Under the Dome
Mondays (CBS): One of the best Stephen King adaptations to date, and they even worked in a reference to The Simpsons Movie. Under the Dome has shown a few signs of padding the story to fill 13 episodes (teen romance—phttt, who needs it?), but the tension ratchets up just enough every week to keep the hooks in. (Almost) all is forgiven, Rachelle Lefevre.
Orange Is the New Black
Streaming (Netflix): Like Netflix’s previous Big Event, Arrested Development, prison dramedy Orange Is the New Black gets better with each episode, rolling out surprising back stories for the characters surrounding “yuppie white girl” inmate Piper (a fantastic Taylor Schilling). Anyone who thought showrunner Jenji Kohan was a one-trick Weeds pony can suck it.
Sundays (Showtime): In contrast to his hilarious, almost unrecognizable cameo in Larry David’s upcoming HBO movie Clear History, Ray Donovan is Liev Schreiber’s defining Intense Mofo role. Hollywood “fixer” Ray has more issues than Variety, and his family (including an equally intense Jon Voight) is a nightmare—which, of course, makes for great TV.
Thursdays (FX): If you gave up on Wilfred during 2012’s weird ’n’ dark Season 2, don’t bother coming back—it’s still weird ’n’ dark. Ryan (Elijah Wood) is more convinced than ever that he’s crazy, and it’s less clear than ever if his talking-dog frenemy Wilfred (Jason Gann) is there to pull him back from, or push him over, the edge. Hence, funny!
Wednesdays (FX): After a rote pilot episode with a Killing aftertaste, Tex-Mex-border crime drama The Bridge slipped into a groove and started earning its FX keep. Stars Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir bring new twists to their odd-couple cop dynamic every week, and Annabeth Gish’s side-plot is finally making tense sense. Always trust in FX.
Sundays (HBO): It took a season and change, but The Only TV Column That Matters™ is now convinced that Olivia Munn is worthy of her news-geek-dream-girl role of financial reporter Sloan Sabbith—if only the rest of The Newsroom women owned it like she does. On all other fronts, Aaron Sorkin’s liberal-media-porn dramedy is sharper than ever.
Fridays (Starz): Yeah, I get it—you’re never going to subscribe to Starz, so quit going on about shows like Spartacus, Boss and Magic City, right? What-ever. Like the first two, Magic City isn’t quite on par with the HBO and Showtime series it aspires to be, but as a period (1950s Miami) potboiler, it’s as gorgeous and addictive as anything on cable.
Wednesdays (NBC): One of the few shows in NBC’s throw-it-at-the-wall-see-what-sticks Summer of Filler campaign that actually works, Camp is a funny and sweet diversion that not only makes Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under) likeable, but also pulls off a decent Glee/Parenthood tone-meld with only a few glitches (teen romance—phttt, who needs it?).
Mondays (NBC): NBC could have done better—hell, any—rollout work on keeping Siberia’s secret (it’s a fake reality-survival show … clarification: more fake than usual), but it’s still stoopid fun watching to see who’s going to die next (Bear Grylls, take note). The biggest mystery: What was Carolina (Joyce Giraud) thinking wearing six feet of hair into the wilderness?
Nikki & Sara Live
Tuesdays (MTV): Sometimes, MTV gets it right: Not only did it give comics/podcasters Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer their own show last year, but also picked it up for a second season—now shut up about the music videos already. Nikki & Sara Live is essentially a junior Daily Show without the old, gray hosts (sorry, Jon Stewart—come back soon).