March is traditionally the time of year when flowers peek through the frost, like little buds of hope. However, as we all know in Wisconsin, March is a wildcard; it can also mean snow and bitter cold. Thankfully, in the world of television, we’ve got plenty of greenery sneaking through the bleak winter programming landscape. From the highly anticipated anthology series Feud to the underrated Cold War drama The Americans, a breath of fresh air is in store.
Feud: Bette and Joan (FX, premiering March 5)
Ryan Murphy has been a successful television creator and showrunner for a number of years, beginning with Nip/Tuck in 2003. Murphy has continued his fruitful relationship with FX and most recently brought us the 2016 smash series American Crime Story: The People V. O.J. Simpson, and American Horror Story. Now he returns with Feud, an anthology series that in its first season will profile the story of the strained relationship between high-profile Hollywood actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Feud stars Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise) and Jessica Lange (American Horror Story) as Davis and Crawford, respectively. This season takes place while the actresses were working on their 1962 drama What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. The film is about two showbiz sisters who after some success in their youth, find themselves washed up, crazy and hating one another. The plot of the film curiously mirrors the Hollywood acting divas’ peculiar relationship. I am excited to see this series. Also, I recognize that Murphy brings a certain amount of camp to his programs and this is another instance where that spirit will work to this show’s advantage. Plus, Sarandon and Lange are skilled performers, who, I anticipate, will slay the hell out of these parts. Long story short: I’M READY.
"Feud: Bette and Joan"
Shades of Blue (NBC, returning March 5)
Sometimes people are skeptical about actors who cross over to music careers. But I think Jennifer Lopez has done a pretty good job on screen. Sure, there are some cheesy rom-coms in her IMDB profile, but in recent years she has been more careful about the roles she accepts. I believe Shades of Blue is the best effort of her career. In the series, JLo stars as a New York police detective who is asked to be a “double agent” of sorts for the FBI. She experiences a good deal of internal conflict because she feels she is betraying her boss, played by Ray Liotta (Goodfellas.) There are solid performances all around in this NBC drama, from Lopez to Liotta, who came to television after finding a lack of quality parts in films. If you’re someone who enjoys police dramas like Law & Order: SVU or Blue Bloods, you should give Shades of Blue a try.
"Shades of Blue"
The Americans (FX, returning March 7)
The Americans is consistently underrated, both by audiences and award show voters. This series has the high caliber of intensity, suspense, writing and acting performances that make up a supremely excellent cable drama. The show is entering into its fifth season on FX. It stars Keri Russell (Felicity) and Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters) as two KGB officers undercover as a normal, suburban American couple during the Cold War in the 1980s. In fact, they pose as husband and wife with such electrifying chemistry, that they fell in love and had a baby together IRL! If you enjoy edgy and fulfilling dramas, check out The Americans and you will not be disappointed.
Grace and Frankie (Netflix, returning March 24)
I like to find as many excuses as I can to write about Netflix’s septuagenarian dramedy Grace and Frankie. The show is entering its third season, with a cast whose chemistry is off-the-charts combustible (although it helps if, like the stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, you have been friends with someone for almost 50 years.) Former adversaries Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin) are brought together by the same unfortunate circumstances when their law partner husbands announce they are leaving their wives for each other (plot twist!) Now Grace and Frankie have become roommates as well as trusted friends and confidants, despite their Odd Couple-like relationship. Last we left them, Grace is feeling heartbroken and guilty after her pursuit of a married crush goes wrong. Meanwhile, Frankie feels lost without her ex-husband and is still trying to date again. This is one of the smartest written and best acted shows of the decade. There isn’t much else I can say other than go watch it!
"Grace and Frankie"
13 Reasons Why (Netflix, premiering March 31)
13 Reasons Why is a new series from Netflix, adapted from a novel of the same name by Jay Asher. The teen drama found its way to the streaming service via an unlikely source, actress and musician Selena Gomez’s mom. She brought the book to Gomez’s attention as an idea for a series for Selena’s production company to produce. The show is about a series of audio tapes left behind by a teenage girl who committed suicide after encountering sustained bullying from her peers. Each of the 13 tapes left behind are meant and marked for a different individual who led the main character Hannah to kill herself. The series is laced with the same drama, suspense and eeriness as the recently ended hit drama Pretty Little Liars. I’m personally quite intrigued by this show and have high hopes for its execution. If this program comes together, it could be the next big teen TV drama. So if you have a PLL-sized hole in your television heart, I recommend you try 13 Reasons Why.