What we’re watching: 2015 TV preview

IMG_3343By JIM SABATASO | STAFF

[A version of this preview ran in the Rutland Reader.]

With the 2014 television season behind us, it’s now time to look ahead to what we’ll be watching in 2015. Here’s a rundown of the new and returning series you should check out in the coming weeks and months. Like my previous lists, I’m choosing to highlight only those shows that piqued my interest — sorry, CBS, but your Odd Couple reboot didn’t make the list. Also, I didn’t include current season runs returning from hiatus. So set your DVR, update your queue, steal your parents’ HBO Go password, and get ready for The TPC’s 2015 TV Preview.

Agent Carter

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand, Agent Carter takes a step back to the 1940s to the early days of S.H.I.E.L.D. Starring Hayley Atwell as the titular Agent Peggy Carter, this eight-episode miniseries looks like it will be a fun, stylish ride heavy on spycraft, intrigue, and Marvel Silver Age Easter eggs. Iconic characters like Howard Stark, and Edwin Jarvis round out Carter’s team. (Premiers Jan. 6 on ABC)

Archer

Speaking of spies, the gang from the spy agency formerly known as ISIS (now changed for obvious reasons), returns after a reboot that blew up the series, and sent the characters on a season-long adventure of arms deals, cartels, and coups d’etats. The result was more impressive for its ambition than its consistent laughs. Season six puts the team back in New York, and under the employ of the CIA, which should go just about as smoothly as expected. (Premiers Jan. 8 on FX)

Portlandia

I’m not an avid watcher of this quirky sketch series starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, but whenever I do tune in, I’m never disappointed. Like Kroll ShowPortlandia has built a dense, multilayered, occasionally cohesive universe around its collection of Portland weirdoes that is both surreal and hilarious. (Premiers Jan. 8 on IFC)

Girls

Girls may be occasionally hard to watch, but it almost always satisfying. Season three saw the quartet of Hannah Horvath and company taken to its breaking point as the stresses and disappointments of growing up and growing apart came to the fore. This season promises something different as aspiring writer Hannah (Lena Dunham) heads to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. It will be interesting to see how the show handles the shift, though at this point in the series, a change of scenery is welcome. (Premiers Jan. 11 on HBO)

Parks and Recreation

Despite NBC’s decision to unceremoniously burn off the final season of one of TV’s best comedies in only a few short weeks, we are still fortunate to get a proper goodbye. The end of Parks will leave a void in the sitcom landscape. Other series can match its humor and inventiveness, and but few have the heart this show has. Like 30 Rock, which delivered a stellar albeit truncated final season, Parks is getting to go out on its own terms. It’s likely showrunner Mike Schur and his team will stick the landing. (Premiers Jan. 13 on NBC)

Kroll Show

Every so often a group of writers and performers will come together to create something that is so fully realized it nears comic perfection. That’s the magic Nick Kroll has captured on his eponymous sketch series. Kroll’s team reads as a MVP list of some of today’s best comics, including Jenny Slate, John Mulaney, Jon Daly, Chelsea Peretti, Jason Mantzoukas, Joe Mande. As the show kicks off its third and final season, Kroll and company will take one last stab at skewering the absurd world reality TV. (Premiers Jan. 13 on Comedy Central)

Broad City

If Girls is the epitome of Millennial privilege in all its entitled, navel gazing glory, that makes you want to set everyone under 30 on fire, Broad City is there to help you laugh through it all by taking the piss out of Generation Y’s more self-serious tendencies. My pick for the best show of 2014, Abbi and Ilana return for a second season of stoner hijinks as they drunkenly stumble toward almost-adulthood. (Premiers Jan. 14 on Comedy Central)

Man Seeking Woman

From the mind of former Saturday Night Live writer Simon Rich, this off-kilter take on the rom-com is being described as “surreal” and “absurd.” Jay Baruchel stars as Josh, an unlucky-at-love guy who navigates the dating world with his buddy Mike, played by the always-surreal Eric André. (Premiers Jan. 14 on FXX)

The Fall

Haunting is the best way to describe this British import crime drama. Gillian Anderson plays a detective on the trail of a dark but dashing serial killer (Jamie Dornan) in Belfast. Unsettling and moody are two more adjectives that come to mind. While never explicitly graphic, scenes of violence are nonetheless upsetting. Though it all makes for great television. At only five episodes, it’s easy enough to catch up on season one so you can dive right into season two with the rest of us. (Premiers Jan. 16 on Netflix)

