‘Following,’ ‘Bates Motel,’ ‘Defiance’: Next in promising genre TV

Jan. 22, 2013 | 10:33 a.m.
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Rachel Nichols as Kiera Cameron and Victor Webster as Carlos Fonnegra in "Continuum." (Syfy)

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Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon), left, and Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) in "The Following." (David Giesbrecht / Fox)

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Det. Sgt. Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn), left, Det. Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew MacFadyen) and Emily Reid (Amanda Hale) in "Ripper Street." (Jonathan Hession / Tiger Aspect / BBC)

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Matt Davis as Jeff, left, and Jessica Lucas as Skye in "The Cult." (Jack Rowand / The CW)

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Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates, left, and Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates in "Bates Motel." (Joe Lederer / A&E)

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David S. Goyer, right, and Tom Riley on the set of "Da Vinci's Demons." (Grace Cromey-Hawke/Starz)

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Tony Curran as Datak Tarr, left, Julie Benz as Amanda Rosewater and Graham Greene as Rafe McCawley in "Defiance." (Ben Mark Holzberg / Syfy)

“Fringe” might have just concluded its run last week with an emotional two-hour finale, but that’s hardly reason for discerning genre television fans to despair. AMC’s hit zombie series “The Walking Dead” picks up its run of third season episodes next month, while HBO’s lavish fantasy serial “Game of Thrones” returns for its third season in March. And there’s a host of new, interesting offerings as well.

Some, such as “Continuum” and “Ripper Street,” have been road-tested in other countries. Others, such as “Defiance,” are totally unknown properties with serious world-building potential. And then there’s “Bates Motel,” which might be the only show that can tout links to Alfred Hitchcock and “Lost.” Not too shabby.

Following is a look at some of the most interesting options heading your way this spring — and yes, “The Following” made the list.

“Continuum” (SyFy): This Canadian science fiction series premiered in the U.S. on Jan. 14, but it’s already aired its first season north of the border and has been renewed for a second season. The story centers on a group of rebels who have been convicted as terrorists in the year 2077 but escape back to the Vancouver of 2012. However, a police inspector travels back with them and attempts to apprehend the baddies in our present day. Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster and Erik Knudsen star. Fans of “The X-Files” will want to watch for William B. Davis, who played the mysterious Cigarette Smoking Man on Chris Carter’s landmark series.

“The Following” (Fox): Kevin Bacon comes to the small screen as FBI Special Agent Ryan Hardy in the scary, gory serial killer thriller from “Scream” writer Kevin Williamson. The twist here is that the main killer, Dr. Joseph Carroll (James Purefoy), is behind bars, but he’s cultivated a vast army of wannabe serial killers ready and willing to commit murder with allusions to Edgar Allan Poe. The level of violence in the show, which premiered Monday, is more intense than standard network fare; it will be interesting to see how that kind of bloodletting will play in the current political environment.

“Ripper Street” (BBC America): In this drama, the detectives of H Division fear Jack the Ripper has returned to terrorize Whitechapel. Matthew Macfadyen (“Pride & Prejudice”) and Jerome Flynn (“Game of Thrones”) play the detectives walking the crime-ridden streets; Adam Rothenberg plays a U.S. Army surgeon and former Pinkerton detective who teams up with them to solve the murders. The Times’ Mary McNamara called the series “well-written and certainly well-acted.” The Ripper may have been all too human, but the unsolved nature of his crimes and the Victorian setting give this series a sufficiently spooky, supernatural vibe. The eight-part miniseries debuted late last year in England and premiered in the States on Saturday.

“Do No Harm” (NBC): “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is revamped as a modern network medical drama. Steven Pasquale (“Rescue Me”) stars as a successful neurosurgeon whose personality changes every night at 8:25 p.m. His night-time persona, as you might expect, isn’t exactly Prince Charming. NBC tried this type of split-personality drama once before, with the Christian Slater spy series “My Own Worst Enemy.” That show aired just nine episodes before it was canceled. “Do No Harm” premieres Jan. 31.

“Zero Hour” (ABC): “ER” star Anthony Edwards returns to television playing the editor of a magazine dedicated to investigating conspiracy theories. When his wife goes missing, Edwards uncovers a globe-spanning conspiracy involving Nazis and, um, clocks. “Zero Hour,” which premieres Feb. 14, was created by Paul Scheuring (“Prison Break”) and also stars Scott Michael Foster, Addison Timlin, Jacinda Barrett, Carmen Ejogo and Michael Nyqvist.

“Cult” (CW): Follow along closely. This gets a little meta. “Cult” tracks what happens when the fans of a TV series on the CW titled “Cult” appear to be re-creating the crimes covered in the show; only a blogger (Matt Davis) and a low-level employee of the show (Jessica Lucas) can figure out what the heck is going on. The series was created by “Farscape” mastermind Rockne S. O’Bannon, and is executive produced by Josh Schwartz of “Chuck” and “The OC” fame. Premieres Feb. 19.

“Bates Motel” (A&E): How exactly did Norman Bates wind up dressing up like his mother and stabbing women in the shower? This series from “Lost” executive producer Carlton Cuse and “Friday Night Lights” producer Kerry Ehrin aims to explore just that with some high-level acting help from Freddie Highmore (“Finding Neverland”) as young Norman, Vera Farmiga as Mrs. Bates and “Lost’s” Nestor Carbonell as the local sheriff. Though prequels are tricky ground, the trailers for this one look mesmerizing. Premieres March 18.

“Da Vinci’s Demons” (Starz): David S. Goyer brings superhero flourish to historical drama with his serialized tale of the life of Leonardo da Vinci, who runs afoul of the all-powerful church as he evolves into a famously free thinker in an often rigid society. English actor Tom Riley portrays the gifted Renaissance artist. Goyer arguably is best known for his work on Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and as the screenwriter for the upcoming Superman movie, “Man of Steel,” but he’s yet to find the same kind of success on TV, too. His most recent series, “FlashForward,” lasted just one season on ABC. Premieres April 12.

“Defiance” (SyFy): Prior to “Cult,” Rockne S. O’Bannon developed this ambitious science fiction drama scheduled to premiere April 15. Set in the near future, a prolonged war between humanity and colonizing alien species has left Earth nearly uninhabitable. Grant Bowler stars as a former soldier who returns to his hometown of St. Louis, only to find it’s been turned into a refugee camp called Defiance. Seeing a need for law and order, he becomes the town’s sheriff. Julie Benz plays the mayor; Tony Curran, one of the many aliens populating the town. With two new languages developed for the series and a related MMO game that will be available for Xbox, PlayStation and PC, this promises to be the kind of deep dive into world-building that genre fans love.

– Patrick Kevin Day

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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