This week in TV: a couple of shows wrap up their seasons, a couple of shows from last year return for their sophomore seasons, a few new shows debut, and for once your humble scribe barely has to rely on PBS.
Monday, April 14
Bam’s Bad Ass Game Show (10:30-11 pm, TBS)
Jackass meets Wipeout and Fear Factor in this new challenge-competition show.
Tuesday, April 15
Fargo (10-11:40 pm, FX)
This ten-episode “limited series” (the TV business’s favorite new buzzword for what used to be called a miniseries) has the blessing of the Coen brothers, but not their direct involvement. It’s not a remake of the movie, but rather a different story that takes place in the same “world.” The cast includes Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Kate Walsh, Bob Odenkirk, Colin Hanks, and Allison Tolman.
Also tonight: Pioneers of Television, the Emmy-winning series that delves into the history of the medium, returns with the first of four new episodes (8-9 pm, PBS). Tonight: stand-up comedians who transitioned to sitcom stardom, including interviews with Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Newhart, Tim Allen, Roseanne Barr, and Ray Romano.
Wednesday, April 16
Nova (9-10 pm, PBS)
As a dog-parent, I’m a sucker for shows that explore dogs’ brains and abilities, so I’ll definitely be watching tonight’s “Inside Animal Minds: Dogs & Super Senses.”
Thursday, April 17
Scandal (10-11 pm, ABC)
The third season is ending a bit early due to Kerry Washington’s pregnancy. Tonight’s finale involves Election Day and a threat to President Grant from Olivia’s terrorist mother. I wish I could get behind this show, but its storylines are just a bit beyond ridiculous for me.
Also tonight: the finale of the fifth season of Community (8-8:30 pm, NBC), which was only 13 episodes and started in January. Will there in fact be “six seasons and a movie”? NBC hasn’t announced an official pickup yet, but it’s looking like it could happen.
Friday, April 18
The Writers’ Room (9-9:30 pm, Sundance)
Go deep into the process behind more of your favorite TV shows in season two. Host Jim Rash talks to cast members and writers from Scandal (this week’s topic), House of Cards, Pretty Little Liars, The Good Wife, Sons of Anarchy, and The Walking Dead.
Saturday, April 19
Orphan Black (9-10 pm, BBC America)
Clone Club is back in session, but you’d best keep that to yourself. Burning questions for season two: will Sarah find her daughter? Will Cosima be able to treat her mysterious illness? Will Alison lose her marbles while driving to soccer practice? (Okay, I’m kidding about that last one.) The show succeeds because it blends its more far-out story elements with serious philosophical questions about individuality and what it means to be human. It gives the audience more than it needs to—it would still be entertaining enough if it was merely a sci-fi conspiracy thriller—but going beyond makes it that much better.
Fittingly, the season premiere is followed at 10 by the premiere of The Real History of Science Fiction, a four-part series that examines the portrayals of strange worlds in literature, film, and TV.
Sunday, April 20
Salem (10-11:06 pm, WGN America)
WGN America is one of those channels that show a seemingly endless string of reruns of America’s Funniest Home Videos, How I Met Your Mother, and even Walker, Texas Ranger. Tonight they enter the original-programming space with an American Horror Story-ized take on the witchy business that occurred in Salem back in the 1690s. If this sounds like something you’d want to watch, your biggest obstacle may be whether or not your TV provider carries the channel; Comcast currently does not, but in greater Boston it can be found on Verizon FIOS, RCN, Dish Network, and DirecTV.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-75)
Contrary to what you remember or may have heard, there was a fair amount of good TV in the 1970s, and this one-season cult fantasy/mystery/horror show is an excellent example. Darren McGavin (probably best known to younger audiences as Ralphie’s gruff father in A Christmas Story) plays Carl Kolchak, a reporter on the trail of all manner of supernatural beings and creatures. By today’s standards the effects are rather laughable, but the stories are good and McGavin is extremely believable and likable in the role. If you’re a fan of The X-Files you’ll definitely enjoy this show, as Chris Carter has cited it as a specific influence on his work. (20 episodes total; the monster-of-the-week nature of the show means a distinct lack of a conclusive ending, but it also makes it easier to watch.)
(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.)