New series like Under the Dome and Low Winter Sun take their place alongside old favorites like Arrested Development and Dexter
We're not even halfway through 2013, but it's already been a very strong year for television, with returning series and new shows alike offering terrific entertainment. And while summer has a reputation for being packed with reruns and mediocre new shows, there are plenty of opportunities for the discerning viewer to find great television. Looking ahead to the next few months, which new and returning TV shows are worth tuning into? A guide:
1. Arrested Development (Netflix, May 26)
It's been seven years since Fox's low-rated, critically adored sitcom Arrested Development was canceled — but the advent of DVD and streaming video offered new opportunities for fans to discover and dissect the show's intricate, gag-heavy episodes. The cult of Arrested Development eventually grew so large that Netflix decided to revive the series for a fourth season, which reunites the show's original cast and adds a slew of celebrity cameos too good to spoil. Netflix is dropping all 15 episodes at once on Sunday, May 26, so fans should start planning their Arrested Development binge-watch parties now.
2. The Killing (AMC, June 2)
The AMC murder mystery The Killing badly fumbled its original promise with a drawn-out, meandering storyline and increasingly implausible plot twists. But there's reason to be optimistic about the show's upcoming, semi-rebooted third season, which jettisons everything that didn't work about The Killing in favor of the one thing that did: The prickly chemistry between leads Mirielle Enos (Sarah Linden) and Joel Kinnaman (Stephen Holder). The Killing's third season finds the former partners reuniting to solve a string of murders, with an all-new supporting cast that includes reliable character actors like Peter Sarsgaard and Elias Koteas.
3. Magic City (Starz, June 14)
With Boss and Spartacus both concluded, Starz's sole returning original drama is Magic City, a glitzy series set in Miami in the wake of 1959's Cuban Revolution. Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as Ike Evans, a hotel owner forced to make a deal with the mob to keep his business afloat. For its second season, the drama is expanding its cast to include actors like Sherilyn Fenn, Esai Morales, and Godfather star James Caan.
4. Futurama (Comedy Central, June 19)
Though it's never seen the mainstream recognition afforded to creator Matt Groening's The Simpsons, animated sci-fi sitcom Futurama has justly earned its own fiercely loyal following, which has followed the quirky series on its bumpy road from Fox series to direct-to-DVD movies to Comedy Central revival. But bad news, everyone: Comedy Central has officially canceled the series, which means that the remaining 13 episodes of Futurama's seventh season will be its last. Let's hope that the remaining episodes provide a funny, poignant sendoff for Fry, Leela, and the rest of the Planet Express crew.
5. Under the Dome (CBS, June 24)
The summer's buzziest network premiere is CBS' adaptation of Steven King's best-selling 2009 novel Under the Dome, which clocks in at a hefty 1,074 pages. The sci-fi drama follows the residents of a small Maine town after an invisible barrier suddenly and mysteriously appears, cutting them off from the rest of the world and trapping them inside together. King and Steven Spielberg both serve as executive producers.
6. Dexter (Showtime, June 30)
Dexter's best days are far behind it, but it's hard not to get excited about the show's final season, which can finally stop treading water with its titular serial killer and make good on the high-stakes premise. The new season picks up in the wake of a seventh season finale that saw Dexter's sister Debra kill superior officer LaGuerta to save her brother from being arrested. There's fairly little information on how Dexter will bring its long-running story to a close, but it's a safe bet that it'll be bloody.
7. Ray Donovan (Showtime, June 30)
As Dexter draws to a close, Showtime is betting hard that Ray Donovan — which airs its first episode immediately after the premiere of Dexter's final season— can fill the impending hole in its schedule. Liev Schreiber stars as Donovan, a fixer for the rich and famous trying to protect his family from his father Mickey (Jon Voight), a career criminal who's been unexpectedly released from prison. The show's recurring cast, which includes Elliott Gould, James Woods, and Rosanna Arquette, doesn't hurt either.
8. Whose Line Is It Anyway? (The CW, July 16)
Starting in 1998, improv comedy showcase Whose Line Is It Anyway? offered wacky, low-stakes comedy every week for nearly a decade before its cancelation in 2007. But with the exception of host Drew Carey, The CW has managed to get most of the original gang back together for this revival, including original performers Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, and Wayne Brady. (Aisha Tyler, who's best known as the voice of Lana on FX's Archer, will take over Carey's hosting duties.)
