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What I'm Watching This Spring

January usually signals the start of just a handful of new programs (Lost, maybe 24 if it's, uh, on that year) rather than an actual onslaught of new scripted programming.

This January features just that, with the return of some of my personal favorites like Big Love, Flight of the Conchords, and Damages (each returning from longer-than-usual hiatuses after last winter's WGA strike), the return of some Televisionary obsessions (Lost and BSG), and some new series like Lie to Me, The Unusuals, Dollhouse, United States of Tara, and The Beast, among others.

Some I'm dying with excitement about (i.e., Lost, Damages, Big Love, BSG and Conchords), others have already outlived their welcome (The Beast), and some just make me beyond depressed with how much they've failed to live up to their initial promise (ahem, Dollhouse).

It's with that thought that I take a look at what I'll be watching this spring. While I can't guarantee that I'll stick around for more than a few (or even one additional) episode of many of these series, below are the new and returning shows that have at least piqued my interest, based on their pilots.


8 pm: Chuck (NBC)

As if anyone would question my devotion to Chuck. The best damn action-comedy series on the air--ever--returns with all new episodes next month. What should fans be looking forward to? Glorious 3-D, a trip to the suburbs for Chuck and Sarah, and fallout from the winter finale in which Chuck saw his lady love gun down an unarmed man... and then casually lie to him about it. Trouble in paradise? (New episodes return February 2nd)

8 pm: Gossip Girl (CW)

This spring, the Upper East Side is about to get more crowded with new cast additions Laura Breckinridge and Desmond Harrington, the kids will learn about which colleges they'll be attending next year, and Georgina Sparks will return to wreak havoc on the lives of Manhattan's moneyed elite. All this, plus the fallout from the latest plot twist in star-crossed romance between Lily and Rufus. Just who is their mysterious love child? Hmmm... (New episodes return January 5th)

10 pm: Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (Travel)

Enfant terrible, author, chef, and caustic occasional Top Chef guest judge Anthony Bourdain returns for another season of his celebrate travelogue series, in which he explores the local culture and cuisine at various locales around the globe and gets himself into a fair amount of trouble in the process. (Season Five launches January 5th)


8 pm: Last Restaurant Standing (BBC America)

The culinary competition series Last Restaurant Standing returns with a brand-new season, new aspiring restaurateur couples, and new challenges as they're mentored by award-winning chef, restaurateur, and author Raymond Blanc and open up their very own restaurants. I was completely addicted to the first season of this smart and compelling series and am hungry with anticipation for Season Two. (Season Two launches January 27th)

8 pm: 90210 (CW)

I know, I know. While I should have given up on this soggy teen update, I'm still TiVoing the series in the hopes that it will eventually improve. Here's to hoping that Rebecca Rand Kirschner can breath some life into this update of the classic teen series. And, if not, there's always Melrose Place to look forward to next season... (New episodes return January 6th)

9 pm: Fringe (FOX)

Fringe isn't quite living up to the potential it promised (I still wish they'd stick to serialized storytelling) but I haven't quite given up on the sci fi/action/thriller series just yet. I'm hoping that the latest batch of episodes ramp up the tension and the action and give us deeper reasons to care about Olivia and Co., strange cylinders, and bald Observers. (New episodes return January 20th)


8 pm: Old Christine (CBS)

When multi-camera comedies like Old Christine work, they really work... and when they don't, they hit the ground with a thud. This season of
Old Christine has been creatively uneven (a lot of the former, a bit of the latter) but I still think Julia Louis-Dreyfus is absolutely spot-on as egocentric and self-absorbed Christine Campbell and the series boasts one of the very best supporting comedy casts in the business. Now if only series creator Kari Lizer would write some more scripts this season, I'd be a much happier viewer. (New episodes return January 14th)

9 pm: Lost (ABC)

The Televisionary obsession returns in just a few weeks with a season that begins with a bang and promises the answers to several long-standing mysteries and the creation of a few new ones for good measure as the Oceanic Six attempt to return to that creepy island, the remaining castaways struggle to survive in the face of new challenges, and the war between Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore heats up. (Season Five begins January 21st; click here to read my advance review of the first two episodes.)

