When looking at the television season as a whole, spring doesn’t seem to have that much of a priority. The broadcast networks use the time to premiere lower priority scripted shows while primarily focusing on upfronts and the upcoming renewal/cancellation onslaught, whereas the volume of cable debuts doesn’t feel quite as high as the often intimidating late September-early October and January content booms. But that doesn’t mean that the television industry comes to a standstill until summer fully kicks into gear, as there’s still plenty of programming to choose from across broadcast, cable, and streaming platforms.
As such, I’ve combed through the list of vaunted returnees and promising newbies set to premiere this spring and picked out six projects that you (yes, you) should keep an eye out for. There’s no one set reason that every show was selected for this article; it’s a combination of premises with potential, casts stacked with talent, intriguing marketing campaigns, faith in certain outlets to provide quality, how the debut of each show will impact its outlet, and gut feeling from having watched a lot of TV. There’s no guarantee that every (or any) show here is going to shake the foundation of television as we know it, but where it can often be difficult to know what to sample given the volume of choices, this is more a guide to let you know that these shows are out there and that there’s enough there there to make sampling worthwhile. I attempted to select series across all viewing platforms and made a point to go after projects that might slip under the radar either due to where they air, a niche premise, or airing on a crowded night.
Thus, these aren’t the only shows I’ll be sampling this spring, but they’re shows that I feel are especially worthy of shouting out. And as with every article of this ilk, the views expressed here are only mine and don’t represent KSiteTV as a whole. Were Editor-in-Chief Craig Byrne to sit down and write a list of shows he wants you to sample this spring, I’m sure it’d be filled with all types of different, fun stuff.
The Arrangement (E!)
Premiere Date/Time: Sunday, March 5th at 10:00
Premise: An aspiring actress is offered a 10 million dollar marriage contract by an A-Lister who has a lot to hide.
Cast: Josh Henderson (Dallas); Christine Evangelista (Chicago Fire); Michael Vartan (Alias); and Lexa Doig (Continuum).
Creator: Jonathan Abrahams (Mad Men)
Why You Should Watch: It’s intriguing that The Arrangement, a seemingly cynical take on Hollywood relationships and the artificiality of fame, is airing on a network like E! that has commodified and repackaged said artificiality to beef up their bottom line. E! has made a mint out of fawning over celebrity couples and becoming a publicist’s wet dream in terms of selling a new relationship, so it’s surprising that they’re making something like The Arrangement, which reads like a thinly veiled take on Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, their second original scripted series following The Royals. But this is a way of doing a Hollywood drama that feels fresh and can explore issues of celebrity culture without much in the way of a filter, a sort of soapy Wizard of Oz for everyone who uses People Magazine and US Weekly as their Bible. If this can be the next cornerstone of E! scripted brand, the network might become a prime destination for smart, highly watchable female-centric drama.
Famous in Love (Freeform)
Premiere Date/Time: Tuesday, April 18th at 9:00
Premise: An ordinary college student gets her big break after auditioning for a role in a Hollywood blockbuster and must navigate the pressures of fame accordingly.
Cast: Bella Thorne (Shake It Up); Carter Jenkins (The Following); Keith Powers (The New Edition Story); Charlie DePew (The Goldbergs); and Niki Koss (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse).
Creator: I. Marlene King (Pretty Little Liars)
Why You Should Watch: After a 2016 that included demon hunters, murder mysteries, horrifying teens, and drug addiction, Freeform will be premiering its first lighter drama since the network rebranded from ABC Family with Famous in Love. Granted, Bella Thorne’s aspiring actress Paige Townsen will encounter plenty of darkness once she realizes her preconceived notions about fame weren’t accurate, and finds herself changed by the attention and accolades that come with being in Hollywood, but Famous in Love looks like the first Freeform scripted original that goes for a fun, escapist vibe lacking dead bodies, broken homes, or complicated mythology. Not that shows of that ilk are any less valid and important to the television ecosystem than a Famous in Love, but the first year of its existence made Freeform look like it had doubled down on darker/sadder entertainment in lieu of soaps. Which, considering the political climate in America and the push all of television has made toward darker content, would’ve been devastating.
Premiere Date: Wednesday, March 29th
Premise: An 18th Century brothel owner fights to save her business from a ruthless rival while trying to balance her roles as mother and business proprietor.
Cast: Samantha Morton (In America); Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey); Eloise Smyth (Fortitude); and Lesley Manville (Maleficent).