9. The Bridge (FX, July)
Between The Shield and Justified, FX has offered some of the best police dramas on television over the past decade — and with any luck, The Bridge will complete the trifecta. Inglourious Basterds star Diane Kruger and Oscar-nominated actor Demian Bichir star as two cops — one American, one Mexican — working together to stop a serial killer committing murders on the border between the two countries.
10. The White Queen (Starz, August 10)
The BBC and Starz have collaborated on this lavish historical drama based on Philippa Gregory's historical book series The Cousins' War, which is set during the War of the Roses between the Lancasters and the Yorks. The show's massive cast, which faithfully recreates the scope and complexity of the rivalry between the two families. is sure to delight history buffs. But you don't need to pick up a textbook to understand it. The White Queen will reportedly be filtered through the eyes of three historical women — Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, and Anne Neville — with vastly different goals.
11. Breaking Bad (AMC, August 11)
As its final slate of episodes approaches, Breaking Bad has already earned a spot in the pantheon of TV's all-time great series. Breaking Bad returns to newly minted drug kingpin Walter White, who claimed to give up the meth business at the end of last summer's cliffhanger — just as his DEA agent brother-in-law discovered his double life. Whatever Walter's ultimate fate turns out to be, viewers should prepare themselves for what Bryan Cranston has called "a roller coaster ride to hell" as the show reaches its definitive end.
12. Low Winter Sun (AMC, August 11)
AMC's latest original series, which is counting on a boost from Breaking Bad's lead-in audience, chronicles the far-reaching fallout after a Detroit cop is murdered. Low Winter Sun, which is loosely based on an acclaimed 2006 British miniseries of the same name, counts supporting players from a number of AMC favorites in its cast, including The Walking Dead's Lennie James and Breaking Bad's David Costabile — and early footage demonstrates the network's characteristic commitment to high-quality production values.
13. Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. (ABC, September)
Having conquered the box-office with superhero films like The Avengers and the Iron Man trilogy, Marvel is setting its sights on the smaller screen with Agents of S.H.I.E.LD., which follows a team of highly trained government agents as they investigate "the strange [and] the unknown" — which seems, based on the show's crackling trailer, to refer to unregistered superheroes. Clark Gregg returns as the fan-favorite Agent Coulson, leading a team that also includes Ming-Na Wen's Melinda May and Brett Dalton's Grant Ward.
Shows that have already premiered:
(Our original preview of each of these shows was published on either Jan. 3 and March 8. We've left those curtain-raisers untouched, but have appended updates to each item.)
14. Downton Abbey (PBS, Jan. 6)
British viewers have already completed Downton Abbey's third season, which premiered overseas on ITV in September. But American viewers who have managed to avoid spoilers can finally settle in for the costume drama's third season on PBS, which follows the Crawley family and their household staff as they scheme their way through the early 1920s.
UPDATE: Downton Abbey's third season drew to a close as tragedy struck the Crawley family. But never fear, fans: A fourth season has already begun filming, and is scheduled to premiere to U.S. audiences in Jan. 2014. (As always, the U.K. premiere will be several months earlier, so watch out for spoilers.)
15. Justified (FX, Jan. 8)
FX's crime drama picks up again after a third season that saw U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) squaring off against a series of charismatic criminals in Harlan County. As the fourth season begins, Raylan faces the impending birth of his child with ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea) and confronts villains both old and new as he stretches the law to do what he thinks is right.
UPDATE: Justified delivered a violent, witty, and characteristically strong fourth season, and the series will return for a fifth in January 2014.
16. Girls (HBO, Jan. 13)
Coming off of its buzzed-about, critically beloved freshman season, HBO's dramedy Girls arrives with protagonist Hannah (series creator Lena Dunham) newly resolved to get both her professional life and her love life in order. In addition to the first season's returning cast members, newcomers include guest stars like Donald Glover and Rita Wilson.
UPDATE: Girls' second season was lumpier and more uneven than its first, which frustrated some critics (including this one). A third season is on the way, but at least one major player has left the series: Christopher Abbott, who played Marnie's boyfriend Charlie. We'll see how the show manages to write him out when Girls returns next year.
17. Shameless (Showtime, Jan. 13)
Showtime's Shameless isn't a perfect show, but there's plenty of charm to be found in the warped adventures of the blue-collar Gallagher family — particularly in the exploits of eldest child and makeshift matriarch Fiona (Emmy Rossum). The third season follows the clan into the rabbit hole of the latest moneymaking scheme by Frank (William H. Macy) as Fiona attempts to hold it all together.
UPDATE: Shameless delivered a third season that most critics ranked among its best, and Showtime has already ordered a fourth, which will start shooting in September.
