Yes, the TV season kicks back in full swing following the winter hiatus that often seeps into the first half of January – which means what, exactly? How about a few high-profile premieres (including welcome regular gigs for small-screen favorites Glenn Howerton, Christina Hendricks and Parks and Rec alumna Retta)? Or a host of miniseries and specials, from an Eric Clapton bio-doc to a new true-crime series devoted to Biggie and Tupac murders? Or the self-proclaimed “Cocoa Khaleesis” of 2 Dope Queens breaking out on their HBO? Here’s what you’ll be tuning in to, TV-wise, this month. (Check out our top streaming choices here.)
2 Dope Queens (HBO, Feb. 2nd)
Wish as we may, Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams will never really be our best friends. But HBO’s televised expansion of their popular talk-show podcast is as close as we’re gonna get, so we’ll take it. Each of the four episodes focuses on one major topic, with a celebrity guest on hand to unpack it: Jon Stewart stops by to talk “New York”; mightily-maned Sarah Jessica Parker chats about “Hair”; Uzo Aduba offers her thoughts on black nerds in “Blerds”; and who but Tituss Burgess could possibly hold court on “Hot Peen”? Real talk doesn’t get much realer.
A.P. Bio (NBC, Feb. 1st)
Things aren’t looking so Sunny these days for Glenn Howerton, who’s leaving the Paddy’s gang back in Philly for greener network pastures. His new hustle casts him as Jack Griffin, an arrogant philosophy academic who loses a cushy tenure-track gig to his nemesis in scholarship (Tom Bennett). He goes to Toledo to lick his wounds and takes work as a science teacher at the local high school. Unqualified, uninterested and spectacularly unprofessional, Jack brings a slightly sharper bite to the School of Rock schematic as he directs his students in a plot of revenge against his foe. Don’t forget your flashcards.
Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars (Showtime, Feb. 10th)
Both in his illustrious solo career as well as his stints with Cream and the Yardbirds, Eric Clapton helped to write the script for basic concept of rock stardom and guitar heroics: turbulent home life, obsessive expressions of genius, a narcotic spiral, an unspeakable later-in-life tragedy, recovery and redemption. Director and longtime fan Lili Fini Zanuck salutes Ol’ Slowhand’s life and achievements with this somewhat unorthodox documentary, ixnaying the majority of talking-head interview clips in favor of sticking mostly to archival footage. And when said footage incorporates performance clips from every single era of his long career and home movies taken during the formation of Derek and the Dominos’ classic Layla? We completely support the decision.
Final Space (TBS, Feb. 26th)
With a cosign from Conan O’Brien, writer-director-actor Olan Rogers was able to sell the network suits on an absurdist comedy starring a doofus named Gary Space, a cute chew-toy-looking thing capable of incinerating entire planets. Also there are a whole lot of anthropomorphic cats. Cue psychedelic visuals and surrealist gags as Gary and his crew embark on a quest to find the far end of the universe. Baby Groot and Porg fans, take note: Keep an eye on Mooncake, the roly-poly little critter who can blow a hole through Jupiter.
Good Girls (NBC, Feb. 26th)
“Picture a modern-day, multiracial Set It Off, and it’s a comedy – kind of.” A viewer can almost hear the pitch for this genre-bridging new series from regular Shonda Rhimes associate Jenna Bans – and with Christina Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman attached, how could they possibly pass? For an assortment of timely reasons, the three cash-strapped women agree to rob a local grocer to get back on their feet. It’s all fun and fish-out-of-water one-liners until some local toughs come by to notify the ladies that their score came out of gang pockets. Guess who has to hilariously break even badder now?
Here and Now (HBO, Feb. 11th)
Alan Ball is back! The mind behind Six Feet Under and True Blood returns to HBO with a cast of characters who all belong to the same patchwork family: white parents Greg and Audrey (Tim Robbins and Holly Hunter), their biological child (Sosie Bacon) and now-grown kids adopted from Liberia, Vietnam and Colombia (Jerrika Hinton, Raymond Lee, and Daniel Zovatto). Something unnatural connects this eclectic clan, however, even more unnatural than the bonds of family already are. To those viewers who still wish Ball’s previous series Banshee had gotten a fairer shake: this is your shot at redemption.
McMafia (AMC, Feb. 26th)
To paraphrase the most famous onscreen gangster of all time: Just when Alex Godman (James Norton) thought he was out, they pull him back in. Descended from Russian crime royalty but raised in the safe isolation of England, this young banker lives on the straight and narrow with his girlfriend (Juliet Rylance). Then a crisis brings violence and chaos into Godman’s meticulously arranged life, tempting him with corruption and challenging his precious morals. That idea of gangsterism being nothing but brutal capitalism and vice versa? They just made a whole show about it.
This Is Not Happening (Comedy Central, Feb. 2nd)
Ari Shaffir originated this long-form storytelling program as a web series and brought it to Comedy Central for three gloriously raunchy seasons. Now, after a year’s hiatus, there’s a new host running the show: Daily Show regular Roy Wood, Jr. Expect another murderers’ row of off-color comedians (this season’s lineup includes Louie Anderson, Howie Mandel, Lil Rel Howley, Tom Green and Chris Redd) to share their wildest tales of embarrassment and debauchery. Sex, drugs and four-letter words! Our favorite!
The Trade (Showtime, Feb. 2nd)
Opioid abuse is America’s new Public Enemy No. 1, and this five-episode documentary miniseries conducts a top-to-bottom inspection of this complicated epidemic. Instead of synthesizing statistics and parsing news items, this series trains its sights on the people, getting up close and personal with addicts, street-level dealers, cartel bosses, rural growers and the cops trying to break this lethal chain. From the poppy farms of Mexico to the ravaged cities of the Midwest, this series attempts to assemble a more panoramic, humane portrait of the soldiers and casualties in the war on drugs’ latest front.
Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. (USA Network, Feb. 27th)
From the trend research that brought you American Crime Story and Law and Order: True Crime comes yet another anthology series reopening famous real-life cases. This one places a more specific focus on incidents in which the killer still has yet to be caught, starting with the infamous assassinations of gangsta rap godfathers Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace (Wavyy Jonez) and Tupac Shakur (Marcc Rose). Detectives Greg Kading (Josh Duhamel) and Russell Poole (Jimmi Simpson) go Zodiac on the high-profile shootings, driving themselves to the brink of sanity searching for information that simply may not exist. Sift through the clues along with the investigators, and please – if you’ve got a gun up in your waist, don’t shoot up the place.