This spring, the schedules aren't looking lavishly bedecked, but broadcasters are backing safe bets. Hit import Mad Men (pictured) resumes on 10 February on BBC4 with the characters "15 months" further on from where we left them – it's that kind of precision that makes the series such a pleasure – and series two of Tina Fey's superlative 30 Rock starts 20 February on Five USA. Everyone's favourite sung sitcom, Flight of the Conchords, will return to BBC4 in April.
Mistresses, featuring four women who are overworked, oversexed, but not, crucially, overacted – returns to BBC1 with its original quartet of stars – Sarah Parish, Sharon Small, Shelley Conn and Orla Brady, plus value-added extra Natasha Little.
But what of the new and the bold? Channel 4 brings us the Cutting Edge film Killer in a Small Town, a documentary about the 2007 Ipswich murders. Promisingly, the director is Louise Osmond (Deep Water). Also forthcoming is Endgame, a drama about the end of apartheid in South Africa, with a full-bore high-calibre cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jonny Lee Miller and Derek Jacobi. The producers are Hal Vogel and David Aukin, the pair behind Britz and The Government Inspector.
Highly touted on Five is the new CBS drama The Mentalist (don't be offended – the term has different connotations in America) which stars Simon Baker (The Devil Wears Prada) as yet another TV detective with a difference: he's psychic. And hunting for the serial killer that did away with his family. Because sometimes two differences are better than one. Fiver, spawn of Five, offers Stylista, the "unintentionally hilarious" documentary series filmed at Elle magazine in New York which should provide hours of pun: is it heaven or Elle? Who would want to work in the seventh circle of Elle?, etc. From 5 March.
In these brutal times, nature programming is to the fore (animals, bless em! Don't even need Equity cards), and as well as Nature's Great Events, a splendid Attenborough series starting on BBC1, we can also look forward to Channel 4's Squirrel Wars – Red v Grey, a documentary about Lord Redesdale's battle to save the native nutkin. And then there's BBC3's My Life as an Animal, in which volunteers will share the routine of their furry friends, with, we are informed, Terry Nutkins on hand to give tips about "how to come closer to being accepted as animals by animals". I raise an eyebrow, sigh, and set the video.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies