Spring Arts - Television: Fresh shows from all over

May 4 starts a new day for Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) in "24: Live Another Day," with only 12 episodes to squeeze it all in.
May 4 starts a new day for Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) in "24: Live Another Day," with only 12 episodes to squeeze it all in. (Fox)
Posted: January 27, 2014

'TV is going to offer fresh entertainment year-round from now on!"

That promise had been made and broken to viewers so many times that we were beginning to feel like an American Indian tribe. Well, guess what? It may finally be true.

Why the sudden proliferation? Look no further than our first item, from the streaming service Netflix. More chefs in the kitchen translates to more entrees.

Here in chronological order are some of your coming TV highlights.

- David Hiltbrand, Inquirer TV critic

House of Cards(Netflix, Feb. 14). As the second season of this acrid political potboiler begins, Francis Underwood (the slithery Kevin Spacey) has maneuvered his way into the vice presidency. Of course, that doesn't come close to satisfying his ambitions. His Lady Macbeth-like wife, Claire (Golden Globe winner Robin Wright), doesn't enjoy the added scrutiny that comes with the office. And it looks like that unscrupulous power-broker Tusk (Gerald McRaney) wants to take Francis down.

Star-Crossed(The CW, Feb. 17). When the Atrians landed on our planet a decade ago, we didn't give them a warm welcome, driving them into a ghetto. Now, in an effort to reverse that, the first Atrian students are about to attend human high school. It creates a passionate reunion for Emery (Aimee Teegarden, of Friday Night Lights) and Roman (Matt Lanter, of 90210), the Atrian boy she once tried to shield. Star-Crossed is a primer on prejudice, although I have to say the Atrians look like all the other gorgeous kids on the CW. They just have some Mike Tyson-like facial tattoos.

About a Boy (NBC, Feb. 22). Enough with the Olympics, let's get back to the immature high jinks! This sitcom, debuting the last night of the Sochi Games, is based on the Nick Hornby novel of the same name. It stars David Walton ( Bent) as carefree bachelor Will Freeman, who discovers that kids make even better chick magnets than puppies. That makes him much more tolerant of his new 11-year-old neighbor Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) and the boy's needy vegan mom Fiona (Minnie Driver). About a Boy comes from one of TV's best writer/producers, Jason Katims ( Parenthood), and has Jon Favreau ( Iron Man) attached as a director.

Believe (NBC, March 10). J.J. Abrams ( Lost) and Alfonso CuarĂ³n (Gravity) are the executive producers of this supernatural thriller. Bo (Johnny Sequoyah) is a girl with mysterious mental powers that, at age 10, she is only beginning to understand. Sinister forces, led by Kyle MacLachlan ( Twin Peaks), want to capture Bo. So her minder (Delroy Lindo) finds an unlikely protector for the girl: Tate (Jake McLaughlin). But first he has to break him out of a maximum-security death row.

Crisis (NBC, March 16). When a school bus on a field trip from one of Washington's most elite prep schools gets hijacked, the pressure on the FBI is intense. Because powerful politicians, CEOs, and diplomats want their children rescued - now! But who is behind this elaborate plot? And what is their endgame? A good cast - Gillian Anderson, Dermot Mulroney, Lance Gross, and Rachael Taylor - drives this deepening mystery.

The 100(The CW, March 19). In this futuristic drama, the only people who survived the nuclear holocaust were in orbit. Now decades later, running out of room and resources, they decide to set down 100 of their worst troublemakers on the Earth's surface to see if it is habitable yet. This being the CW, the pack of hardened criminals look like Calvin Klein models. Stars a handful of pros (Paige Turco, Isaiah Washington, Henry Ian Cusick) and a lot of young newcomers like Eliza Taylor and Bob Morley.

Game of Thrones(HBO, April 6). Season 4 is shaping up to be epic as the Lannisters, the Starks, and the Baratheons continue their dance of swords and death. And don't forget Daenerys, the Dragon Queen. New additions to the pageant include Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), a very dangerous man known as the Red Viper. He has sworn vengeance on the Lannisters. And then there is Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths), "the lord oaf of Highgarden." Presumably it will fall to him to give away his daughter Margaery (Natalie Dormer) when she marries King Joffrey at King's Landing. A quiet ceremony, no doubt.

Fargo (FX, April 15). This intriguing project is based on the Coen brothers' 1996 film and set in the tundra of North Dakota. Martin Freeman, currently playing Dr. Watson on PBS and Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, is a small-town businessman in a squeeze. A stranger (Billy Bob Thornton) offers Freeman a way out that goes terribly wrong. Newcomer Allison Tolman plays the deputy sent in to clear things up. Bob Odenkirk, Oliver Platt, Glenn Howerton, Kate Walsh, Keith Carradine, and Adam Goldberg round out the cast. This is projected as an anthology series. After 10 episodes, the Badlands setting will stay, but the cast and the crime will be flipped.

Orphan Black (BBC America, April 19). This Canadian genetics thriller became a hit last year largely based on rabid word of mouth. And most of that talk was about the stunning performance of Tatiana Maslany. She played seven characters (yes, it's about clones), one of whom committed suicide in the first scene of the first episode, setting this wild roller coaster in motion, because Sarah (Maslany), a bad girl with drug issues, tried to assume her identity. Then there's Cosima (Maslany), the eccentric doctoral student, and Alison (Maslany), the tightly wrapped soccer mom. New villainess this season and, surprise, she's played by The Killing's Michelle Forbes, not Maslany.

24: Live Another Day(Fox, May 4). Jack Bauer is back, baby! Kiefer Sutherland returns as the take-no-prisoners CTU agent. Only it's four years later and he's something of a free agent, being a federal fugitive in London. Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) has been helping him hide, but some CIA agents (Benjamin Bratt and Yvonne Strahovski) are hot on his tail. Michael Wincott ( Alien: Resurection) brings the terrorist threat, but the real miracle here is that Audrey (Kim Raver) - remember her from Season 6? - has regained consciousness. You've got 24 hours, but only 12 episodes. Make them count, Jack!

Pennsylvania Ballet at 50(PBS, May 2). Diamonds are a ballerina's best friend. WHYY-TV12 produced this hour-long tribute to the Philadelphia cultural mainstay. Among the performances featured are After the Rain, by Christopher Wheeldon, the pas de deux from Margo Sappington's Under the Sun, and of course, the "Diamonds" section from George Balanchine's Jewels. There will also be backstage and rehearsal footage and interviews with founder Barbara Weisberger and the company's artistic director, Roy Kaiser. Happy 50th!

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