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Politics as usual

3/2/2016

“The Family”ZACH GILFORD, LIAM JAMES, JOAN ALLEN, ALISON PILL, RUPERT GRAVES
Thursday, March 3 (ABC)

Series Debut: ABC has only launched a single winner in the 2015-16 TV season: “Quantico” (aka “Federal Beautiful Investigators,” aka “How to Get Away With Homeland,” which returns March 6, if you were wondering). Everything else has been DOA, and “The Family” will likely be no different. The dully-named “political thriller” stars Joan Allen as Maine politician Claire Warren, an aspiring candidate for governor whose campaign is rocked by the sudden return of her son Adam (Liam James), who was presumed murdered a decade ago. Is Claire’s politically-prudent persona as a “survivor” in jeopardy? Will the wrongly-jailed “killer” (Andrew McCarthy) seek revenge? Where the hell’s Adam been — if it’s really even him? Is the Warren family harboring even more secrets and lies than ABC’s other lamely-titled drama, “Secrets & Lies”?

“House of Cards”
Friday, March 4 (Netflix)

Season Premiere: Speaking of political thrillers, TV’s second-most-realistic Beltway series (the first being HBO’s “Veep,” of course), “House of Cards,” is back for Season 4, and facing steep challenges: Bouncing back after a relatively weak third season, the departure of its showrunner and competing with the ongoing tragi-comedy that is our current presidential election cycle. President Frank (Kevin Spacey) and First Lady Claire (Robin Wright) are still at odds, and Frank’s Democratic-nomination win against Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel) is looking far less assured than Hillary Clinton’s is in real life. That’s not the end of his female problems — Ellen Burstyn and Neve Campbell are also onboard for S4 — and they, thankfully, bring out the darker and dirtier sides of Fightin’ Frank that made “House of Cards”’ first two seasons click.

“Damien”
Monday, March 7 (A&E)

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Series Debut: Are they sure it wasn’t a “999” on the back of the baby’s head? The latest take on “Keeping Up With the Antichrist” was created and produced by Glen Mazzara (“The Shield,” “The Walking Dead”) and features some veteran on-screen talent (Barbara Hershey and “Walking Dead” alum Scott Wilson), but do we really need a grown-up Damien? Star Bradley James (“Merlin”) has none of the devilish charisma of Fox’s Lucifer or even a houseplant on the set of “Lucifer,” so all of the impressively creepy cinematography and whispery foreboding Mazzara can conjure isn’t going to make “Damien” the viable “Bates Motel” companion piece that A&E still needs (Remember “The Returned”? Yeah, neither does anyone else).

“Of Kings & Prophets”
Tuesday, March 8 (ABC)

Series Debut: Between “The Family,” “The Real O’Neals” and “Of Kings & Prophets,” this is shaping up to be the worst ABC midseason in years — and they haven’t even dropped “Uncle Buck” yet. “Of Kings & Prophets” was originally pitched by the showrunners as a “sexy biblical epic,” which, naturally, means: “We set out to make a cable-caliber drama loaded with steamy sex and bloody violence … but then the network stepped in and watered it down while we updated our résumés in the break room.” CV

Bill Frost writes about television for Salt Lake City Weekly, talks about it on the TV Tan Podcast, and tweets about it at @Bill_Frost.

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