) has less screen time than ever; Alex (Laura Prepon) has more troubles than ever; there’s darkness; there’s light; there’s more darkness; and creator/writer Jenji Kohan is still maintaining an impressive level of dramatic quality. (Then again, her previous series, Weeds, began to run off the rails around Season 4, so … .) Besides, you’ll have binged all 13 episodes by the time you get around to reading this, anyway.

The Jim Gaffigan Show (Sunday, June 19, TV Land), season premiere: TV Land has rebranded, dumping Baby Boomers in favor of Gen-Xers (can’t keep catering to a demo that’s almost extinct—unless you're a newspaper … uh …). Laugh tracks and cheap sets are being replaced with single-camera film and a scrappier attitude, and The Jim Gaffigan Show is the flagship for the new TV Land. If you’ve seen Gaffigan’s standup, you know this sitcom: tubby white guy, wife and kids, junk food. Despite a few critical nags about the series being a pale—nope, not going for the easy pasty-Jim joke here—imitation of Louie and Curb Your Enthusiasm, TJGS rose above its anticipated blandness with sharp writing and a sharper supporting. Fun fact (unless you’re an NBC Universal exec): Like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Lip Sync Battle, The Jim Gaffigan Show was rejected by NBC (which stands for Now Bereft of Comedy).

American Gothic (Wednesday, June 22, CBS), series debut: Compared to the long-lost 1995 also-CBS American Gothic drama about a supernaturally evil small-town sheriff menacing the locals—YouTube it; Gary Cole was almost as menacing in it as he is now on Veep—the new American Gothic (posh Boston family has a secret serial killer among them) seems like a snooze. It is—with a recycled title, no less. Not only does this iteration add to the glut of shows with “American” in the title (which all suck, with the lone exception of American Dad); it also wastes actors like Virginia Madsen, Antony Starr (Banshee) and Justin Chatwin (Shameless) on what CBS is now calling “A 13-Part Murder Mystery” (which really means, “We’re sure as hell not getting any more seasons out of this”). Now, American Gothic as a reality-challenge show about goths competing American Ninja-style … there’s a winner!

Murder in the First (Sunday, June 26, TNT), season premiere: Cop-show vet Steven Bochco is still hanging in there with Murder in the First, a reduced redux of his 1995 network series Murder One (a single case investigated over a season—and on cable, that means 10 episodes instead of 22). Season 3 involves the homicide of that most precious of ’Merican celebrities: a pro football player (nooo!), with San Francisco detectives English (Taye Diggs) and Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) just as gorgeous and troubled as ever. And it’s all … whatever. If the new Animal Kingdom doesn’t break the network’s meh streak (and it probably won’t), TNT is serious danger of becoming USA. No one wants that. (The premiere was scheduled for June 19, but was pushed back a week.)

Ride With Norman Reedus (AMC; Sunday, June 12, series debut): The Walking Dead star gets his own motorcycle road-trip series because AMC sure as hell wasn’t going to tell him no. Ride works well enough as a biker-culture travelogue show, as long as Reedus isn’t called upon to talk too much (just like with Daryl Dixon).

Guilt (Freeform; Monday, June 13, series debut): A London-set millennial murder-mystery soap about a young woman (Emily Tremaine, Vinyl) out to prove her sister’s innocence with the help of … Billy Zane?!

BrainDead (CBS; Monday, June 13, series debut): This government-is-stoopid political dramedy may have a killer cast (including Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Danny Pino and Tony Shaloub) and the producers of The Good Wife, but CBS isn’t going to let them get away with anything close to House of Cards or Veep, because, CBS.

Uncle Buck (ABC; Tuesday, June 14, series debut): ’Merica has rejected a TV version of the beloved 1989 movie before—but this one has an all-black cast, so at least give ABC (further) credit for chipping away at TV’s Whiteytown. But, yeah … Uncle Buck suuucks.

Animal Kingdom (TNT; Tuesday, June 14, series debut): After his mom dies of a heroin overdose, “J” Cody moves in with his sketchy grandmother, “Smurf” Cody (Ellen Barkin), the matriarch of a sketchy SoCal crime family. Producer John Wells (Shameless) knows his way around dysfunctional clans, but Animal Kingdom just looks like Surfboards of Anarchy.

Wrecked (TBS; Tuesday, June 14, series debut): Another promising new comedy from TBS—words no one ever expected to utter. Like a mashup of Gilligan’s Island (Wiki it, kids) and Lost, Wrecked follows a clueless group of plane-crash survivors stranded on an island. It’s at least funnier than Fear the Walking Dead.

American Gothic (CBS; Wednesday, June 22, series debut): Compared to the long-lost 1995 American Gothic drama about a supernaturally evil small-town sheriff menacing the locals, the new American Gothic (posh Boston family has a secret serial killer among them) seems like a snooze. It is—with a recycled title, no less.

