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NPR Arts & Life

Here Are The New TV Shows You Should Watch This Year


All right, so we know it's the new year. We're settled into the fact that it's 2016. And now what we're wondering is, what TV show should we be watching this year? Turns out that NPR pays someone to answer that question, and he is with me now. He is Eric Deggans, our TV critic.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Best job of the universe - I get paid to watch television, yes.

MCEVERS: (Laughter). So, I mean, you know, Eric, you've spent about a week cooped up at press conferences with the casts and producers of tons of different TV shows. And we want you to tell us what's got you excited for this year.

DEGGANS: Well, you know, what's interesting to me is, like, last year, the TV industry was very much about change. We got these new streaming services popping up. We had TV shows moving from network to online. This year, viewers are going to see less change in the delivery systems, but they're going to see a lot of new material on these platforms. And a lot of this stuff is very, very good.

MCEVERS: All right, so I 'm looking at your list here, and the first thing I see is the second season of ABC's "American Crime," which was created by former NPR contributor John Ridley. Tell us about that.

DEGGANS: Yeah, this is a really fascinating show. So the first season was centered on a murder. And this season focuses on a working-class guy who goes to this tony private high school. He gets drunk at a party. He's sexually assaulted, and then he sees photos of himself spread all over social media. Now, John has taken a lot of these actors that appeared in the first season and cast them in different parts this season. And Andre Benjamin, who's also known as Andre 300, the leader of the rap group Outkast.


DEGGANS: He appears here as a wealthy architect whose son hosted the party. Now, Benjamin spoke with reporters, and he said the role kind of resonated with him because it's the same situation he faces in real life. Let's check it out.


ANDRE BENJAMIN: You have double challenges because you're black and you're privileged, but at the same time, it puts you in a place to where you're a target because some people may feel like you may not deserve. And me being an entertainer - and not just entertainer, I'm a rapper. So I take my kid to private school now. I may be looked at a little bit differently because they may feel like I may not have earned it.

DEGGANS: Yeah, so you can hear that this season of "American Crime" is going to deal with issues with race, issues of class. It's going to move between a private school, a public school, the homes of all involved. Regina King is amazing as this class-obsessed, borderline racist, wealthy African-American mother. There's a lot there to get into.

MCEVERS: Wow. OK, but "American Crime" is different from "American Crime Story." That's an FX show, actually, about the O. J. Simpson case. What's the deal with the titles?

DEGGANS: Well, that's kind of a coincidence because FX's show follows the form of co-creator Ryan Murphy's other show for FX, "American Horror Story."


DEGGANS: But we've got a great clip from the show - Courtney B. Vance as Simpson's lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, trying to boost the morale of his client during a jailhouse visit. Let's check it out.


COURTNEY B. VANCE: (As Johnnie Cochran) You're a man who loves people, who people love right back. That's you. You're a fighter. You're a runner. And when you get knocked down, I need you to hop right back up like you know you can and keep going because this right here, this right here, O. J. Simpson, is the run of your life.

DEGGANS: I do know about you, but I'm inspired.


DEGGANS: Anyway, Vance is great. John Travolta is appropriately creepy as O. J.'s first lead attorney, Robert Shapiro. And there's a lesson for today here, I think. O. J.'s lawyers used suspicion about racist police, particularly after the Rodney King beating, to defend their client against some really strong evidence. And if police cross the line and lose the public trust, that can make it tough to prosecute anyone, and we see that happening today.

MCEVERS: All right, so the last show on your list Showtime's "Billions." This was a new show that you really liked. Tell us why.

DEGGANS: Well, it's the story of two titans really going after each other. Damian Lewis, who some might remember from "Homeland," is a billionaire owner of a hedge fund. And character actor extraordinaire Paul Giamatti is a U.S. attorney who's trying to bring him down. But this story, it's not so much about, you know, the mechanisms of the prosecution or about the details of finance. It's about ego and power and money and machismo. And at every turn, these guys are seeking to prove they are the biggest dogs in the yard. And they're essentially the people who hold the levers of power in our world. So there's this whole framework of family, friendships, business connections, history that goes into that world. And "Billions," which starts on Sunday, just does an amazing job of recreating that world in a way that feels really realistic and compelling.

MCEVERS: That's Eric Deggans, NPR TV critic. Thank you so much.

DEGGANS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.