9 pm: Lie to Me (FOX)

I'm not usually a fan of procedural series but Lie to Me, from creator Sam Baum (The Evidence), is more intriguing than your average cops-chase-baddies series in that it offers a new take on that familiar trope. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth, in a virtuoso turn) is a walking lie detector; he can read people's facial and body expressions from ten paces and he knows when you've been naughty or nice. Aided by a team consisting of Dr. Gillian Foster (The Practice's Kelli Williams), natural Ria Torres (Monica Raymund), Lightman tackles a number of cases ranging from criminal investigations to work for the government... and yet his gift is a curse that isolates him from the rest of his fellow mankind. (Launches January 21st)

10 pm: Damages (FX)

The serpentine legal thriller returns with a sophomore season that promises to be just as complex and mindtrippy as its freshman year as Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrnes) continues her quest for revenge both against Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson), the billionaire who killed her fiancé, and against her mentor Patty Hewes (Glenn Close), who attempted to have her permanently silenced. Season Two brings a new case and overarching conspiracy in the form of Daniel Purcell (William Hurt), new adversaries (like Marcia Gay Harden's icy Claire Maddox), and new love interests (Timothy Olyphant). All this, plus Patty's secret past is explored and some new mysteries emerge. Fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen... (Season Two launches January 7th; click here to read my advance review of the first two episodes.)

10 pm: Top Chef (Bravo)

The best damn reality series on the air right now continues with brand new episodes this spring as the remaining cheftestants face off in the culinary competition, new judge Toby Young joins the series to make some truly gasp-worthy criticisms, and some familiar faces return at the end of the month to square off once more in a reunion showdown. (New episodes return January 7th)

10 pm: The Unusuals (ABC)

Blend a hard-hitting cop series with an sprawling ensemble cast that includes Amber Tamblyn, Adam Goldberg, Harold Perrineau, and Jeremy Renner, some gallows humor, an overarching mystery plot, and some supernatural overtones and you might come close to the wacky charms of ABC's new drama The Unusuals. The latest addition to the homicide division discovers that her new co-workers are mightily funny... and quite possibly mightily guilty. (Launches April 8th)


8 pm: Ugly Betty (ABC)

I'm really not sure why I am still watching Ugly Betty as this season has made me so bored that I often find myself drifting off during each episode, but I'm hoping that the writers will remember that it wasn't just the "heart" that made me tune in week after week to the dramedy but its innate humor. At least Marc and Amanda still make me laugh, even if a mawkish sentimentality has crept into the series' zany plots. Sigh. (New episodes return January 8th)

9 pm: The Office (NBC)

Likewise, I've found myself getting angry at the television every time The Office fails to engage me. Where this once glittering comedy mined the mundane workplace environment we've all slogged through for comedy gold, it now seems more content to push the characters into wacky and unrealistic behavior that seems more pedestrian sitcom territory than the groundbreaking comedy series I once loved. Can this creatively struggling series regain its footing? Fingers crossed.
(New episodes return January 15th)

9:30 pm: 30 Rock (NBC)

The very best comedy on television keeps on bringing the funny. The Emmy Award-winning comedy from creator/star Tiny Fey keeps getting better and better with age and Season Three has deepened the relationship between Liz and mentor Jack Donaghy, even as Liz finds herself striving to deal with the egos of her stars, corporate power plays, adoption woes, and hallucinogenic airline medication. This spring, look for Salma Hayek to join the cast as Jack's new love interest Elisa, Chris Parnell to return as Dr. Spaceman, and Jenna to attempt Method acting in order to become Janis Joplin. Trying to have it all has never looked quite so sweet or been so hysterical. (New episodes return January 8th)


10 pm: Battlestar Galactica (Sci Fi)

The road to the series finale begins this month as the award-winning drama begins its final run of episodes. Look for major plot twists as the identity of the Final Cylon is revealed, the fragile alliance between the humans and the Cylons is tested, and new rivalries rear their ugly heads. I'm going to miss this intelligent and provocative series and the next batch of episodes doesn't look to disappoint in the slightest as Battlestar Galactica wraps up four seasons' worth of storylines. Who will live? Who will die? And who will see the dawn of a new day? Find out this spring. (Season 4.5 launches January 23rd)


9 pm: Big Love (HBO)

After a gap of a year and a half, the Henrickson clan finally returns this spring with Season Three with a new batch of episodes that are far darker and more tense than the first two seasons. With Alby in charge of the compound, Old Roman in jail, and the Henricksons under attack from all directions (including from within), look for shocking plot twists, stunning revelations, and heartbreaking drama. (Season Three launches January 18th, click here to read my advance review of the first three episodes.)

