Thursday, Feb. 27 (IFC)
Season Premiere: The biggest changes for Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s Portlandia in Season 4? It’s now on Thursdays (dunno why—comedy void?), and the guest-star lineup is ridicu-lectic (Olivia Wilde, Kirsten Dunst, Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, Grimm’s Silas Weir Mitchell, Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Saturday Night Live’s Vanessa Bayer, Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan, the Portland Trailblazers and even sex columnist Dan Savage from Portland’s mortal enemy, Seattle, to name a few). While Netflix is a fine place to start, The Only TV Column That Matters™ recommends catching up on Portlandia via AKidsGuideToPortlandia.com, written by 7-year-old Ezra (yes, really).
Thursday, Feb. 27 (History)
Season Premiere: Speaking of the writings of 7-year-olds—I kid; lighten up. Vikings was one of 2013’s more left-field hits, a period drama that somehow combined the sensibilities of Game of Thrones and Sons of Anarchy without being anywhere near as smart as either, and a cast (including Travis Fimmel, Gabriel Byrne and Donal Logue) working their asses off to sell it. Oh, and it’s probably the least-disputable “history” series on the History Channel because, as a showrunner has said, “Hey, no one knows what happened in the Dark Ages” (argue with that, college brainiacs). Game of Thrones returns April 6; Vikings will do for now.
Thursday, Feb. 27 (NBC)
Spring Premiere: Since NBC only has two comedies left (the new About a Boy and Growing Up Fisher don’t count, as you’ve just now asked yourself, “What the hell are About a Boy and Growing Up Fisher?”), this is what you get after Community and Parks & Recreation: Hollywood Game Night, because selling the slot before Parenthood to Shark Rocket vacuum infomercials would just look like giving up. On HGN, honest-to-god, possibly blackmailed celebrities play party games. For an hour. On primetime American television. Why are we rooting for NBC again?
Friday, Feb. 28 (NBC)
Season Premiere: Oh yeah—for a handful of ballsy calls like Hannibal. Along with The Blacklist, Hannibal (a prequel to Silence of the Lambs) is one of the few recent NBC series that lives up to the network’s oft-referenced plan to make “cable-quality” dramas. If creator/producer Bryan Fuller’s gorgeously—and gorily—filmed twist on the Quirky Outsider Assists Cops procedural were on cable, the performances of Mads Mikkelsen (as Dr. Hannibal Lecter) and Hugh Dancy (as FBI profiler Will Graham) would get more notice, but moving Hannibal to Fridays might also do the trick: What else is on? [NBC “affiliate” KSL 5 won’t be airing Hannibal; CW30 will run the new season Saturdays at 10 p.m.]
Monday, March 3 (A&E)
Season Premiere, Series Debut: Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) has a sassy new hairdo, a successful (for now) motel, and a son who’s at the midpoint between petulant teenager and blackout serial killer—welcome to Season 2! Norman (Freddie Highmore) has taken the murder of his sexy teacher hard, whether he did it or not, and there’s plenty more going down in White Pines Bay: His crush Bradley (Nicola Peltz) has gone off the deep end over her father’s death; his brother, Dylan (Max Thieriot), is up to his neck in the local weed trade; and Norma just wants to stop the damned highway overpass project from putting her out of business (murder, drugs, love triangles, commercial zoning disputes, Bates Motel has it all). Stick around for ChloÃ« Sevigny’s Those Who Kill afterwards—it’s not great, but it’s important to support the handful of original dramas in A&E’s ocean of crap reality shows.