The clocks sprung ahead, the sun has started to shine and the flowers are ready to bloom, which means it’s time for a slate of new and returning TV shows to try to lure you back inside for the spring season.
Once not a particularly busy time for TV debuts, the period between mid-March and May has now become a period when networks and streaming services are premiering their best and most ambitious series. They’re trying to catch the eyes of Emmy voters the same way Oscar-hopeful films often debut in November and December (the Emmy eligibility window ends May 31). Which is why FX’s “Atlanta,” Netflix’s “Bridgerton” and “Stranger Things,” and the final season of AMC’s “Better Call Saul” are all returning in the next few months.
New shows will also vie for audiences and Emmys, too, as movie stars including Jared Leto, Anne Hathaway, Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Julia Roberts, Sean Penn and Amy Schumer head to the smaller screen this spring.
And beyond the headline-grabbing awards bait, a range of other series promise to satisfy a diversity of tastes, including a formulaic but fun network sitcom, a foreign-language epic, a long-awaited video game adaptation, a porn parable and a tragic crime drama.
Spring has arrived, so why not watch some TV?
HBO Max (streaming Thursdays)
Set amid the seedy glitz and glamor of 1970s Los Angeles, “Minx” follows a young journalist (Ophelia Lovibond) who wants to create a feminist women’s magazine, but can do it only by teaming with a pornography publisher (Jake Johnson). This fictional Playgirl is a breeding ground for great comedy and drama, including perhaps the most full-frontal male nudity ever seen on television in a single episode. But much like the magazine the characters are crafting, there’s more to “Minx” than the smut, including a fantastic performance by Johnson, who appears utterly at home in the unbuttoned, garishly patterned shirts of the era.
More:The 50 best TV shows on HBO Max in March: ‘The Tourist,’ ‘Phoenix Rising’
‘Life & Beth’
Amy Schumer is back on TV in this superb dramedy as Beth, a woman approaching 40 who begins to change her life after a death in the family shakes her out of her blithe routine. Michael Cera co-stars as a handsome farmer who catches Beth’s eye after she moves from Manhattan to her hometown in Long Island. But it would be a disservice to call “Beth” a romantic comedy, as the series delves into her history and trauma, as she realizes that despite being so far into her life, she has very little idea of who she is.
More:Review: Amy Schumer’s ‘Life & Beth’ is a surprise, and a total triumph
Apple TV+ (Friday, then weekly)
Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway bring their combined Oscar-winning talents to “WeCrashed,” a chronicle of the rise and fall of commercial real estate startup WeWork, based on the Wondery podcast. WeWork had a high valuation, a magnetic CEO and not much else going for it before the worth of the company, well, crashed, in 2019. Leto plays that oddball CEO, Adam Neumann, a role seemingly tailor-made for the notoriously method and committed actor. Transformative hair and makeup and an Israeli accent help Leto sink into the role, and he’s well matched with Hathaway, who plays Neumann’s earthy wife, Rebekah. WeWork is an addictive scam thriller (like Hulu’s “The Dropout” or Showtime’s “Super Pumped”), especially for those who don’t know the whole saga.
Paramount+ (March 24; weekly on Thursdays)
It took nine years for the popular Xbox video game, which has already spawned comics and novels, to come to life on TV, and the shiny space opera might just live up to superfans’ great expectations. Set in a warring multiplanet society in which a totalitarian government attempts to control both a rebel human population and evil invading aliens, “Halo” primarily follows one “spartan” warrior (Pablo Schreiber) who rebels against his superiors. The adaptation is perfectly serviceable high-concept sci-fi, even if, during the series’ long trip to the screen, other shows explored this territory. But it has the potential to grow and evolve, just like its video game roots.
More:2022 TV premiere dates, from ‘Stranger Things’ to ‘The Kardashians’ and ‘Barry’
Apple TV+ (March 25; weekly on Fridays)
Perhaps the most ambitious new series this spring, “Pachinko” is Apple’s first trilingual TV show, with dialogue in English, Japanese and Korean. The series tells a time- and continent-spanning story about multiple generations of one Korean family. Set in 1920s Japanese-occupied Korea and 1980s America and Japan, “Pachinko” examines generational trauma and ambition. The stunning drama stars Min-ha Kim, Lee Min-ho and Youn Yuh-jung, who won an Oscar last year for her performance in “Minari.”
