Spring TV 2014  is underway and there are dozens of new shows vying for your attention. We’ve looked at loglines and cast lists for countless offerings still to come and have distilled the list to five essentials for our discerning viewers. 

Fargo (FX) Premieres Tuesday, April 15 at 10/9c

Sherlock’s Martin Freeman sells insurance in this heavily buzzed 10 episode “limited event” based the 1996 Coen Brothers Oscar-winning dark comedy. Set in rural Minnesota, but shot near Calgary, it features true crime and oddball characters like a “ruthless” and “manipulative” drifter played by Billy Bob Thornton (who refused to talk about his character during a recent press tour) whose malevolence throws the town into a twist.  Kate Walsh, Colin Hanks, Shawn Doyle, Keith Carradine, Bob Odenkirk and the freakishly talented 15 year old Joey King co-star.


 Black Box (ABC) Premieres: Thursday, April 24 at 10/9c

Hotter-than-hot English actress Kelly Reilly from Flight, the soon-to-open Heaven is For Real and loads of BBC series stars as a Dr. Catherine Black, a world-famous neurologist.  Black researches the functioning of the brain even as she deals with her own bipolar disorder, and does her best to hide it. And that’s not all she’s hiding.  The wonderful Vanessa Redgrave co-stars.  It’s from the makers of House.


Penny Dreadful (The Movie Network) Premieres Sunday, May 11 at 10/9c

Strictly for thrill seekers and fans of American Horror Story is this beautifully shot psychological supernatural drama in Victorian London. Featuring classic literary horror characters like Frankenstein’s monster, figures from Dracula and The Picture of Dorian Gray, the cool and gorgeous cast led by Eva Green includes Josh Harnett, Timothy Dalton, and Billy Piper.  There may be gorgeous cinematography and art direction but this is seriously scary stuff from the filmmakers behind Gladiator, American Beauty and Skyfall.  Watch it if you can stand it.


 Extant (Global) Premieres Wednesday, July 9 at 9 pm ET/PT

Steven Spielberg’s new series stars Halle Berry as Astronaut Molly Watts who has returned from a yearlong solo mission in space.  But there be dragons as she has adjusts to life on earth and she may have brought a little something back from space. A little something that could change the course of humanity, perhaps the next step in evolution?  Berry describes Molly as “strong and complicated”, the kind of character she most enjoys playing.  It’s been nine years since Berry appeared on television. Goran Visnjic, Camryn Manheim and Meryl Streep’s talented daughter Grace Gummer co-star.


 Belief (OWN) Premiere Date TBD

Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network is prepping a seven-part documentary on the origins of faith called Belief.  Says Winfrey “This series is one of my biggest dreams ever; it’s the reason why I put my name on the channel.”  Considering the huge splash made by The Bible miniseries last year and a spate of religious themed films coming our way in the next two years (Heaven Is For Real, Exodus, Moses, Gods and Kings, Mary) it is all about the zeitgeist.