Escapism on cable
‘Game of Thrones’
Premieres April 17 at 9 p.m. on HBO
How do you translate an 864-page paperback with a rabid fan base into a television series? Very carefully, admits “A Game of Thrones” author George R. R. Martin, whose first novel in his A Song of Fire and Ice series, about the power struggles of warring clans, is debuting on HBO. “Television is full of lawyer shows and medical shows and situation comedies, but fantasy shows — fantasy is something that’s been largely restricted to books for a long time,” says Martin. “The readers of those books are really hungry to see some good fantasy brought to television.”
Actor Sean Bean has experience bringing a beloved novel to the screen — having starred in “The Lord of the Rings,” he now bears the sword of “Thrones” hero Eddard Stark.
“I suppose, to ‘Lord of the Rings,’ [the series is similar] in size, its quality, its magic, its danger. You know, I do happen to enjoy playing those kinds of roles with riding horses and swinging swords and having fights and wearing wigs and growing beards. I certainly enjoy this genre.”
Premieres Friday at 10 p.m. on Starz
Not your average King Arthur tale, this sexy update pits Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) versus half-sister Morgan (Eva Green) in a play for the crown while Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) dons the magical cape and meddles in between.
Premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on Showtime
The tale of one of the most notorious clans in medieval Italy receives its own renaissance with this sumptuous tale of lust and power. Jeremy Irons plays the Borgia patriarch.
Tough jobs on reality TV
Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Spike TV
How claustrophobic is a West Virginia coalmine? It’s “about 33 inches” high, says miner Lonnie “Andy”?Christian Sr. “Can’t even stand up.”
Chronicling one of the most dangerous jobs in the world for Spike TV is producer Thom Beers (“Deadliest Catch,” “Ice Road Truckers”). “Nobody’s actually ever been in these holes [with cameras],” he says. (Beers’ crew went through 80 hours of training underground before shooting on the series began.) “This is an opportunity [to highlight] a bunch of guys who risk their lives day in and day out. These are the guys that put the light in those lightbulbs. The kind of coal these guys are digging out now, they basically build the steel for your cars. This is the very root of what made America great.”
Series premieres April 7 at 11 p.m. on Showtime
What happens in Vegas ends up on Showtime, ladies. Remember that when you hire one of these male escorts for a “date.”
‘Mounted in Alaska’
Premieres April 7 at 10 p.m. on History Channel
You kill ’em, taxidermist Russell Knight stuffs ’em.
Premieres April 12 at 9 p.m. on Discovery
The most popular “dangerous jobs” series returns for Season 7 of crab fishing and lots (and lots) of cussing.
Cops and dramas
Premieres April 6 at 9:30 p.m. on Fox
As the brilliant, manipulative head of a high-tech company hired to test the security systems of everything from museums to government agencies, Christian Slater says of his character, Oz, “I’m definitely the guy behind the curtain a little bit, pulling the strings. I’m on the screen more than Charlie of ‘Charlie’s Angels.’ But [Oz’s team of hackers and safe-crackers] are the guys that really are going out on the missions.”
One of those guys is computer genius Cameron (Bret Harrison), the newest member of Oz’s team who’s struggling to fit in. “More than him being an extremely smart character — I mean, you could relate him to, like, a young Mark Zuckerberg — I think it’s more he finds himself in awkward situations,” Harrison explains of the newbie.
“I’m going to pants you,” Slater interjects.
“Yeah. I think I relate in that way,” Harrison says.
Premieres Friday at 8 p.m. on CBS
A rogue team of CIA spies gets into zany predicaments (they eat live scorpions to prove their toughness!) while trying to protect national security. Freddy Rodriguez, Tim Blake Nelson and Kurtwood Smith star.
Premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC
AMC’s latest can’t-wait-for-the-next-episode drama is a haunting thriller revolving around the death of a small-town teen girl. Based on a hit Danish series, it’s told from the perspective of the cops investigating the crime, the suspects, and the girl’s family.
‘Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe’
Premieres April 17 at 9 p.m. on USA
Before Sam shared beers and tips on how to take down bad guys with the “Burn Notice” crew, he was a Navy commander who realized he may be fighting for the wrong side when sent to Colombia. This prequel film stars the inimitable Bruce Campbell as Axe.
All in the family
Premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. on ReelzChannel
While not a reality series, the behind-the-scenes story surrounding the airing of this docu-drama sparked “Jersey Shore”-levels of controversy. History Channel yanked the miniseries from its lineup, and a number of other networks reportedly passed on it as well. ReelzChannel rescued the eight-part saga chronicling the Kennedy family’s rise to political prominence. Greg Kinnear portrays JFK, while Katie Holmes steps into the perfectly coiffed role of Jackie O.
‘Braxton Family Values’
Premieres April 12 at 9 p.m. on WE tv
The five Braxton daughters — most notable Toni, she of “Un-Break My Heart” fame — always have each other’s backs. Unless, of course, they’re bickering.
“This show is the essence of the Braxtons, how we are, how we live,” says eldest sis Toni, whose music career and its effects (including bankruptcy) on her family are documented in the show. “I think everyone can identify with one of us. With any of the sisters, you can say, ‘Oh, that’s me, and I have those experiences.’”
One trial for the sisters is helping their mom, newly divorced after a 35-year marriage, date.
“It’s very challenging for her because she and my dad had been together since she was 14 years old,”?Toni says. “So you see a woman coming full circle and trying to redefine herself.”
Premieres April 10 at 9 p.m. on OWN
The mother-daughter country duo of Naomi and Wynonna Judd prepare to tour together for the first time in 10 years.
‘Sinbad: It’s Just Family’
Premieres April 12 at 10 p.m. on WE tv
Cameras follow the comedian and his family and he attempts to mount a comeback.
Keep up-to-date on all the happenings in TV. Follow Amber Ray on Twitter at @AmberatMetro.