There was a time when a show premiered in January or February it usually meant it was crap. I think it is safe to say that this is no longer that case, and to prove my point, a list of the top new and returning shows that are premiering (or have premiered in the last week or so) in the coming weeks.
In order of premiere date, the top eleven shows that you should be on the look out for this winter. Why eleven? Well I had come up with ten and then realized I’d forgotten one and by that time I was too attached to the ten original so eleven it is!
First off, a show that came back on Friday, January 6th on IFC. The brain child of SNL’s Fred Armisen and musician/actress Carrie Brownstein, Portlandia is a show you should be watching, if for no other reason than to understand why people keep talking about “put a bird on it!” and thinking it’s hysterical. Now in its third season, you can catch up on the first two seasons on Netflix which I would highly recommend. Even though the show is comprised of shorts, it does have a story arc. You won’t be completely lost if you start with season 3 but you’d at least understand why the new Geico commercial with the pig at the restaurant is so humorous. Portlandia has always been a fan of guest stars and season 3 looks to be no different. Patton Oswalt, Jeff Goldblum and Penny Marshall plus so much more!
Portlandia– Fridays at 10 eastern on IFC, check it out and feel free to thank me.
2. Downton Abbey
7.9 million Americans can’t be wrong. That is how many people tuned into the season 3 premiere of PBS’s Downton Abbey on Sunday, January 6th. A product of the Britain’s itv, Downton Abbey follows the lives of the inhabitants of a great English manor in the 1900’s. At it’s base it’s nothing more than a soap opera but the great characters and beautiful settings have worked their way into our hearts and DVR’s alike. While I really enjoy the dichotomy of the upstairs vs. downstairs, it is the individual characters that I love. Watching Dame Maggie Smith as the matriarch of the family is like watching a master class on acting; the woman can do no wrong, none! Add in Shirley MacClaine as the other mother-in-law and the personality clashes practically write themselves.
One has to wonder, given the success of shows like Downton Abbey and Sherlock, how many times Ed Begley, Jr.’s character from A Mighty Wind has been quoted by those in the PBS offices.
You can find Downton Abbey on Sunday nights at 9 eastern on PBS. Word of warning, if you are looking to record it on your DVR, it will more than likely listed as Masterpiece Theatre.
3. Cougar Town
I’m sure everyone just let out a groan, but hear me out, especially if you never watched Cougar Town beyond the first few episodes. When it premiered, this show had one of the worst premises ever; a newly divorced woman in her 40’s who is out to date younger men, therefore making her a “cougar”. Not totally sure why they thought that would ever take off, and surprisingly it didn’t. The writers saw this and changed the premise almost completely. The show’s creators even flirted with the idea of changing the name of the show, but in the end kept it. Now instead of the dating escapades of Courtney Cox, it’s a show about friends and family and friends who are family. I like my sitcoms to have an emotional element and have a story that grows with the characters. Cougar Town does that, now.
After airing on ABC for three seasons, this season will be on TBS. What effect it will have on the writing (given that standards and practices are more lenient on cable than network TV) remains to be seen, but I know I will be tuning in to find out. If I’ve convinced you, or your interest is the slightest bit piqued, you can catch Cougar Town premiering on January 8th at 10 eastern on TBS.
4. 1600 Penn
Another sitcom and one that I’m not convinced will be good but I think still needs to be given a chance is NBC’s new show, 1600 Penn. NBC needs this show to win. Their comedy schedule is taking some big hits with The Office and 30 Rock signing off this year and Community and Up All Night on shaky ground (Up All Night completely changing formats from single cam to multi-cam with live audience is almost unheard of), they need something to fill those slots. Animal Practice shockingly enough, crashed and burned and while Matthew Perry’s Go On has had a bit of success, it can’t carry the entire schedule. The only thing NBC has going for it right now is Parks and Recreation and it doesn’t have the ratings to stand alone either, which is a crime but that’s another thought for another day.
Enter Bill Pullman and Jenna Elfman as the President and First Lady of the United States. The sitcom focuses on them and their somewhat dysfunctional family including their son, Josh Gad. These are not small names which makes it all the more surprising that they’d sign on for something that doesn’t look all that promising. However I did just recommend a show that started off in the toilet and redeemed itself further down the road so perhaps I’ll be singing a different tune after a few episodes, here’s hoping.
1600 Penn premieres on January 10th at 9:30 eastern on NBC.
I have to wonder if Lena Dunham occasionally pinches herself to make sure it’s all real. I know I would be. The first season of Girls, which she created and stars in, was met with critical and commercial success. On a network that is known more for its dramas, Girls has made a name for itself and has Dunham mainly to thank for it. That and the fact there hasn’t been a “group of girls” type of show that is actually good since the departure of Sex and the City in 2004. I happen to love this show and can’t wait to see what those crazy kids get themselves into in season 2. If I had to guess, it would be a lot of alcohol and a lot of sex.
Girls starts back up on January 13th at 9pm on HBO.
