As the Grammys and the Oscars up the glitz factor on network TV, February brings a diverse array of options for those of us suffering from awards fatigue. HBO bids adieu to a signature program while introducing two new ones; superheroes burst genre boundaries into workplace comedy and surreal psychodrama, respectively; and a nature-doc series returns to document the Earth’s natural bounty before it vanishes in the next two to three years. Here’s what you need to tune into over the next month.
24: Legacy (Feb. 4th, Fox)
Former Army ranger Eric Carter (Corey Hawkins) is having one of those days. He’s safely returned home from your basic black-ops work in the Middle East, only to learn that he and his squadmates have been targeted for retaliatory assassination. Why, you ask? Because a larger terrorist network is preparing to spring a surprise attack on American soil. Mondays, right?!? Picking up where Jack Bauer left off, our new hero will save the United States from an extremist menace in real-time over the course of a single day, minus the bathroom breaks. It has yet to be seen whether Hawkins can bring the same gravitas to yelling “TELL ME WHERE THE BOMB IS.”
Big Little Lies (Feb. 19th, HBO)
Welcome to Monterey, California, where picture-perfect soccer moms jog through planned communities before going for cappuccinos and nonfat scones. But every suburban utopia has its dark underbelly – that might even involve [beat for dramatic emphasis] murder. Jean-Marc Vallée directed all seven episodes of this miniseries based on Liane Moriarty’s bestseller, and he’s corralled a helluva starry cast: Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Adam Scott, Zoe Kravitz and Alexander Skarsgard. Now to find a white wine that pairs well with juicy upper-middle-class scandal.
Crashing (Feb. 19th, HBO)
Pete Holmes follows the path cleared by Louis C.K. and Jerry Seinfeld before him, creating a loosely autobiographical account of a comic attempting to get his personal life in order. The fictitious “Pete” comes home one afternoon to find his wife (Lauren Lapkus) in bed with another man. Their marriage crumbles, and he finds himself out on the street with little money and no place to stay. With guidance from executive producer Judd Apatow, Holmes chronicles his avatar’s adventures in couch-surfing and efforts to retain dignity while living out of a duffel bag. It takes a serious pair of stones to get up behind a mic stand – and something else entirely to make people laugh when you’re sleeping on a pull-out sofa.
Detroiters (Feb. 7th, Comedy Central)
As Workaholics departs for TV’s great beyond of syndication, Comedy Central moves to fill the vacuum with another buddy comedy about white-collar man-children. Former SNL player Tim Robinson and Veep‘s secret weapon Sam Richardson drew on their experiences growing up in the Motor City for the misadventures of “Sam” and “Tim,” two ad men launching disastrous publicity campaigns. Executive producer Jason Sudeikis makes regular appearances as the two dopes shill for ambulance-chasing law offices, booze trolleys and chintzy hot-tub emporiums. Mostly, though, their best intentions veer off into the expected shenanigans – see, they thought taking all those amphetamines would help them work, but …
Girls: The Final Season (Feb. 12th, HBO)
After five seasons of painfully un-self-aware social mishaps, the Girls‘ ladies are getting ready to hang up their trendy scarves and floppy hats. This final batch of episodes will grant Hannah (Lena Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) one last chance to get their shit together in a romantic, professional and personal capacity. Will Adam end up with Hannah, or will his romance with Jessa go the distance? Will Shoshanna find a balance between her careerist aspirations and her need for affection? Will Marnie and Desi hold fast to their title of Two Most Annoying People on Earth? Whatever ends up happening, there had better be an up-to-the-second soundtrack cut to match.
Legion (Feb. 8th, FX)
And now for something slightly different: This hour-long program from Fargo creator Noah Hawley fits into the universe established by the X-Men series of films, but trippy visuals and an off-kilter sense of humor place this a nudge left of the mainstream dial. Downton Abbey‘s Dan Stevens plays mutant David Haller, a lifelong schizophrenic with potentially limitless powers he can barely understand, much less control. While bouncing around psychiatric hospitals, he bonds with a fellow patient (Rachel Keller) while reexamining his life with the help of a best friend (Aubrey Plaza) and a psychiatrist (Jean Smart). So it’s combining the usual dazzle of superhero entertainment with a WTF odd-bird character study? We’re there.
Planet Earth II (Feb. 18th, BBC America)
After 10 long years, the gold standard for nature documentaries has graced us all with another breathtaking peek at the pristine wonders of Mother Earth. Over 2089 days spent shooting in 40 different countries, the crew compiled a six-episode portrait of the planet’s diversity unmatched in its technological sophistication. (They employed super-sharp 4K photography as well as state-of-the-art aerial drones and stabilized cameras.) The series ran in the U.K. near the tail end of last year, and a clip of a high-pressure chase between an iguana and some hungry snakes – one every bit as kinetic and gripping as Mad Max: Fury Road‘s operatic demolition derbies – attained viral fame in America on YouTube. It’s best you enjoy the wonders of our big blue marble before a certain POTUS permanently damages our planet.
Powerless (Feb. 2nd, NBC)
The DC universe is boldly going where no superhero show has dared to venture before – into comedy. This off-beat take on comic-book lore centers on the goings-on at Wayne Security, a subset of Bruce Wayne’s vast corporate empire that manufactures products protecting regular folks from superpowered collateral damage. Vanessa Hudgens is the idealistic Director of R&D; Community‘s Danny Pudi, Ron Funches, Alan Tudyk and Christina Kirk are her coworkers. Don’t expect Superman and Batman to show up; don’t think a few minor players from DC’s roster won’t get a little playtime every so often.
Superior Donuts (Feb. 2nd, CBS)
This old-school sitcom adapts Tracy Letts’ play about a crusty but benign donut shop owner learning to get along with his new assistant, an upbeat black youth. The former flower child’s battered idealism collides with with his counterpart’s millennial spirit – say, do we smell squeaky-clean comic hijinks mixed with light commentary cooking in the oven? Judd Hirsch plays the curmudgeon and Jermaine Fowler is his young ward, with Sons of Anarchy‘s Katey Sagal and Anchorman‘s David Koechner as frequent patrons of the donut joint. Here’s the return to an era of laugh tracks and big “aww”s from the studio audience you’ve been asking for.
Training Day (Feb. 2nd, CBS)
After spending years juggling sister-wives on HBO’s Big Love, Bill Paxton returns to television with this serialized remake of Antoine Fuqua’s Oscar-winning 2001 crime drama. He’s ballsy enough to take on the Denzel Washington role as LAPD officer Frank Rourke, your typical cop on the edge who doesn’t play by the rules – you know, torturing suspects, planting evidence, driving around with perps in the trunk of your cruiser. Justin Cornwell fills in for Ethan Hawke as the morally-unstained newbie Kyle Craig, partnered with the veteran to report back to the higher-ups. Hey, so long as we get a reprise of the “King Kong” speech, they can do whatever they want.