9 pm: Masterpiece (PBS; check local listings)

The 2009 season of Masterpiece began last night with
Tess of the d'Urbervilles, a lush adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 1891 novel. On deck for the "Classic" part of the season: Wuthering Heights, Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, and David Copperfield. (On air; click here for my advance review of Tess of the d'Urbervilles)

10 pm: Flight of the Conchords (HBO)

The boys from New Zealand are back! Season Two of the cult comedy promises new songs and videos from Flight of the Conchords, new challenges (lack of passports or working papers being one), and new adventures for our musical duo. Plus, more Murray and Mel. What more do you need to know? (Season Two launches January 18th; click here to read my review of the first episode)

10:30 pm: Secret Diary of a Call Girl (Showtime)

I'm a huge Billie Piper fan from her days as Rose Tyler on Doctor Who and, while Secret Diary of a Call Girl (which aired in the UK on ITV) is definitely NOT for the same family-friendly audience as Doctor Who, I'm completely entraced by Piper's turn as Hannah whose after-hours career as Belle, a high-class call girl, have me hooked. (Season Two launches January 18th)


Ashes to Ashes (BBC America)

Ashes to Ashes, the sequel to Life on Mars which aired on BBC One last year, is set to air its first two seasons back-to-back Stateside on BBC America this spring. Take another trip down the rabbit hole as single mom/forensic psychologist Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) is shot in the head by a deranged kidnapper and wakes up in 1981. Clinging to life, she comes face to face with a man she thought was a fictional construct: Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister). From there, it's a host of mysteries both professional and personal as Alex tries to catch her parents' killer before he strikes, existential discussions, and a kick-ass soundtrack of 1980s faves. (Season One launches in March; click here to read my advance review--from February 2007--of the first episode.)

Skins (BBC America)

Season Three of the hit British teen drama might feature a brand-new cast (save the fantastic Effy), but I can't wait to see what the next chapter is of this awe-inspiring drama, slated to launch this month in the UK. From the looks of the new Season Three promo, one thing hasn't changed: this is still a no-holds-barred approach to the teen drama with all of its messiness intact. (Launches this spring; airdate TBA)

(BBC America)

BBC America has just acquired the first two seasons of this drama, which follows the lives of four women, each involved in a series of--shall we say--complicated affairs. The digital cabler will air both seasons back to back later this year. Stay tuned for more details. (Airdate TBA)

And there you have it: what I'll be watching this spring. What did I leave off and what will you be watching this spring? Discuss.


karigee said…
Thanks for the rundown, Jace, and I applaud your inclusion of "The New Adventures of Old Christine" -- it's a solid comedy that doesn't get enough recognition, and JLD is a genius. Plus all the rest! I'm so much more excited about what's coming up than I was about the fall season.
Anonymous said…
Really, "Dollhouse" has disappointed you so much that it's not even on your TV schedule? Are the first two episodes really so bad that you won't give the show a bit of time to find itself? :o

Anyway, this is what I'll be watching:

How I Met Your Mother - Still funny in its fourth season.

Damages - Oh, what a suspenseful drama.

Lost - I never liked the show as much as others liked it, but season 4 did increase my interest.

The final episodes of Pushing Daisies - Hell, ABC, air it this month or I'll be angry!

Ugly Betty - I still enjoy the show. This season is way better than the second season.

Life - Really great crime produceral. Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi have an insane chemistry.

Battlestar Galactica - I wanna know who the final Cylon is and how it all ends. Hopefully it ends with dignity.

Dollhouse - my most anticipated show of the season

Sarah Connor Chronicles - Will be watching for Shirley, Summer and Garret.

And I will also be waiting for the following shows to return/premiere:

Weeds - Bravest show on television.

Dexter - Season three was disappointing, but there is still hope.

Glee - The script was a lot of fun. FOX, bring it on.

Virtuality - What an amazing script. I'm surprised you didn't review it yet. Looking forward to your review at some point.
Jace Lacob said…
Power of Nature,

Yep. After watching the first two episodes of Dollhouse, I don't have any interest in seeing any more. Which is saying something as I'm a diehard Whedon fan but this just doesn't work in its current form.

I liked the Virtuality script quite a bit when I read it last spring (and I know the writer) but it got lost in the editorial stuffle and,as it's likely not going forward, I didn't review it this development season. If I see the shot pilot, you can expect a review of that. Deal?

