By Paula Hendrickson
If you thought the mid-season premieres were over, think again. At least five new series debut this coming week alone, and several other shows are returning.
First, the new shows. March 14, Bravo brings back its favorite temperamental designer in a new series, Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis. That same night, Syfy plans to capitalize on the season finale of its wildly successful reality competition series Face Off by following it with the premiere of Monster Man, a non-competition reality show focused on the work life of special effects make-up artist Cleve Hall (who offered advice to contestants on a recent episode of Face Off).
March 15, Ashley Judd comes to the small screen as a former CIA agent searching for her missing son on ABC’s Missing. The 10-episode series — which a decade ago might have been called a 10-hour mini-series — was beautifully shot on location around the globe.
If you think that’s ambitious, check out Discovery’s Frozen Planet when it premieres Sunday, March 18. The documentary series captures the beauty, wonder and awe-inspiring vistas of our planet’s polar regions. Programs like this are pretty much why high-def TV was invented.
Then, March 19, Kiefer Sutherland returns to Fox in his new series, Touch, which you might remember from its sneak preview earlier this year.
As for returning shows, Comedy Central’s South Park kicks off its 16th season Wednesday night, March 14, while two of USA’s female-driven series —Fairly Legal and In Plain Sight —return Friday, March 16, with back-to-back episodes. The network has already announced this will be the fifth, and final, season of In Plain Sight, so catch it while you can.
The returning series I’m most excited about: Community.
Why? Because Community is perhaps the smartest, funniest ensemble comedy of recent years. Yes, The Big Bang Theory (which airs opposite Community) is also a tremendously smart and funny ensemble, but Community is unlike any comedy you’ve seen — at times, there are parodies within parodies within a given episode. Besides, what other series has the audacity to pull off a “clip show” made entirely of scenes from episodes that never existed?
For anyone impressed by industry recognition, Community now boasts an Oscar winner among its cast: Jim Rash (“Dean Pelton”), who was the first person to parody the awkward stance that Angelina Jolie made when presenting the award for his category. (For the record, Rash shared the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Descendants with co-writers Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon.)
Do yourselves a favor, record Big Bang this week and give Community a shot. It might take a couple of episodes to adjust to the show’s unique brand of humor, but it’ll be worth it.
• Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis, Wednesdays, 8 p.m., on Bravo
• Monster Man, premieres Wednesday, March 14, at 10 p.m. on Syfy (moves to Wednesdays 9 p.m. the following week)
• South Park, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Comedy Central
• Community, Thursdays at 7 p.m. on NBC
• Missing, Thursdays at 7 p.m. on ABC
• Fairly Legal, Fridays at 8 p.m. on USA
• In Plain Sight, Fridays at 9 p.m. on USA
• Frozen Planet, Sundays at 7 p.m. on Discovery
• Touch, Mondays at 8 p.m. on FOX
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to email@example.com.
From the March 14-20, 2012, issue