Home Culture Culture News

Spring TV Preview 2017: Marvel Antiheroes, Serial Killers and ‘Stranger Things’

From ‘The Punisher’ to the return of ‘Curb,’ mutant superheroes to a brand new ‘Star Trek’ series – here’s what you’ll be watching this season.

Remember when Spring was the time for new shows – when the big networks would gloriously unveil their new 10pm hour-long dramas and two-hour primetime sitcom blocks? Now, there are seemingly millions of outlets sprouting up every day and we get a glut of fresh series all year-round; a true-crime whodunnit to binge in the dead of winter, a can’t-miss anthology show popping up in the autumn, an Eighties nostalgia-fest timed perfectly for the dog days of summer. Spring still brings small-screen bounties, but the notion that you had to wait until the weather started to warm for the latest rounds of must-see shows and to discover future water cooler conversation-starters? Peak TV doesn’t adhere to your antiquated calendars, people. Peak TV is a 365-day phenomenon.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a massive batch of new shows and new seasons of some returning favourites dropping in the next three months. Looking at what streaming services and cable channels and Ye Olde Networks have coming down the pike, a few things seem apparent: a) what’s old is still new again; b) you’re going to be watching a lot of Netflix (but you already knew that); and c) people still love antiheroes and superheroes, and if you can get both in one show, you’ll have to hire more folks to count your stacks of money. Here are our collection of dramas, comedies, miniseries and big-name fan-favourites coming back for more this spring that we’re excited and/or curious about. Prep yourself for some serious couch time.

By David Fear and Rob Sheffield.

‘Neo Yokio’

Netflix, Available Now
An anime comedy from Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig? Starring Jaden Smith as a poor little rich kid and Jude Law as his robot butler? Plus Jason Schwartzman and Susan Sarandon? Nothing about Neo Yokio seems to make sense – yet everything about it turns out twice as well as you might expect. Stylish as it is, Netflix’s colorful sci-fi excursion doesn’t fall for the cult of the quirky – it’s genuinely compelling and witty, set in an otherworldly American metropolis in the not-so-distant future of “magistocrats.” Smith plays a morose young elite who lives a posh-yet-tedious life of leisurely heartache (not a million miles from the kind of guy Koenig usually likes to write songs about). But it takes a weird turn when he meets a fashion blogger with some cosmic secrets – Tavi Gevinson, take a bow – and discovers his true calling: battling the supernatural forces of evil while uttering battle cries like, “Coco Chanel, may her memory be blessed.” RS

‘Star Trek: Discovery’

Netflix, Available Now
Streaming: the final frontier. The first new TV Trek series since Enterprise dropped over a decade ago, Discovery is a step into the unknown for everyone concerned – including CBS, who will premiere the first episode in primetime and then stream the rest online at CBS All Access. (Live long and prosper, digital platform!) It’s one of the season’s most hotly awaited experiments, as well as featuring Wilson Cruz (eternally beloved as Ricky from My So-Called Life) and Anthony Rapp as the first queer couple on Trek … depending, of course, on your Spock/Kirk perspective. The cast includes The Walking Dead‘s Sonequa Martin-Green as a sorta-kinda Vulcan commander, Michelle Yeoh as the shenzhou‘s captain and – something fans might be especially curious to check out – Rainn Wilson as that shifty old pimp from the original series, Harry Mudd. RS

‘Will & Grace’

Stan, Available Now
Ah, the late Nineties – when rap-rock and boy bands were big, a Clinton was in the White House and a new sitcom about a woman and her gay best friend could help shift the cultural winds. Dave Kohan and Max Mutchnick reunite their Must See TV fab four and unleash them on a vastly different world than the one Will, Grace, Jack and Karen left back in 2006. Whether the less-than-P.C. humor that helped make a name for this show will be somewhat neutered for a modern audience remains to be seen, though supposedly Megan Mullally’s glorious hot mess is now best friends with Melania Trump (!) and Sean Hayes has hinted that his sidekick hasn’t mellowed with age. In any case, it will be great to see this quartet together again, and lord knows we could use a laugh-tracked countermeasure to our current homophobic moment. DF

‘The Punisher’

