When you think about TV in February, it’s usually: Super Bowl and the Oscars. But there’s plenty going in between the universe’s last two monocultural events: Showtime brings a pair of inimitable personalities to late night; IFC panders to the documentary geeks with a new season of a certified cult hit; and HBO takes a long, hard look at prison life in America. Meanwhile, ABC and NBC will compete for a slice of the action procedural pie, and Elvis Presley will receive a reverent tribute from the creme de le creme of today’s musical luminaries. (Also, Post Malone will be there.) Here’s what’s coming to a network, basic-cable and/or premium-cable channel near you.
American Soul (BET, Feb. 5th)
In the late Sixties, a journalist named Don Cornelius realized that soul music needed its own American Bandstand-style program. The showcase would be titled Soul Train, his opportunity to beam the finest in R&B, funk, etc. into homes all across America. This series dramatizes the conception of Cornelius’ empire, as the showrunner, his ensemble of dancers, the crew and the house band jointly fought against the tide of racism to show the world how funky they could be. Yes, that is Bobby Brown playing Rufus Thomas (!), and former Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams as Gladys Knight and Diana Ross (!!!), respectively.
At Home With Amy Sedaris, Season 2 (truTV, Feb. 19th)
The brainchild of wackadoodle visionary Amy Sedaris, this demented parody of a cooking-and-crafting homemaking program features the Strangers With Candy creator as a chipper domestic-goddess version of herself. (She also shows up as local wine lady Ronnie Vino, haughty neighbor Patty Hogg and Patty’s semi-feral offspring Nutmeg.) A slew of guest stars, including Susan Sarandon, Ann Dowd, Jessica Walter, Matthew Broderick and many more join our lunatic Martha Stewart this season. Time to string up the cold-cut bunting!
Desus and Mero (Showtime, Feb. 21st)
Goodbye, Viceland; hello, Showtime. Twitter personalities/genius loudmouths of late night Desus Nice and the Kid Mero — known to some as the Bodega Boys — bring their show to premium cable, but the new channel doesn’t mean a new formula. In. other words, it’s still the duo kicking back and cracking wise about politics and pop culture with a deep bench of celebrity guests. Nobody does unfiltered quite like they do, whether they’re bringing Cardi B in for an Election Night special or sounding off on Kanye’s descent into madness. If the two guys who spend all day listening to the radio and cracking wise on the end of your block got a TV show, it’d look a lot like this.
Documentary Now!, Season 3 (IFC, Feb. 20th)
Bill Hader and Fred Armisen present a fresh batch of scrupulously detailed spoofs lampooning the classics of nonfiction cinema, and they’ve brought in a murderer’s row of famous friends this season. Owen Wilson plays a guru turned cult leader in a parody of Wild Wild Country; John Mulaney is a deadpan Stephen Sondheim in a take-off of Company‘s original cast recording album; and a riotous Marina Abramovic doc send-up features Cate Blanchett as heavily-accented performance artist. It’s the best thing on TV, hardcore-film-and-comedy-nerds division.
Elvis All-Star Tribute Special (NBC, Feb. 17th)
The year is 1968. Elvis is in danger of fading into irrelevance, so he reasserts his star power with a TV special that is still considered the Super Bowl of rock & roll TV specials. In homage to the King, NBC will restage the small-screen concert that captivated a nation with a high-wattage lineup of today’s biggest stars: Jennifer Lopez burns up “Heartbreak Hotel”; John Legend blows through “A Little Less Conversation’; Keith Urban duets with Post Malone on “Baby What You Want Me To Do.” The recreated production numbers will be supplemented by archival footage from Presley’s performances as well as interviews with his living collaborators and musicians influenced by his body of work. Which, in the truest sense, would be pretty much everybody on the radio today.
The Enemy Within (NBC, Feb. 25th)
It may not rake in Emmys or score magazine covers, but The Blacklist remains one of the highest-rated programs on NBC’s schedule. So who could blame them for trying to re-draw on that well with this crime procedural, which similarly calls a public-servant-turned-criminal out of maximum-security retirement to help the FBI track down high-profile targets? Dexter alumna Jennifer Carpenter as the traitorous but brilliant Erica Shepherd; Morris Chestnut is her partner, agent Will Keaton. Will sexual tension start to simmer between them? Will the dividing line of the law blur as the good guys get in the bad guys’ heads? Will this show find a vast, dependable viewership among the 35-54 demographic?
Miracle Workers (TBS, Feb. 12th)
Well, the bad news is that God, in His infinite wisdom, has decided to call it quits on Earth and blow our planet to kingdom come. The good news is that two of his best people — guardian angels Craig and Eliza (Daniel Radcliffe and Geraldine Viswanathan) — have taken it upon themselves to convince the Man Upstairs (Steve Buscemi, playing the lord of all creation like a bored CEO) that we’re worth keeping around. This highly original sitcom springs from the mind of former SNL writer Simon Rich; if you liked the equally conceptual Man Seeking Woman but wish it had more divine providence, you’re about to fell blessed.
O.G. (HBO, Feb. 23rd)
Madeleine Sackler’s award-winning film puts you inside Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility to get an added dose of realism in the story of a convict named Louis (Jeffrey Wright). After more than two decades in the clink — including an ascent to the top of the gang system and a decision to turn his back on “the life” — he’s about to re-enter the outside world. For his last good deed, he takes a newbie (Theothus Carter) under his wing in an effort to keep him out of the game. It’s a fitting acquisition for the network that made its name on the early success of Oz.
2 Dope Queens, Season 2 (HBO, Feb. 8th)
Remember when the popular talk-show podcast from Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams got the HBO treatment and a four-episode deal on the cable behemoth? The world-class gabbers are back for another collection of hourlong specials. It’s the same deal as before: special guests ready to tell all (on deck: Keegan-Michael Key, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzo and Lupita Nyong’o); a guiding theme for each episode (this time they’re covering Nostalgia and Fashion, among others); and outfits of such scorching fabulosity that your laptop may very well overheat.
Whiskey Cavalier (ABC, Feb. 24th)
Will Chase (Scott Foley) — codename: Whiskey Cavalier — needs to pull himself together after a split from his fiancée leaves him a blubbering mess. (Look, even seemingly indestructible secret agents aren’t immune to the ruinous effects of a bad breakup.) Lucky for him, he just got a bodacious partner in Francesca “Frankie” Trowbridge (Lauren Cohan) — codename: Fiery Tribune. In case the goofy monikers didn’t give it away, the tone stays pretty light on this espionage weekly, as the agents flirt, fight and protect the world from a never-ending stream of evil megalomaniacs. Crisp back-and-forth rapport, a few taut action sequences, the lingering possibility of a long-awaited kiss — what more could a network-TV viewer want?