The bulk of the attention from audiences and TV writers alike focuses on hit shows that are back for a new season. Right now that’s Mad Men and Game of Thrones, with Arrested Development generating a lot of excitement in its return from the grave, and Breaking Bad expected to deliver the greatest season of television in history this summer. These shows have earned their praise over the course of multiple seasons and solidified themselves as flagships of the medium. Their attention is much deserved, and something that developed and increased from the time they were brand new TV shows to their institutional statuses today.
It’s hard to sell a brand new product to people, and so new TV shows are tougher to promote. Networks can’t send out fancy box sets like HBO did with Game of Thrones. They can’t tease series premieres with simple images meant to evoke a host of emotions among a loyal fan base. All they can rely on is having a solid product and generate enough good response from the early adopting audience until new TV shows prove they have some staying power.
There are 3 new TV shows this season that are generating tempered excitement among the select folks who are currently watching them. If you aren’t already tuning in, you’re missing out.
Continue reading on the next page…
1) The Americans
This FX show is wrapping up its first season presently, but it has proven to be one of the strongest first seasons of television to come along in some time. It has the period appeal of Mad Men, taking place in the midst of 1980s Cold War tensions. It has the United States Intelligence aspect that delivers the types of thrills you’d see in a show like Homeland. And then at its core there’s a strange romantic drama between the lead characters played by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, whose marriage is complicated by the fact that they are spies whose relationship began as a front for their organization but has developed into something more.
The show spins a lot of plates at once, beginning slowly at first but right now it’s picking up considerable speed. Over the course of a single episode you’ll see the protagonists don a series of disguises for a few scenes, then it transitions to them working out issues in their sort-of-fake, sort-of-real marriage. Then some crazy stuff goes down, someone gets offed, some officer gets kidnapped and they try extract information from him, Keri Russell shows some badass moves and beats the hell out of some dude, and they’re back into parent mode again completely seamlessly. But that’s not all the show has going for it. There’s a unique tone to The Americans that suggests both international menace and local suburban unrest. And there’s a fantastic and subtle supporting performance by one of the best character actors in the business, Noah Emmerich. Without giving too much away, it’s a new TV show that is still throwing surprises at its growing audience, and has potential to sustain a compelling story over a number of seasons. Oh, I also learned recently that the showrunner is a former CIA officer. So that adds an extra layer of interest to this compelling show.
Continue reading on the next page…
2) Orphan Black
I’m going to state my bias up front for Orphan Black: the lead actor, up-and-comer Tatiana Maslany, is from my hometown. So I saw her perform in a bunch of local things before she was a big deal, whatever. When she won the special jury prize at Sundance for her breakout performance in Grown Up Movie Star, she showed she was for real, and when I heard she landed this role in a relatively big show airing on BBC America after Dr. Who, I was excited, mostly to watch her do her thing because she’s really good at acting and stuff.
So yes, I am aware that I am more invested in this show than others that are probably similar but aren’t as personally interesting. However, a number of critics have listed Orphan Black as one of few new TV shows right now worth checking out. And it’s for good reason. Maslany stars (initially) as Sarah Manning, who is slowly coming to realize she’s one of a number of clones spanning across the globe. At the time of this writing, only two episodes have aired, so she has just reached the “How many of us ahh thehhh??” point of the show’s promotional campaign, which means it can finally start to get really interesting. The plot has been handled rather well so far, slowly rolling out the details beginning with the mysterious occurrence at the train station where Sarah sees what she thinks is a strange doppelganger figure who steps in front of a moving train. Meanwhile she’s stolen this person’s cop identity while she tries to figure out how many of them thehh ahhh. It has loads of potential involving her estranged daughter and foster brother and drug dealer boyfriend, although this is merely peripheral right now. The most interesting and exciting stuff revolves around Sarah trying to get some answers. But again, that just be my bias showing.
Continue reading on the next page…
3) Top of the Lake
The current trend for great new TV shows seems to indicate that they’re finally coming from sources besides HBO, Showtime and AMC. Top of the Lake is the latest, a miniseries airing on the Sundance Channel in seven parts. It is helmed up by acclaimed director of The Piano and other terrific works, Jane Campion, and takes place in her native New Zealand, following the investigation of the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl who is revealed to be pregnant. Elisabeth Moss is the lead detective on the case, who has a backstory of her own that has implications on her role in the investigation and is rolled out as the series progresses (at the time of this writing, four of the seven parts have aired).
This series has a similar vibe to The Killing, a show I found to be underrated largely because people became frustrated with its snail-pace plot despite its promotion as a kind of thriller. Top of the Lake does not give any indication that it is meant to be thrilling. It takes the things I really like about The Killing and makes them the primary focus of the series: a unique sense of place in this New Zealand setting, a main female character who shows grit in the face of sometimes sickening gender politics and with a mysterious history that you want to know more about, and a disappearance at the center of it all that demands answers that you know aren’t going to come easily. Resolution is overrated. It’s the journey to finding answers that is compelling, especially when it becomes more and more apparent that there is going to be little satisfaction in finding out the truth. Campion and co-creator Gerard Lee have done some outstanding work on this miniseries, and while it isn’t likely to generate a large audience, those who have been tuning in recognize it as something special indeed.
Have you been keeping up with any of these new TV shows? Are there any others you’d recommend? Share your comments below.Previous