Thursday, May 8 (IFC)
Season Premiere: IFC no longer stands for Independent Film Channel; it’s just IFC—not Insanely Funny Comedy, not I’m Feeling Crampy, just IFC. After a handful of false starts (remember Food Party? Z Rock?), Portlandia and Comedy Bang! Bang!, which premieres for Season 3 tonight, established IFC as a viable original comedy destination, but it was 2013’s debut season of Maron that lent the channel some real weight. Despite outside appearances, Maron isn’t exactly Louie, just as Louie isn’t Curb Your Enthusiasm; the fictionalized “Marc Maron” rings truer—and often funnier—than “Louis C.K.” or “Larry David.” In the Season 2 premiere, Marc has an uncomfortable time on Talking Dead with geek-media “enemies” Chris Hardwick and Michael Ian Black. Making the world of Twitter, podcasts and nerd-analysis shows play like high drama—that’s comedy.
Sunday, May 11 (NBC)
Miniseries Debut: What’s a movie star like Zoe Saldana doing here? Acting what little ass she has off trying to save a needless remake of Roman Polanski’s 1968 quasi-classic film about The Lil’ Antichrist. Reset from New York to Paris—because, free vacation?—this version finds young couple Rosemary (Saldana) and Guy (Patrick J. Adams, Suits) moving into a swank but “haunted” apartment and promptly getting pregnant—but did Guy make a pact with “devilish” neighbor Roman (Jason Isaacs, various Harry Potters) to trade his unborn baby for a writing career? And why a writer? Why not “Google CEO” or “Clippers owner”? Saldana’s impressive array of bad wigs, shape-shifting preggo-bellies and off-putting cryfaces aside, Rosemary’s Baby is a hysterical mess. So why isn’t it on Lifetime? [Concludes Thursday, May 15]
Sunday, May 11 (Showtime)
Series Debut: The Only TV Column That Matters™ doesn’t believe that premium-cable levels of language, violence and nudity helps every series … but they sure don’t hurt. Nor does star power: Penny Dreadful leads Eva Green (as medium Vanessa Ives), Josh Hartnett (American adventurer Ethan Chandler), Timothy Dalton (the mysterious Dr. Malcolm), Billie Piper (the mysterious-er Brona Croft), Reeve Carney (Dorian Gray) and Harry Treadaway (Dr. Victor Frankenstein) form an instantly engaging cast in this Victorian London horror series that strings together classic literary monster tales into a slick, steampunk (and, as per Showtime, adult) X-Files. If Penny Dreadful can maintain the quality and dark intensity of the pilot episode, this should be an American Horror Story-size hit; if not, it’ll end up like NBC’s already-forgotten Dracula.
New Season: Other than trimming the length from two dozen episodes to 12 (it’s not a season, it’s an Event!) and setting aside any pretense of being a serious drama (this has won Emmys—Emmys!), 24: Live Another Day is yell-y, explode-y business as usual for Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland, holding up better than expected) and keyboard-clacking sidekick Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo drag). The “plot” this time around: Jack re-emerges to save the president (William Devane) from terrorists in London. Why can’t the CIA handle it? There’s no time to explain! Send the coordinates! With this new shorter, faster and, foremost, cheaper, format, expect Fox to bring back 24 every year until Kiefer looks like dad Donald in a flak jacket.
Tuesday, May 13 (ABC)
Season Finale: See? It only took 20 or so episodes to start getting good—even though it’s become pretty obvious that a Bill Paxton-led Marvel’s Agents of Hydra would be a much more fun series. Anyway, here’s to a smoother Season 2 this fall … right, ABC?