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Russell Tovey, Aidan Turner, Lenora Crichlow, Sinead Keenan
Regular airtime: Saturdays, 9pm ET
In the third season of BBC America’s Being Human, vampire Mitchell (Aidan Turner), along with the werewolves George (Russell Tovey) and Nina (Sinead Keenan), are looking for a new home in Wales, having been run out of Bristol. Missing is Annie (Lenora Crichlow), a ghost stuck in Purgatory, sending out desperate cries for help to Mitchell through staticky black and white television images. Time is running out for her, and Mitchell is frantically searching for a way to save her, by crossing over and back. As preposterous as this sounds, Being Human benefits from being reasonably self-aware as well as intelligent in the questions it asks. The four friends are determined to retain (or reclaim) that human part of themselves that may have been lost in their transformation to the supernatural. Much like other shows about other societal outliers (True Blood, Angel), this one asks where the line might exist between human and monster? What does “being human” mean, anyhow? Renée Scolaro Mora
Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts
One of television’s underrated gems during its first season, Justified breaks out during its second outing and wonderfully expands the world of Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). Springing from the mind of Elmore Leonard, this crime drama effectively incorporates sharp dialogue and colorful characters into a violent criminal landscape. Olyphant is charming as the old-school lawman with his own set of rules for dealing with the Kentucky underworld. He’s matched by the compelling Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder, a lifelong heel who’s trying to figure out his place. The Emmy-winning Margo Martindale deserves all the acclaim playing Mags Bennett, a villain with relatable intentions. It’s a fun and stylish series that makes its surprises feel effortless, which is no easy task for modern audiences. Dan Heaton
Parks and Recreation
Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Paul Schneider
3Parks and Recreation
Bridging from its triumphant third season into its delightful fourth, Parks and Recreation could easily have faltered: its characters could’ve grown broader and cartoonier, as comedy characters often do; or the show’s pervading sweetness and optimism could’ve grown cloying through plot turns like Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) deciding to run for office and receiving unexpected support from her coworkers and her off-and-on boyfriend Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott). Instead, the show remains a delicate source of smartly written character comedy, less an Office imitator than a successor to that show’s style and subtlety, putting its own delightful spin on smallish-city life, including weddings (“April and Andy’s Fancy Party”), town rivalries (“Eagleton”), gender politics (“Pawnee Rangers”), and, um, almost everyone in town getting together and getting drunk (“The Fight”). Few other shows could wring such laughs out of getting along. Jesse Hassenger
Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Jim Rash, Ken Jeong, Chevy Chase
At this point, there isn’t really much left to say about NBC’s hiatus-bound comedy Community that hasn’t been said better by others. From season one’s reliably hilarious “misfits form a surrogate family” sitcom that slowly discovered it could do things other shows couldn’t, to season two, where the show became the closest live-action television has come to re-create vintage Simpsons flexible reality, genre parody, and pure ambition. Now, we’re in the midst of a third season, which has worked hard to sort of fuse the two (see December’s “Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism”, which featured a touching Shirley-and-Jeff story, but also delved into parodies of anime and the return of Abed-as-Batman) but is now headed for suspended animation, at least until whatever NBC throws on at mid-season fails.
It’s a shame, but really, like with Arrested Development we should be thrilled with what we’ve gotten. The season will be completed and, if the show is cancelled, we’ll be left with 71 episodes of wild, yet grounded television that gave us the magic of Donald Glover crying, the gutbusting laughter-meets-almost uncomfortable sex appeal of Alison Brie and Gillian Jacobs, the solid-as-a-rock leading man quality of Joel McHale, Danny Pudi’s almost Avatar-ian shapeshifting, the ability to do more with less material than anyone of Yvette Nicole Brown, the career revival of Chevy Chase, and whatever the hell kind of awesomeness Ken Jeong and Jim Rash bring to the show any given week. Sure, it’s a show with a heart three sizes two large and a brain ten times too fast at certain moments. But when they get it all right—which the writers, directors and cast do, with alarming frequency—nothing on television brings me the pure joy Community can. You have up to four months to catch up on it folks, please do so. Steve Lepore
Khandi Alexander, Rob Brown, Kim Dickens, India Ennenga, John Goodman, Michiel Huisman, Melissa Leo
The story of creative types and ordinary people struggling through a ravaged post-Katrina New Orleans, Treme is far more sprawling and less morbidly tense than producer David Simon’s previous series, The Wire and Generation Kill, but it’s just as severe an indictment of the institutionalization of corruption and suffering as those shows were. Luckily, it’s also a program that illustrates how things like music, food, and community can transcend that misery and offer broken lives moments of pure joy. In Season 2, the national media’s gaze has shifted, but the city remains as volatile as ever. When sudden acts of violence break out in this setting, they are all the more shocking because the characters are not gangsters, cops, or soldiers. In the wake of this continued destruction though, the cast of Treme continues to try to create something new, be it new musical projects (Antoine, Davis, Annie, Delmond), new cuisine (Janette), new lives (Sonny, Sofia), or a new New Orleans itself (real estate developer Nelson Hidalgo). A tremendous ensemble effort. Timh Gabriele
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