Spring TV preview: 'Grease' prequel, 'Mrs. Maisel' and 39 more great shows to watch
The spring TV season has arrived, aka everything, everywhere, all at once.
Just about every night over the next couple of months has something noteworthy, or watchable, or simply intriguing. TV's long winter nap is over. The streaming wars are back with a vengeance.
Here are just a few offerings. While almost all that follows is new, there are also a handful of notable returning series, too (but you will want to check listings for the return, or season wraps, of some of your favorites).
THE BIG DOOR PRIZE (Apple TV+)
Based on the M.O. Walsh novel of the same name, "The Big Door Prize" kicks off a particularly active spring for Apple TV+. Chris O'Dowd ("Get Shorty") plays a mild-mannered high school teacher in a small Southern town who is intrigued by a large machine that is installed in the local five-and-dime. For a few bucks, "Morpho" will tell you what your "life's potential" is. Of course, he and everyone else in town line up for a look at their future, with consequences both grim and comic. But what, exactly, is that "big door prize?" Gabrielle Dennis ("Rosewood") also stars.
Rob Lowe has done a lot of TV in recent years ("9-1-1 Lone Star") but not all that much comedy since "Parks & Recreation." Enter "Unstable," about a biotech engineer who has created a world-changing biodegradable plastic, but is also a grieving widower trying to make amends with his son. The son is played by Lowe's very own, John Owen Lowe (they also starred together in "The Grinder").
THE GREAT AMERICAN JOKE OFF (CW/11, 9:30)
Two teams of standups attempt to crack up the studio audience and host Dulcé Sloan ("The Daily Show") with impromptu jokes during lightning rounds. Don't be surprised if you groan as often as laugh.
THE POWER (Amazon Prime)
While this might sound like a spinoff series from "Heroes" — young women with special powers who can release electricity from their fingertips — it's actually the long-awaited adaptation of Naomi Alderman's highly regarded 2017 novel that roughly imagined an alt-universe from "The Handmaid's Tale," in which women come to rule the world. This 10-parter, starring Toni Collette, Josh Charles and John Leguizamo, already has — if you will please excuse the bad pun — lots of juice: The trailer alone has been viewed more than 13 million times.
PRETTY BABY: BROOKE SHIELDS (Hulu)
In 1978, a 12-year-old Brooke Shields appeared nude in the Louis Malle film "Pretty Baby." Today, that would be called child pornography (and some called it as much back then, too) but somehow, it seems more shocking in hindsight. This two-part documentary from Lana Wilson explores the sexual exploitation of a woman — now 57 — who was a child when the incidents first occurred.
FRONTLINE: AMERICA AND THE TALIBAN (WNET/13, 9)
"Frontline" is describing this three-part look (April 4, 11, and 25) at the war in Afghanistan as "epic." It's easy to see why — it relies on 20 years of reporting, along with current interviews of U.S. and Taliban officials. "Frontline" vets Marcela Gaviria and Martin Smith explore how "America's longest war" ended in a Taliban victory.
THE CROSSOVER (Disney+)
In 2014, prolific writer and poet Kwame Alexander published a YA novel that would go on to win a bunch of awards, but what was so unusual was that it was written entirely in verse. Now, the series, but no verse. It's about twin brothers, "Filthy" and J.B. — Jalyn Hall ("Till") and Amir O'Neil (NBC's "Marlon") — who are star middle-school basketball players, one of whom goes on to play for the Lakers.
HULLRAISERS (IFC, 11 p.m.)
Hey, if you launched a series about three wild-and-crazy ladies living in the city of Hull — 200 miles north of London — then you'd name it "Hullraisers," too. Based on a quick glance, this six-parter is indeed amusing, but those Hull accents take some getting used to.
SCHMIGADOON! (Apple TV +)
While the first season was roughly based on the Lerner-Loewe musical "Brigadoon," this second draws inspiration from 1975's John Kander/Fred Ebb/Bob Fosse musical "Chicago" (among other big shows of the era, like "Hair") — hence "Schmicago." To relieve the stress of jobs and family-building, Josh (Keegan-Michael Key) and Melissa (Cecily Strong) decide to go back to that magical place, Schmigadoon, where everyone bursts into song-and-dance routines. But one does not return to Schmigadoon and they end up in Schmicago instead. The original cast is back (Ariana DeBose, Martin Short, Dove Cameron, Jaime Camil, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Ann Harada, Jane Krakowski and Aaron Tveit), joined by Tituss Burgess and Broadway vet Patrick Page, with more original songs from Cinco Paul. Apple has an embargo on reviews, but embargo-schmargo: Still funky, still great.