As for Pushing Daisies, it's not looking good. I continue to harangue Warners and ABC about airdates but I'm trying not to hold my breath.
Anonymous said…
From what I am hearing about Dollhouse I can't say that I am surprised it's not on this list.
Anonymous said…
It somehow worries me that you didn't like the new pilot, but I'm not willing to give up on the show just yet. The concept is great, while BUFFY & ANGEL haven't been great from the beginning either. I'm sure it develops into something, even if there are some missed chances with the new pilot.

As for "Virtuality", then I hope you get your hands on the pilot, because I enjoy reading your reviews. I read about FOX wanting to retool the show and hoped it would go forward, though I'm very conflicted on that. On the one hand I really want to have this show on television, on the other hand I don't want it to be retooled, as I liked the script the way it was. Well, as long as we get to see the pilot, I'd be satisfied, I guess. I'm really in love with the script.

Thanks for your PUSHING DAISIES efforts. At least we know that there will be a DVD, though the waiting time would kill me, as I am not exactly patient, LOL.
Anonymous said…
With the return of Damages, Battlestar, Big Love, and Lost, I fear I won't be emerging from my TV drama stupor until this summer.
Anonymous said…
Sad to hear that Dollhouse hasnt lived up to its potential. The original script was rather interesting, so it sucks that the show didnt deliver in the end.

I'm looking forward to Glee, the script was smart and fun, and I hope it works out for FOX. Virtuality was another amazing script, but I heard it was being retooled to be "broader," which I'm not sure how its possible without ruining it. But it is very scifi and I think it would be a much better fit for cable, like SciFi or FX.

And I LOVED the script for Kings. I heard that the two-hour premiere was slow, but I hope it still turns out decently. Though I also read at TVGUIDE that a reviewer found the first hour to be intriguing. But the show is definitely on my must see list for new shows in the Spring.
Jace Lacob said…
Efrusi, Kings is definitely not on my must-watch list. The script was okay but the two-hour was glacially slow and mired a bit too much in metaphor and allegory instead of developing the characters. It will be interesting to see what people think of the final version. As for Glee, it was not a script I liked when I read it over the summer but the casting on it could improve the project.
Anonymous said…
I was hoping (or still am) that Kings would be in some ways, the "next" Battlestar Galactica. But if its too preachy or dense, then I'm not sure how audiences would react. Though I have found that the buzz with the series (at least online) has been rather positive and thats good for NBC, considering that all of their new (and some returning) dramas have failed. With Heroes being drenched in stupidity and Friday Night Lights likely not returning after this season, I would like to see NBC deliver a new drama that engages my attention. And if Kings isnt that show, then I hope its Legally Mad.
R.A. Porter said…
I don't know if I'll stick with it very long, but I did quite enjoy the pilot for Tara. I'll give Dollhouse a couple weeks out of Whedon loyalty, but I dislike Eliza Dushku so much I can't imagine I'll put up with *any* weaknesses in the scripts.

I have small-size hopes for Castle, completely resting on my love for Nathan Fillion. I don't expect much from it, but maybe it can meet my low expectations.

And I'm totally looking forward to the return of Burn Notice. That and BSG are the shows I care most about for the spring.
Anonymous said…
Sarah Connor

Yeah I'm a genre geek.

BTW Jace, have you seen any screeners of the upcoming Chuck episodes yet? Any tidbits if you have?
Anonymous said…
FYI: Skins Season 3 starts January 22, on E4 (UK) of course.
Page48 said…
In sports parlance, "Heroes" appears to have been given its unconditional release by all but the glutton-for-punishment crowd, and possibly (but unlikely) the immediate family of the cast members.

On my watch list, in random order:

-Lost (only 17 eppies? call that a season?)
-24 (don't suck this year)
-Sarah Connor (under-rated)
-Dollhouse (big question mark)
-Fringe (Thrills R'nt Us)
-Burn Notice (sweet)
-BSG (sad to see the end in sight)
-Chuck (Sarah, you're the poet in my heart)
Anonymous said…
Oooh forgot about Burn Notice!

Thanks for the reminder!
Anonymous said…
A little late here, but what is this eunion show you speak of on Top Chef? You kind of tossed that in there as an aside. Something new happening in the middle of the current season?

Jace Lacob said…

Yep, former contestants from the first four seasons of Top Chef will reunite at the end of January for a new culinary showdown that's tied to... wait for it... the Super Bowl.

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