Queen of the South (USA; Thursday, June 23, series debut): Teresa Mendoza (Alice Braga) flees to America from Mexico when her drug-dealer boyfriend is “unexpectedly” murdered (come on—it’s a high-risk gig), and she then plots her bloody revenge upon the cartel that killed him. Queen of the South is flashier and pricier than the Telemundo series from which this is lifted, therefore huger and better. Make American television great again!

Roadies (Showtime; Sunday, June 26, series debut): It’s Almost Famous: Backstage! Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino, Imogen Poots and cameo bands galore star in Cameron Crowe’s ode to the grimy life behind the rock ’n’ roll fantasy. Unlike HBO’s dark Vinyl, Roadies is set in current times and more light-hearted. Don’t worry; there are still drugs.

Dead of Summer (Freeform; Tuesday, June 28, series debut): Pretty 20-somethings in a 1980 summer-camp slasher flick that’s a weekly series! There’s a killer on the loose at Camp Stillwater, and if these kids can’t keep it in their pants, they’re all dead … so, yeah, they’re all pretty much dead.

The Get Down (Netflix; Friday, Aug. 12, series debut): Baz Luhrmann dramatizes the rise of rise of hip-hop in ’70s New York City in what will surely be a subtle, understated affair.

Returning in June: Hell on Wheels (AMC; Saturday, June 11); The Last Ship (TNT; Sunday, June 12); Major Crimes (TNT; Monday, June 13); Another Period (Comedy Central; Wednesday, June 15); Aquarius (NBC; Thursday, June 16); Orange Is the New Black (Netflix; Friday, June 17); The Jim Gaffigan Show (TV Land; Sunday, June 19); Murder in the First (TNT; Sunday, June 19); The Fosters (Freeform; Monday, June 20); Pretty Little Liars (Freeform; Tuesday, June 21); Ray Donovan (Showtime; Sunday, June 26); Zoo (CBS; Tuesday, June 28); Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll (FX; Thursday, June 30).

Returning in July: Marco Polo (Netflix; Friday, July 1); Killjoys (Syfy; Friday, July 1); Dark Matter (Syfy; Friday, July 1); Tyrant (FX; Wednesday, July 6); Difficult People (Hulu; Tuesday, July 12); Suits (USA; Wednesday, July 13); Mr. Robot (USA; Wednesday, July 13); Power (Starz; Sunday, July 17); Ballers (HBO; Sunday, July 17); Bojack Horseman (Netflix; Friday, July 22); Survivor’s Remorse (Starz; Sunday, July 24).

Returning in August: Fear the Walking Dead (AMC; Sunday, Aug. 21); The Strain (FX; Sunday, Aug. 28); You’re the Worst (FXX; Wednesday, Aug. 31).

Outcast (Friday, June 3, Cinemax), series debut: While the fanboys are nerd-raging against each other over the authenticity of AMC’s Preacher, here comes another way-adult, based-on-a-comic-book property: Outcast, from Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman—and it’s so gut-wrenchingly creepy that it’ll only fuel the “Preacher shoulda been on premium cable!” fire. Outcast follows Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), a man surrounded by demonic possessions since childhood, who’s drawn out of seclusion when a child on the other side of his rural West Virginia town goes full-on satanic sock puppet. The pilot suffers from unavoidable, but minor, instances of first-episode exposition clunk, but the scares and gore effects could keep even atheists up all night. Don’t watch this alone. Banshee almost did it, but Outcast should be the series to finally make Cinemax a player in the original-programming game. Did I mention … don’t watch this alone?

You May Now Kill the Bride (Saturday, June 4, Lifetime), movie: It’s all in the title when it comes to a Lifetime movie; done right, you don’t even have to watch it. Stolen From the Womb, All the Good Ones Are Married, A Nanny’s Revenge, Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life, Where’s My Baby?, Sexting in Suburbia, Dirty Teacher, Stalked by My Doctor, Wrong Swipe—all real Lifetime movies, and all sufficiently self-explanatory. On the other hand, titles like Ultimate Deception, Like Dandelion Dust and Clara’s Deadly Secret (again, all actual movies) are useless. You May Now Kill the Bride has a catchy name (win!) that doesn’t encapsulate the plot (fail!): “Nicole and Mark get engaged, but his stepsister believes she has a claim on him and is willing to do anything to be his bride.” Please, allow me, Lifetime: Twisted Stepsister. Boom. Done.

Feed the Beast (Sunday, June 5, AMC), series debut: Between previews that practically scream for a “Breaking Bad meets Restaurant: Impossible!” tagline and the mere presence of David Schwimmer, it’s not easy to root for Feed the Beast, an unfocused oddity even by AMC’s usual “whatever works besides zombies” standards. Schwimmer and Jim Sturgess star as best buds attempting to open a high-end restaurant in the Bronx—and that’s the least of their problems: Schwimmer’s Tommy is a sad-sack widower with an emotionally-traumatized son, while Sturgess’ Dion is an ex-con who owes big money to bad people. Can this sullen wine sommelier and sketchy master chef make their culinary dreams come true? Or at least not get seared and deconstructed by the mob? More pressing, will Feed the Beast survive the move to Tuesdays after tonight’s premiere?

