The second season of a good TV show is never a sure thing. Often, a budding show will throw everything they’ve got into a finale for the first season, in an effort to ensure their return next year. This can make for riveting programming, but can also lead to a second season hangover. Case in point: The Walking Dead.
Fortunately, most of last season’s excellent rookies have come back with strong second seasons that don’t leave you wondering why you got involved in the first place.
Here are a few that are in the midst of their second season runs and are ripe for catching up on:
Vikings, Thursday nights 10 p.m. on History Channel.
This horribly titled but elegantly produced epic had a standout first season. From the impeccable casting of Gabriel Byrne and Donal Logue to the undeniably compelling presence (and constant threat) of graphic axe violence, it was one of the most pleasant surprises of last year.
Season 2 raised the stakes with a frenetic first episode, followed by one of the most inventive time jumps employed on TV in recent memory. Unless this season ends with someone waking up from a dream (hey, I thought the Vikings were from Minnesota, not Dallas…) it promises to be a strong one.
The Americans, Wednesday nights 10 p.m. on FX
More than maybe any other show on the list, this show had a premise that looked to be difficult to keep up: KGB spies deep under cover as an all-American family in the early 80s. The first season was suspenseful, dark, and full of adult surprises. The finale was taut and expertly crafted, but it also flashed the inherent weakness of the show: you can’t have the spies get in full, close-contact shootouts with FBI agents and then just peel off their mustaches and go back to work.
Well, apparently you can try. And so far it looks like they’re pulling it off. The second season is off to a tense start and some big revelations.
Legit, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FXX
Australian comedian Jim Jefferies is a sick, unpleasant miscreant. He’s debauched, selfish, and hilarious. His show is also oddly warm and gooey in between absurd offensiveness. If you’re sensitive to racial humor, jokes about women, the handicapped, the obese, the poor, or the unattractive, you may want to skip this one. But if you’ve got a sense of humor, you ought to be able to appreciate the excellent cast, including Jefferies, DJ Qualls, and Dan Bakkedahl, and the sweetness that lies behind the crudeness. But it is way behind the crudeness, so put on your waders. Season 2 has started with all the sensitivity of Season 1, including Jim dating a racist and accidentally killing a muscular dystrophy sufferer with his standup routine.
Kroll Show, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central
Nick Kroll is everywhere. From his show-stealing role as Ruxin on the much Bro-loved The League, to dating Amy Poehler, to his guest stints on everything from Community to New Girl to Portlandia, he’s the biggest thing to hit the comedy scene since the rim shot. His sketch comedy show, Kroll Show, is in the midst of a second season for the ages. Skewering reality TV and modern society, it’s basically Chappelle Show mixed with Mr. Show, with just a dash of The Kids in the Hall.
Tune in for such excellent “reality show” sketches as Publizity (starring two vapid PR reps, both named Liz), Pawnsylvania (about competing pawn shops in Philly and Pittsburgh), and Rich Dicks (which is about… well, rich dicks). Trust me, this show is brilliant.