Sorry kids, all the fun and games are over. April is not messing around. I hope you’re not behind on anything, because April is not going to leave you any opportunity to catch up on things. Premieres, finales, specials, reality shows, comedies, dramas…April’s got it all. And, it’s got it all in spades. January to March has been nice and relaxing, and I hope you’ve taken advantage. There are a couple of Sunday nights that I look forward to each year (or have in the past): Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire was an amazing Sunday of TV for the last several years, but my favorite Sunday for the last 3 years has been and will remain Game of Thrones and Mad Men (topped off this year with Veep and Silicon Valley). This is what April brings us. And, while last month, I couldn’t even come up with 10 items, this month, there are far more than 10, so let’s get to it:
10. Turn (AMC, April 6) — With Breaking Bad gone, and Mad Men on it’s way out, it’s time for AMC to start restocking on high quality, prestige dramas (I was really looking forward to Low Winter Sun, but that didn’t work out so well). AMC tries it again here with an American Revolutionary War drama about a group of spies lead by Jamie Bell. Most importantly though, the recurring cast includes the one and only Stephen Root (Office Space, Justified, King of the Hill, No Country for Old Men, Boardwalk Empire). Early reviews seem to be mixed, but AMC has bought enough good will with me to at least give it a look.
9. Orphan Black (BBC America, April 19) — So, here’s the thing. I’m just going to be honest with you. I’ve still not watched the first season. I have every intention of doing so, and hope to before the beginning of season 2. But, regardless of whether I’m able to do so or not, the fact remains that Orphan Black belongs on this list. More people (in this case, including myself) need to watch shows like this, and less people need to watch shows like The Following. Sorry Kevin Bacon.
8. The Writer’s Room (Sundance, April 14) — Hosted by Community’s (and award-winning screenwriter) Jim Rash, The Writer’s Room is an hour long show discussing the writing process for several of your favorite shows on TV. Season 1 saw the writers from Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Parks and Rec, and New Girl come by. Season 2 brings more interesting personalities to the show, including Robert Kirkman (TWD), Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) and Beau Willimon (House of Cards). The conversations are usually funny, often insightful and always worth your time.
7. Silicon Valley (HBO, April 6) — Brought to us by Mike Judge and starring (among others) Martin Starr, TJ Miller (Denver, yeah!) and Kumail Nanjiani. If I need to say anything else to make you want to watch this show, I don’t even want to know you.
6. Fargo (FX, April 15) — So, here’s the thing, FX might be the best thing going right now for dramas. Justified, The Bridge, The Americans, Sons of Anarchy, and now Fargo (and soon to come The Strain). FX continues to deliver excellent shows from bright people. The reason they are able to do that is probably directly related to FX’s President, John Landgraf. He sees talent, and he doesn’t try to contain it, or think he knows better. So here we have Fargo, set in the same universe as the classic Coen Brothers film (and they also serve as exec producers), starring Billy Bob Thornton, Dr. Watson himself, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Kate Walsh, Adam Goldberg, Oliver Platt, Key and Peele. Oh, and it’s been run by Adam Bernstein, who has been studying at the school of Vince Gilligan for the last 5 years while working on Breaking Bad. So, yeah…I’m looking forward to this.
5. The Challenge: Free Agents (MTV, April 10) — The only reality show I still watch. And, I will never stop watching. The Challenge is the fifth major sport in this country, and it is the perfect mix of embarrassing, exhilarating and horrifying moments. My man CT is going to be wheeled out there when he’s 80 years old, still starting trouble…And guess what, I’ll still be watching.
4. Veep (HBO, April 6) — Veep had a historically great second season, and all the early reviews point to season 3 even being an improvement on that ridiculously high bar. There is no better (or funnier) commentary on the current state of American politics than Vice President Selina Kyle, and her ridiculous staff. The show is occasionally sweet, sometimes thoughtful, usually hilarious, and flat out always insulting! Watching these characters berate Jonah, better known as Jolly Green Jizz-Face, will never stop being funny.
3. Justified finale (FX, April 8) — While season 5 has admittedly been an up and down season of Justified (my number 1 show of 2013), the penultimate episode which aired on April 1 was as good as almost any episode of Justified. More so than looking forward to the finale of this season, I’m looking forward to seeing what it sets up for the sixth, and final, season. I’ve been saying since before this season even started that season 5 was likely going to be tough, as it had to hold off on, and set up the stories that will play out in the final season. Specifically, the resolution of the Raylan/Boyd friendship, or whatever it is. I was thrilled with the episode this week, am looking forward to the finale next week, but can hardly contain my excitement for seeing where the story of Raylan, Boyd, Ava and Art ends next year.
2. Game of Thrones (HBO, April 6) — I sometimes think about whether or not Game of Thrones is a “great” show, on the level with shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad or Mad Men…But, then I stop thinking about that, and I realize, “who cares.” I don’t actually need Game of Thrones to be those shows. What I do need out of Game of Thrones, is for it to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I have watching TV all year (like Justified). And, that is EXACTLY what Game of Thrones gives us. Game of Thrones has never been in my top 5 shows of any given year, but it’s always a show I’m looking forward to. It’s just fun to be in this world and with these characters, and I can’t wait to get back to see what hijinks the characters get into this season (side note: does anyone else want to help me Kickstart a spin off show with Arya Stark and The Hound as private detectives in Westeros? Amazing, right? #truedetectiveseason2 is all I am saying).
1. Mad Men (AMC, April 13) — So, look. Those who know me, know that I argue that Mad Men is the greatest TV drama of all time (or, if not, it’s millimeters behind The Sopranos). So, of course, this is going to be the top of my list. I know there are many out there that didn’t love season 6 of Mad Men, and I understand that. But, even if you didn’t love it, you had to love the way it finished. Season 6 was all about the multiple versions of ourselves, mainly, the 2 sides of Don Draper. This comes to a head in the haunting and heart-wrenching meeting with Hershey’s, and then with Don taking Sally to see where he grew up. His two lives are melding into one, and this final season (split into 2 parts, just as Breaking Bad was) will deal with the repercussions of that fact. Add that with the fact that Don was “fired” from his job, and the season is setting up for some truly interesting introspection by Dick Whitman.
So, there you have it. April 2014…Not messing around. Some honorable mentions: Playing House (USA, April 29) and Jim Gaffigan: Obsessed (Comedy Central, April 27).