New TV shows, mini-series to watch this season

"Smash" stars Katharine McPhee; guest stars will include Jennifer Hudson and Liza Minnelli.
"Smash" stars Katharine McPhee; guest stars will include Jennifer Hudson and Liza Minnelli. (CRAIG BLANKENHORN / NBC)
Posted: January 27, 2013

Have we got our seasons mixed up? Fall is supposed to be when the harvest of fresh TV events appears. But the first few months of 2013 present us with a prodigious crop of new shows and mini-series - as well as the return of several favorites. Might as well jump right in, since the action begins this week.

- David Hiltbrand, Inquirer TV writer 

Spring Arts - Television:

The Americans (FX, Wednesdays at 10 p.m., starting Jan. 30). The Cold War is heating up. Keri Russell ( Felicity) and Matthew Rhys ( Brothers & Sisters) play Reagan-era soccer parents with two daughters - except that they're deep-plant KGB spies. Their secret espionage is further complicated when an FBI agent (Noah Emmerich) moves in next door.

Do No Harm (NBC10, Thursdays at 10 p.m., starting Jan. 31). Dr. Jekyll, we presume? Steven ( Rescue Me) Pasquale is a Philadelphia neurosurgeon with an evil alter ego who comes out only at night. Alana de la Garza and Phylicia Rashad costar.

House of Cards (Netflix, Feb. 1). Kevin Spacey plays a Beltway politician with an insistent appetite for power. Robin Wright plays his equally ambitious wife in a "reinvention" of the terrific British mini-series from 1990 that starred Ian Richardson. The entire 13-episode season will be made available at once.  

Smash (NBC10, Tuesdays at 9 p.m., starting Feb. 5). The show returns with a makeover courtesy of a new showrunner (Josh Safran of Gossip Girl) and perhaps even a new musical in the offing. Don't worry, Marilyn fans, Bombshell is still headed for Broadway. Guest stars include Jennifer Hudson and Liza Minnelli. It's showtime!

Zero Hour (6ABC, Thursdays at 8 p.m., starting Feb. 14). Anthony Andrews ( ER) is drawn into a massive international conspiracy after his wife ( The Real World's Jacinda Barrett) is abducted. Carmen Ejogo, Scott Michael Foster, and Addison Timlin co-star in the thriller reminiscent of Dan Brown's potboilers.

Life Is But a Dream (HBO special, premieres at 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16). This documentary promises an intimate look at superstar Beyoncé. She directed the special, which follows her on stage, in the studio, and at home, while she was pregnant with Blue Ivy Carter, her daughter with rap regent Jay-Z.

Cult (The CW, Tuesdays at 9 p.m., starting Feb. 19). Truth is impinging on fiction in this twisty thriller about a show-within-a-show, starring Robert Knepper ( Prison Break). A dark hit TV series about a charismatic cult leader begins to leak over into reality.

Parade's End (HBO mini-series; premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26). Benedict Cumberbatch (TV's Sherlock; Star Trek Into Darkness) and Rebecca Hall star in this sweeping five-part mini-series, based on the four-novel series by Ford Madox Ford about a British aristocrat and his destructive marriage. The series premieres over three consecutive nights, Feb. 26 to 28.

Golden Boy (CBS, Tuesdays at 10 p.m., starting Feb. 26). Theo James stars. Told through flashbacks, Golden Boy traces the career track of the young man who will become the youngest commissioner in NYPD history. Chi McBride, Holt McCallany, Bonnie Somerville, and Kevin Alejandro costar.

Vikings (History mini-series; premieres at 10 p.m., Sunday, March 3). Ragnar Lothbrok is tired of pillaging the same old nearby one-horse villages. His sleek new boats open up a world of plunder in Vikings, a nine-part drama series about Norsemen starring Travis Fimmel, Gabriel Byrne, Gustaf Skarsgård, and Katheryn Winnick. Odin be with us!

Red Widow (6ABC, Sundays at 9 p.m., starting March 3). When her husband is knocked off, Radha Mitchell ( Silent Hill) is forced into the family business. Turns out she's pretty good at the gangster thing. Goran Visnjic, Rade Šerbedžija, Clifton Collins Jr., Jaime Ray Newman, and Lee Tergesen costar.

Bates Motel (A&E, Mondays at 10 p.m., starting March 18). Lost creator Carlton Cuse came up with this idea for a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Bates Motel stars Vera Farmiga ( Up in the Air) and young Freddie Highmore ( Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as the hospitable Bateses. Don't ask for turndown service.

The Voice (NBC10, Mondays at 8 p.m., starting March 25). The judges' heads, and bodies, will still be spinning when The Voice returns for its fourth go-round. But the faces will change. This time Team Shakira and Team Usher will be providing Blake Shelton and Adam Levine with the competition.

Game of Thrones (HBO, Sundays at 9 p.m., starting March 31). My, Daenerys, how big your dragons are growing. Actually, the whole Game of Thrones universe is expanding in its third season. We'll see parts of the Seven Kingdoms we've never seen before in these 10 slightly longer episodes, and we'll spend considerable time north of the Wall. The cast grows, too, with newcomers Mackenzie Crook, Tobias Menzies, Diana Rigg, Clive Russell, Ciarán Hinds, and others.

Rogue (DirecTV, Wednesdays at 9 p.m., starting April 3). This 10-part thriller follows an undercover cop (Thandie Newton of Mission Impossible 2) determined to find out who killed her son. In the process, she finds herself in way too deep with a crime boss (Marton Csokas).

How to Live with Your Parents (6ABC, Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m., starting April 3). This sitcom involves a divorced mom (Sarah Chalke of Scrubs) driven to move back home as an adult - because Mom (Elizabeth Perkins) and Dad (Brad Garrett) are so easy to get along with.

Defiance (Syfy, Mondays at 9 p.m., starting April 15). There's a new sheriff in town in this futuristic sci-fi series. Grant Bowler ( Liz & Dick) is trying to keep the peace in what was St. Louis. But Earth has been nearly destroyed in a long war between humans and a league of alien races known as Votans. Julie Benz, Tony Curran, Jaime Murray, Stephanie Leonidas, and Mia Kirshner costar.

I know what you're wondering: Where is Breaking Bad? The final eight episodes of the Bryan Cranston-Aaron Paul crime saga won't begin until July 14. Why do Breaking Bad fans keep jumping the gun?

Contact David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552,, or follow on Twitter @daveondemand_tv.

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