UnREAL (Monday, June 6, Lifetime), season premiere: Marti Noxon has contributed to some classic TV series (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mad Men), and created at least one kinda-winner (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce), but UnREAL is her left-field crowning achievement. When it premiered in 2015 on Lifetime—not a go-to for smart drama; see above—UnReal seemed like a straight-forward morality play behind the scenes of a Bachelor-style reality-dating show; Constance Zimmer was the ruthless producer, butting heads with her conscience-burdened second-in-command, Shiri Appleby … but then it got dark, spinning their presumed roles in unpredictable directions. Season 1 broke new “reality TV” ground by killing off a contestant; Season 2 goes even further by casting—brace yourselves, Trumpsters!—an African-American bachelor! UnReal > The Bachelorette.

Casual (Tuesday, June 7, Hulu), season premiere: Director Jason Reitman’s Casual (referencing a dating-app preference level, not fashion sense … well, not entirely) struck another small blow for the Streaming Shows Are Cool, Too! uprising that threatens broadcast and cable’s ever-loosening hold on the original-content market when it premiered on Hulu just last October. Stars Michaela Watkins and Tommy Dewey, as a divorcee single mom and her bachelor brother living together and trying to figure out modern dating, turned what could have been a one-joke series about awkward hookups into a surprisingly sweet—and occasionally sad—comedy about not just familial dysfunction, but all of the dysfunctions. Season 2 of Casual expands from dating and sex into even more treacherous territory: making and keeping new friends at a “certain age.” Not quite as scary as Outcast … but close.

It’s been a rough couple of seasons for broadcast network television. Programming competition from cable and streaming services is at an all-time high, resulting in the era of There’s Too Many Shows.

You’d think that, in response, the broadcast networks would raise the quality and imagination going forward into the new fall season, and give viewers a reason to come back. Problem is, you’re thinking. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC? Not so much. (Who would have believed a decade ago that The CW, The C damned W!, would become the visionaries?) Not only have they given up on thinking; the networks have just given up, period: The majority of their proposed 2016-17 season new shows—a relative term, as there’s nary a “new” idea among them—look like complete garbage.

A sampling of what’s to come this fall:

Conviction (ABC): A hot lawyer (Hayley Atwell) goes to work for a hot district attorney (Eddie Cahill). Glad ABC canceled Agent Carter so Atwell could do a legal show, a TV rarity.

Notorious (ABC): Oh look, a hot lawyer (Daniel Sunjata) and a hot news producer (Piper Perabo). It’s about “the unique, sexy and dangerous interplay of criminal law and the media,” but more like “filler until Scandal returns.”

Designated Survivor (ABC): A low-level cabinet member (Kiefer Sutherland) suddenly becomes the president of the United States. Hey, you asked, “What could be worse than choosing between Clinton and Trump?”

American Housewife (ABC): Katy Mixon (Mike and Molly) is a brash housewife in the prim suburbs. American Housewife used to be titled The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport, but that almost made it sound original.

Speechless (ABC): Minnie Driver is a harried mom with a special-needs son—and it’s a comedy! This must be Driver’s revenge against TV ’Merica for the cancellation of About a Boy.

Frequency (The CW): Remake of the 2000 movie, this time with a female cop (Peyton List) connecting with her dead dad in the past through a ham radio. Kudos to The CW for not updating it to a haunted Snapchat app.

No Tomorrow (The CW): An uptight girl (Tori Anderson) falls for a free spirit (Joshua Sasse) who believes the world is ending in eight months. An optimistic timeline, even on The CW.

Bull (CBS): And another legal drama, based on “Dr.” Phil’s early days as a trial consultant. Michael Weatherly jumped off the NCIS money train for this?

Kevin Can Wait (CBS): Former awful sitcom star Kevin James returns from awful movies with an awful new family sitcom. It will run for 10 seasons on CBS.

Man With a Plan (CBS): A laugh-tracked family sitcom virtually identical to Kevin Can Wait, only with Matt LeBlanc in the stay-at-home-dad role. It will run for 10 weeks on CBS.

MacGyver (CBS): Reboot of the 1985-92 TV series, not 2010’s MacGruber. I’m as disappointed as you are.

Pure Genius (CBS): A tech billionaire (Augustus Prew) and a renegade doctor (Dermot Mulroney) start a cutting-edge hospital to treat sickies for free. From executive producers Jason Katims and Bernie Sanders.

This Is Us (NBC): “From the writer and directors of Crazy, Stupid, Love … sometimes life will surprise you.” Hard pass.

Timeless (NBC): A scientist, a soldier and a history professor race to stop a time-traveling terrorist from rewriting the past and, therefore, the future … or something. Maybe a bit “thinky” after The Voice, NBC?

The Good Place (NBC): Now-dead Eleanor (Kristen Bell) tries to be a better-ish person with the help of an “afterlife mentor” (Ted Danson). Is that Adult Swim weed making the rounds?