18. The Carrie Diaries (The CW, Jan. 14)
There's every chance that The CW's attempt to squeeze more story — and more money — out of HBO's Sex and the City with this Carrie-focused prequel will go up in flames. But there's hope in the casting of talented young actress AnnaSophia Robb in the title role, and in the presence of The O.C. and Gossip Girl producer Josh Schwartz, who knows how to make this kind of material as frothy and self-aware as it should be.
UPDATE: The Carrie Diaries earned its fair share of critical support, but so-so ratings led many to question whether it would return for a second season. But Carrie managed once again to prove her haters wrong; The Carrie Diaries will return next year, with an overarching story that will reveal how Carrie and Samantha Jones — played by Kim Cattrall in the original series — became friends.
19. Archer (FX, Jan. 17)
There's no shortage of James Bond parodies, but FX broke the mold with its weird, hilarious animated comedy Archer, which begins its fourth season on Jan. 17. H. Jon Benjamin leads a stellar cast of voice actors, including Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell, and Jessica Walter, as they chronicle the missions of the inept team at the International Secret Intelligence Service.
UPDATE: Archer remained as warped and irreverent as ever. A fifth season will premiere on FX next year.
20. Parks and Recreation (NBC, Jan. 17)
After a break over the winter holidays, Parks and Recreation returns to complete a strong fifth season that has seen series protagonist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) take office as a city councilwoman and get engaged to boyfriend Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott). For the second half of the season, fans can expect more politics, more high jinks, and the big wedding promised in the season's first half.
UPDATE: After an excellent fifth season — and despite so-so ratings — Parks and Recreation has been picked up for a sixth season, which will pick up where the last season left off, as Leslie continues her political career and Ron deals with the unexpected pregnancy of his girlfriend Diane (guest star Lucy Lawless).
21. The Following (Fox, Jan. 21)
Kevin Bacon makes his series TV debut as former FBI agent Ryan Carroll, who squares off against a Hannibal Lecter-esque serial killer inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe (James Purefoy). The premise is silly, but there's always the possibility that the very strong cast will find a way to elevate some of the more ridiculous material.
UPDATE: The Following's ludicrous first season was packed with gore, campy dialogue, and ridiculous plot twists, which climaxed with the dullest confrontation imaginable between our hero and our villain. The show will get another chance at a first impression now that it's been renewed for a second season.
22. Spartacus: War of the Damned (Starz, Jan. 25)
Starz's small-screen take on the story of Thracian gladiator Spartacus has been marred by off-screen tragedy; first season star Andy Whitfield died of cancer in September 2011, necessitating his replacement by Liam McIntyre. But on camera, the series' third and final season, which Starz has dubbed Spartacus: War of the Damned, has retained the distinct blend of action and visual splendor that has made it Starz's longest running original series.
UPDATE: Fans of Spartacus weren't disappointed by its bloody, climatic final season, which brought the Starz series to a fitting end.
23. The Americans (FX, Jan. 30)
Keri Russell returns to the small screen opposite Matthew Rhys and Noah Emmerich in this ambitious new period drama, which follows two deeply embedded Soviet sleeper agents during the Cold War. And on top of the intriguing cast and premise, the series has a secret weapon: Executive producer Graham Yost, who made FX's Justified such a sharp, nervy success.
UPDATE: The Americans more than lived up to its promise, offering as dense and rich a spy drama as anything on TV. FX has already renewed the series for a second season, though ratings will need to rise for the show to earn a long-term future on the network.
24. Community (NBC, Feb. 7)
At this point, there's more drama off camera than on for the troubled NBC sitcom, which begins its fourth season after the very public departure of creator and former showrunner Dan Harmon. But a last-minute delay that saw Community's fourth season premiere pushed from the fall until February has left the show's die-hard fans clamoring for new episodes — and crossing their fingers that they'll be able to live up to the ultra-distinctive quirkiness of the old ones.
UPDATE: Community didn't fare quite as a well with critics without Harmon at the helm, but even after an uneven fourth season, it remains one of the stronger sitcoms on network TV. A 13-episode fifth season is on the way without former supporting player Chevy Chase, who departed the series at the end of filming last year.
25. The Walking Dead (AMC, Feb. 10)
AMC's zombie drama took a break in the middle of its highest-rated and most critically acclaimed season ever, and based on early buzz, The Walking Dead's third season shows no signs of slowing down. All indications seem to herald a major clash between the groups led by series protagonist Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), who's still reeling from the death of his wife, and the followers of the sinister Governor (David Morrissey).
