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7 New TV Shows to Watch This Week: From ‘Better Call Saul’ to ‘Russian Doll’

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It’s another huge week for TV. This undoubtedly has to do with the deadline on Emmy nominations coming at the end of May, as the amount of heavily hyped prestige series (either return or brand new) is increasing to the point of critical mass. Just this week alone, we have the long-overdue return of “Better Call Saul,” “Russian Doll” and “The Flight Attendant,” plus a new show where huge stars get to play “The First Lady.” And documentaries documenting the life of polar bears, the career of Magic Johnson and how racist and weird Abercrombie & Fitch is. Truly, this is a golden age.

On with the television!

spring tv watch list premiere

“Better Call Saul”

Monday, April 18 at 9 p.m., AMC

Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

It’s been almost two years since the previous season of “Better Call Saul,” Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s sharp-as-a-knife prequel series to their beloved “Breaking Bad.” That’s a long time to wait, especially given that the show left off with Kim (Rhea Seehorn) inching towards the dark side. (Considering she never appears in “Breaking Bad,” we should consider this a very bad thing.) Quite frankly, after Bob Odenkirk’s health scare last year, we’re lucky the show is back at all – and that he is feeling okay! A word of caution, though: you might want to re-watch season 5 before jumping into this new season, just to refresh yourself on the intricacies of the ongoing drug trade and the relationship between franchise heavy Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton, who stole every scene he had in “Hawkeye”), amongst other things. AMC has already revealed that Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) will be making an appearance this season, bringing the “Breaking Bad” continuum full circle. Keep in mind that AMC is slicing the season in half; the first batch of episodes premiere this week (and ending on May 23) and the next batch won’t debut until July 11. But after two years, a few weeks won’t matter much.

spring tv watch list finale

“Black-ish”

Tuesday, April 19 at 9 p.m., ABC

Blackish
ABC

It isn’t just a season finale for “Black-ish” this week; this is the series finale too. The Kenya Barris-created show felt quietly revolutionary, particularly in its fearlessness when tackling pertinent, sometimes uncomfortable social issues. (This occasionally got it in hot water with Disney brass; one episode only ever aired online and Barris eventually decamped, first for Netflix and then for ViacomCBS.)  “Black-ish” also created its own interconnected TV universe, with “Grown-ish” airing on ABC sister channel Freeform (it was just renewed for a fifth season) and “Mixed-ish” running for two seasons alongside the flagship series on ABC. (A third spinoff, “Old-ish,” starring Laurence Fishburne and Jenifer Lewis, was briefly developed but is no longer moving forward.) After 175 episodes, the show is coming to a close. That’s quite a run for any primetime sitcom, much less one that addressed as many issues and took as many chances as this one. It will be missed.

spring tv watch list movie

“The Batman”

Monday, April 18, HBO Max

Robert Pattinson The Batman
Warner Bros.

The Dark Knight Returns … to streaming. After a sizable theatrical bow in March, co-writer/director Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” starring Robert Pattinson in the cape and cowl, is now making its streaming debut. This is a very different approach to the character; instead of large scale superhero theatrics, it’s more of an intricate murder mystery, with the Riddler (Paul Dano) as the killer. (Don’t worry, villains like the Penguin, played by an unrecognizable Colin Farrell, and Catwoman, played by Zoë Kravitz, still make appearances.) If for some reason you missed it when it played in theaters, now is the perfect time to catch up. Just make sure to crank up the sound system (both for the set pieces and for Michael Giacchino’s ominous score) and turn out the lights. And if you really want to take it back to what it was like watching Tim Burton’s “Batman” at home, “The Batman” will also air on linear HBO on Saturday.

spring tv watch list documentary

“Polar Bear”

Friday, April 22, Disney+

Polar Bear
Disney+

A new Disneynature movie (either in the theater or on Disney+) has become an Earth Day tradition. And this year is no exception. “Polar Bear,” from filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson, follows a polar bear cub as she grows up and has cubs of her own. The narration is always super important in these films and this time they’ve chosen Catherine Keener, who provides a unique, first-person version of the narration that manages to be specific and more philosophical. Of course, there is a tinge of sadness to this beautiful documentary, considering how fraught the situation is in the arctic circle, due to the advanced stages of global warming. Maybe this film will be a rallying cry this Earth Day.

