TCA Press Tour: What Looks Interesting So Far -- 15 Shows That Are Noteworthy

Elisabeth Moss Holly Hunter Top of the Lake Winter TCA 2013 - H

If you're thinking it's too early for the sessions to start blurring together at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, aka The Death March With Cocktails, then you've never been to one that starts with cable. It's a blur of channels trying to tout their upcoming shows without running over their (almost always too short) allotted time and pissing off the channel that follows.

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Plug in, listen and watch, ask questions, unplug and shift ballrooms. Repeat. It's roughly 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. straight, then some kind of party afterward. Every day. No complaints, of course. But as NBC was the first network to arrive on Sunday -- finally slowing things down a bit with writing breaks -- here's a quick catch-up on channels and shows that caught my attention (written while mostly ignoring some NBCUniversal cable reality fare).

Here's what I'm either looking forward to with anticipation, know already to be excellent and thus buzz-worthy or popped from a nonstop dog-and-pony show of panels. To spice things up a bit, I'll even do it in order. Let's go.

1. Rectify, Sundance Channel: This new drama series from creator-writer-director Ray McKinnon about a possibly innocent man who gets out of prison after 19 years looks incredible and is the show I'm most excited to immerse myself in. (Premieres April 22)

2. Top of the Lake, Sundance Channel: This dark, Jane Campion miniseries starring Elisabeth Moss and Holly Hunter is a close second. Sundance is really stepping up its game, people. (March 18)

3. Behind the Candelabra, HBO: The clips for this Liberace movie from Steven Soderbergh and starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon were jaw-dropping -- in a good way. Probably a great way. (May)

4. Orphan Black, BBC America: All we saw was a clip of this series about clones, but that was enough for me. All in. (March 30)

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5. Phil Spector, HBO: You're kidding, right? Al Pacino in crazy wigs? Bring it on. (March)

6. Ripper Street, BBC America: This thriller set in East London after the Jack the Ripper killings looks intriguing and is getting good reviews in Britain. (Jan. 19)

7. Parade's End, HBO: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall doing Ford Madox Ford. Again, all in. (Feb. 26)

8. 1600 Penn, NBC: I've already reviewed this comedy -- very positively -- and the session for it only confirmed how funny the producers are, the chemistry of the cast, etc. The advanced pilot did well in the ratings, but Thursday's first episode will be a key moment. And you should watch. (And yes, it's much, much better than its promos.) NBC should stick with this one no matter what. Nurture it. (Jan. 10)

9. Bates Motel, A&E Network: This is not an homage to Psycho but a jumping-off point for a look into the young Norman Bates. And it stars Vera Farmiga. An ongoing series from Carlton Cuse. Yes. (March 18)

10. The President's Gatekeepers, Discovery: This documentary about White House chiefs of staff went 19-for-19 in getting them to talk. And since each man agrees he was the second-most powerful person in the free world, it's pretty damned interesting. (July)

11. Alpha Dogs, Nat Geo Wild: Dogs that are trained for military and police service. Like, highly trained. And not just a dog show -- a unique and entertaining look at the people who train them. One of the most surprising panels of TCA. (TBA)

12. Family Tree, HBO: We saw clips of this upcoming comedy from Christopher Guest. And really, once you say "a comedy series from Christopher Guest," that's pretty much all you need, if you have taste. (Spring)

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13. Blackboard Wars, OWN: This panel was interesting not only because charter schools are a hot-button issue but because turning around a school in New Orleans with a passionate new principal was riveting from scene to scene. (March)

14. Out There. IFC. Who knows if this animated series about coming of age will work out or not, but creator-writer Ryan Quincy (South Park) certainly made a case for not missing it. (Feb. 22)

15. Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, HBO: An incredibly depressing but important documentary about a notorious case of a Catholic priest molesting deaf boys. It was hard to sit through the panel but clearly a film (which had a brief run in theaters) that needs to be seen. (Feb. 4)


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