The Exorcist (Fox): This should go as well as Fox’s Frankenstein remake, Second Chance—remember that? Exactly.

Lethal Weapon (Fox): Riggs (Clayne Crawford) and Murtaugh (Damon Wayans Sr.) ride again! Only the iconic line “I’m getting’ too old for this shit” has been replaced with “Rush Hour never happened.”

Son of Zorn (Fox): Animated warrior Zorn (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) returns to the live-action suburbs to make peace with his ex-wife and son. Yeah, the Adult Swim weed is definitely making the rounds.

Preacher (Sunday, May 22, AMC), series debut: The uninitiated have no idea what the hell Preacher is, while the fanboys are convinced that the 1995-2000 Vertigo comic-book series can’t be adapted for any screen, let alone basic-cable TV. And then there are the concerns about stoner-comedy duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg as exec-producers, as well as how an epic heaven-and-hell struggle will be received as a weekly series (even though The CW’s Supernatural has already been mining that territory for a decade). While I can’t speak to the fanboys’ worries—I’ve only skimmed the comics—Preacher will definitely blow some newbies’ minds with its 90-minute premiere, a violent and funny explosion of sharply written characters (including Dominic Cooper in the title role, nearly obliterating his beloved Howard Stark from the Marvel Universe) and slow-burn exposition (Breaking Bad vet Sam Catlin is running the show here, not Rogen and Goldberg). Is the story of a touched-by-God boozehound Texas minister, his berserk ex-girlfriend, his sarcastic vampire pal and a kid named “Arseface” the Next Big Thing for AMC? Let’s pray it is—we don’t need another Walking Dead spin-off.

The Bachelorette (Monday, May 23, ABC), season premiere: You do realize that you’ve been watching the same show for 12 seasons now, right? “Bachelorette _____ gets a second chance at true love after her shocking rejection by _____ on the previous season of The Bachelor. With 20 new men (and one quickly ejected psychopath) to choose from, this (blonde/brunette/redhead/vaguely ethnic) beauty is ready find her soul mate and write her own happily-after-after!” ABC has been using this stock press release form since 2003.

Wayward Pines (Wednesday, May 25, Fox), season premiere: Fox Under the Dome-d us. Wayward Pines was supposed to be a one-and-done, closed-end story told in a single season last summer—but then you all actually watched it, probably because I told you to, so this all-powerful TV column is at least partially to blame. Anyway: Season 2 picks up where the first left off, with the residents of small mountain town Wayward Pines now aware that they’re the last people on planet (but has anyone heard from Phil, Fox’s other Last Man on Earth?); flesh-hungry mutants roam the wasteland beyond the forest; and sketchy scientists run their lives—naturally, they’re pissed. Jason Patric takes over the Earnest Newcomer role from Matt Dillon; dead Piners Carla Gugino and Terrence Howard appear in flashbacks; and Hope Davis continues to shape/manipulate the upcoming generation with a Master Race-ish bent. As with all things connected to Idaho, proceed with caution.

Powers (Tuesday, May 31, PSN), season premiere: Yes, errybody’s in the original-programming game—even your PlayStation. Powers, which debuted in 2015 (Season 1 is currently available on freebie-streaming Sony cousin Crackle), was the first offering from the PlayStation Network (PSN), and it’s based on the graphic novel of the same name. The “Powers” are superheroes, though not all them are heroic, hence the need for detectives to investigate crimes and murders associated with them. (This universe’s superheroes parallel professional athletes and celebrities who think they’re above—waaay above—the law.) Sharlto Copely, Eddie Izzard and Michelle Forbes return from the first season; Tricia Helfer, Michael Madsen and Wil Wheaton join for S2—that’s some serious actor-ly weight for a series streaming through a game console. Now Powers needs to step-up its scripting and action games to match.

Maya and Marty in Manhattan (Tuesday, May 31, NBC), series debut: Remember The Maya Rudolph Show from 2014? A one-off sketch/variety hour that did surprisingly well with viewers and critics alike? Naturally, the geniuses at NBC said, “People liked it, so let’s do more of that … in two years, with a couple of co-hosts, because we can’t trust a woman to carry this thing, even though she’s already proven she can. How’s that Taxi Brooklyn show coming along?” Maya and Marty in Manhattan adds fellow Saturday Night Live-rs Martin Short and an unbilled Keenan Thompson to the mix, so it already instills more confidence than the network’s previous brain-dead-on-arrival variety attempt, Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris. Like SNL, Maya and Marty will air live; unlike SNL, there won’t be an extra 30 minutes of filler no one can explain or justify.

