SyFy, Fridays, 9?10 p.m.
KEN’S TAKE: I didn’t think I’d get hooked on this Battlestar Galactica prequel, but boy, does it ever work as first-rate soap opera. The struggles between the clans of Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales are thoroughly engrossing; the notion of making what is arguably the main character a corpse, an avatar, and a Cylon — not to mention a terrorist sympathizer — is proving to be nothing less than mesmerizing.
WHAT’S NEXT: Daniel (Stoltz) risks everything for his daughter, Zoe (Alessandra Torresani), and engages in a bitter standoff with Joseph (Morales), while Lacy (Magda Apanowicz) is pulled into a dangerous orbit.
FX, Mondays, 10?11 p.m.
KEN’S TAKE: The initial heavy use of flash-forwards to the death of Tate Donovan’s Tom Shayes proved to be just a tease to get viewers hooked. They’ve now (mostly) been replaced with a wonderfully twisty, often quietly funny season.
WHAT’S NEXT: Exec producer Glenn Kessler says Patty’s (Glen Close) recurring nightmare will lead to some ”startling revelations” about her past. And the body count? Yep, that’ll be going up. ”This is Damages,” reminds Kessler. ”So, absolutely.”
TNT, TUESDAYS, 10?11 p.m.
KEN’S TAKE: If you crossed NYPD Blue with Michael Mann’s Heat, you’d get an idea of this cop show’s ambitions. Thanks to the ever-increasing solidarity of the ensemble cast, this controlled chaos is making for a drama that’s pleasurably stressful, essential viewing.
WHAT’S NEXT: Series creator Ann Biderman confirms that Lydia (Regina King) will be reunited with her ex-partner (Tom Everett Scott) in the April 6 finale. Sort of. Hedges Biderman, ”It’s quite surprising.”
Fox, returns April 13, 9?10 p.m.
KEN’S TAKE: This musical comedy-drama has so firmly established itself in pop culture that it’s hard to believe it’s only just finishing out its first season. Everything from the tricky teen-pregnancy plot to Jane Lynch’s daringly, uniquely arch performance as coach Sue Sylvester are locking into place like the rhythms of one of the show’s fine musical numbers.
WHAT’S NEXT: For the kids of New Directions, the road to regionals will be paved with totally awesome stunts! Among them: an all-Madonna hour, an episode directed by Joss Whedon (featuring his Dr. Horrible muse, Neil Patrick Harris), and the arrival of Molly Shannon as the school’s badminton coach and nemesis to Sue.
6. MODERN FAMILY
ABC, Wednesdays, 9?9:30 p.m.
KEN’S TAKE: There are so many comedy styles in play in this ensemble sitcom that it’s a wonder the tone doesn’t wobble. But from the witty dialogue to the slapstick visual gags, Family offers up a feast of laughs every week. It’s the rare new show that has true broad-based appeal.
WHAT’S NEXT: The decision to send the entire family to Hawaii for an episode in May ”is not some cheap ratings ploy,” insists exec producer Steve Levitan. ”It’s just a regular episode that happens to be set on a family vacation.”
Fox, returns APRIL 1, 9?10 p.m.
KEN’S TAKE: Tension between the alternate universes has only been increasing, even as the emotional through-line of this season — John Noble’s Walter Bishop coming to terms with the (wilder, more aggressive) man he was and the (brilliant but repentant) man he is now — becomes more moving and poignant.
WHAT’S NEXT: The relationship between Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Olivia (Anna Torv) ”will develop a lot” by the end of the season, teases exec producer Jeff Pinkner. But the duo we’re most looking forward to getting together are partners-turned-frenemies William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) and Walter, who finally come face-to-face ”over there” in the big two-part finale.
4. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
NBC, premieres APRIL 30, 8?9 p.m.
KEN’S TAKE: Having seen this new season on DIRECTV’s 101 Network, I can say with assurance that you’re going to moan, cry, and cheer at the new obstacles facing Coach Eric (Kyle Chandler) and Tami (Connie Britton) Taylor.
WHAT’S NEXT: The season 4 highlight reel includes a significant death, a major breakup, an abortion scandal, a shocking arrest, and a season-ending showdown between the scrappy underdog East Dillon Lions and the mighty Panthers. Also of note: Taylor Kitsch takes his shirt off at least three times.
ABC, Tuesdays, 9?10 p.m.
KEN’S TAKE: The final season is taking its shape from not only its much-bruited ”flash-sideways” sequences but also the decision to focus part of each episode on an individual character. So far, the result has been rich storytelling that’s giving up more secrets with every hour, as the series comes to what looks like a triumphant climax.
WHAT’S NEXT: Ding-dong, the Temple’s gone. So now what? Lost‘s castaways will be asking that very question as they decide whether to join Un-Locke/the Monster (Terry O’Quinn) in his quest to flee the Island. Also on tap: a flashback episode for Richard Alpert (Nestor Carbonell), and a Sideways-world episode for Ben Linus (Michael Emerson).
2. BREAKING BAD
AMC, premieres march 21, 10?11 p.m.
KEN’S TAKE: His marriage in crisis, Bryan Cranston’s Walt is driven as never before to turn his life of meth-making crime into something positive, while Aaron Paul’s Jesse is trying to find inner peace via rehab. If you think either of those things will come to pass, you don’t know what you’re missing on TV’s wildest, most unpredictable series.
WHAT’S NEXT: The drama’s third-season premiere is a game changer in the truest sense of the word. ”My wife finds out that I’m a drug dealer,” reveals Cranston, ”and everything [Walt] worked for could come crumbling down.”
1. THE GOOD WIFE
CBS, Tuesdays, 10-11 p.m.
KEN’S TAKE: What could have been a wronged-woman nighttime soap rapidly proved to be a sharp-witted, hard-charging law show with absorbing home-life subplots. It’s a measure of how good Julianna Margulies is that, even before hubby Chris Noth came back home, you saw the hurt and rage in her eyes every week. Plus the supporting cast, especially Archie Panjabi and Josh Charles, is bracingly strong.
WHAT’S NEXT: Are Peter and Alicia headed toward reconciliation? ”I don’t know if they’ll be able to recover or not,” Noth teases. ”That’s part of the ongoing drama.” The workplace is similarly uneasy. The romantic interactions between Alicia and her boss, old friend Will Gardner (Charles), come to a head in a surprising way. Plus, the decision about who’ll get the lone junior associate position at Stern, Lockhart, & Gardner — Alicia or her competition Cary (Matt Czuchry)? — plays out just as the recession-strapped firm brings on a new bigwig.