The Girlfriend Experience (Sunday, April 10, Starz), series debut: No Starz series has ever arrived with as much critic-melting Prestige Television pageantry as The Girlfriend Experience: The 13-episode series is produced by Steven Soderbergh (and based on his 2009 movie of the same name); it’s written and directed by a pair of indie filmmakers; it stars the granddaughter of Elvis Presley (Riley Keough, Mad Max: Fury Road); and it and premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Keough plays a law-firm intern who moonlights as a high-priced escort with occasional bouts of self-awareness and humanity. The Girlfriend Experience looks like Soderbergh’s film—natural lighting is always a giveaway—but packs more story (and sex) into its taut, 30-minute episodes. Just don’t expect much cutesy comedy à la Secret Diary of a Call Girl—this Experience is serious business.
Fear the Walking Dead (Sunday, April 10, AMC), season premiere: Good news/bad news if you’re among the non-whiners who are onboard with The Walking Dead’s sorta-prequel, Fear the Walking Dead: Season 2 will feature more than twice as many episodes as the first, but it will also be “split” (ugh), with the first half running through May, and the second airing “later in 2016” (presumably August, leading up to TWD proper in October). When last we left the Los Angeles residents living among the still-fresh dead of the early Z-pocalypse, they were prepping to escape “the infected” (West Coast for “walker”) by yachting into the Pacific Ocean— setting up a perfect confluence of Yacht Rock, horror and Styx’s “Come Sail Away,” if the producers would just listen to me. Season 2 promises to still pile on the family drama (a sticking point with the whiners), if not give a glimpse of what’s going on in the rest of the world and/or the swimming prowess of zombies.
Dice (Sunday, April 10, Showtime), series debut: George Lopez’s new semi-real-days-in-the-life-of-a-comedian series Lopez was a pleasant surprise that no one thought to ask for, but it turned out to be a worthy addition to the Curb Your Enthusiasm/Louie/Maron family of doc-coms. Andrew “Dice” Clay’s new Dice comes to similarly low, why-is-this-a-thing? expectations … and you’re right! So, so right. Sure, Clay recently redeemed himself somewhat in the role of an insufferable blowhard on HBO’s Vinyl, but that ended with (Spoiler Alert!) his skull being bashed in; unless Dice’s six episodes culminate in the same fate for the real-life insufferable blowhard … pass. Like the Las Vegas suburbs where the show is set, Dice sad, dry and wasting space on prime real estate. Why not hand one of these shows to comic from this century?
Hunters (Monday, April 11, Syfy), series debut: The best current aliens-among-us sci-fi series isn’t even on Syfy—it’s Colony, on cable cousin USA. Hunters is a passable consolation prize with considerable cred: It’s based Whitley Strieber’s Alien Hunter novels, and the series is produced by Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead) and written by Natalie Chaidez (Syfy’s 12 Monkeys). When his wife disappears mysteriously, FBI agent Flynn Carroll (Nathan Phillips) joins a covert government organization, the Exo-Terrorism Unit, that tracks and fights alien terrorists. (Why yes, there is a strained allegory to earthly terrorism afoot—thanks for asking.) Apart from one truly inspired bit of product placement—the aliens commute via secret messages though Spotify!—there’s not much to distinguish Hunters from other Spacemen What Look Like Us generica of years past. And, for the record, I prefer Slacker Radio.
The Detour (Monday, April 11, TBS), series debut: TBS has been previewing The Detour so hard that it feels like the season’s already happened—it hasn’t, right? Experiencing some Angie Tribeca déjà vu here. Anyway: The Detour stars Jason Jones (The Daily Show, The Night Before) and Natalie Zea (Justified, The Following) as harried parents on a family road-trip where everything that could possibly (and impossibly) go wrong for them and the kids does, spectacularly. Sound like National Lampoon’s Vacation? It is, just doled out in weekly half-hours, all of which are far funnier than last year’s limp Vacation reboot. In particular, Zea is a minor comic revelation now that she’s not playing her usual role an endangered ex-wife—more of an endangered current wife, but hilariously.