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Four reasons why April is the coolest month on TV

A day in March. A few flurries and overcast. The long winter drags on. Half the country has fled to the sun and warmth.

What's on TV? This period matches the weather hereabouts – there's dullness. Some new dramas unleashed by the U.S. networks to middling reviews. The Canadian shows vary from good to laboured. Some laughs to be had, mind you.

I'm enjoying the continuing nuttiness of Mr. D (CBC, Mondays, 9 p.m.). CTV's Motive (Thursdays, 10 p.m.) is back and, while hardly pushing the boundaries of the police procedural, has good moments. The gimmick of starting with the killer and victim revealed, and moving onward to the arrest, as the "why?" questions are answered, is still clicking. And as the prickly detective Angie, Kristin Lehman continues to be stellar.

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The fact is, we're in a slow period. April is the coolest month. New shows to savour. Returning shows to enthrall you again. There are reasons to be cheerful. Here's a list.

Fargo (starts April 15, FXX Canada)

The first episode is superb. It is a "spinoff" from the much-loved movie and carries a similar air of humanity regarded with dry, sardonic wit. And yes, it's set in a very cold, rural Minnesota. Plus, the Coen brothers approved it. At its centre is one Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) who might be a drifter or might be a malevolent force of nature. He nourishes the rebellion of mild-mannered insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman from Sherlock). Meanwhile, two local cops, played by Allison Tolman and Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad) puzzle out some disturbing events. There's a lovely rhythm to it, a subtle emotional nuance and all done with genuine warmth and humour.

Game of Thrones (returns to HBO Canada on April 6)

The news here is that Game of Thrones is going to shift its rhythm in season four. Instead of building slowly over eight or nine episodes to a climactic finale, it will open with more action, build to a climax in episode three and then repeat the pattern, as multiple storylines are unleashed. I'm the wrong man to speculate on details. I'd say expect death, sex and swordplay. And if you need to catch up, The Politics of Power: A Look Back at Season 3, airs tonight on HBO Canada at 8:30. If you were oblivious, I can tell you it all ends badly and bloodily for a bunch of characters.

Orphan Black (returns for season 2 on Space, April 19)

The start of the much, much-anticipated second season is summarized as this: "Season 2 hits the ground running with Sarah [Tatiana Maslany] in a desperate race to find her missing daughter Kira. Her scorched-earth tactics spark a war with pro-clone Rachel [also Maslany], dividing and imperilling all the clones. As Sarah discovers more about her past, mysterious newcomers appear, but can they be trusted?" Right on. The series is about to become a monster – the fanaticism of its followers is intense and deservedly so, and there's a talk of spinoff books, comic books and other merchandise.

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Mad Men (returns April 13, AMC)

The show's final 14 episodes will be split over two years, in a similar manner to Breaking Bad. There are few clues about its direction, as always with the series. A short teaser clip released by AMC last week showed Don Draper disembarking from a TWA plane, in a sunny locale, with a version of Que Sera, Sera on the soundtrack. That's it. Then AMC revised the clip, removing the music. Perhaps it gave away too much. Will Don (last seen without a job and possibly without a wife) become a new man and sort out his layers of deceit and betrayals? A possible clue to the coming drama might be in the Season 7 poster revealed last week – a seriously psychedelic image. Drugs, the hippie life?

Airing tonight

Cold Water Cowboys (Discovery, 10 p.m.) began recently to outstanding ratings. Little wonder – this docu-reality series is about Newfoundland fishing captains doing battle with the sea and the weather to garner a living in the Atlantic fishery. It's a wild ride with decent, truly heroic men who swear a lot and suffer too. It makes Deadliest Catch look mild and easygoing.

All times ET. Check local listings.

Follow me on Twitter: @MisterJohnDoyle

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More


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