Prime-time schedules are thawing out some established hits in the next few weeks, as well as planting seeds to see what takes root.
By SARA SMITH
The Kansas City Star
But these three shows, following up triumphant first seasons with even better episodes, offer the best cure for cabin fever.
The Americans | 9 p.m. Feb. 26 on FX
Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, the Soviet agents posing as everyday travel agents in The Americans, are fine with their kids watching WKRP. Its when their daughter starts going to church that they get worried.
FXs retro spy drama still allows fans to root for whatever team is on screen at the time: the Soviet bureaucrats, the FBI blowhards and especially Phillip (Matthew Rhys), even as he executes innocent bystanders for the cause.
His Moscow-arranged marriage is more real than facade these days, so much so that Elizabeth (Keri Russell) is having trouble seducing other men as part of the job. After another embedded spy family is targeted, they take matters into their own hands with the help of their former handler Claudia (Margo Martindale), whos mostly over Elizabeth beating her to a bloody pulp last season.
Somehow, The Americans makes all its elements work: the doomed romances, office politics, coming-of-age tales, breathless action sequences and low-tech James Bond intrigue, peppered with all-too-familiar suburban angst. And instead of acting as a history lesson, the series demands a sharp, engaged audience.
When a character signs up for a Werner Erhard est seminar, theres no clunky, hand-holding explanation (I had to look it up). The Red team doesnt conspire in heavily accented English, either: Inside the Rezidentura, its all subtitled Russian and Cyrillic typewriters.
Each episode delightfully exploits its Cold War setting, dropping cultural breadcrumbs that go beyond an excellent retro soundtrack (see box for a playlist of songs from the show). A nagging phone call from the Columbia Record Club is really a signal for Elizabeth to rescue a Sandinista ally, but first she drops the kids off to go see Raiders of the Lost Ark.
In another theater, FBI good guy Stan (Noah Emmerich) is realizing The French Lieutenants Woman wasnt the best movie to show his mistress, KGB secretary Nina (Annet Mahendru). Now a double agent, she gets something else to worry about with the arrival of a politically connected troublemaker at work. Oleg (Costa Ronin) asks Nina to a hockey game, but he wants to get into her personnel file more than her panties.
Im a feminist, Oleg declares. I work only for Mother Russia.
Hannibal | 9 p.m. Feb. 28 on NBC
The season begins with an artfully composed shot of Jack Crawfords face appearing in the carving knife Hannibal Lecter is holding. The ensuing brawl escalates into murderous madness. And this battle to the death is no dream sequence. Instead of explaining why the FBIs lead profiler was trying to kill his star consultant, the season rewinds itself to events 12 weeks before the fight.
Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is making one of his ornate meals for Crawford, a traditional Japanese kaiseki feast, beautifully presented.
I almost feel guilty eating it, says Crawford (Laurence Fishburne).
I never feel guilty eating anything, Lecter replies.
Meanwhile, their friend Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is fly-fishing inside his mind from his cell at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He knows Lecter has framed him for a series of murders, but he cant remember how. No one believes him, because it looks bad when you vomit up a victims ear in your sink.
I am not the intelligent psychopath youre looking for, he insists. You may not believe me now, but you will.
Hannibals twists on the Lecter mythology are a tasty treat for Thomas Harris fans, but anyone who doesnt mind a side of gore and symbolism with their cerebral psychodrama should take a bite, too.
Bates Motel | 8 p.m. March 3 on A&E
The sleepy hamlet of White Pine Bay is still a very dangerous place to live, and its not just because Norma and Norman Bates have made a success of their motel. A basic cable prequel to the Psycho story set in the present day sounded like the worst idea ever, but last season was a surprisingly deft study of evil in a secretive small town.
Its still unclear which Bates, if any, killed Normans favorite teacher last season. As Norma listens to the message from the high schools emergency phone, Vera Farmigas face transports the show back inside her characters magnetic moral ambiguity.
It doesnt help that her son would rather hunker down in the basement perfecting his taxidermy skills. When Norman (Freddie Highmore) finally emerges for a driving lesson, he goes straight for Miss Watsons gravesite. Norma cant keep quiet.
You spend your days equally mooning over a dead teacher and taking apart dead animals, she says. It makes me feel like a bad mother.
She cant keep quiet about the new highway, either.
This is the road thats going to ruin our lives! she cries, planning her plea to powers-that-be. Every city council meeting should include an angry outburst from Norma Bates. Shes still crazy, and shes still hilarious.
Where to watch
Upcoming series and season premieres, with new shows in bold.
7 p.m.: The Amazing Race (CBS)
9:38 p.m.: Growing Up Fisher (NBC) (moving to regular time period at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday)
7 p.m.: The Voice (NBC)
8 p.m.: Dallas (TNT)
11:35 p.m.: Late Night With Seth Meyers (NBC)
8 p.m.: Rizzoli & Isles (TNT), About a Boy (NBC) (regular time period after premiering Feb. 22)
9 p.m.: Perception (TNT), Mind Games (ABC)
7 p.m.: Survivor: Cagayan (CBS)
8 p.m.: Psych (USA)
8:30 p.m.: Mixology (ABC)
9 p.m.: The Americans (FX), Legit (FXX)
8 p.m.: The Red Road (Sundance Channel)
9 p.m.: Review (Comedy Central), Vikings (History)
9 p.m.: Hannibal (NBC)
8 p.m.: Bates Motel (A&E)
9 p.m.: Those Who Kill (A&E)
8 p.m.: Suits (USA), Saint George (FX)
9 p.m.: Sirens (USA)
8 p.m.: Resurrection (ABC)
9 p.m.: Lindsay (OWN)
An Americans playlist
• Phil Collins, In the Air Tonight
• Echo and the Bunnymen, Pictures on My Wall
• The Cure, Siamese Twins
• McKinley Mitchell, Trouble Blues
• Squeeze, Slap and Tickle
• Kenny Rogers, The Gambler
• April Wine, Roller
• Billy Squier, In the Dark
• Blue Shoes, Better
• Pete Townshend, Rough Boys
• Fleetwood Mac, Tusk
• Peter Gabriel, Games Without Frontiers, Here Comes the Flood
• The Who, Eminence Front