Season Premiere: Long before Caitlyn Jenner demanded your instant approval, Mort-turned-Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) earned that respect and adoration in the wildly fantastic debut season of Jill Soloway’s “Transparent,” a family dramedy like nothing ever seen on TV (or streaming service, app, etc.). Season 1 introduced the hilarious-to-heartbreaking-and-back minefield that is the Pfefferman clan through Maura, but also made it clear that this isn’t a one-woman show. Co-stars Judith Light, Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass are all equal players in the chaos, and Season 2 makes even greater leaps in spreading the dramatic wealth now that Maura is “out.” The small moments of “Transparent” are more real than anything that will ever happen on “I Am Cait.”
Saturday, Dec. 12 (Lifetime)
Movie: It’s Christmas, and Holly (Laura Bell Bundy, last seen enduring Charlie Sheen in “Anger Management”) decides it’s finally time to introduce Connor, her toy-designer boyfriend, to her parents who “live up north.” Sure enough, they turn out to be Santa and Mrs. Claus (Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter — yes, the Keatons of “Family Ties”). But wait! There’s more! Holly’s ex … Jack Frost … is sniffing around and being a dick (as Frosts are wont to do), and Connor is not only passively-aggressively pressured to propose to Holly, but also become the next Santa (such sexism, Lifetime — why couldn’t it be Holly?). The Christmas TV-Movie War is getting ug-ly.
Monday, Dec. 14 (Syfy)
Series Debut: Syfy’s ambitious new “The Expanse” could either be the network’s next “Battlestar Galactica” (a long-running, critically acclaimed, fan-beloved landmark), or its next “Ascension” (not so much). Set 200 years in a future where humans have colonized the entire solar system, dwarf-planet detective Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane) sets out searching for a missing woman (Florence Faivre) but inadvertently uncovers a vast conspiracy — and it is vast, because, you know, it’s the entire solar system. “The Expanse,” based on a book series that’s essentially “Game of Thrones” in space, is a major player in the continued “unbranding” of Syfy, a slow and deliberate process to return the network to its sci-fi roots. Just reinstate “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and we’ll call it good, Syfy.
Monday, Dec. 14 (Syfy)
Miniseries Debut: Technically, “Ascension” was a miniseries meant to become a proper series, but the story — and the viewership — ran out in the first couple of hours. There’s probably no such backdoor plan for “Childhood’s End”: Arthur C. Clarke’s benevolent-aliens-with-a-secret-agenda plot has been ripped-off so many times since 1953 that, even though this is the first-ever filmed adaptation of the novel, it already feels like a remake. As a six-hour miniseries, “Childhood’s End” is loaded with stunning visuals and an impressive cast (including Charles Dance, Colm Meaney, Yael Stone and Julian McMahon), but also attempts to add new characters and plotlines to an already-overstuffed story, and wastes too much sentiment on the demise of religion. 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.