May is mostly a dead zone of season finales and reruns as TV gears up for the summer. (There’s no off-season anymore; get used to it.) But! Remember all those shows I’ve told you to watch harder in this very column? You know, the shows that are all readily available in various on-demand forms? Now’s the time to catch up! Here’s 12 to start with:

Wynonna Earp (Syfy): Wynonna Earp (Melanie Scrofano) is a modern-day descendent of Old West gunslinger Wyatt Earp, who was also a supernatural demon hunter (just roll with it), and she’s back in town to re-smite evil souls (or Revenants). It’s all true enough to the comic-book source, and Scrofano is a likable combo of badass and goofball.

Orphan Black (BBC America): In Season 4 of tense clone-soap Orphan Black, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) investigates Beth, the deceased sister-clone whose identity she stole at the beginning of the series, as well as the origins of the clone conspiracy. Also, there are more clones, upping Maslany’s character load for the season to eight (and still no Emmy).

Hap and Leonard (Sundance): Hap and Leonard is a six-episode tale about ’80s Texans Hap (James Purefoy) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams), a pair of luckless laborers dragged into a get-rich-suspiciously-easy scheme by Hap’s ex-wife (Christina Hendricks). The plan soon spirals into a cacophony of conflicting agendas and colorful characters, with Fargo-like comic-to-violent jolts.

Idiotsitter (Comedy Central): An unemployed Ivy Leaguer (Charlotte Newhouse) takes a baby-sitting job—but the “baby” turns out to be an adult wild-child heiress (Jillian Bell) under house arrest. As the series progresses (or regresses), it’s clear that Bell and Newhouse can do stoopid repartee almost as well as the Broad City ladies. All this, and a Channing Tatum cameo!

Baskets (FX): Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis), having flunked out of a prestigious French clown academy, returns to uncultured ’Merica to be a rodeo clown—and then it gets weird. (Chip’s mom is Louie Anderson in drag, for just one example.) Baskets is a funny-to-sad-to-funnier-to-sadder commentary on artistic failure and Western decline, but don’t be afraid.

Better Call Saul (AMC): Better Call Saul continues to be a minor-miracle follow-up to, and expansion on, Breaking Bad in a flawless second season, further transforming small-time lawyer Slippin’ Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) into medium-time legal shark Saul Goodman. Even better, Rhea Seehorn, Michael McKean and Jonathan Banks get equal time to shine.

Banshee (Cinemax): Season 4 will be the last for this gritty slice of Amish-country crime noir, so there’s hope for eventually catching up on Banshee. The twisted tale of an ex-con/thief (Antony Starr) who assumes the identity of Sheriff Lucas Hood in the small town of Banshee, Pa., has taken many a bizarre turn, but the outcome is always the same (and bloody).

Vinyl (HBO): Vinyl is as excessive and beautiful as you’d expect a collaboration between Martin Scorsese, Terence Winter and Mick Jagger to be, mixing Almost Famous’ music-saves earnestness with Velvet Goldmine’s visceral glam bombast and Boogie Nights’ druggy chaos—and cranking it to 11 in 1974 NYC. It’s not perfect, but neither is rock ’n’ roll.

The Detour (TBS): Jason Jones (The Daily Show) and Natalie Zea (Justified) star as harried parents on a family road-trip where everything that could possibly go wrong does—spectacularly. Sound like National Lampoon’s Vacation? It is, but far funnier than last year’s limp Vacation reboot—and usually dramatic Zea is a comedic revelation.

Billions (Showtime): Damian Lewis (as a charismatic hedge-fund billionaire) and Paul Giamatti (as a troubled U.S. attorney) churn bluster and testosterone Acting! against each other, but they’re not Billions’ most interesting players: Maggie Siff, as a psychiatrist-turned-performance-coach with an invisible, spooky command, could lead this series on her own.

Teachers (TV Land): Teachers is a part of TV Land’s makeover from reheated sitcom repository to smart comedy destination, and six-woman improv troupe The Katydids (their first names are all variations on “Katherine”) gender-flip Super Troopers into an elementary school, dosed with Broad City’s fearless, vanity-free pursuit of so-wrong laughs.

Not Safe With Nikki Glaser (Comedy Central): Comic Nikki Glaser gets right down to topics like “losing your virginity, masturbation and putting stuff in your butt!” Not Safe is a sex-and-relationships talk show with fellow-comedian gab and pre-taped bits—it’s been done before, but Glaser has the smarts and presence to rise to the level of Amy Schumer.

Ali Wong: Baby Cobra (Friday, May 6, Netflix), standup special: Ali Wong is one of the funniest comedians you’ve probably never heard of—and she’s definitely the most pregnant one you’ve ever seen in her own standup special. (Wong was seven months along when Baby Cobra was filmed in Seattle.) You may have noticed her in a few passable movies (Savages, Dealin’ With Idiots), and some truly painful TV shows (Are You There, Chelsea? and the legendarily stoopid Black Box), and she’s been seemingly on the verge of becoming a Breakout Comic for years. I’m not saying the knocked-up/debut Netflix special hook was timed and calculated for maximum media buzz, but, really, what else are babies good for? If that just tweaked your tweakables, you’ll squirm over Wong’s take on feminism; maybe you should stay away from Baby Cobra.

