You Should Watch It
Monday, March 18 (A&E)
Series Debut: A modern-day "prequel" to the 1960 classic Psycho? A&E has entertained worse ideas for series, including sequel reality shows following the further adventures of Gene Simmons' and Criss Angel's respective hairpieces. Bates Motel tells the story of how a teenage Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) eventually grows up to become a serial killer, with help from devoted single mom Norma Louise (Vera Farmiga). Farmiga's commanding presence alone makes Bates Motel a must-see pilot; if the series can sustain this strange, engaging mother/son relationship over 10 episodes, A&E may finally have a drama to brag about besides Longmire (sorry, The Glades).
Friday, March 15 (Cinemax)
Season Finale: Chances are you haven't been watching Banshee, the bizarre-noir drama loaded with slow-boil tension, Ukranian mobsters, gratuitous sex, Amish-country intrigue and a more off-the-charts violence than Spartacus and Sons of Anarchy combined. Too bad—The Only TV Column That Matters™ suggests you get caught on Cinemax or the quasi-legal content delivery system of your choice now. When an ex-con (Antony Starr) arrived in Banshee, Penn., nine episodes ago and assumed the identity of the new town sheriff in order to get close to his former crime partner/girlfriend (Ivana Milicevic) and the diamonds they stole from Ukranian mob kingpin Mr. Rabbit (Ben Cross), there was no obvious path the story would follow; the simple "revenge" angle has been twisted into something deeper and more complex than Banshee's action-thriller exterior would suggest. Tonight's finale sets up a potentially even-wilder Season 2.
You Should DVR It
Sunday, March 17 (HBO)
Season Finale: So ... what the hell happened this season? It's as if Girls creator/writer/director/star/lead nudist Lena Dunham took all of those whirlwind Season 1 Louie comparisons the wrong way, ripping the -medy out of dramedy this year and replacing it with -pression, or worse, -meh. The funniest things Dunham's Hannah has done all season involve a neon mesh tank-top and the invention of the term "sexit" (a grand exit after sex); beyond those, not a lotta laughs. Same goes for Hannah's sad-sack crew, the uncomfortably-adrift Marnie (Allison Williams), the mostly-absent Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and the past-the-point-of-insufferable Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet). Not that Girls isn't still raw, oddly addictive and, yes, Very Important—just lighten it up a little next year, maybe. And spread the nudity around ... so to speak.
You Should Read A Book
Tuesday, March 19 (ABC)
Series Debut: Networks are apparently afraid of obvious titles anymore—this should be called Celebrity Diving, or Diving With the Stars, or Tinseltown Water Sports, anything. Splash follows 10 celebs (including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kendra Wilkinson, Chuy from Chelsea Lately and my first predicted fatality, Louie Anderson) as they train with Olympic divers and compete over several weeks (yes, this is going to drag into May) in hopes of ultimately winning ... a spot on Celebrity Death Race?
Thursday, March 14 (Discovery Health)
Series Debut: Even though Discovery Health dumped boring ol' science in favor of dumb-it-down reality filler years ago, at least the network has stayed somewhat adjacent to topic: Mystery Diagnosis, Secretly Pregnant, Bizarre ER, etc.—most "health" related. Screw all that: Here's the same blatantly-scripted wacky-family-runs-a-business "reality" series you've seen a dozen times before; this business just happens to be a St. Louis funeral home. Hilarity ensues as Funeral Boss Bill Harris orders around his four varyingly-dim kids.
Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fisher and Rebel Wilson star in the hilariously twisted and wrong Bridesmaids/Hangover mashup seen by record-breaking numbers on iTunes ... and about a dozen or so in actual theaters. (The Weinstein Co.)
Thirteen years after an online stalker broke into her home, killed her parents and escaped without a trace, will he return for the object of his cyber" obsession (Mischa Barton)? The second she reactivates her AOL account, look out! (Lionsgate)
A listless, broke supermarket employee's (Eric Mabius) unhinged new boss (Parker Posey) puts him on the fast track to big executive bucks—but he'll have to put out in order to keep it. A must for fans of Posey and low, low prices. (IFC Films)
When the family black sheep (Ryan Phillippe) returns home from rehab, sparks fly with his high-school sweetheart (Anna Paquin), who's now married to his brother (Luke Wilson). Sure, they're totally all the same age. Right? (Millennium)
Zero Dark Thirty
Mama (Jessica Chastain), Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights (Kyle Chandler) and Andy from Parks & Recreation (Chris Pratt) lead the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. As it did in real life, said mission only takes three hours. (Sony)
More New DVD Releases (March 19)
23 Minutes to Sunrise, All Together, The Big Picture, The Cleveland Show: Season 3, Dark Feed, Face to Face, Falling Uphill, Frat House, Hellgate, Hemel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Jersey Shore: Season 6, Les Miserables, Rust & Bone, Shadow People, Strange Frame