Maron (Thursday, May 8, IFC), season premiere: IFC no longer stands for Independent Film Channel; it’s just IFC—not Insanely Funny Comedy, not I’m Feeling Crampy, just IFC. After a handful of false starts (remember Food Party? Z Rock?), Portlandia and Comedy Bang! Bang! (the latter of which premieres for Season 3 on Thursday, May 8) established IFC as a viable original-comedy destination, but it was 2013’s debut season of Maron that lent the channel some real weight. Despite outside appearances, Maron isn’t exactly Louie, just as Louie isn’t Curb Your Enthusiasm; the fictionalized “Marc Maron” rings truer—and often funnier—than “Louis C.K.” or “Larry David.” In the Season 2 premiere, Marc has an uncomfortable time on Talking Dead with geek-media “enemies” Chris Hardwick and Michael Ian Black. Making the world of Twitter, podcasts and nerd-analysis shows play like high drama—that’s comedy.
Rosemary’s Baby (Sunday, May 11, NBC), miniseries debut: What’s a movie star like Zoe Saldana doing here? She’s acting what little ass she has off here, trying to save a needless remake of Roman Polanski’s 1968 quasi-classic film about The Lil’ Antichrist. Reset from New York to Paris—because, free vacation?—this version finds young-couple Rosemary (Saldana) and Guy (Patrick J. Adams, Suits) moving into a swank but “haunted” apartment and promptly getting pregnant—but did Guy make a pact with “devilish” neighbor Roman (Jason Isaacs, various Harry Potters) to trade his unborn baby for a writing career? And why a writer? Why not “Google CEO” or “Clippers owner”? Saldana’s impressive array of bad wigs, shape-shifting preggo-bellies and off-putting cryfaces aside, Rosemary’s Baby is a hysterical mess. So why isn’t it on Lifetime? The miniseries concludes Monday, May 12.
Penny Dreadful (Sunday, May 11, Showtime), series debut: The Only TV Column That Matters™ doesn’t believe that premium-cable levels of language, violence and nudity help every series … but they sure don’t hurt. Nor does star power: Penny Dreadful leads Eva Green (as medium Vanessa Ives), Josh Hartnett (American adventurer Ethan Chandler), Timothy Dalton (the mysterious Malcolm), Billie Piper (the mysterious-er Brona Croft), Reeve Carney (Dorian Gray) and Harry Treadaway (Dr. Victor Frankenstein) form an instantly engaging cast in this Victorian London horror series that strings together classic literary monster tales into a slick, steampunk (and, as per Showtime, adult) X-Files. If Penny Dreadful can maintain the quality and dark intensity of the pilot episode, this should be an American Horror Story-sized hit; if not, it’ll end up like NBC’s already-forgotten Dracula.
24: Live Another Day (Mondays, Fox), new season: Other than trimming the length from two dozen episodes to 12 (it’s not a season, it’s an Event!) and setting aside any pretense of being a serious drama (this has won Emmys—Emmys!), 24: Live Another Day is yell-y, explode-y business as usual for Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland, holding up better than expected) and keyboard-clacking sidekick Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo drag). The “plot” this time around: Jack re-emerges to save the president (William Devane) from terrorists in London. Why can’t the CIA handle it? There’s no time to explain! Send the coordinates! With this new shorter, faster and— foremost—cheaper format, expect Fox to bring back 24 every year until Kiefer looks like dad Donald in a flak jacket.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Tuesday, May 13, ABC), season finale: It only took 20 or so episodes to start getting good—even though it’s become pretty obvious that a Bill Paxton-led Marvel’s Agents of Hydra would be a much more fun series. Anyway, here’s to a smoother Season 2 this fall … right, ABC?
DVD ROUNDUP FOR MAY 13!
Eastbound and Down: Season 4
Retired pitcher Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) breaks into the world of sports-talk TV, becomes a superstar asshole all over again and makes a new enemy (Ken Marino). Is it too late for the world to finally recognize the genius of KFP? Yes. (HBO)
A lonely guy (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with “Samantha” (Scarlett Johansson), an intuitive computer operating system. If you thought iTunes’ terms and conditions were complicated, wait until you see her pre-nup. Ba-dum-bump! (Warner Bros.)
Orange Is the New Black: Season 1
From Weeds creator Jenji Kohan: An engaged New Yorker (Taylor Schilling) turns herself in for a past crime and ends up in a women’s prison—and then all of a sudden, it’s not just about some blonde white girl anymore. Very sneaky, Jenji. (Lionsgate)
That Awkward Moment
Zac Efron, Miles Teller and other pretty 20-somethings star in Dating Is So Hard for Pretty 20-Somethings Movie No. 584—except this time, it’s from the guys’ point of view, so there are more dick jokes than shopping montages. Yay? (Sony)
More New DVD Releases (May 13)
Afterlife: Series One, Camp Harlow, Crook, Deadly Code, Easy Money: Life Deluxe, Generation Iron, Genius on Hold, I Frankenstein, Kendra on Top: Season 2, Longmire: Season 2, Magic City: The Complete Series, Poseidon Rex, Special ID.