Dig (Thursday, March 5, USA), series debut: At least the USA Network is trying new ideas. However, for every creative win (like comedies Sirens and Playing House, or dramas Graceland and Satisfaction), there’s a pandering pantsload (like reality steamers Chrisley Knows Best and Summer Camp) and a handful of lingering legacy shows that refuse to die (Royal Pains, still a thing!). Ten-episode conspiracy-thriller series Dig is presented as a Major Television Event, but it really could have been wrapped less than two hours as a Nicolas Cage flick: An FBI agent (Jason Isaacs—you know, Malfoy) investigating the death of an American in Jerusalem uncovers a nefarious 2,000-year-old plot of Da Vinci Code proportions. It all looks great and seems important, but Dig fades in the stretch, as you’d expect from the creatives behind Heroes and Homeland, two series that couldn’t sustain their mythologies. Upside: Anne Heche is an FBI boss who transforms from Serious to Sexy by simply removing her glasses—now that’s writing!
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Friday, March 6, Netflix), series debut: In my Pulitzer-winning Fall TV Preview last year (look it up), I predicted that midseason replacement shows The Last Man on Earth and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt would never make it to air. I was half right: Last Man is on Fox Sundays (for now), but Kimmy was handed off to Netflix after NBC decided it no longer recognized comedy. Good call, because Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (headlined by Office alum Ellie Kemper and produced by Tina Fey) is the kind of wonderful-weird stuff that gets chewed up and spit out on network TV. Kemper plays a woman rescued from a doomsday cult’s underground bunker after 15 years of waiting for the apocalypse, and she’s now adjusting to life in the real world (well, New York City). Everything’s shiny and new to Kimmy, and Kemper’s wide-eyed optimism and joy is downright infectious—now if only she could overcome her hysterical fear of velcro. Longmire notwithstanding, saving Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt could prove to be Netflix’s best decision since “accidentally” leaking House of Cards Season 3.
The Returned (Monday, March 9, A&E), series debut: If you loved French import The Returned when it aired stateside on Sundance, and then were fooled into thinking American network rip-off Resurrection might be anywhere near as good, consider this official U.S. adaptation a full apology. A&E’s The Returned doesn’t stray far from the original: Former residents of a small mountain town begin showing up after years of being presumed dead, with no recollection of the time past nor signs of aging; the Returned are as confused as the Remained are freaked the hell out. Resurrection went more weepy than creepy; The Returned strikes a deft balance between both, which the solid cast (which includes Mark Pellegrino, Michelle Forbes, Jeremy Sisto, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and several impressive newcomers) delivers convincingly. This may end up as a story with no viable end—it is produced by Carlton Cuse of Lost, after all—but the initial episodes are a rush. I’m glad to see all of that Duck Dynasty money is paying for something worthwhile (besides Bates Motel—Season 3 of which premieres prior to The Returned).
CSI: Cyber (Wednesdays, CBS), new series: Is avoiding jail time for criminal hacking by agreeing to work for the feds a real thing? Only on CBS procedurals—the latest being the “zietgeist-y” CSI: Cyber, wherein award-winning (and likely regretful) actress Patricia Arquette bosses around James Van Der Beek (as the requisite handsome muscle) and Shad Moss (aka Lil’ Bow Wow, as the requisite hacker). It only sounds terrible because it is, as if CBS cranked it out just to make Scorpion look legit. So, naturally, CSI: Cyber will probably run for 12 seasons.