GREASE: RISE OF THE PINK LADIES (Paramount+)
Speaking of musicals, 1971's "Grease" (with music and lyrics from Jim Jacobs, Warren Casey and John Farrar) was turned into a 1978 film that needs absolutely no introduction. Now, comes the 10-episode series, with the key plot reveal in the title. The big cast is largely "unknown" — and this time it's also diverse — but the composer is not: Justin Tranter has been a hitmaker for dozens of big stars over the years (you might call him Selena Gomez's musical muse) and has written original songs for this, too, although it opens with a rousing cover of Frankie Valli's "Grease" from the movie.
Danny Cho (Steven Yeun, "The Walking Dead") is a down-on-his-luck L.A. contractor who lives with his slacker kid brother, Paul (Young Mazino), in a rundown motel formerly owned by his parents. One unlucky day, Danny is cut off by a car in a parking lot, and a wild road rage chase ensues. Danny manages to get the car's plate number, locates the owner and exacts his revenge. But it is costly: Amy Lau (Ali Wong, "American Housewife"), who lives with her mild-mannered husband George (Joseph Lee), in a pricey enclave in Calabasas, has rage issues that poor Danny can't begin to comprehend. She gets her revenge too, and how. This tragicomic 10-parter from Lee Sung Jin ("Undone") should be a big hit for Netflix and deserves to be.
TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS (Hulu)
The bestselling author Cheryl Strayed ("Wild") once wrote an advice column under the pseudonym "Sugar" that was turned into another bestseller (2012's "Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar"). Now comes the eight-part miniseries, with Kathryn Hahn as a woman whose life has fallen apart, due in part to an unresolved childhood trauma, who then takes a job as an advice columnist. She's a rough analog to Strayed herself, who described her alter-ego, Sugar, as "a naked woman standing in a field showing you everything but her face."
One name to remember: Anna Winger, the creator of this seven-parter about a real-life group that rescued some 2,000 people from Nazi-occupied France. Winger is a small-screen sensation — creator of "Unorthodox," but also "Deutschland 83" (along with "86" and "89"). Will her latest, based on Julie Orringer's novel about the Emergency Rescue Committee and starring Gillian Jacobs and Corey Stoll, be another sensation?
JURY DUTY (Freevee)
Not to be confused with the ridiculous court show from 2007 that starred John Gotti lawyer Bruce Cutler as the judge, this instead is something entirely new: Ronald, a newcomer to Los Angeles, is selected for jury duty. But little does he know, all the other "jurors'' are actually actors portraying jurors, including the chatty star of "X-Men," James Marsden (one of the producers). The whole thing is a put-on, but also very amusing.
FLORIDA MAN (Netflix)
The basics of this seven-part series: An ex-cop (Edgar Ramirez) who needs to make some fast money returns home to Florida to track down the missing girlfriend of a mobster, and then … well, you can pretty much guess.
THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL (Prime Video)
Over much of the fourth season, Midge's (Rachel Brosnahan) stand-up career had stalled (or was that a nose-dive?), but by the finale, she had found the inspiration to get back on stage. The fifth starts with a flash-forward, then quickly moves into present time, after Midge has a momentous evening at Carnegie Hall, spoiled somewhat by a freezing cold trek back to her parents' apartment. After four seasons, and a lot of Emmys, a still-dedicated fan base should prepare to say goodbye. This is the final season.
THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME (Apple TV+)
Could we have here one of the "events" of the spring? If the publication history of Laura Dave's 2021 mega-best-seller of the same name (of which this is an adaptation) is any guide, then — yes — we certainly could. Julia Garner stars as Hannah, who finds herself alone, when her husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, "Game of Thrones") suddenly splits. Not quite alone — she's got her obstreperous 16-year-old stepdaughter (Angourie Rice) for company. Why and where did he go? That's the series (in seven episodes). Aisha Tyler and Geoff Stults also star.
BARRY (HBO, 10)
In the closing seconds of the third season finale — maybe the single best 30 seconds of this celebrated series' run, by the way — hit man Barry (Bill Hader) was finally arrested. Clearly the end for Barry was near, and it has now arrived. This fourth and final season was in fact conceived and written before the third went into production, which then made showrunners Hader and Alec Berg realize they had to revamp the third. (If that sounds twisted, welcome to "Barry.") In fact, all this little piece of information should tell you is to go back and re-watch the third, because the seeds to the fourth season — indeed to the entire series — are already there. "Barry" was one of those rare shows that had an uncertain start, then turned into one of the best programs on TV. The fourth (in eight episodes) will certify that judgment.
WACO: THE AFTERMATH (Showtime, 10)
This five-part sequel to 2018's 'Waco" will (obviously) get into what happened after the law enforcement siege of the Branch Davidian compound in 1993, and per some reports, how this was tied to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Many of the original actors will reprise their roles, including Michael Shannon as FBI hostage negotiator Gary Noesner. ("Succession's" J. Smith-Cameron is Lois Roden, "prophetess" of the BDs, while David Costabile is a trial judge.)