6. Ripper Street
Another British import, Ripper Street takes place in the East End of London shortly after the murder spree of Jack the Ripper. One can only imagine how crazy that area would have been given the fact that Jack the Ripper and his crimes were known worldwide. The amount of people there to just be what we today call “disaster tourists” must have been overwhelming. I do like how in the promo, there is a guy giving a tour! So it’s up to the “H Division” who investigated the Ripper crimes, are tasked with keeping that area of London under control. Ripper Street follows their story, with Matthew MacFadyen (MI-5/Spooks) as the famous Edmund Reid. I think we can all agree that the BBC usually does a very good job with their projects and this looks to be no different.
Ripper Street finds its way to BBC America on January 19th at 9 eastern.
7. The Following
As I mentioned a few weeks back, Kevin Bacon is returning to TV with a show called The Following. It’s already making news, but not in ways I imagine they’d wanted, but rather because of the level of violence in the show. Given that I just watched an episode of Criminal Minds in which an insane man was making marionettes out of live people, I daresay the violence won’t be a lasting issue. The Following has an interesting premise- a serial killer who escapes and the police then discovering that he has become a cult favorite with the psychopaths of the world- and I’ll admit this is one that I’m looking forward to most this mid-season. I’m a big fan of James Purefoy and of course Kevin Bacon is, well he’s Kevin Bacon.
You can get caught up in the mystery starting on January 21st at 9 eastern on Fox.
8. The Americans
Neon is back in style so why not Communist Russia? I’m guessing that is what the creators of The Americans thought and at first blush, it appears as if they might be on to something. Keri Russel and Matthew Rhys (Brothers and Sisters) play married KGB agents here in America in the 1980’s. I think it will be very interesting to see how this plays out. There are some who are dismissing it as just a Homeland knockoff but I daresay they aren’t really the same concept at all. Growing up in the Cold War the idea that anyone could be a Russian spy really was a thing. How many stories have come out over the years of “ordinary” people being outed as spies and their friends and neighbors having no idea? Even though I hadn’t heard much of this show before seeking it out, I’m intrigued and will certainly be checking it out.
The Americans premieres on January 30th at 10 eastern on FX.
I will not be surprised if someday in the future, Community finds its way into a textbook in a chapter titled “what not to do when trying to produce a successful television show” and it will have nothing to do with the quality of the writing or the performances of the actors. If it wasn’t so aggravating as a fan, it would be almost comical to watch NBC yank Community around like a neglected rag doll. They’ve never put much marketing into it, and have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with time changes and taking it off the schedule only to put it back on but then change the air date… it’s a mess. Add in the drama with Dan Harmon and Chevy Chase both leaving the show and lord have mercy where do they go from here?
In my perfect world, everyone with a television would tune into Community when it airs so the ratings are astronomically high and NBC will be forced to renew Community for another season even though they are making it pretty clear with their actions that they don’t want to. That would be a perfect world. Alas that won’t happen so I’m just going to enjoy Community for however long it has left.
You can find Community on
October 19th February 7th at 8 eastern on NBC.
Kiefer Sutherland running! Kiefer Sutherland out of breath! Kiefer Sutherland’s child is in danger! No, this is not 24, but rather Touch. I’ll admit that I did not watch Touch when it aired. Just happened to come across it one day on Netflix and gave it a shot. I am thankful for this bit of kismet because it really is a good show. From Tim Kring, creator of Crossing Jordan and Heroes, Touch is about a kid who doesn’t speak or interact with anyone but is obsessed with numbers, numbers that his father (Sutherland) and social worker discover actually mean something. Every week he gives them a new set of numbers which lead them to a new clue in an even more expansive mystery involving Danny Glover and Maria Bello. If you missed the first season, find it on demand or on Netflix, it’s a good one. It of course requires a massive suspension of disbelief but if you don’t dwell on details too much, the story is quite fantastic.
This is another show that was scheduled to premiere in the fall but got bumped to the mid-season so we’ll just have to wait and see what that means for the future.
For now, you can see Touch with a two-hour premiere on February 8th at 8 eastern on Fox.
11. Zero Hour
I am a closest lover of conspiracy theories. Most of the time I think they are bubkus but it doesn’t make me love them any less. I especially like conspiracy theories wrapped up in treasure hunting scenarios. National Treasure, The Librarian, Uncharted (the games)? Big fan of them all. So it comes as no surprise that I was really excited when I read the description of Zero Hour. A woman goes missing, her husband who by the way has a magazine called “Skeptics” finds a clock she bought that has some kind of treasure map inside and that leads him on a wild goose chase with people talking in whispers and riddles? Yes please.
Anthony Edwards returns to television for the first time since Dr. Green died on ER and in my opinion, he couldn’t have chosen a cooler looking show. Here’s hoping it lives up to my own hype.
Zero Hour premieres on February 14th at 8 eastern on ABC.
Of course being the somewhat indecisive person I am- a few Honorable Mentions:
Justified – Tuesdays at 8 eastern on FX
Archer – Season 4 premieres January 17th at 10 easter on FX
All the Showtime shows – Shameless, Masters of Sex, and Ray Donovan
It’s always a good thing when the hiatus is over so let’s celebrate- Happy New Year everyone!