It’s a big week for returning shows, plus there’s a new series on Sundance, a four-part documentary on VH1 (no, really), and Seth Meyers slides behind the desk on Late Night.
Monday, February 24
The Tanning of America: One Nation Under Hip-Hop (11 pm-12 am, VH1)
This four-part series tracks the rise of hip-hop’s cultural significance, beginning tonight with its roots in the 1970s. Episodes continue on successive nights this week, each night at 11 pm.
Tuesday, February 25
Late Night with Seth Meyers (12:36-1:37 am, NBC)
Seth’s first-show guests are Amy Poehler, Vice President Joe Biden, and A Great Big World.
Wednesday, February 26
The Americans (10-11:07 pm, FX)
My two favorite new shows from last year are returning this week. This early-‘80s Cold War spy drama turned out to be more about the complex and conflicted relationship between its two main characters, to its great benefit. As the show returns, Elizabeth and Philip continue their missions while their daughter Paige is getting curious about her parents’ activities.
Also tonight: the season two premiere of Legit (10-10:30 pm) followed by Ali G: Rezurection, with new introductions added to Sacha Baron Cohen’s HBO series of 2003-4, where the characters Borat and Bruno originated as “correspondents” (10:30-11 pm, both FXX).
Thursday, February 27
Portlandia (10-10:30 pm, IFC)
The quirky denizens of Portland, OR are back for their fourth season. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein don’t play all of them, but it can seem that way sometimes.
Also tonight: the premiere of The Red Road, in which the sheriff of a rural New Jersey town comes into conflict with a dangerous member of a Native American tribe living in the nearby mountains (9-10 pm, Sundance).
Friday, February 28
Hannibal (10-11 pm, NBC)
My other favorite new show from last year also surprised by making its weekly cases secondary to the complex and conflicted relationship between profiler Will Graham and FBI consultant/murderous cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lecter (notice a pattern?). Graham is now in prison after being framed by Lecter, creating an unexpected role reversal.
Saturday, March 1
Film Independent Spirit Awards (10-pm-12 am, IFC)
The annual pre-Oscar celebration of independent cinema is hosted this year by Patton Oswalt.
Sunday, March 2
If you don’t feel like watching the Oscars, I won’t blame you; I don’t usually watch the show either. However, your alternatives are rather limited; aside from The Amazing Race and Dateline, all the other network programming tonight is repeats. The amusingly bad Jean-Claude Van Damme/John Woo action pic Hard Target is on Flix (8-9:40 pm), Goodfellas is on IFC (8-11 pm), and Seven Psychopaths is on The Movie Channel (8-10 pm).
Danny Boyle’s follow-up to Shallow Grave is an unblinking yet affectionate look at the lives of a group of heroin addicts in Edinburgh, Scotland. Brilliantly realized, it’s a quintessential drug movie and one of the best movies of the 1990s, featuring early performances by a number of actors who have gone on to greater prominence: Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, and Kelly Macdonald.
(Note: this information is accurate as of publication time, but programming is subject to change at the discretion of channels and networks. All times listed are Eastern time.)