CHANGING PLANET (WNET/13, 9)
One of those rare series that grapples directly with climate change and its consequences, "Changing Planet" is back for a second season to explain why we're all doomed. But maybe it's not that bad — this season argues that there's at least hope, slim though it may be, for coral reefs.
THE DIPLOMAT (Netflix)
For her first TV series since "The Americans"' wrapped in 2018, Keri Russell stars in this eight-parter as the new American ambassador to the Court of St. James, appointed in the midst of a crisis. It's a political thriller, but there's not all that much else we can tell you, other than Rufus Sewell co-stars, and that Debra Cahn ("The West Wing'') is the showrunner.
MRS. DAVIS (Peacock)
While there's nothing to see, other than a short and definitely uninformative trailer, "Mrs. Davis"' already feels like one of those "guess we should watch just because" newcomers of the spring season. There are compelling reasons: It's Damon Lindelof's ("Lost") return to the small screen, while the overall subtext (faith vs. technology) seems timely on the eve of the artificial intelligence revolution — which this is also about. Also: "Mrs. Davis" is a comedy (written by "The Big Bang Theory's" Tara Hernandez). Betty Gilpin ("GLOW") stars as a nun who must seek out and vanquish "Mrs. Davis'' — an all-powerful and all-knowing AI algorithm. Jake McDorman, Margo Martindale and Chris Diamantopoulos also star in this 10-parter.
DEAD RINGERS (Prime Video)
This adaptation of David Cronenberg's 1988 film offers a departure from the original — a female point-of-view, both in front of (Rachel Weisz) and behind (showrunner Alice Birch, "Succession") the camera. The original starred Jeremy Irons playing a pair of twin brothers who were gynecologists, while Weisz assumes the double-role here, as twins Beverly and Elliot Mantle, doctors at a New York hospital who share unconventional methods and private lives. Love or despise the Cronenberg original, this "Dead Ringers" at the very least is engaging on a number of levels — Weisz's vertiginous double-performance notwithstanding. There's a lot of medical information here, and a lot of emotion, too.
DEAR MAMA (FX, 10)
Born Alice Faye Williams in North Carolina, Afeni Shakur later moved to the Bronx (becoming one of the first female letter carriers in New York), where she joined the Black Panther Party — later charged in 1969 along with 20 others for attempting to bomb NYPD stations. After acquittal, she gave birth to a son who would later be named Tupac Shakur. Following his death in 1996, she created a foundation and holding company to manage his assets and legacy. Clearly, there's a documentary here — a five-part one, in fact, from "The Book of Eli's" Allen Hughes. FX calls this "both an audio and visual experience" that "eschews strict chronology" to show "how much has and has not changed in the struggle for human rights."
SLIP (The Roku Channel)
Zoe Lister-Jones (director of 2017's "Band Aid") is both star and showrunner of this intriguing rom-com series about a woman who travels through a series of parallel universes in an effort to find her way back to the universe she started from.
SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE (HBO, 10:30)
Sam (Bridget Everett) and her bestie, Joel (Jeff Hiller), are back for a second season of adventures in Manhattan, Kansas. This show — for the outsiders in all of us — was one the most critically praised series of 2022.
CAROL BURNETT: 90 YEARS OF LAUGHTER + LOVE (NBC/4, 8)
Carol Burnett is 90 years young on April 26, and to mark the occasion, NBC has this special which was taped March 3 at AVALON Hollywood & Bardot in Hollywood. Expect many special guests, and lots of memories from a TV career that began in 1955, and on Broadway in 1959 ("Once Upon a Time on a Mattress").
SAINT X (Hulu)
A wealthy family goes to a luxe Caribbean resort in the '80s, but one of them — the 18-year-old daughter, a first-year student at Princeton — does not return home with them. This murder-mystery toggles between past and present, as her kid sister, now an adult, has a chance meeting with one of the men accused of killing her sibling. He's long since been acquitted, and now her mission is to find the truth … And that's your quick overview of this provocative Dee Rees-directed series that looks intriguing. "Saint X" is based on the 2020 debut novel by Alexis Schaitkin, and is just one of several highly anticipated adaptations coming this spring.
THE LAST LAST LATE LATE SHOW (CBS/2, 10)
James Corden's last (last) "Late Late Show" airs at 12:37 a.m., but he gets a send-off earlier in the evening, with this special (Tom Cruise is a guest) that will — hey, just a wild spitball of a guess here — probably have a few segments devoted to "Carpool Karaoke." No official word yet on what will replace it, but a revival of the old Comedy Central series, "@midnight," has been mentioned.
LOVE & DEATH (HBO Max)
The Candy crush continues, with this second full-scale TV series on the 1980 case of Candace Montgomery (there was also a 1990 TV movie, too) who killed Betty Gore, a mother of two and wife of "Candy's" lover. HBO Max has pulled out the big names for this seven-episode series: A David E. Kelley production directed by Emmy-winner Lesli Linka Glatter, with Lily Rabe as Betty, Elizabeth Olsen as Candy, and Jesse Plemons as the creeper-husband.
