If you currently have any free time to speak of, prepare for it to be sucked up by the gaping and undeniably magnetic black hole that is television.
April is a particularly packed month for TV, and not just any old TV. We’re talking about the kind of TV worth making time for, the kind you shouldn’t let pile up on your DVR or lie festering in your “Oh, I meant to get around to that” queue. Some of the year’s best shows will bow in the next few weeks, thanks to April’s emergence as TV’s “prestige season” before the Emmy nomination ballots are due in June.
So to help you cut through the oncoming tidal wave, here are our 11 most highly anticipated April television debuts, listed in order of premiere date.
Archer season 8 (April 5, FXX)
A couple times since Archer’s 2009 debut, creator Adam Reed has grown bored with the show’s entire “James Bond, but hilarious” premise, thrown the whole thing out, and tried something new. In season five, it was Archer does Miami Vice; in season seven, it was Archer meets Magnum P.I. In season eight, it’s going to be Archer: Dreamland, as Reed voyages inside Sterling Archer’s comatose brain to act out the 1940s noir fantasy playing out therein.
Better Call Saul (April 10, AMC)
Season two was a banner year for this Breaking Bad prequel, as it both deepened its storytelling and stepped out of its parent show’s shadow. We’ve seen two episodes of Better Call Saul’s third season, and both employ the unexpected, zigzagging storytelling that creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have made famous, with greater confidence than ever before. And as you can tell from the trailer above, another familiar face from Breaking Bad is stopping by.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 (April 14, Netflix)
Shout! Factory purchased the rights to Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 2015 and has produced a brand new, Kickstarter-funded season with the oversight of series creator Joel Hodgson alongside a whole new cast. They’ve been keeping mum about the details, but it’s a guy and two robots making fun of bad movies. That seems really, really hard to screw up.
Doctor Who season 10 and Class (April 15, BBC America)
Only one episode of Doctor Who aired in 2016: the annual Christmas special (which wasn’t very good). But the series’ ninth season, which aired back in 2015, was its best in years, and the upcoming 10th season will be the last for both showrunner Steven Moffat and current Doctor Peter Capaldi. It will also be the first season for a new companion — the first openly gay companion in the series’ history, in fact! — played by Pearl Mackie. And if that’s not enough, follow it up with the new spinoff Class, which is a high school drama with time travel. What’s not to love?
The Leftovers season three (April 16, HBO)
In its first season, The Leftovers was a divisive show beloved by a tiny cult fan base; in its second, it became one of those shows TV critics wouldn’t shut up about. Now, as it embarks on its eight-episode third and final season, Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s adaptation of Perrotta’s 2011 novel isn’t just closing up shop. It’s traveling to Australia to do so. (Fans of Lindelof’s previous series, Lost, will remember that Australia was vital to that show, too.) How will it all end? The trailer promises dark portents and a flood that will destroy the planet. But we know The Leftovers well enough by now to say we could never, ever predict what’s next.
Veep season six (April 16, HBO)
HBO’s black comedy about dysfunctional Washington politics has always been prescient, but as the sixth season looms, the one question on everyone’s mind is inevitably, “How the hell is Veep going to top what’s actually happening in real life?!” Luckily, the show isn’t planning to spend as much time on Capitol Hill as it did in previous seasons, now that Selina Meyer (the incomparable Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has been sidelined from political life after losing her presidency at the end of season five in an unprecedented, humiliating clusterfuck.
Fargo year three (April 19, FX)
There are so many ways the third season of FX’s esteemed anthology series could go wrong — especially as the show abandons the ’70s period piece grandeur of its second season for a story set in 2010, with what seem to be minimal connections to the first two seasons. But the show is still set in the world full of “You betchas!” and murder created by the Coen Brothers with their seminal 1996 film, and just like those first two seasons, season three boasts a great cast that includes Ewan McGregor, Carrie Coon, and Michael Stuhlbarg. It also has Mary Elizabeth Winstead saying, “unfathomable pinheadery”! So we’ll probably be just fine.
Great News (April 25, NBC)
The first episode of this new comedy, from Tracey Wigfield and her former 30 Rock boss Tina Fey, has plenty of rough patches. But Vox’s third commandment of television is “Most comedy pilots are awful, and thou shalt give all comedies some time to find their groove.” To its credit, Great News starts turning things around immediately. By the third episode (we’ve seen 10), we were laughing consistently, thanks to a killer cast and some of that perfectly calibrated comedic randomness Fey and Wigfield are so beloved for.
The Handmaid's Tale (April 26, Hulu)
Of all the shows on this list, The Handmaid’s Tale is probably our number one most anticipated new show of the month — or hell, maybe the year. Hulu’s new drama is a gorgeous, fittingly disturbing retelling of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, in which fertility is rare and the women who can have children are forced into reproductive servitude. Director Reed Morano drenches every frame in dread and tension, while star Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) anchors it all with a quiet determination.
Dear White People (April 28, Netflix)
Justin Simien’s TV adaptation of his own movie (2014’s Dear White People) will also explore the simmering resentment poisoning an Ivy League campus from the perspective of its black students, who are fed up with the unequal treatment and constant condescension they face from their white peers. But just to be clear, Dear White People is a comedy, with searing commentary lurking inside razor sharp jokes.
American Gods (April 30, Starz)
Maybe no project on this list has been quite as highly anticipated for quite as long as American Gods, Starz’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s popular 2001 novel that’s been in development since 2014. But the show — which details the myriad clashes between various gods from throughout mythology — is finally upon us, and with a cast that’s immediately one of TV’s best. Ian McShane is the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, Orlando Jones is Mr. Nancy, and Gillian Anderson is the enigmatic deity Media. And with Hannibal’s Bryan Fuller as a co-creator, you can bet American Gods will have some unforgettable, inevitably disorienting visuals to boot.