Back in black6/10/2015
“Orange Is the New Black”
Friday, June 12 (Netflix)
Season Premiere: Aside from the return of a beaten-down and bruised-up Alex (Laura Prepon), things are almost too bright and happy at Litchfield Penitentiary in the “Orange Is the New Black” Season 3 opener. The episode, however, ends on a heart-rending downer that drives home the facts that, this is still a prison, and unlike narrow award-show categories, creator/writer Jenji Kohan will pivot from comedy to drama” however she damned well pleases. Kohan also introduces even more character flashbacks and new faces without spinning into “Game of Thrones” overload, and spends just enough quality time with the woman she initially fooled us into thinking was the “star” of the show, Piper (Taylor Schilling). That “Best Season Yet” buzz may turn out to be more than just Netflix hype.
Friday, June 12 (Syfy)
Series Debut: The writers and producers behind long-running sci-fi-lite hits “Stargate SG-1” and “Stargate Atlantis” essentially killed the franchise with 2009’s “Stargate Universe,” the bleak tale of a space-exploration team lost in uncharted cosmos. “Dark Matter” finds another crew adrift in space — but they have no idea who they are, how they got there or why random Scumdogs of the Universe are out to kill them. As you’d expect, the amnesiac models soon learn they each have requisite A-Team abilities (fighter, hacker, thinker, more fighters, etc.), assign nicknames (like “Boss Lady,” “Kid” and, best of all, “Slashy McStabberson”), and at least pretend to trust one another to survive. It’s nothing new, but at least “Dark Matter” is actual sci-fi in space — how often do you get that from Syfy?
Tuesday, June 16 (TBS)
Series Debut: If the notoriously nostalgic TV Land can drop the laugh tracks (see the just-wrapped, fantastic “Younger”; the upcoming, promising “Jim Gaffigan Show” and “Impastor”), why the hell can’t TBS move away from the canned sitcom yuks already? “Clipped,” about a group of former clashing-clique high-school classmates who all end up working on the same Bah-ston barbershop, is from KoMut, the TV production company that’s been cranking out failed variations or this crapcom since the ’90s (with one hit exception: “Will & Grace”). “Clipped” wastes genuinely funny actors (like Ashley Tisdale, and a bored George Wendt on autopilot) on the same stale jokes they’ll probably use in their next network pitch.
Tuesday, June 16 (TNT)
Series Debut: Shows like “Rizzoli & Isles” and “Major Crimes” still pay the bills, but TNT tried to shake up its mom-cops image last summer with new dude-centric testosterone-fests like “The Last Ship” and “Legends,” with varying results. “Proof” is something else entirely, like “Grey’s Anatomy” meets “Ghost Whisperer” (“Ghost’s Anatomy,” a better title than “Proof”). Jennifer Beals plays a brilliant surgeon whose life is a steaming bag of suck, until she’s hired by a cancer-stricken tech billionaire (Matthew Modine) to prove — or disprove — life after death. Will her hard-science ways conflict with supernatural hooey? Will there be tears? Can Modine rock a turtleneck? Yes, hell yes, and was there any doubt? CV
Bill Frost writes about television for Salt Lake City Weekly, talks about it on the TV Tan Podcast (Tuesdays on iTunes and Stitcher), and tweets about it at @Bill_Frost.