With Olympics Concluded, New Shows Compete For Viewers

TV fans may notice an explosion of new material this week. That's because many networks and cable channels delayed airing new episodes or the start of news series until after the Olympics ended.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

TV fans might notice an explosion of new material on the small screen this week. That's because many TV networks and cable channels delayed airing new episodes of shows, or the start of news series, until after the Winter Olympics ended.

Here to tell us about the surge in new TV programming this week is NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans. How are you doing, Eric?

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: I'm doing great.

GREENE: So the Winter Olympics coverage ended Sunday night, and it seems like we're going to get this flood of new episodes from TV shows, like "How I Met Your Mother," "The Blacklist." What's going on?

DEGGANS: Well, the Winter Olympics is such a huge TV event that a lot of networks, especially, just decided to press a pause button; let that huge TV event kind of play out, and then bring on new shows and also, bring back new episodes of old shows that people may be looking forward to. One of the shows everybody is looking forward to - ABC's "Scandal," which comes back on Thursday after two months without new episodes. So I think people are a little starved for some new material here.

GREENE: OK. So this is Kerry Washington's "Scandal," as one show that fans are looking forward to finally getting some new episodes. Where else are you seeing the anticipation?

DEGGANS: Well, personally, I can't wait to see FX's "The Americans." It returns for its second season tonight, and it features Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as a couple of undercover Russian spies, living in 1980s America as married, suburban parents. And the twist here is that even their two kids don't know who they really are. And this season, their older daughter has started to wonder what Mommy and Daddy are doing, you know, when they're not around the house.

We've got a scene here where the parents are talking to their daughter after she barged into their bedroom, and she thought she was going to discover something. And what she really saw was Mommy and Daddy in a compromising position.

GREENE: Uh-oh.

DEGGANS: So let's listen to this.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE AMERICANS")

KERI RUSSELL: (As Elizabeth Jennings) We have to be able to trust each other.

MATTHEW RHYS: (As Phillip Jennings) It is OK. Go get your things for school.

HOLLY TAYLOR: (As Paige Jennings) Come on.

RHYS: (As Phillip Jennings) What do you think?

RUSSELL: (As Elizabeth Jennings) Who knows what's going on in that little head?

RHYS: (As Phillip Jennings) Oh, it will be a while before she walks in on us again.

RUSSELL: (As Elizabeth Jennings) Based on what she saw last night, I'm surprised she even came down stairs this morning.

GREENE: Eeeew!

(LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: If there's any way to keep your kids from snooping on you, I think that's the way to do it.

GREENE: Yeah, I think their real lives as spies are safe for a little while now, probably.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Well, you know, one guy who seems to be making a splash, the ex-"Saturday Night Live" player Fred Armisen. He's got a few projects going on, it sounds like.

DEGGANS: Exactly. On Monday, folks who watched Seth Meyers take over as the new host of NBC's "Late Night" show also saw Fred Armisen make his debut as that show's bandleader. But Armisen also costars in a show that a lot of critics like me love, which is "Portlandia." And it returns to IFC on Thursday. On that show, he joins Carrie Brownstein for a fourth season skewering all the liberal, hipster culture around Portland; lots of funny skits.

Now, we've got a sample of one where Armisen plays a guy who just went out on a date; and then he gets a visit from a date checker, who tries to verify all the stuff he told this woman that he just had dinner with.

GREENE: Oh, wow. A date checker, I've got to hear this.

DEGGANS: Exactly, let's check this out.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PORTLANDIA")

FRED ARMISEN: (As character) And you said that your favorite show is "Breaking Bad," when in reality, you've never seen an episode, and you're still catching up on "True Blood."

DEGGANS: Now, I've got to say, I am really glad they didn't have anything like this when I was younger.

GREENE: I would have been in trouble, in my dating days.

DEGGANS: I'm telling you.

GREENE: So we're talking about all these new shows. I assume that not all of them are going to be hits. You're probably going to have some failures. Are you getting any hints of what those will be?

DEGGANS: Well, ABC has a show debuting tonight that's called "Mixology." And it's a good try at a different kind of concept. It's basically a show where the entire season revolves around 11 different people who are trying to find a romantic connection on one night, in a bar in Manhattan's Meatpacking District. But the characters are just not that interesting, and hanging out with a bunch of uninteresting people in a bar is about the worst way you can spend your time.

GREENE: Eric, thanks - as always - for coming on.

DEGGANS: Always great to be here.

GREENE: That's NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans, and this is NPR News.

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