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore

Former Daily Show “Senior Black Correspondent” Larry Wilmore slides into Stephen Colbert’s old time slot with his take on the late-night satirical news program. Not much is known about what to expect other than it will likely follow the traditional 30-minute talk show format. As for topics covered, Wilmore’s never backed down from pointedly discussing race issues in his previous gig, so hopefully we can expect more thoughtful, hard-edged comedy here. (Premiers Jan. 19 on Comedy Central)

Backstrom

Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office) stars as a socially awkward, hard to work with (but ultimately talented and lovable) detective in this comedy-drama based on a series of by books by Swedish author Leif G. W. Persson. The prickly protagonist premise feels terribly derivative (see also: HouseHomelandThe Bridge, etc.), but with Wilson’s solid comedic chops, they could pull it off. (Premiers Jan. 22 on Fox)

Better Call Saul

Next to Badger, Saul Goodman was probably the most humorous character in Breaking Bad’s otherwise dark universe. Bob Odenkirk reprises his role as the smooth talking, in-over-his-head strip mall lawyer in this dark comedy that takes place six years before the events of Breaking Bad. And, yes, Vince Gilligan is very much involved. (Premiers Feb. 8 on AMC)

The Slap

At a party, a parent slaps someone else’s misbehaving child, setting into motion a chain of events that unfold over an eight-episode miniseries. The cast is impressive — Peter Sarsgaard, Uma Thurman, Thandie Newton, Zachary Quinto, Brian Cox — and the short season promises tight storytelling. Though, this being NBC, if it’s successful, expect them the order another 14 episodes and ruin the whole thing. (Premiers Feb. 12 on NBC)

House of Cards

The final act in Frank Underwood’s grab for power begins as the duplicitous politician settles into the Oval Office. With only a few loose ends standing between him and absolute power, one can only hope that someone can finally manage to take this monster down. (Premiers Feb. 27 on Netflix)

The Last Man on Earth

SNL alum Will Forte plays Phil, the last remaining man on earth after an event wipes out the rest of the human race. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie, Clone High) are co-executive producers, which bodes very well for this single-camera comedy. (Premiers March 1 on Fox)

Battle Creek

Vince Gilligan’s other post-Breaking Bad project, the series hits all the notes of a network crime procedural — two cops from different worlds team up to solve crimes in Michigan — except, you know, Vince Gilligan is the showrunner. (Premiers March 1 on CBS)

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

From the minds of Tina Fey and fellow 30 Rock writer Robert Carlock, Ellie Kemper (The Office) plays a doomsday cult escapee trying to start a new life in New York City. Kemper was one of the few highlights of The Office’s final seasons. With comic talent of this quality on both sides of the camera, this series easily makes my 2015 sitcom shortlist. (Premiers in March on Netflix)

Game of Thrones

Suit up for another season of death and (emotional) devastation as winter tightens its grip around Westeros. With so much blood on the Lannisters’ hands, it’s unlikely that either of last season’s two major deaths in the family with settle the score. As always, many balls remain in the air as the series’ sprawling universe further unfurls: Tyrion is a fugitive, Stannis’ forces arrive at the Wall, Arya heads across the Narrow Sea, and Jon Snow continues to know nothing. (Premiers April 12 on HBO)

Daredevil

Marvel launches its run of interconnected miniseries on Netflix this spring with one of comics’ most iconic street-level heroes. Blind lawyer Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) uses his heightened senses to defend New York against crime boss Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio). (Premiers in April 10 on Netflix)

Community

The most cancelled/uncancelled sitcom this side of Arrested Development might return at some point this year on the Yahoo! Screen streaming service. While the cult comedy never gained a huge audience, you likely have at least one friend who talks about the show or its creator Dan Harmon with near-religious zeal. As the prophecy of #SixSeasonsAndAMovie inches ever closer to fulfillment, expect that fervor to grow to a fever pitch. Pop! Pop! (Premiers March 17 on Yahoo! Screen)

Popular shows I missed that you shouldn’t

  • Downton Abbey (1/4, PBS)
  • Justified (1/20, FX)
  • The Americans (1/28, FX)
  • Broadchurch (3/4, BBC America)
  • Orphan Black (4/18, BBC America)
  • Mad Men (spring, AMC)
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