Netflix, Spring
It was sort of a given that, from the moment Jon Bernthal’s tortured, take-no-prisoners vigilante showed up in Daredevil‘s second season, the fan-favourite would get his own show. This solo outing for the man in black with the skull logo looks by all accounts to be one of Marvel’s more brutal, violent and moodier outings; word on the street is that the show will get into Frank Castle’s military past a bit more, bad guys will get bullet holes, the body count will be off the charts and The Walking Dead veteran will scowl a lot. (That last one is really just an educated guess-timation.) Judging from the trailer, Girls‘ veteran Ebon Moss-Bachrach shows up as some sort of sidekick, Paul Schulze (that’s food-scarfin’ Father Phil for you Sopranos fans!) is some sort of bad guy and Daredevil‘s Deborah Wall is some sort of continuity-keeping supporting player. DF

‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Season 9

The Comedy Channel/Foxtel Now, Available Now
Hello, Larry! The complainer-in-chief finally returns for a whole new batch of episodes, in which our favourite anti-social curmudgeon grants your every wish-fulfilment desire regarding the daily shit we all put up with (what, you’ve never wanted to shush a loudly grieving funeral patron or push away a pushy perfume salesperson?). David’s usual partners-in-crime – Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, Richard Lewis, Susie Essman, the mighty J.B. Smoove – are back and improving up a storm; expect to see Carrie Brownstein and Bryan Cranston drop by as well. How we have missed you, Larry. You can insert your own “pretty, pret-ty good” joke here. DF


Netflix, October 12th
Everything from the Eighties spins back around, but the time is definitely right to reboot this classic shoulder-pad soap opera. Loathsome Rich White Person: “When the revolution happens, it’ll be your head they come for first.” Slightly More Loathsome Rich White Person: “I’ll be sure to get my hair done.” Josh Schwartz evokes his old O.C. mojo, bringing back Melrose Place‘s resident semi-sane person Grant Show as the patriarch Blake Carrington. This Dynasty works infinitely better than the Dallas reboot from a few years ago, which suffered because the fresh young cast members seemed nowhere near evil enough to hang with their elders. UnReal‘s Nathalie Kelley is magnificently despicable in the old Joan Collins role, and like most of the poseurs here, she rocks hair that looks like it’s trying to bitch-slap her own false eyelashes. Congratulations, The Americans, you’ll no longer have the most outlandish wigs on network TV. RS


Netflix, October 13th
To catch a killer, you have to think like a killer – which is why, in the late Seventies, the F.B.I. has put together a group of agents, including Holden Ford (Glee‘s Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), that interviews convicted mass murderers in order to gain insight into their warped mindset. And as anyone who’s read a Thomas Harris novel or has had any exposure to pop culture over the last 25 years will tell you, every prolonged look into the abyss increases the chance that the abyss will start staring right back into you. Based on the book by Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas, this crime procedural from creator Joe Penhall and executive producer/director David Fincher is exactly what you’d expect from the screenwriter behind The Road and the man who gave us Seven and Zodiac. It’s Prestige TV at its somber-stylishly pulpiest. DF

‘White Famous’

Stan, October 16th
The Hollywood shuffle gets a new spin from producer Jamie Foxx and star Jay Pharoah – the dilemma of a successful black comedian on the come-up, angling for mainstream money without losing his original edge. Chris Rock once summed up the title concept on Kevin Hart’s Real Husbands of Beverly Hills – “I’m famous, you’re more like Black Famous. I’m like Prince, you’re like Trey Songz.” Pharoah plays a comic loosely based on Foxx’s experience in the younger days, with Foxx in a minor role as himself. RS

‘The Walking Dead’ Season 8

FX, October 23rd
When we last saw Rick Grimes, the dreadlocked regent King Ezekiel, Darryl the Sexy Crossbow-Wielding Biker and the rest of gang, they were forming a coalition of the willing to take on the bat-man Negan’s army and end his tyranny once and for all. Readers of Robert Kirkman’s comics know this storyline arc as “All-Out War” – and showrunner Scott M. Gimple has suggested that, as in the books, shit is about to get very gnarly. This zombieapalooza juggernaut will remain the most popular show on cable not to feature dragons even if it screws the pooch, but the fact that it’s finally getting around to a proper battle royale suggests that it’ll have a sense of focus that was largely AWOL last season. DF

