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Why spring means the best is yet to come in TV

The playoffs. Hockey on TV on hot, sunny evenings. Season finales. (Did your jaw just drop to the floor at the season-ender of The Good Wife?) Birds singing in the trees. In the ground, the snowdrops, then daffodils.

It feels like it's over, doesn't it? This TV season, that is.

Well, it is and isn't. The old model of running new material from September to May and then airing repeats and an occasional special in the summer is defunct. As is the model of airing new material from September to May and then airing new reality TV in the summer. So many channels, so many choices have undermined that model.

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The spring TV season is still under way. Mad Men is moving slowly through the bad moments of history and the bedrooms of the late 1960s. Game of Thrones keeps arranging to have characters take their clothes off and hook up, even as really, really bad things happen. And if you haven't checked out the much-praised, eye-popping British conspiracy thriller Utopia (Thursdays, Space, 10 p.m.), you should. The six-part series, an exercise in paranoia and violence, follows a rebel band who have possession of The Utopia Experiments, a graphic novel that apparently holds the key to understanding the appalling state of the world and its future.

And it's a fact that two of the finest TV dramas of this season haven't even aired in Canada yet. Both are from the Sundance Channel but aren't airing on Sundance Canada. Top of the Lake, a bleak masterpiece from Jane Campion (The Piano) is, in a roundabout way, about a detective investigating the disappearance of a 12-year-old pregnant girl. It stars Holly Hunter as the leader of a group of abused women who set up their own community in a remote area of New Zealand. Elisabeth Moss, who plays Peggy on Mad Men, is the damaged, angry detective on the case. It is expected to air here on Bravo in June.

Rectify, the other Sundance drama, just aired to rave reviews in the United States. Created by actor Ray McKinnon (Sons of Anarchy and an Academy Award winner as writer/director of the short film The Accountant), it's about Daniel Holden (Aden Young), released from prison after 20 years when his conviction for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl is overturned. Gorgeously made, slow-burning and deeply adult, it is exquisite and beyond poignant.

Thematically related is Public Enemies (Super Channel, starts Thursday, May 9), a searing Brit drama (from Tony Marchant, who wrote the acclaimed 1999 TV-movie version of Great Expectations), about the relationship between a parole officer (Anna Friel) and Eddie (Daniel Mays), a 28-year-old released from prison after a decade spent there for strangling his girlfriend.

Looking further ahead, here's a roundup of new and returning series. Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom returns to HBO Canada on Sunday, July 14. The new season of True Blood starts Sunday, June 16, on HBO Canada. Dexter is back for its eighth and final season, starting Sunday, June 30, on TMN. There is no Canadian date yet for the highly anticipated Ray Donovan, a Showtime series starring Liev Schreiber as a "fixer" to the rich and famous. The Killing returns to AMC Sunday, June 2, and AMC's Breaking Bad is back for its last batch of episodes, starting Sunday, Aug. 11.

In network fare, CBS will unveil Under the Dome on Monday, June 24. Based on the Stephen King novel, it's set in the near future, when a town in Maine finds itself "cut off from the rest of the world by a mysterious, impenetrable barrier that surrounds the town." Ructions and terror ensue. Mistresses debuts Monday, June 3, on ABC and is utter silly nonsense about a small group of comely ladies in California who have tangled love lives but aren't really mistresses in the traditional sense of the word. Alyssa Milano is the best known of the cast. Executive producer Rina Mimoun was recently quoted as saying, "It's not a bunch of ladies whoring around." Which we knew really, because if it was about that, the show would be on cable.

And, if you must know – Keeping Up With the Kardashians returns for its eighth season on June 2, on some channel or other.

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Sunny enough for ya? The best is yet to come on TV.

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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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