The Television Critics Assn. press tour can be a long slog. But for TV geeks it has something of a noble purpose — to promote the best and brightest coming from the major networks. These days the nets rely as much as the buzz that shows create among the assembled journos as they do on the coverage of the panels.
Here are a dozen cable programs that intrigued during the first three days of gabfest at Pasadena’s Langham Huntington hotel:
1. OWN’s docudrama series on Lindsay Lohan looks compelling and ridiculous, which is addiction in a nutshell. Oprah tries, once again, to save this little red-headed bird with a broken wing and a criminal record. Lindsay is selfish, self-absorbed and suffering from a devastating disease. Will she finally find the strength to turn her life around and embrace the road to sobriety? Maybe we’ll find out in “Lohan,” premiering March 9.
2. “The Normal Heart” (HBO). Ryan Murphy joked that he took out a second mortgage on his house to buy the rights to Larry Kramer’s award-winning play about the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s. And by the looks of things, it paid off. With Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts and Jim Parsons starring in the TV movie, bowing in May, “Heart” stands to make an impression unlike anything on the small screen since “And the Band Played On.”
3. A & E’s “Those Who Kill.” Coming off the dark and gritty “Hit and Miss,” in which she played a pre-op transsexual murderer-for-hire, Chloe Sevigny is now a homicide detective in Pittsburgh who tracks down serial killers. Based on a Danish crime series. Another one. Because the Scandinavians do creepy and bleak like none other. Which is funny considering Denmark was voted happiest country in the world. March 3
4. “Broad City” (Comedy Central) From exec producers Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer and Amy Poehler. Two 20-somethings (played by clearly older-than-20-somethings Jacobson and Glazer) navigate their way through life in NYC. Based on their hit web series, this scripted 10-show skein–featuring guest stars like “SNL’s” Fred Armisen and Amy Sedaris—-shares in the ribald tradition of “Girls” but reflects youth in a way that appears even more uproarious — and achingly real. Jacobson and Glazer are just a big, glorious, hot mess. Jan. 22.
5. IFC’s “The Spoils of Babylon.” This over-the-top parody starring Tobey Maguire and Kristen Wiig looks like the funniest riff on nightmare soaps since “Fresno.” Premiered Jan. 9
6. Lifetime is celebrating its 30th anniversary in February with a slate of fresh shows, most notably “Flowers in the Attic,” a TV movie adaptation of the V.C. Andrews cult classic with an incest plot that drove kids in the 80’s to snatch this book from their parents’ shelves and read it under their bedsheets. (Sequel already in the works). Between “August: Osage County” and this, incest is obviously the new vampire. Jan. 18
7. MTV’s “Faking It.” Two girls pretend to be lesbians to gain popularity at a Texas high school. Looks cute and fun and will undoubtedly appeal to teens eager to see something that flips gay stereotyping on its head. “Faking it” might just finally put a “positive” spin on being openly gay and send an encouraging message to teens. April 22
8. Turner’s “The Last Ship.” In the new drama series from Michael Bay, most of the world is destroyed in an apocalypse, but everybody aboard this lone Navy ship survives and must now confront the reality of their existence. Coming off his success as “Dr. McSteamy” on “Grey’s Anatomy,” Eric Danes, as the ship’s captain, is sure to generate legions of female fans, but the show is sure to draw in anyone interested in a different kind of dystopian drama where the survivors are pretty much stuck on the high seas. Summer
9. “Black Sails” (Starz). This new Michael Bay production tracks pirates on the high seas. For pirate enthusiasts. Because pirates are the new on-trend criminals. Think: “Captain Phillips” meets “Pirates of the Caribbean” meets the Wild West. Premieres Jan. 25
10. “Outlander” (Starz). This new series is based on the internationally bestselling novels by Diana Gabaldon that bored middle-age housewives have been going absolutely bananas over. It’s set in the 1700’s, involves time travel and sexy period-piece costumes, and its Harlequin Romance-esque plot is sure to fuel breathy playground chatter for the next year. 3rd quarter
11. “Fleming: The Man Who Would be Bond.” This four-part mini-series on BBC America stars Dominic Cooper as Ian Fleming, the rogue World War II-era spy whose autobiographical novels inspired James Bond. Filled with suspense, intrigue and stunning visuals of high society London as it’s being ravaged by war — there’s a love scene where bombs are going off that’ll leave you gasping — “Fleming” is a veritable smallscreen candy shoppe for 007 enthusiasts. Jan. 29
12. And from the we’ll-stick-with-it department: “Girls” (HBO). Just renewed for a fourth season, the third season of Lena Dunham’s love letter to dysfunctional young adulthood promises more nudity, explosive emotional meltdowns and messy relationships both platonic and romantic. While the series seems to have polarized its audience, Dunham and exec producer Judd Apatow are focused on exploring in realistic fashion the untidy underbelly of twentysomething existence in New York City. “If you’re not into me that’s your problem,” told Dunham to a heckler of late. We’re into her. Season three premieres Jan. 12
Pictured: Comedy Central’s “Broad City”