spring tv watch list re-watch

“Better Call Saul” / “Breaking Bad” / “El Camino”

Netflix

Breaking Bad
AMC/Sony

If the above hasn’t made this abundantly clear, the new season of “Better Call Saul” jumps into the deep end, it doesn’t hold your hand or guide you through the kiddie pool. In order to get properly prepared, why not go back through the entire franchise, starting with the flagship series “Breaking Bad,” about a high school teacher (Cranston), recently diagnosed with cancer, who starts cooking meth as a way to save his family from financial ruin and winds up being the American Southwest’s answer to Scarface. In “Breaking Bad,” we’re introduced to a slippery, morally nebulous lawyer named Saul Goodman (Odenkirk). His evolution from a good-hearted nobody named Jimmy McGill to the man we know well in the series is expertly charted in “Better Call Saul.” And just for fun, why not watch the feature film that followed “Breaking Bad,” “El Camino,” which is written and directed by franchise mastermind Vince Gilligan and takes place immediately after the events of the “Breaking Bad” finale. Like everything associated with this franchise, you’ll be on the edge of your seat the whole time. [WATCH]

spring tv watch list best of rest

“The First Lady”

Sunday, April 17 at 9 p.m., Showtime

This new series, created by Aaron Cooley, imagines the various personal lives of the First Ladies of the United States. That’s about all you need to know. Just listen to this casting. Viola Davis is Michelle Obama, Michelle Pfeiffer is Betty Ford and Gillian Anderson is Eleanor Roosevelt (is there anything that woman can’t do?) As for the Presidents, we’ve got O. T. Fagbenle as Barack Obama, Aaron Eckhart as Gerald Ford and Kiefer Sutherland as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even if the show sucks, it’ll be worth it to see what these amazing actors do with the roles.

“White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch”

Tuesday, April 19, Netflix

“White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” charts the suburban-mall-staple as it becomes the height of popularity (at least for high school kids who wanted to master that “preppy but disheveled” look we’re all after) and its meteoric fall from grace, following accusations of discriminatory hiring and increased scrutiny of the brand’s “All American” (white) image. Produced and directed by Alison Klayman, this will be the perfect documentary for anybody who has ever walked by the store and found it incredibly weird that a young shirtless hunk was just standing outside.

“Russian Doll”

Wednesday, April 20, Netflix

How’s this for a lengthy wait? “Russian Doll” season 1 dropped back on February 1, 2019. The show, which combines elements of drama, comedy and trippy science fiction, stars Natasha Lyonne (who also co-created the show with Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland) as a screwed up New Yorker (are there any other kinds?), who finds herself in an “Edge of Tomorrow”-ish time loop that starts over every time she dies. What other weirdness will befall her in season 2? Time to find out. We’ve waited long enough, after all.

“The Flight Attendant”

Thursday, April 21, HBO Max

One of the biggest surprises of the newly launched HBO Max was how fun “The Flight Attendant” was. It was so much fun that what was initially conceived as a limited series was hastily brought back for another season. And here we are! A wonderful Kaley Cuoco is back, unintentionally stumbling into more international mysteries and struggling with her sobriety, we’re sure. If you never saw the first one, watch it quickly before the new one debuts. It’s addictive enough to binge in a weekend.

“They Call Me Magic”

Friday, April 22, Apple TV+

Think of it as a counterpart to HBO’s splashy (and supremely controversial) “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.” Or maybe a response to ESPN and Netflix’s “The Last Dance.” But however you think of it, this four-part documentary goes deep into Magic Johnson’s life, from his early days as a college basketball phenom to his time with the Lakers to his truly life-changing admission that he had contracted the HIV virus and beyond – to his philanthropic and entrepreneurial work. This documentary looks, well, magical.

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