Midseason TV treats
Maggie Smith stars as the Dowager Countess, left, and Shirley MacLaine portrays Martha Levinson in the TV series “Downton Abbey,” the much-adored British miniseries that made its season return Sunday on PBS.
Photo courtesy of PBS
NEW YORK – Where once the post-holiday schedule was a blizzard of chilly reruns, January is aburst with premieres and finales.
Already, the much-adored British miniseries “Downton Abbey” has made its much-awaited season return Sundays on PBS.
On IFC on Fridays, the hilarious “Portlandia” is back for its third season of sketch comedy poking fun at the peculiarities of Portland, Ore., starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.
And NBC’s mystery melodrama “Deception” has arrived on Mondays. Megan Good stars as a detective going undercover at the home of a rich family with whom she was once friendly, to investigate a murder within the clan.
On Tuesday, PBS’ “American Experience” began a three-week documentary miniseries, “The Abolitionists,” spotlighting Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown and Angelina Grimke, and the FX drama “Justified” returned for its fourth season of Kentucky hill-country crime-fighting led by Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (series star Timothy Olyphant).
On Thursday, comedic action centers at the White House with the premiere of NBC’s “1600 Penn.” Josh Gad (“The Book of Mormon”) stars as the goofball son of the incumbent U.S. president (played by Bill Pullman) who keeps the first family in a stir, yet manages to make everything turn out all right by the final fade-out.
The Gallaghers of “Shameless” are a much different family. In this dark comedy, William H. Macy stars as the boozy single father of a brood of kids who manage their ragtag Chicago homestead in spite of Dad’s overindulgences. Also starring Emmy Rossum, it returns Sunday for its third season on Showtime.
Also on Sunday, HBO’s comedy “Girls” returns for a second season sure to be at least as ballyhooed, discussed and argued about as the first. Lena Dunham (who also writes, produces, directs and created the series) stars as one of a quartet of twentysomething gal pals in New York.
Right after “Girls,” HBO launches the second season of “Enlightened,” an affecting comedy starring Laura Dern as a confused New Age-y activist who’s bent on changing the world.
What was Carrie Bradshaw like before Sarah Jessica Parker and “Sex and the City”? Find out on “The Carrie Diaries,” which debuts on the CW Monday. AnnaSophia Robb stars as the high-school era Carrie in this likable prequel.
“American Idol” returns on Jan. 16 on Fox. Veteran judge Randy Jackson will be joined by Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban. Ryan Seacrest, as always, is the affable host.
After five seasons, Fox’s lovably inscrutable sci-fi series “Fringe” concludes its head-scratching run on Jan. 18. Stars include Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble.
Fox’s bloody suspense drama “The Following” premieres Jan. 21. Kevin Bacon stars as a former FBI agent drafted back into service to chase a serial murderer and his disciples.
The world of “Dallas” will be rocked during its second season with the death of arch-villain oilman J.R. Ewing (played, of course, by Larry Hagman, who passed away in November while the series was in production). Also starring Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray, this rebooted version of the long-running CBS prime-time soap returns on TNT Jan. 28.
FX weighs in with an edgy new drama “The Americans” Jan. 30. It stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell as two KGB agents posing as the heads of a normal American household in the 1980s, as they work tirelessly to bring down the U.S. on behalf of Mother Russia.