Vinyl (Sunday, Feb. 14, HBO), series debut: “What? You thought records got played because they’re good?” sniffs American Century Records president Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale), explaining away the radio-payola tactics of his marketing right-hand man (Ray Romano), who secures the label’s bands airplay with a little coke and a lot of cash. Thing is, Richie loves good music—he can hear a hit instantly, and gets downright misty-eyed over the artistry. Likewise, Vinyl, an early-’70s-set remix of New York City music-scene fact and fairy tale, loves rock ’n’ roll, cramming real-deal period tunes into nearly every second of every scene (with the exception of the music of Led Zeppelin—glaring, since the band figures prominently, and hilariously, in Vinyl’s two-hour premiere episode). It’s all as excessive and beautiful as you’d expect a collaboration between Martin Scorsese, Terence Winter and Mick Jagger to be, blending Almost Famous’ music-saves earnestness with Velvet Goldmine’s visceral glam bombast and cranking it to 11, the buzz only blunted by the occasional too-long quiet stretch and cliché-weary voiceover. Like a good rock show, Vinyl’s first episode is exhausting—and there are eight more to come, so strap on your most-sensible platform boots.
The Walking Dead (Sunday, Feb. 14, AMC), winter premiere: When last we left The Walking Dead, Team Rick was leading (what’s left of) the Alexandrians quietly though the undead swarm that had breached the compound, disguised by walker guts but potentially exposed by Jessie’s son, who was whining for mommy. (Even in an apocalypse, kids are the worst.) Meanwhile, outside Alexandria, Daryl, Sasha and Abraham had a not-at-all-cute meeting with the Saviors, a new band of grandiosely named road goons—but these goons are in league with mucho-hyped baddie Negan (incoming guest star Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who’s being built up as the closest—thus, most dangerous—equal to Rick that the group has ever encountered. Not to mention all of the possible, comic-book-preordained character deaths—Happy Valentine’s Day!
Better Call Saul (Monday, Feb. 15, AMC), season premiere: The 2015 debut season of Better Call Saul was a minor miracle that not only borrowed elements from, and expanded upon, a seemingly impossible-to-follow milestone TV series (Breaking Bad—like you needed to be reminded), but also built its own world in the span of 10 episodes, and proved Jimmy McGill/future Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) could headline his own show. Rather than sweat the follow-up to that follow-up, BCS jumps right back into the business of incrementally transforming small-time Albuquerque lawyer Slippin’ Jimmy into medium-time legal shark Saul Goodman. None show up early in Season 2, but it’s rumored that some (more) Breaking Bad characters will be making appearances on Better Call Saul—I know the odds-on favorite is Gus Fring, but I’m holding out for Badger and Skinny Pete.
Broad City (Wednesday, Feb. 17, Comedy Central), season premiere: Between Full Frontal With Samantha Bee and Angie Tribeca on TBS, Younger and Teachers on TV Land, and Idiotsitter, Not Safe With Nikki Glaser and now, returning champions Broad City, on Comedy Central, it’s a great time for female-led comedy on cable—and that’s not even counting the resurgence of Sarah Palin on the news channels. Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson’s stoner Laverne and Shirley was already renewed for Seasons 4 and 5 ahead of tonight’s Season 3 premiere, which means at least 20 more episodes of Brooklyn misadventures with the other Girls, and the occasional Hannibal Buress sighting sans subtitles. But right now, the biggest news of BC3 is that presidential still-a-candidate Hillary Clinton will drop in on Ilana and Abbi, which may or may not prompt a Bernie Sanders guest rebuttal on Workaholics.
Teachers (Wednesdays, TV Land), new series: When Teachers was mentioned above, it’s entirely possible you thought to yourself, “What the hell’s that? Something else I have to catch up on?” Yes, it is—remember, There’s Too Many Shows. Along with The Jim Gaffigan Show, Impastor and Younger, Teachers is a part of TV Land’s makeover from reheated sitcom repository to smart comedy destination, and six-woman improv troupe The Katydids (their first names are all variations on “Katherine”) have inadvertently edged out Gaffigan on the funny front. (Sorry, Jim—it’s six against one.) Imagine Super Troopers gender-flipped into an elementary school, dosed with Broad City’s fearless, vanity-free pursuit of so-wrong laughs. We’re only six episodes into Season 1—catch up on Hulu and TVLand.com, now.