After September, January is the most promising month of the television season, as the networks roll out not only their mid-season replacements, but the cable channels roll out old favorites and new series, alike. In fact, as we say goodbye to winter series, and get rid of some season passes on our DVR that we just can’t abide by anymore, there’s a lot to choose from and keep us busy until Game of Thrones arrives. In addition to the 10 most anticipated new and returning shows, there’s also the return of Downton Abbey (last night); White Collar (January 22nd); the premiere of the Sex and the City prequel series, Carrie Diaries; the return of Workaholics (January 16th) and Bunheads (January 7th), news shows like NIck Kroll’s Kroll Show (January 16th) and Deception (January 7th), plus Showtime’s House of Lies and Californiacation January 13th).
Here, however, are the most anticipated new and returning shows of the month.
10. Continuum (January 14th) — I don’t know much about the new SyFy series except that it was a big hit in Canada, it stars Rachel Nichols (droooooool), and it’s got a cool timey-wimey premise: “A detective from the year 2077 finds herself trapped in present day Vancouver and searching for ruthless criminals from the future.” I’ve heard very mixed things about the series from people I know who have given it a shot, but I’m always game for a decent sci-fi series.
9. Banshee (January 11th) — I have seen the first two episodes of the new Alan Ball produced drama for Cinemax. Despite low production values and the requisitely gratuitous Skinemax sex scenes, the pilot — about an ex-convict who takes on the identity of a dead sheriff and runs a town basically controlled by the Amish mafia — is pretty good. The second episode, however, wasn’t great. The Wire’s Frankie Faison, however, is fantastic in it. I’d nevertheless wait and see how the rest of the series shapes up before I invested myself into it.
8. The Following (January 21st) — The mid-season has a few serial killer dramas on tap, but this one — starring Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, Natalie Zea, and Maggie Grace — looks to be the best among them based only on the fact that it has the best cast (and most eye candy). Serial killer dramas and network television don’t exactly mix, however, so we’ll have to wait and see if it’s as dark and gritty as the network wants us to believe it is.
7. The Americans (January 30th) — With AMC frittering away their reputation with reality programming blocks, and mishandling showrunners on their most popular shows, FX is set to nudge ahead of that network in terms of pure quality once Breaking Bad leaves the air. Hopefully, The Americans will keep FX’s streak of phenomenal dramas intact: This one stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, is set in the 1980’s Cold War, and will follow Soviet KGB officers impersonating Americans. Margo Martindale rounds out the cast for what looks to be possibly the best new shows of the winter.
6. Suits (January 17th) — Everybody has their one USA Network guilty pleasure, it seems, but Suits is not just a guilty pleasure, but one of the most enjoyably satisfying lightweight dramas on television. By mixing compelling cases of the week with law firm politics, in addition to a brilliant and likable cast, Suits has has bucked the trend among USA Network shows: It’s not just televised candy, it’s good TV, and right now, Louis Litt is the best thing going for it.
5. Girls (January 13th) — Crap on HBO’s Girls all you’d like, but the naysayers may have their minds changed by the first two episodes of the season in which Community’s Donald Glover figures heavily into the plotline as a black Republican. I’ve seen the first few episodes of season two, and all I can say is that one exchange between Dunham’s character and Glover is already making a case for best scene of the 2013.
4. Shameless (January 13th) — Showtime’s Shameless has somewhat quietly become one of my favorite shows on television: There are no shocking deaths or that many surprising twists, but the characters — especially Emmy Rossum’s oft naked Fiona and Jeremy Allen White’s brilliant f*ck-up, Lip Gallagher — make the series the best comfort show of the winter.
3. Cougar Town (January 8th) — Having moved from ABC to TBS, Courteney Cox is already promised more boobs to go along with Big Carl wine glasses, Penny Can, and hopefully a few more Scrubs mini-reunions throughout the season (despite the fact that series showrunner Bill Lawrence has left that role). Last year, even with only four months of exposure, Cougar Town managed to be one of the funniest sitcoms on television, and now that the pressure of cancellation has been lifted, hopefully the series will only continue to improve in defiance of one of the worst sitcom titles in recent memory.
2. Archer (January 17) — The fourth season of Archer returns mid-month, and among the surprises in store this season is a voice cameo from Timothy Olyphant, who will play an old spy friend of Sterling Archer’s in the season’s second episode. If you can’t wait ten more days for the premiere, you can always check out these nine clips from the forthcoming season.
1. Justified (January 8) — I’ve seen the first couple of episodes of the fourth season, and they are good, chock full of Goggins goodness, a cool season-long mystery, a little Wynn Duffy, some squirrelly Mall Cop Patton Oswalt motherf**ker, and a lot of crazy sexy bartender. Danger’s recaps return this Wednesday for the most anticipated returning show of January. Set your DVRs and lock up your daughters.