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Your Tour Guide To The Glut Of Sunday TV


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melisa Block, hosting this week from member station KERA in Dallas.


And I'm Robert Siegel in Washington.

And as we head into the weekend, here's something to look forward to - a logjam of great Sunday night television. It gets going this Sunday with the new season of HBO's "Game of Thrones."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as Character) The orders are to attack Castle Black from the south when Mance hits it from the north. The signal for the attack will be a bonfire. Mance said it'd be the greatest fire the North has ever seen. That's the truth.

SIEGEL: By the middle of the month, Sundays will have "The Good Wife" on CBS, "Mad Men" on AMC, "Nurse Jackie" and "Californication" on Showtime, "Mr. Selfridge" on PBS and "Veep" on HBO. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans is here to explain why our DVRs are about to get a serious workout on Sunday nights. Eric, thanks for joining us once again.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Glad to be here.

SIEGEL: And why exactly do we have so many high-quality drama shows airing on Sunday nights?

DEGGANS: Well, this is a phenomenon that we've seen building for several years. And just when you think it can't get worse, it does get worse. The industry experts will tell you that Sunday nights have some of the highest HUT levels, or households using television that we see in the week. So even though you have a lot of shows that are competing for viewers, there's a wide audience out there that's available for them.

So if you're AMC and you're targeting men, you can put on "Mad Men" or you can put on "The Walking Dead." And then if you're CBS or PBS and you're more interested in female viewers, you can put on "The Good Wife" or "Mr. Selfridge" and everybody can succeed at the same time.

SIEGEL: Setting aside CBS and PBS, this seems to be mostly a cable phenomenon.

DEGGANS: That's right. You know, years ago, the broadcast networks had their big shows on Sundays, but we've seen sports suck up a lot of the audience for the networks on Sundays. And I think cable sees an opportunity to come in. The bar is lower for success on cable. You know, you can be a successful cable show with a much smaller audience. And so, we've seen a tradition develop where HBO had "The Sopranos" on Sundays like 15 years ago.

And slowly, cable channels have kind of populated Sundays with some of their strongest offerings, and now we're to the point where some of the most anticipated shows on television, especially on cable, air on Sundays.

SIEGEL: OK. Looking ahead to this Sunday, what are the quality TV shows that kick in?

DEGGANS: Well, of course, you know, HBO has "Game of Thrones" returning for this highly anticipated fourth season. But I hope fans of great comedy really check out a new show, which is called "Silicon Valley." It's also going to be on HBO. And it's a great show from Mike Judge who created "King of the Hill" and "Beavis and Butt-Head."

And it's about this dysfunctional group of programmers who turned down a ton of money to try building their own successful company. Now we've got a clip that shows one programmer talking to a doctor about a panic attack that he had while deciding whether or not to sell his company.


ANDY DALY: (as Doctor) You know, a while back, we had a guy in here in almost the exact same situation - take the money or keep the company.

THOMAS MIDDLEDITCH: (as Richard) What happened?

DALY: (as Doctor) A couple of months later, he was brought into the ER with a self-inflicted gunshot wound because he really regretted not taking that money. Or, no, he took the money. Oh, no. No, he did not - I don't - you know what, I don't remember. But whatever it was, he regretted it so much that he ended up shooting himself, and now he's blind.

SIEGEL: That's from "Silicon Valley." It's a new show. Also, an old show, "Mad Men" returns.

DEGGANS: Oh, "Mad Men." Well, this show, which is a symbol for quality television on Sundays, comes back next weekend. And this was supposed to be the show's final season, but they've decided to split its farewell run in half. So we'll see half of those episodes this year and half of the episodes the next year. And the creator of the show has asked critics not to reveal too many things about the episode. So I can't say much more about what happens there, but it is a great return to form for a classic series.

SIEGEL: Eric, thank you and have a great Sunday.

DEGGANS: Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: That's NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.