There are plenty of interesting new series to be on the lookout for, but many TV fans will be most excited about the return of some of television’s best offerings. Here are Chief TV Editor Kate Kulzick and Managing TV Editor Deepayan Sengupta’s picks for the most exciting (currently scheduled) midseason returns of 2015.
While The Knick established Cinemax as a new contender in the arena of high-quality television, it wasn’t the first show to give the channel that reputation, as the Alan Ball-produced Banshee has been steadily garnering attention for itself, and Cinemax by extension, over the course of its two seasons. The tale of a small Pennsylvania town, and the tensions that simmer underneath the surface, has used strong character work, well-plotted storylines, and memorable fight choreography and cinematography to set itself apart, culminating in a second season finale that takes out some major players, completely reconfiguring the character relationships for the third season.
The deaths of Rabbit and Alex Longshadow, and the reveal that Deva knows who her biological father is, are both major events that are bound to have ramifications in the third season, and the possibility of watching how they play out makes the show’s premiere worth anticipating on its own. Add to that the returns of Chayton Littlestone and Nola Longshadow, as well as watching Rebecca’s continuing ascension up the ladder of Kai Proctor’s criminal empire, and there are numerous exciting directions the season can go in. [Deepayan Sengupta]
Lena Dunham is back with another season of misadventures for Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna. Season three brought Girls to new heights, further developing the ensemble cast and challenging Shoshanna with perhaps her worst year and Hannah with her most successful. With Hannah heading off to Iowa, Marnie starting a new relationship, and Shoshanna and Jessa still recovering from the stressful events of season three, each of the leads has plenty on her plate. Season four picks up right where last year’s finale left off, a change in pace for the series, but given the finale’s entertaining and knotty cliffhangers, Dunham’s decision to not give her characters outs and jump ahead in time is encouraging, promising more interesting, morally challenging developments to come. Girls is consistently one of the most discussed, debated, and dissected series on TV and it’s great to have it back so early in 2015. [Kate Kulzick]
One of 2014’s most promising freshman comedies, Looking took a while to find its feet but ended up as one of the year’s most relaxed, yet introspective, series. Now that it’s found its character balance, and toned down some of lead Patrick’s (Jonathan Groff) more obnoxious quirks, the show is poised to make a leap in quality. In season two, Patrick is conflicted over his dalliance with his not-single boss Kevin (Russel Tovey) and his lingering feelings for Richie (Raúl Castillo), Dom (Murray Bartlett) is in a stable relationship with the older and more established Lynn (Scott Bakula) and looking to set up his peri peri chicken restaurant, and Agustín (Frankie J. Álvarez) is reeling from his breakup with Frank. The group dynamic is as strong as ever, as are the writing, direction, and performances, and the series’ confident, laid back tone is utterly engaging. Looking was one of 2014’s most under-discussed and under-seen series. Make sure to set aside some time for it in 2015. [Kate Kulzick]
10 seasons in, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is still one of the most reliable comedies out there. The series returns with a new set of adventures this January that see Dennis, Charlie, Frank, Mac, and Dee getting up to their usual trouble, this time by land, air, and sea. A few familiar faces return, but the season mostly focuses on the core group, splitting time fairly evenly between them and giving each of the main cast plenty to do. The season is consistently entertaining, with plenty of laugh out loud moments each week and one or two series-best standouts, particularly episode four, “Charlie Work”, which follows Charlie in real time on a particularly stressful day at Paddy’s. Any series surviving to a tenth season is a significant accomplishment. Always Sunny reaching this milestone while also remaining fresh and funny week in and week out is doubly impressive. [Kate Kulzick]
Making the move from a webseries to a TV show is a daunting prospect, but one would be hard-pressed to know that from the first season of Broad City, which made the transition look easy. The trials and tribulations of Ilana and Abbi in New York City came out of the gate strong and only continued to improve, mining laughs from a number of improbable situations and clearly displaying what producer Amy Poehler saw in the show. Whether it was Abbi and Ilana fantasizing about being high rollers with an $8,000 payday or Abbi discovering that her art was set to premiere in a sandwich shop, the show managed to keep a consistent level of hilarity that also allowed for character development. If the show can maintain this level, and use its guest stars as memorably as it did in its first season, Broad City season two promises to be well worth watching. [Deepayan Sengupta]
After a comparatively shaky fifth year, Justified is back for its final season this January. Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is headed out of Kentucky, transferring to Florida to be near Winona and his daughter, but before he leaves, he’s set on tying up loose ends in Harlan by helping build a RICO case against Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Ava (Joelle Carter) is stuck between the two, having secured her release from prison only by agreeing to be an informant for Raylan against Boyd. With its end date nearing, Justified returns with new focus, pitting Raylan and Boyd against each other as well as formidable adversaries old and new, forcing them to reflect on their lives and how far they’ve come since Raylan sauntered back into Harlan in the pilot. Guest stars this season include Mary Steenburgen, Sam Elliott, Garret Dillahunt, and Jeff Fahey. [Kate Kulzick]
After a tremendous freshman season, The Americans reached new heights in its second year, starting off with a bang and building to one of 2014’s most surprising and gutting finales. With the season two finale’s revelation of the KGB’s intentions towards Phillip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth’s (Keri Russell) family, there are any number of paths season three could take. Nina (Annet Mahendru) is off to an uncertain future, Stan (Noah Emmerich) is recommitted but more alone than ever, and should he piece together what his subconscious already knows, Martha (Alison Wright) could easily be in danger. The world of The Americans grows ever murkier as the series progresses, challenging viewers along with the audience and never making the choice to root for Phillip and Elizabeth an easy one for the audience. In its first two years, it’s been one of the most stylish and compelling dramas on television and seeing whether the show has an even higher gear it can transition into in 2015 should be one of the treats of the start of the year. [Kate Kulzick]
A relatively unknown BBC America show at the time of its premiere, Orphan Black has grown over the course of its two seasons, establishing itself as one of the best genre shows on television and defying easy categorization. The show’s second season managed to effectively increase the stakes, expanding the story’s scope to branch out into numerous possibilities, allowing each clone their own distinct storyline that only intersected with each other during key moments, and supported by unexpected twists and strong performances from a number of cast members, anchored by the continuing stellar work of Tatiana Maslany in multiple roles as the clones at the centre of the show.
The show’s second season proved the writers weren’t afraid of expanding the world of the show and the season finale revealed the presence of male clones in a complementary project to Project Leda, which opens up a number of directions the series can go in, none of which accounts for the many places the show can also explore with pre-existing characters and plotlines. With Rachel still on the loose and undoubtedly looking to avenge the loss of her eye, as well as the death of the Proletheans, the show’s direction for season three is unpredictable in all the right ways. In addition, contrasting the show’s two sets of clones also opens the door for some strong storytelling and character possibilities, and how the series explores all these aspects makes its return one of the more anticipated aspects of the television year. [Deepayan Sengupta]