As I write this, there’s a low, grey winter sky and wisps of snow blowing around. It’s wintry. But spring is around the corner. And with it, a deluge of spring TV. The new and returning. The scintillating, the reboots and the radically different.
Herewith a short list of important shows and dates. Mark your calendars, as it’s a confusing and crowded season. First, take note that March 25 is the busiest night on TV in ages. And the cornucopia continues from there.
Barry (March 25, HBO) – Bill Hader plays a hit man who, in a sequence that is gloriously good, discovers that his true calling might be the stage in this new, droll and very dry comedy. Henry Winkler co-stars as an acting coach and is a total scene-stealer. On the evidence of early episodes, it’s a delight.
Billions also returns on March 25, (TMN/Crave TV) with John Malkovich guest-starring as a Russian billionaire in the third season. Russian billionaires messing in high finance in the U.S.? Who knew? Call the Midwife returns too on March 25, on PBS. The sterling favourite of PBS viewers will, it seems, feature a shocking death.
The Detail (March 25, CTV) – this new, female-centric Canadian cop series is about “three resilient female homicide detectives risking it all to get the job done.” It stars English actor Angela Griffin, from Coronation Street, along with Shenae Grimes-Beech and Wendy Crewson. From the team that brought you Rookie Blue and Saving Hope.
Trust (March 25, FX) is simply sublime. Anchored in the same story as the movie All the Money in the World (the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, heir to the Getty fortune), it takes a different tack. In the film, the young Getty is the victim of a kidnapping, but in the series he fakes a kidnapping to get money from his grandfather. That super-rich grandad is played here by Donald Sutherland, with aplomb and mischief. This is a class production, made by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy (the team behind Slumdog Millionaire) and it oozes wit and visual oomph. Hilary Swank plays Getty III’s mother Gail, and Brendan Fraser is fabulous as the Getty family employee Fletcher Chase, played by Mark Wahlberg in the film.
One Strange Rock (March 26, National Geographic Channel) has Will Smith, accompanied by a posse of astronauts, explaining planet Earth in the context of Earth’s neighbours in space. Fun pop science with great footage.
The Terror (March 26, AMC) will certainly interest a Canadian audience. It’s a highly fictionalized account of Franklin’s lost expedition in 1845-1848 to find the Northwest Passage. But brace yourselves. This is based on Dan Simmons’s novel, not entirely on known history. In the book and series, it is not only weather, starvation and illness that plague the crew; it is a roaming Arctic monster. It stars Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies (from Outlander) and Ciaran Hinds.
Roseanne (March 27, ABC/CTV) will get a full review later. But be prepared. This is not what anyone predicted.
The Americans (March 28, FX) returns for its final, climactic season. Whither the Russian spies in Washington of the 1980s as the Berlin Wall will soon fall and the Soviet Union with it? The time for espionage is over and a reckoning arrives. Stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, as the Russian spies, have been giving startlingly great performances from the get-go.
The Child in Time (April 1, PBS) has Benedict Cumberbatch starring as an author struggling with the loss of his own child in an adaptation of the great Ian McEwan novel. Highly praised when it aired in Britain.
Jesus Christ Superstar Live! (April 1, Fox) is Fox’s now-annual live staging of a musical. John Legend is the star but the fun is in watching the fraughtness of doing a musical live for TV.
The Crossing (April 2, ABC) is one of the better network series to emerge this spring. Steve Zahn and Sandrine Holt star in a sci-fi drama about refugees from a war-torn country who seek asylum in a small U.S. town. It is set in the near future but the connections to contemporary issues are obvious. It’s beautifully made and drenched in an ominous vibe about looming wars and the dislocation of vast numbers of people.
Corner Gas Animated (April 2, Comedy Network) – yes, it’s the old favourite, “in an expanded cartoon universe.” Same characters, same cast. And, by the way, Comedy Network is on a free preview when the series starts.
Later in April comes HBO’s movie Paterno, with Al Pacino as Penn State coach Joe Paterno, and the context is, of course, his handling of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Directed by Barry Levinson. Also, The Handmaid’s Tale returns for its second season.
And with that I leave you for a wee break. Be kind to each other and enjoy what you watch.