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Schmidt happens



Thursday, March 5 (USA)

At least the USA Network is trying new ideas. But, for every creative win (like comedies “Sirens” and “Playing House,” or dramas “Graceland” and “Satisfaction”), there’s a pandering pantload (like reality steamers “Chrisley Knows Best” and “Summer Camp”), and a handful of lingering legacies that refuse to die (“Royal Pains,” still a thing!). Ten-episode conspiracy-thriller series “Dig” is presented as a Major Television Event, but it really could have been wrapped under two hours in a Nicholas Cage flick: An FBI agent (Jason Isaacs — you know, Malfoy) investigating the death of an American in Jerusalem uncovers a nefarious 2,000-year-old plot of “Da Vinci Code” proportions. It all looks great and seems important, but “Dig” fades in the stretch, as you’d expect from the creatives behind “Heroes” and Homeland,” two series that couldn’t sustain their mythologies. Upside: Anne Heche as an FBI boss who transforms from Serious to Sexy by simply removing her glasses — now that’s writing!


“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”TrueTV UnbreakableKimmySchmidt


Friday, March 6 (Netflix)

In my Pulitzer-winning Fall TV Preview from September 2014 (look it up), I predicted that midseason replacement shows “The Last Man on Earth” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” would never make it to air. I was half right: “Last Man” is currently on Fox Sundays (for now), but “Kimmy” was handed off to Netflix after NBC decided it no longer recognized comedy. Good call, because “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (headlined by “Office” alum Ellie Kemper and produced by Tina Fey) is the kind of wonderful-weird stuff that gets chewed up and spit out on network TV. Kemper plays a woman rescued from a doomsday cult’s underground bunker after 15 years of waiting for the apocalypse, now adjusting to life in the real world (well, New York City). Everything’s shiny and new to Kimmy, and Kemper’s wide-eyed optimism and joy is downright infectious — now if only she could overcome her hysterical fear of velcro. “Longmire” notwithstanding, saving “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” could prove to be Netflix’s best decision since “accidentally” leaking “House of Cards” Season 3.


“The Returned”

Monday, March 9 (A&E)

If you loved French import “The Returned” when it aired stateside on Sundance, and then were fooled into thinking American network rip-off “Resurrection” might be anywhere near as good, consider this official U.S. adaptation a full apology. A&E’s “The Returned” doesn’t stray far from the original: Former residents of a small mountain town begin showing up after years of being presumed dead, with no recollection of the time past nor signs of aging, leaving the Returned as confused as the Remained are freaked the hell out. “Resurrection” went more weepy than creepy; “The Returned” strikes a deft balance between both, which the solid cast (which includes Mark Pellegrino, Michelle Forbes, Jeremy Sisto, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and several impressive newcomers) delivers convincingly. This may end up as a story with no viable end — it is produced by Carlton Cuse of “Lost,” after all — but the initial episodes are a rush. Glad to see all of that “Duck Dynasty” money is paying for something worthwhile (besides “Bates Motel” — Season 3 of which premieres prior to “The Returned”). 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.

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