Grace and Frankie (Friday, May 6, Netflix), season premiere: The debut season of Grace and Frankie, while uneven, at least established a better benchmark for oldster comedy than the theatrical crap canon of insufferable hacks like Nancy Meyers (Something Complicated’s Gotta Give on the Holiday or whatever). The story of lifetime frenemies Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin), whose husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) leave them for each other, careened from hilarious to heartbreaking and back again wildly, but never felt anything less than genuine, and the supporting cast (including Ethan Embry and June Diane Raphael) added nicely to G&F’s already considerable charms. Tighter scripting might elevate the series’ second go-around to the critical-darling level of Transparent, but, at the very least, Grace and Frankie is The Odd Couple reboot we actually deserved. Oh, and Sheen and Waterston are uh-dor-a-ble.

United Shades of America (Sundays, CNN), new series: W. Kamau Bell’s late-night talk show, Totally Biased, was a good introduction to the comedian’s unique angle on race relations—until FX essentially killed it by relocating the show to FXX. But Bell is really onto something with United Shades of America, a kind of reverse-Bourdain travelogue series wherein he visits the least-desirable destinations in ’Merica and attempts to start dialogues with its least-desirable subcultures. United Shades’ debut episode, in which Bell went impressively face-to-hood with the Ku Klux Klan, was a ratings and social-media-buzz hit, and the San Quentin-set second installment didn’t disappoint, either. Sadly, he probably won’t run out of racist enclaves anytime soon, but watch the funny/frightening United Shades of America now, hard.

First Impressions (Tuesday, May 10, USA), series debut: If you compiled a list of Things We Don’t Need on TV, somewhere near the top would be “Freddie Prinze Jr.” and “amateur celebrity impressionists.” (No. 1 will always be “Jay Leno.”) So leave it to USA, which was making such quality dramatic inroads with Mr. Robot and Colony, to give us First Impressions, a Prinze Jr.-hosted impersonation competition with “mentor” Dana Carvey, and “coaches” like Steve Carell, Kevin Nealon, Jon Lovitz and … oh, goddamnit, Jay Leno. Who was the soon-to-be-unemployed USA programming wiz who said, “You know what millennials like? Endless Christopher Walken impressions and comedians from the ’90s! It’ll blow up on SnapFace and InstaVine!”?

Chelsea (Wednesday, May 11, Netflix), series debut: Chelsea Handler shut down her E! talk show, Chelsea Lately, almost two years ago, and now she’s finally back with … something. Not much is known about Chelsea, Netflix’s first attempt at a semi-daily, topical series; as of this writing, the debut episode hasn’t even been recorded yet. The few leaked facts: Chelsea will stream Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with material taped 12 hours prior; there will be 90 episodes a year, lighter than the typical late-night talker grind; Handler won’t always be stuck in a studio, as she plans on shooting across the U.S. and internationally; she won’t be tied to the old E! topics of celebrity culture, and will instead be taking on politics, education, sports, alternative lifestyles and, most likely, celebrity culture more scathingly than she could ever get away with on basic cable. Whatever Chelsea will be, it’s going to be on Handler’s terms only—that kind of power in the hands of someone so funny, smart and selectively vicious warrants a look.

Penny Dreadful (Sunday, May 1, Showtime), season premiere: Showtime’s supernatural steampunk soap … whew … returns for Season 3 with Ethan (Josh Hartnett), Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) and Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) scattered about the globe, leaving a broken Vanessa (Eva Green) back in dreary old London with no one to confide in but an unorthodox therapist (Patti LuPone) and a sexy zoologist (Christian Camargo). For a dark fantasy series filled with vampires, witches and monsters, Penny Dreadful spools out plenty of deep character development and rich drama for players—particularly Vanessa (Green should be up for all of the awards)—who could easily fall flat and camp-ridiculous. It’s also still in a dead heat for the title of Creepiest Period Show on TV with Salem. (Netflix it, if you never want to sleep again.)

Keeping Up With the Kardashians (Sunday, May 1, E!), season premiere: Achievements in human intelligence since 2007, the year Keeping Up With the Kardashians launched its 12-season (!) run: the iPhone; space probes to Mercury and Pluto; the Large Hadron Collider; the discovery of exoplanets; artificial polymer arteries; the detection of water on the moon; the creation of robotic nano-spiders; the introduction of the hydrogen-powered car; the lab-grown human heart; driverless cars; drones; wearable fitness trackers; the commercial 3-D printer; lab-grown hamburger meat (unrelated to the aforementioned heart … ?); major breakthroughs in quantum computing; hashtags … #KardashianLivesDontMatter.

Houdini and Doyle (Monday, May 2, Fox), series debut: Back to the steampunking, would you believe … a 1900s buddy-caper British-Canadian mystery series about Harry Houdini (Michael Weston) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Stephan Mangan)? On primetime network television? Like Sleepy Hollow, Second Chance and Lucifer before it, Fox takes an intriguingly weird setup and turns it into yet another cop procedural, albeit one with a supernatural twist and an impressive budget for suspenders and mustache wax. Mangan and Weston are engagingly lively actors, and Houdini and Doyle’s run will be relatively short at just 10 episodes (the compromise point between British and ’Merican sensibilities), but Fox’s audience typically doesn’t go for shows that seem borrowed from PBS. (See: Cosmos.)

