“House of Cards”
Friday, Feb. 27 (Netflix)
It’s always been crazy-good, but is “House of Cards” just more crazy than good? Now-President Frank Underwood’s (Kevin Spacey) rise to the top has seen him plowing through one deliciously ridiculous politico-soap-opera scandal after another, as well as a slew of unsatisfying toothless opponents — at the outset of Season 3, it seems his only equal in the Beltway is wife Claire (Robin Wright), who has ambitions of her own beyond simply being First Lady. “House of Cards” is still entertaining as hell, like “The West Wing” with the idealism extracted and replaced with “Itchy & Scratchy” bloodlust, but it’s time to dial back those Prestige Television expectations.
Sunday, March 1 (CBS)
“Breaking Bad”/“Better Call Saul” ’s Vince Gilligan created “Battle Creek” more than 10 years ago, and it’s finally made its way to broadcast TV. Dean Winters (“Law & Order: SVU,” “Rescue Me”) and Josh Duhamel (“Transformers,” “Las Vegas”) star as mismatched law-enforcement partners in the titular bankrupt Michigan city; grizzled local detective Russ Agnew (Winters) is suspicious of clean-cut FBI newcomer Milt Chamberlin (Duhamel), but is forced to work with him because he has access to shiny Fed resources that the broke Battle Creek cop shop doesn’t. The pair proceed to butt heads and match wits on odd cases (first up: a maple syrup cartel — yes, really) so far outside the usual CBS procedural parameters, you have to wonder why “Battle Creek” didn’t end up on Fox (this series is probably what “Backstrom” was shooting for and missed by miles). Even with Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad”-isms toned down, “Battle Creek” is a fun ride. Get onboard before CBS figures that out.
“Secrets & Lies”
Sunday, March 1 (ABC)
A cat-and-mouse mystery that pits a possibly innocent family man (Ryan Phillippe) against a determined homicide detective (Juliette Lewis) in what looks like a direct-to-Blockbuster-video potboiler from the ’90s (and even then, “Secrets & Lies” would be a lousy title). Phillippe and Lewis act as hard as they can against each other, but this is just midseason filler worth no DVR (or VHS) space.
Sunday, March 1 (Fox)
It’s been a long while since Fox made a truly weird live-action comedy, and they’re making up for lost time with “The Last Man on Earth,” starring ex-“Saturday Night Live” player Will Forte as Phil Miller, who appears to be the lone human left (at least in North America) after a virus sweeps the planet in 2020. Other than growing an impressive hipster beard and inventing mankind’s final crowning achievement, the Margarita Pool (complete with salt rim), Phil’s resigned to keeping himself entertained with explosive car bowling, mocking Tom Hanks in “Castaway” and wallowing in loneliness in his hometown of Tucson. While the first episode is a one-man show, which Forte carries well, more characters do eventually show up to provide some “only other people make us a better person” perspective and future episode fodder — though only four have been produced so far. Which is fitting, since “The Last Man on Earth” plays more like a comedic indie flick than a 13-episode TV series — try it out; it won’t be a long commitment. 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.