CITADEL (Prime Video)
As further proof that Jeff Bezos has all the money in the world and plans to spend most of it on anything the Russo brothers — titans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — want to produce, "Citadel" finally arrives with all the attendant promise (or hype) that Amazon can muster. Easy to describe — spycraft versus the Dr. Evil-like "Manticore" syndicate that's bent on world domination — "Citadel" is a little trickier to envision. There will be the central English-language series, starring Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra as Citadel agents, alongside several spinoff series produced in Italy, Mexico, Spain and India, presumably with more to come. Each eventually will be available on Prime, too, and their stories are all interrelated.
FATAL ATTRACTION (Paramount+)
This eight-part reboot of Adrian Lyne's 1987 movie stars Joshua Jackson in the Michael Douglas role, and Lizzie Caplan as the scenery-chewing Glenn Close character.
TOM JONES (WNET/13, 9)
Henry Fielding's great 1749 comic novel (adapted most famously by John Osbourne in the 1963 Oscar winner) arrives in four parts, starring Solly McLeod, Sophie Wilde, James Fleet and "Ted Lasso's'" Hannah Waddingham.
A SMALL LIGHT (Nat Geo, 9; Disney+ on May 2)
This seven-parter actually throws that light on another part of the Anne Frank story — Miep Gies, who hid Frank, her family and four other Dutch Jews during World War II. Joe Cole ("Gangs of London") plays Jans, Miep's husband, while Isobel Powley ("The Morning Show") is Miep. Liev Schrieber is Otto Frank, patriarch and the only member of the family to survive. (He died in 1980.) The title comes from a quote by Miep, who said that any ordinary person "can turn on a small light in a dark room."
Ya gotta admire a TV series that essentially says in the title that it's not worth watching — which may be the case here, but probably not. This is that long-awaited Pete Davidson series in which he plays himself, or a version of himself, with some big stars (Edie Falco, Joe Pesci) in supporting roles and some other big ones (Ray Romano, Kenan Thompson) as guest ones. No idea who plays lightly fictionalized versions of Davidson's many girlfriends, but we'll all find out together. All eight episodes drop on this day.
QUEEN CHARLOTTE: A BRIDGERTON STORY (Netflix)
"Bridgerton'' returns, this time with Charlotte's (Golda Rosheuvel) origin story. India Amarteifio — the young Queen Charlotte — gets center stage in this six-parter. She recently landed on Variety's "Ten Brits to Watch'' list, but she's been someone to watch for a while, at least going back to her 2011 stage debut in "The Lion King."
SILO (Apple TV+)
Hard to say what's more interesting here — the series, or the author, Hugh Howey, who inspired it — but we'll go with the series first. It's a post-apocalyptic sci-fi about a surviving race of humans who live underground in a silo and have no idea what's up there on the surface. This series comes from Graham Yost and stars Tim Robbins, Common, Harriet Walter, Rashida Jones and David Oyelowo.
CLASS OF '09 (FX on Hulu)
Artificial intelligence once again gets a starring role on a major '23 thriller, this time based on a group of FBI grads from Quantico's class of '09. Starring "Atlanta's" Brian Tyree Henry and Kate Mara ("House of Cards") this explores the past-present-future lives of these various agents, through the evolving lens of AI, and how it affects (and will affect) their jobs.
CITY ON FIRE (Apple TV+)
Based on the novel by Garth Risk Hallberg — which got mostly rapturous reviews upon its 2015 publication — this mystery-thriller is about an NYU student (Chase Sui Wonders) shot and killed in Central Park, who had links to the NYC music scene, a real estate family and … a bunch of fires purposely set throughout the city. Who killed her and what secrets did she keep? Welcome to what may be the darkest horse of the spring TV season: "Gossip Girl's" Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage are behind this one.
AMERICAN BORN CHINESE (Disney+)
We can't tell you a whole lot about this late-spring entry from Disney+, other than this action-comedy series could be the streaming service's most important launch of the season. Based on a graphic novel of the same name, it stars "Everything Everywhere All at Once's" Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, along with Poppy Liu, Ben Wang and Jimmy O. Wang.
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER PROJECT (Netflix)
No, that's not the real title of this spy comedy (think "True Lies' ') — the real one is an acronym that isn't quite acceptable in the pages of a family newspaper — but the lead star is why you may end up watching anyway. At age 75 and with a career that's lasted 53 years of those, Ahnuld now has his first regular TV series role. He plays a retired CIA agent who is pulled back for one last job (where have we heard that before?) when he learns that his daughter has also been a CIA agent — and she learns for the first time that he worked for the CIA, too.