‘How We Roll’
CBS (March 31; Thursdays, 9:30 AM EDT/PDT)
Charming and straightforward, this CBS sitcom based on the life of professional bowler Tom Smallwood is a sweet addition to the spring lineup. Eliciting more knowing giggles than belly laughs, the comedy stars Pete Holmes as a laid-off factory worker who takes a chance on pursuing his dream of professional bowling. Considering the show is sitcom fodder based on a true story and not Greek tragedy, it’s safe to assume Tom (Holmes) makes it as a bowler, which lowers the stakes and adds a pleasantness to the sunny episodes.
HBO Max (March 31; weekly on Thursdays)
Meryl Streep offered a celebrated portrayal of legendary chef Julia Child in the 2009 film “Julie and Julia,” but British actress Sarah Lancashire has her own enchanting take on the icon. While the film covered Child’s life abroad as she learned to cook and wrote “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” “Julia” covers later ground, focusing on the road to Child’s public television cooking show, “The French Chef.” Lancashire’s relative anonymity among American viewers works to her advantage as she plays Child; it’s easier to squint and see Julia’s tall frame and hear her high-pitched laugh when there isn’t someone as famous as Streep in the role. Lancashire is surrounded by a charming supporting cast including Bebe Neuwirth and David Hyde Pierce, in a “Frasier” reunion.
AMC (April 10, Sundays at 10 EDT/PDT; also on AMC+)
Already renewed for a second (and final) season, AMC’s Chicago-set drama stars Courtney B. Vance and Oscar nominee Aunjanue Ellis. The series follows the cascading consequences of a drug bust gone wrong that leaves a police officer dead and a star Black high school athlete the target of the deeply broken criminal justice system. Created by Peter Moffat, who also created the British series that inspired HBO’s “The Night Of,” “61st Street” is visceral and engrossing.
‘The First Lady’
Showtime (April 17, Sundays at 9 EDT/PDT)
Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Gillian Anderson take on historic American women in this time-jumping drama that offers a portrait of three strong-willed first ladies: Michelle Obama, Betty Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt, respectively. All three actresses embody their roles with ease, and certainly Davis’ excellent take on Obama will have audiences talking. But it’s Pfeiffer’s Ford who is the most alluring, dynamic and surprising enough to have held up a show all her own.
Starz, (April 24, Sundays at 8 EDT/PDT)
A flashy, historical drama that lives up to its star wattage, “Gaslit” is a thumping and gripping account of the Watergate scandal from the perspective of Martha Mitchell and other lesser-known players, based on the Slate podcast “Slow Burn.” Julia Roberts stars as Martha, the DC socialite and wife of Attorney General John Mitchell (Sean Penn in heavy prosthetics), who is among the first to sound the Watergate alarm. Part crime drama and part comedy of errors, “Gaslit” is sure to cause a new generation of viewers to Google “Martha Mitchell” in the hopes of finding out how the absurd true story ends.
Other shows we’re excited about…
- “Atlanta” (FX, March 24): Donald Glover’s ambitious and experimental series hasn’t aired new episodes since May 2018, but it’s a very welcome return.
- “Bridgerton” (Netflix, March 25): The second season of Netflix’s hit period drama focuses on eldest Bridgerton child Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) and his somewhat closed-minded quest to find a wife.
- “Benjamin Franklin” (PBS, Apr 4-5): Ken Burns’ latest documentary digs into the story of one of America’s most famous Founding fathers.
- “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” (Paramount+, May 5): This spinoff of “Star Trek: Discovery” focuses on the adventures of the USS Enterprise before Captain Kirk climbed aboard – this Enterprise is manned by Captain Pike (Anson Mount).
- “Obi-Wan Kenobi” (Disney+, May 25): Ewan McGregor reprises his role as “young” Obi-Wan from the “Star Wars” prequel movies in this new series, which also brings back Hayden Christensen’s version of Darth Vader.
- “Stranger Things” (Netflix, May 27): The supernatural series returns with the first part of Season 4, picking up after David Harbour’s Jim Hopper died in 2019’s third season – or did he?