Creators: Alison Newman (EastEnders) and Moira Buffini (Jane Eyre)
Why You Should Watch: With the recent passing of The Client List and Secret Diary of a Call Girl, TV has been lacking in scripted shows that center around the sex industry, but thankfully, Hulu’s Harlots has stepped up to fill the noticeable void. With a raucous first teaser that oozes rebellious energy and reminds me of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, it’s a show that looks like an unapologetically feminist examination of sexuality, femininity, and how little the link between sex and commerce has changed since the 18th Century. Not only is it always welcome to have female characters who are in charge of their sexuality, which is more possible with a show like this given the brothel owner in question is female, period dramas that explicitly draw parallels between their setting and current events (e.g. Reign) are good at underlining how history often repeats itself when nothing is learned.
Into the Badlands (AMC)
Premiere Date/Time: Sunday, March 19th at 10:00
Premise: A mighty warrior and a young boy search for enlightenment in a ruthless territory controlled by feudal barons.
Cast: Daniel Wu (Europa Report); Orla Brady (A Love Divided); Sarah Bolger (The Tudors); Aramis Knight (The Dark Knight Rises); and Emily Beecham (28 Weeks Later).
Creators: Al Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville)
Why You Should Watch: The only sophomore show on the list, AMC’s Into the Badlands is a cross between marital arts movies, westerns, and post-apocalyptic fiction, a brooding tale of a lonesome hero who only opens his heart to a select few while introducing more than a few to his weapon of choice. With gorgeously stylized (and impressively intricate) fight choreography and vivid production design that successfully pulls several influences into a coherent vision, the show doesn’t look like anything else on television and uses said influences to hold together a story about power, corruption, and the lengths people will go to in order to stay on top of the societal food chain. Anchored by a stoic albeit deeply humane performance from Daniel Wu, Into the Badlands did something seemingly impossible in today’s television environment – it found an unoccupied niche and successfully incorporated distinct, lavish visuals into a compelling narrative to construct a show that stands apart from the pack.
When We Rise (ABC)
Premiere Date/Time: Monday, February 27th at 9:00
Premise: The setbacks and triumphs of the modern gay rights movement are chronicled, beginning with the 1969 Stonewall Riots and touching upon everything from the AIDS epidemic to same-sex marriage.
Cast: Austin P. McKenzie (Spring Awakening); Mary Louise Parker (Weeds); Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under); Carrie Preston (The Good Wife); and Michael K. Williams (Boardwalk Empire).
Creator: Dustin Lance Black (Milk)
Why You Should Watch: In a time when it’s difficult to have a predominantly gay show on television (e.g. Looking, The Real O’Neals), in a time when the United States has a violently anti-LGBT Vice President, in a time when the government rescinds protections on transgender students, the fact that we have an eight-hour miniseries centering on the LGBT rights movement, 99% of which never gets taught in schools or shown in any fictional medium, is astounding. Though LGBT representation is at its best point yet, and the community is having more diverse stories being told through television, there’s never been anything like When We Rise, neither something that showcases the depth and breadth of LGBT history nor something this pro-LGBT that aired on broadcast television. With a cast filled to the brim with TV veterans and recognizable faces, as well as a plethora of sure-to-be emotional moments, this is the type of bold, adventurous programming that networks should be making in order to justify the near-constant pats on the back for diversity initiatives.
The White Princess (Starz)
Premiere Date/Time: Sunday, April 16th at 8:00
Premise: England has been united by the marriage between Elizabeth of York and Henry VII, but their individual and partisan rift runs deep enough to destabilize the country once again.
Cast: Jodie Comer (Thirteen); Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones); Jacob Collins-Levy (Holding the Man); Joanne Whalley (The Borgias); and Essie Davis (The Babadook).
Creator: Emma Frost (The Man in the High Castle)
Why You Should Watch: Based on the Philippa Gregory novel of the same name, The White Princess is especially interesting in that it’s a sequel miniseries, which is something we don’t see much in the age of the anthology. Arriving nearly four years after Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated The White Queen, a fast-paced yet elegant tale of Elizabeth Woodville’s rise to power that served as a launchpad for Rebecca Ferguson, visually sumptuous The White Princess picks up directly following its predecessor and again showcases historical events through the eyes of the women who lived them, a narrative choice that sets it apart from other dramas of its ilk. Not only is it a welcome respite in a television landscape still seemingly scared of shows about women in power, The White Princess is a show about how power can reverberate across generational lines and marriages of convenience can turn out to be pretty damn inconvenient at the end of the day.