Person of Interest (Tuesday, May 3, CBS), final-season premiere: I’ll admit it: Years ago, I unfairly labeled Person of Interest as just another CBS crime procedural involving vague terrorist threats, high-tech intrigue and gun-waving speeches in dark alleys. But come on—with a dead-dull name like Person of Interest, what else could it be? Turns out it’s an unusually dark and canny (for CBS) treatise on the grey areas of profiling, surveillance and overreaching tech, headlined by the hyper-odd pairing of Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson (as a former CIA agent and a software supergenius, respectively). Ensuing seasons ratcheted up the tension, and the additions of Amy Acker and Sarah Shahi attracted a few more eyeballs, but Person of Interest was ultimately too smart to last; this shortened fifth season will be the series’ end, blowing out two episodes a week through June. Another excellent candidate for Netflixing—just be prepared to go deep.

Maron (Wednesday, May 4, IFC), season premiere: It’s not official, but Season 4 could be the last for Maron as well—IFC moving it from Thursdays to Wednesdays doesn’t exactly instill confidence, either. After settling into an amusingly cranky groove for a couple of seasons, Marc Maron blew up Maron last year, breaking hard from the this-is-kinda-my-daily-life format by getting sober “Marc” hooked on Oxycontin. Now Marc’s disheveled and destitute, having lost his house, cats and podcast. (Drugged, disheveled and destitute are prerequisites only for amateur podcasters, apparently.) Next stop: rehab—or, “a resort for people with no self-control.” If anyone can pull comedy from addiction recovery, it’s Maron, and he can’t fare any worse than Will Arnett did recently with the lazily downcast Flaked … can he? Damn, this might really be the end for Maron.

Game of Thrones (Sunday, April 24, HBO), season premiere: What comprehensive information do I have on the Season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones? None? What critical motivation do you need to watch it anyway? None. In 2015, HBO mailed out DVDs of the first four episodes of Season 5 for review. Those episodes were immediately uploaded to torrent sites by asshats who are likely members of the Television Critics Association, an elitist club of tubbies into which I—a TV reviewer with GoT discs in-hand who did not rip ’em and ship ’em to the pirate-verse—have been previously denied entry. Shortly afterward, HBO switched to difficult-to-copy, online-streaming-only advance screeners for critics to avoid another leak. This time around, HBO isn’t even allowing access to that, releasing only a plot synopsis for Season 6’s premiere, “The Red Woman”: “Jon Snow is dead. Daenerys meets a strong man. Cersei sees her daughter again.” Yeah …

Silicon Valley (Sunday, April 24, HBO), season premiere: After narrowly beating the Hooli lawsuit last season, the Pied Piper gang has fired Richard (Thomas Middleditch) as CEO, but at least offered him a lesser role as CTO (Creepy Twitchy Operator? I’m not up on corporate-speak). Erlich (T.J. Miller) and the O.G. Pied Piper team are questioning their loyalty to the company and, even worse (or better, depending on which side of the creative/business line you reside), their new heavy-hitter CEO (Stephen Tobolowsky) is bent on transforming their ramshackle startup into a slick enterprise, whether they like it out not (mostly not). Winter is coming hard in Season 3 of Silicon Valley—but, fortunately, Miller’s Erlich is as unreal, and kamikaze-hilarious, as ever (and, thanks to Deadpool, more than just an underground delight). Unlike Pied Piper, Silicon Valley deserves more mainstream love, as does …

Veep (Sunday, April 24, HBO), season premiere: We’re entering Season 5 of Veep, and there are still those who think the last thing Julia Louis-Dreyfus did was Seinfeld, or at least The New Adventures of Old Christine with that Coulson guy from S.H.I.E.L.D. While Veep isn’t the new Seinfeld—that would be It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a far superior comedy to Seinfeld (I said it; you read it)—it is a hysterically accurate portrayal of vein-blowing frustration with the idiocy of daily life in, and out of, Washington D.C., with more F-bombs and slashing insults than HBO as seen since the days of Deadwood. More so than House of Cards, this is the fantasy election cycle—in which former Vice President Selena Meyer (Dreyfus) is desperately clinging to the presidency that was handed to her—that’s even more entertaining than our current real political sitcom.

TURN: Washington’s Spies (Monday, April 25, AMC), season premiere: Things may finally be getting at least somewhat interesting here. First season … I didn’t care about a Revolutionary War espionage drama. Second season … to avoid being confused with a NASCAR reality show, the title was upgraded from TURN to TURN: Washington’s Spies, and Ksenia Solo (Lost Girl, Orphan Black) was added to the cast—that got me to at least take a look. Now, Season 3 is set to blow up with not only the long-teased defection of Benedict Arnold, but also the arrival of George Washington’s right-hand man, Alexander Hamilton (yes, he of that Broadway musical). History nerds are positively turgid.

