TV Picks: 'Orphan Black,' 'The Good Wife,' David Letterman

TV Picks: 'Orphan Black,' 'The Good Wife,' David Letterman
Tatiana Maslany in "Orphan Black." (Steve Wilkie / BBC America)

'Orphan Black.' Clone club members, rejoice; the second season of BBC America's surprise sci-fi hit is back, with a star that continues to dazzle in her ability to inhabit multiple characters and story lines that grow more thrilling and provocative with each episode. While much of the first season was devoted to establishing the complicated premise -- a young, brash grifter named Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) discovers that she is one of a group of clones created for mysterious reasons and in danger on many fronts--the second season digs deeper into the meaning, both actual and philosophical, of the experiment. 

Newcomers to the series would be best served catching up via Amazon Prime because creators Graeme Mason and John Fawcett are not given to internal recapping; they're far too interested in pushing the plot further. The search for Sarah's young daughter Kira, who has gone missing, along with Sarah's former foster mother,  Mrs. S. (Maria Doyle Kennedy), drives the A-plot, but each clone is on a journey of her own. Anxious soccer mom Alison is coming to terms with her role in the death of a neighbor, scientist Cosima is forging an uneasy alliance with the neolutionists, who may or may not have been behind Project Leda, which may or may not have produced the clones, while Rachael appears to be more driving force than monitored subject. Meanwhile, the murderous anti-cloning group, the Prolethians, comes into clearer focus, and each woman desperately tries to find someone to trust. Grounding the group, and the series, in reality, humor and fabulous outfits, is Sarah's foster brother Felix, played by the brilliant Jordan Garvaris.

You see how hard it is to explain.  Maslany's astonishing performance -- each clone is a fully realized and distinct character -- provided the series' initial draw, but it's the show's ability to balance just as many tones -- pathos and humor, violence and tenderness -- while exploring questions of identity, technology, religion and responsibility that make "Orphan Black" television that is both fun and astonishing. BBC America, Saturdays, 9 p.m.

'The Good Wife.' Has left the building. The surprising death of Will Gardner two weeks ago sent this always satisfying but now genuinely thrilling drama to DEFCON 1 by stirring the often overly sedate female characters into furious glory.  After spending almost six seasons dithering between  her feelings for Will and her husband (Chris Noth), Alicia (Julianna Margulies) seems on the verge of breakdown and breakthrough, literally laying down the law to everyone around her.  Back at Lockhart/Gardner, Diane (Christine Baranski) is fighting for her life, while Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) provides ammunition and (oh, wouldn't it be grand?) mends her friendship with Alicia. 

Michael J. Fox's canny attorney is back this week, as a potential replacement for Will and contender for control, but it's the sudden fierce female alliance that will make the remainder of this season must-watch television. CBS, Sundays, 9 p.m.

'Late Night With David Letterman.' Stephen Colbert, Letterman's newly named successor, visits the house he will inherit sometime next year on Tuesday. There is just no way this won't be hilarious. CBS, Tuesday, 11:30 p.m.

'Game of Thrones.' King Joffrey is dead, long live the …. many scheming people who want to be/control the king.

A mere two weeks into the new season of HBO's astonishingly ambitious and consistently amazing adaptation of George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic, everything is different and gloriously the same. Here there be dragons and sadistic boy kings, undead White Walkers and a Wilding army from beyond the pale, but also a queen with an army of liberated slaves, a dwarf prince now noble where he was once debauched, and a crippled child capable, perhaps, of saving all. For winter is coming and the armies that still vie for the Iron Throne are now united in the peril of things beyond imagining.

The rich and morally bankrupt Lannisters still control King's Landing -- Joffrey had a brother, after all. But having disposed of their most imminent threat -- Rob Stark -- at the infamous Red Wedding, the Lannisters now know what it's like to have nuptials interrupted by murder. And the ultimate family division -- as he died, the loathsome Joffrey pointed in accusation at his uncle Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). As Tyrion is one of three characters who "Game of Thrones" cannot afford to kill, what on Earth will happen next? HBO, Sundays, 9 p.m. 

'A Day Late and a  Dollar Short.'  Whoopi Goldberg leads an adaptation of Terry McMillan's novel as the matriarch of a large and wildly troubled family, attempting to pull them together before she croaks. It's as soap operatic a premise as it gets, but between McMillian's willingness to explore tough topics, Goldberg's too-often forgotten ability to wed humor with pathos and a universally fine cast, "A Day Late and a Dollar Short" is the kind of feel-bad, feel-good tale that easily connects with many. Lifetime, Saturday, 8 p.m. 


An earlier version of this post stated season one of "Orphan Black" was available on Netflix;  it is available on Amazon Prime.