‘Stranger Things’ Season 2

Netflix, October 27th
When there’s something strange in your neighbourhood – like, for example, a whole alternative world filled with tentacled monsters and something Cthulhu-like threatening to destroy humanity – who ya gonna call? The sophomore season of Netflix’s breakout hit promises a hell of a lot more Eighties nostalgia, from Ghostbusters to video games to “Thriller” to even more Stephen King and Spielberg homages. The Duffer brothers have hinted they have a few big surprises up their sleeves; we just hope that Winona Ryder keeps looking worried, Eleven keeps scarfing Eggos and Barb finally gets her time in the spotlight. Regardless, we’ll be binging the whole thing over one long, Bartles & Jaymes–fueled weekend. DF


Stan, November 6th
Get ready to meet Frankie Shaw – the writer, producer, director and star of this dramedy (based on her own 2015 short, which won an award at Sundance) about a young South Boston lady who likes nothing more than shooting hoops and sucking face with cute dudes. The fact that she’s raising a toddler on her own, however, throws a bit of a kink into her professional and personal plans. Even if the story was not semi-autobiographical, the series has a intimate, lived-in feel that suggests this show has not gone through the meat grinder of a joke-writing committee – and a raw, unfiltered sense of humor that suggests Shaw could be a major new voice in TV comedy. Plus Rosie O’Donnell plays her mom and Nashville‘s Connie Britton plays her boss. DF

‘Alias Grace’

Netflix, November 3rd
‘Tis now the season of Margaret Atwood adaptations – first Hulu’s Emmy-winning The Handmaid’s Tale, and now Netflix’s take on her bestseller about an Irish maid named Grace (Sarah Gadon) who works for a stern upper-class family in Canada. The household, however, seems to have surprisingly high mortality rate once the fair lass shows up – and though she’s convicted of murder, the servant does not remember a thing. Only a handsome doctor (handsome actor Edward Holcroft) can help her regain her memory of the events. Director Mary Harron knows a thing or two about bringing complex books to the screen, having done American Psycho; actor, filmmaker and Canadian national treasure Sarah Polley is producing and cowriting it. This sounds like just the period-piece true-crime thriller you were looking for. DF

‘The Girlfriend Experience’ Season 2

Stan, November 6th
One of the best TV series of last year that almost no one saw, this premium-cable riff on Steven Soderbergh’s movie about a high-priced call girl gave us a chilly, cuts-to-the-bone critique of capitalism and definitively proved that Riley Keough is an outstanding actor. Now, for its follow-up season, co-creators Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan remind you that this was meant to be an anthology show by telling not one but two totally different, totally new stories set in what we’ll call the Girlfriendiverse. One revolves around a Washington, D.C. power player (Anna Friel) and involves Beltway blackmail, midterm elections and sex; the other follows a woman in New Mexico (Carmen Ejogo) and involves a sugar daddy, domestic strife and sex. We’re sensing a pattern here. DF

‘She’s Gotta Have It’

Netflix, November 23rd
Has it really been three decades and some change since Spike Lee’s scrappy black-and-white indie about an independent woman broke the director into the big-time? The idea of the director revisiting Nola Darling in the age of Insecure, identity-political movements and a certain insanely bigoted leader is like catnip for fans – especially since Lee is directing all 10 episodes of this Netflix redo. DeWanda Wise is this generation’s Nola; Hamilton nerds should note that no less than Anthony Ramos is stepping into Lee’s Nikes to play the one-and-only Mars Blackmon. We gotta have this. DF


Netflix, December 15th
In 1953, C.I.A. agent Frank Olson jumped out of a hotel window, high on LSD. Some say that, having been under the influence of a drug that caused him to freak out, he took his own life. Others say that the Agency may have had him murdered and then covered it up for decades. If this sounds to you like great fodder for an Errol Morris doc – ding ding ding! The veteran filmmaker combines archival footage, dramatic re-enactments starring Peter Sarsgaard as Frank, a murder mystery, investigative reporting, so what-if speculation and oh-so-much more. “My sale’s pitch to Netflix was ‘I’m going to create the cinematic version of the everything bagel,'” Morris told Variety. “Except no raisins. I think raisins are wrong.”