Mike and Molly (Monday, April 25, CBS), spring premiere/final episodes: Six years ago, I wrote an investigative piece about a plausible Mike and Molly conspiracy theory: It’s really a leftover UPN sitcom from 1998, recycled and repackaged for 2000s CBS. The facts: UPN and CBS were/are owned by the same corporation; the laugh track is cranked to tellingly ’90s levels; Mike and Molly, despite featuring several talented comic actors, is painfully unfunny—just like every comedy ever produced by UPN (with the exception of the criminally underrated Shasta McNasty). Maybe the theory is true, maybe not, but Mike and Molly still sucks. But! Not as hard as most sitcoms CBS has introduced since 2010—most notably The Odd Couple, Angel From Hell and, sweet Jesus, Rush Hour. So, with the last seven M&M episodes upon us, this column offers a heartfelt-ish Sorry Not Sorry.

Orphan Black (Thursday, April 14, BBC America), season premiere: Tense sci-fi soap Orphan Black has so much going within its clone-crowded narrative that the news of out-there musician Peaches appearing in Season 4, playing herself, barely even registers. (In fact, it almost makes too much sense.) In this chapter, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) sets out to investigate Beth, the deceased sister-clone whose identity she stole at the beginning of the series, as well as the origins of the clone conspiracy—which, of course, leads to trouble, as does trying learn anything in this universe. Unrelated … maybe: Yet another clone, a mysterious outsider who’s been aware of her multi-sister status all along, enters the picture, upping Maslany’s character load for the season to eight (and still no Emmy, huh?). One again, There’s Too Many Shows, but definitely move Orphan Black to the top of your TV homework pile.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Friday, April 15, Netflix), season premiere: Last year, Netflix snapped up Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt after NBC decided to get out of the “thinky” comedy business and canceled it before ever going to air; if you can name a single now-dead sitcom the network ran with instead, you probably work at NBC Universal (for now). Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) won hearts as a bubbly, wide-eyed ex-doomsday cult member discovering the modern world for the first time … but where to take her in Season 2? Don’t worry; she’s still plenty naïve—and, after 15 years in an underground bunker (possible spoiler alert), still a virgin. Also, brace for waaay more of UKS breakout star Tituss Burgess (“Peeno! Noir!”), if not a return appearance by Kimmy’s bunker mates (including, if there’s any justice, Jon Hamm’s hilarious cult leader, the Rev. Richard Wayne Gary Wayne).

Containment (Tuesday, April 19, The CW), series debut: Under the Dome, Colony, any dystopian-future YA book/movie you care to name—should it be disturbing that ’Merica seems to love stories about communities held captive? Go write a thesis or call Alex Jones; I have TV to review here. Oddly paired with the superhero fun of The Flash, the dark Containment follows the panic, societal breakdown and, of course, conspiratorial whisperings behind the outbreak of a deadly virus in Atlanta. (First The Walking Dead, now this—Georgia can’t catch a break.) Between the pretty citizens freaking out and dying inside the quarantined area, and the pretty scientists on the outside racing to find a cure, there’s mucho Big Drama to go around. But enough to carry 13 episodes? Here it comes: Containment isn’t all that infectious.

The Night Manager (Tuesday, April 19, AMC), miniseries debut: Tom Hiddleston is, of course best-known for the films Midnight in Paris and Muppets Most Wanted, or a handful of Marvel movies as Thor’s uptight brother with the mullet (aka the Asgard Natural, or “Party in the back, extermination of the human race up front”). In The Night Manager, he plays a British ex-soldier charged with infiltrating the inner circle of an international businessman/criminal (Hugh Laurie) and taking down his arms-dealing trade. The undercover-spy-in-too-deep trope isn’t anything new, but Hiddleston and Laurie !Acting! off one another is expectedly fantastic—and The Night Manager is every bit the Bond adventure that Spectre should have been. From the look of it, it was probably almost as expensive; at least AMC is spending some of that Walking Dead money wisely.

Time Traveling Bong (Wednesday, April 20, Comedy Central), miniseries debut: Ilana Glazer, the bigger-haired half of Broad City’s comic duo, is one of the funniest women on the planet—within the context of Broad City as “Ilana.” Outside of it, we don’t yet know. Time Traveling Bong, premiering after the Season 3 finale of Broad City on 4/20 (dude …), pairs her with a new partner, Paul W. Downs (also of Broad City), in a three-episode miniseries that’s summed up entirely by its title: Glazer and Downs play cousins who discover a bong that enables time travel, and they subsequently “blaze through time.” Until the bong breaks, that is, and the two become lost in the space-time continuum. TTB is even more stoopid than you’re already imagining it to be, but, hell, it’s only three half-hour episodes over three nights. You know the proper states in which to enjoy this; one is Colorado.