Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry
Just about the best news I heard all week: CBS's renewal of the splendid The Good Wife for a sixth season, among a ton of other pick-ups. If the month or more of special-Sunday distractions (Super Bowl, Olympics, Oscars) caused you to drift away, now's a great time for "Opting Back In." Which happens to be the name of a keynote speech Alicia (Julianna Margulies) is nervously preparing for the annual American Bar Association powwow in New York City — an occasion allowing for a terrific running gag involving new Mayor Bill De Blasio (Sunday, 9/8c).
Adding pressure to Alicia's moment in the spotlight: the knowledge that among those in the audience is a lucrative rainmaker (Jill Hennessy) whose $60 million portfolio is up for bids, and naturally our two favorite Chicago rival firms are fighting for her favor. While Alicia frets over a blank screen, her mind wanders (in evocative flashbacks that will be catnip to fans) to the dark days preceding the very start of the series, when a more mousy and timid Mrs. Florrick was trying to re-enter the workplace, mired in political-sexual scandal as the "disgraced spouse." Wait until the modern-day version learns that a new scandal is brewing in her husband the governor's office, over voter fraud, with Eric Bogosian (from the Office of Public Integrity) leading the charge and ensnaring Will (Josh Charles) in the investigation.
Added bonus: Emmy winner Carrie Preston (for guest actress) is back as the adorably flustered barracuda-in-sheep's-clothing Elsbeth Tascioni, whose run-in with a disgruntled Times Square costumed bear provides delicious comic relief at a tense time for the Florricks and their nearest and dearest.
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ZOMBIE CHIC: Even a scattered, uneven season of AMC's The Walking Dead can't dim its monstrous ratings power on Sundays. A new variation of the undead mythos, ABC's emotionally driven Resurrection, scored big numbers in its heavily promoted premiere last Sunday in direct competition with Dead. (The pilot episode is being repeated Saturday at 8/7c in advance of the second episode, Sunday at 9/8c.) Not bad timing for pay cable's EPIX to explore the zombie phenomenon in the cheeky, and occasionally cheesy, new documentary Doc of the Dead (Saturday, 8/7c). It's the centerpiece of a daylong EPIX zombie-thon that includes a remastered version of the seminal Night of the Living Dead (6:15/5:15c) and the TV premiere of World War Z (9:30/8:30c). These two movies represent the extremes of zombie culture: one low-budget, the other anything but, and they also illuminate one of Doc's more engaging debates: slow vs. fast zombies, which is scarier?
HAVE WE MET? A distinct and unfortunate whiff of déjà view greets the arrival of NBC's new serialized thriller Crisis (Sunday, 10/9c), which can't help but feel like the second coming of CBS's fall dud Hostages, although this conspiracy-laden D.C. hostage melodrama executes its bold plan out in the open. In the twist-filled pilot episode — these things often start out well (even Hostages took a while to get irredeemably silly) — a mastermind engineers the mass kidnapping of a bus full of kids whose rich-and-powerful parents (including the president) are coerced to do whatever it takes, legal or usually not, to get them back.
The ravishing Gillian Anderson, enjoying a career renaissance with stylish turns in bold series including Hannibal and BBC/Netflix's The Fall, classes up the joint as a captain of industry whose daughter is among the captives and whose estranged sister (Rachael Taylor) leads the FBI rescue effort. Yes, there are contrivances galore, including a rookie Secret Service agent (Lance Gross) called into heroic action on his first day and a milquetoast-dad chaperone (Dermot Mulroney) who steps up in unexpected ways. The first chapters are compelling enough, but after Hostages, it's hard not to be skeptical when we've just seen how quickly this sort of heightened situation can lapse into overheated nonsense.
GO EAST: This is always a big weekend for college hoops fans, with the NCAA's annual Selection Sunday ritual on CBS (6/5c) officially igniting the March Madness to come. ESPN takes a nostalgic breather later in the night with its latest 30 for 30 documentary, the stirring Requiem for the Big East (9/8c). Legendary coaches including Georgetown's John Thompson and Syracuse's still-in-the-game Jim Boeheim are among those recalling the glory days of the upstart conference that, rising alongside the future powerhouse ESPN, took the sports world by storm with classic rivalries and such superstar talents as Patrick Ewing. Big East founder Jim Gavitt's vision of a major tournament housed in Madison Square Garden soon came to pass, generating Final Four contenders from feared behemoths to Cinderellas. It's a classic rise-and-fall chronicle, as overexpansion and the lucre of football money led to a forever-altered landscape for these scrappy teams. "It was great theater," recalls one participant fondly. And as a sportswriter eulogizes of the Big East's recent reformation: "They ran out all the poets and brought in all the salespeople." Once again, sports serves as a mighty metaphor for the culture at large.
THE WEEKEND GUIDE: Looking for some out-of-this-world TV? National Geographic Channel goes Live From Space in a two-hour Friday special (8/7c) that includes live footage and a tour of the International Space Station, with viewers treated to some of the most epic views of Earth imaginable. Soledad O'Brien hosts from Mission Control in Houston, where hopefully there will be no problems. ... Fox banishes its midseason legal drama Rake to a new Friday berth (8/7c), but the real draw remains the comedies: the endearing military sitcom Enlisted (9/8c), in which the brothers encounter three veterans — played by the formidable Stacy Keach, Dean Stockwell and Barry Bostwick — who seem like projections of who they'll become in the future; and now in its very final weeks, the ever-underrated Raising Hope (9:30/8:30c), featuring the great Judith Light as Virginia's boss. ... Will's murder trial begins on NBC's mesmerizing Hannibal (Friday, 10/9c), and another Copycat killing could affect the verdict. ... Cinemax's bare-knuckled guilty pleasure Banshee wraps its second season (10/9c) with Lucas and Carrie once again facing the wrath of Rabbit (which is scarier than it sounds). ... A bleeping marathon alert: HBO acknowledges the 10th anniversary of its pungent Western series Deadwood with a 36-episode replay of the entire series on HBO Zone, starting Saturday at 10 a.m./9c. Starting April 2, HBO Signature will air the entire series, stripped Monday-Friday at 8/7c. Many fans still think a fourth season or even a movie would be nice. (Don't hold your breath.) ... Also unlikely to get a reprieve: Lifetime's Army Wives, canceled after seven seasons but fondly remembered in a two-hour retrospective, Army Wives: A Final Salute (Sunday, 9/8c), with original cast members including Kim Delaney, Sally Pressman and Brigid Brannagh among those returning to share their memories, along with real-life military wives relating how the show reflected their own experiences. ... The after-show craze may finally have peaked, as Discovery's gimmicky Naked and Afraid returns for a second season of "super-sized" episodes (Sunday, 9/8c), followed by the inevitable discussion program Naked After Dark (10:15/9:15c), hosted by comedian Josh Wolf, who may or may not be clothed.
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