UPDATE: The Walking Dead spun its wheels and delivered a disappointingly anticlimactic battle between Rick and The Governor in the March 31 finale, but ratings are higher than ever, and a fourth season is already in the works.
26. Bates Motel (A&E, March 18)
The creative team behind A&E's Bates Motel has taken great pains to emphasize that the series is a loose "contemporary prequel" to Alfred Hitchock's beloved thriller Psycho. Bates Motel wants to be taken on its own terms — even though it's centered on a young Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his much-discussed mother (Vera Farmiga) as they move into a very familiar-looking motel. Still, this slow-burn creep show should provide an intriguing, in-depth looking into the psyche of one of cinema's most famous psychos.
UPDATE: The sharp, twisty Bates Motel has been warmly received by both critics and audiences. Fans can check back in for the show's second season in 2014.
27. Top of the Lake (Sundance Channel, March 18)
The Sundance Channel is earning unprecedented buzz for its moody seven-part miniseries Top of the Lake, which follows a young detective (Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss) as she investigates the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl. And if the intriguing mystery and eerie visual style aren't enough to hook you, the series carries an impeccable pedigree as it reunites writer/director Jane Campion and star Holly Hunter for the first time since 1993's The Piano, for which Hunter won an Oscar.
UPDATE: Top of the Lake more than lived up to its hype, delivering a dark, riveting tale of crime and transgression. If you missed it, the entire series is already available to stream on Netflix.
28. Game of Thrones (HBO, March 31)
Game of Thrones fever is at an all-time high. The series' third season, which is adapted from fan-favorite book A Storm of Swords, sees the war between Westeros' would-be kings continue after the second season's epic Battle of Blackwater, as Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her dragons attempt to make their way across the narrow sea.
UPDATE: Game of Thrones has moved at a breakneck piece this season, delivering stellar set pieces like Daenerys' liberation of the slave city Astapor and Jon Snow's harrowing climb up the Wall. Three episodes remain, and a fourth season will premiere next year.
29. Hannibal (ABC, April 4)
Like Bates Motel, Hannibal offers a small-screen exploration of a famous cinematic killer. But while Bates Motel takes on Norman Bates in his formative teenage years, Hannibal begins with Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter as a fully formed psychopath — even though nobody knows it yet. Hugh Dancy stars as troubled FBI agent Will Graham opposite Casino Royale's Mads Mikkelsen, who steps into Anthony Hopkins' formidable shoes as a younger Dr. Lecter in a series set years before The Silence of the Lambs.
UPDATE: Hannibal is one of the best-reviewed new network series to premiere so far this year, but ratings have been lower than ABC would like. Five episodes remain, with no word yet on a second season.
30. Mad Men (AMC, April 7)
Over its five seasons, Mad Men has remained one of the most stunning (and remarkably consistent) dramas on television, and there's no reason to believe that the series' sixth and penultimate season will be any different. As always, series creator Matt Weiner has been exceptionally tight-lipped about the upcoming season, but by now fans should know what to expect: Brilliant writing, terrific performances, and a seemingly endless supply of booze and cigarettes.
UPDATE: After a string of glacially paced episodes, Mad Men surprised audiences with a major shakeup that saw Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce merge with one of its longtime rivals. We'll see if that development breathes new life into the show, which — while beautifully shot and acted — is beginning feel a little long in the tooth.
31. Da Vinci's Demons (Starz, April 12)
Following in the footsteps of shows like Showtime's The Borgias and History's Vikings, Starz is launching an openly ahistorical "historical drama" about the life of Leonardo da Vinci. Series creator David Goyer — best known as the writer behind Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy — offers a decidedly fantastical take on da Vinci's younger years as he investigates a mysterious cult in 15th-century Italy.
UPDATE: Da Vinci's Demons has lived up to the enjoyably anachronistic highs of its out-there premise. A second season will premiere in 2014.
32. Hemlock Grove (Netflix, April 19)
With a few key exceptions — including recent hits like FX's American Horror Story and AMC's The Walking Dead — horror fans have been woefully underserved by their options on the small screen. But Netflix is doing its part to right that wrong with the Eli Roth-produced Hemlock Grove, a 13-episode adaptation of Brian McGreevy's 2012 novel of the same name. The series follows two young men — one of whom may be a werewolf — as they investigate a murder which they're both suspected of committing.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Hemlock Grove did not turn out to be the next great horror series, offering cheap, lazy scares, poor acting, and a nonsensical plot. No word on whether Netflix will take another crack at it in the future.
This article — originally published on Jan. 3, 2013 — was last updated on May 16, 2013.
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