WHAT TO WATCH: JANUARY 2014

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After taking a couple of months off from this particular post, we are back, and with a vengeance. January is probably the highest quality month of premiering TV since the Mrs. and I started this little blog. It may not be as busy a month, by sheer number of shows premiering, as September, but boy, does it run deep with high, high quality programming. January includes 4 shows that have been discussed (or will be) in the 2013 Terriers Memorial List (look for Part III this weekend), and at least 2 other shows that have appeared on previous years lists (including a former number 1). Also included in January is a show that many people such as myself are prognosticating will be on our 2014 lists, as well as a network sitcom that critics who have seen the pilot, are actually quite enthusiastic about. This is all a very long winded way of saying I hope you enjoyed your holidays, because January does not mess around when it comes to TV watching.  It’s back to business people.

On to the list (which I couldn’t even get down to 10, I tried, I really did, but it’s just not possible this month):

11. Banshee (Cinemax–Jan. 10, 9 PM): Much like Strike Back, Banshee is a show that has no business being as good as it is. Hopefully there will come a time when people like me stop using that statement about Cinemax shows, and that time is probably now. I wouldn’t say Banshee is quite as good as Strike Back (mostly because it lacks the “fun” of Strike Back), but it’s pretty close. Cinemax did a couple new shows in 2013, Banshee and Hunted (also good, but because of a dispute with the UK co-producer, it will not be back in 2014), in an aim to keep the momentum of Strike Back going. Banshee is the story of a master thief who gets out of jail and goes looking for his former girlfriend and partner in a sleepy Pennsylvania, Amish-country town, where he actually takes the identity of the new sheriff (who conveniently, no one had met). Strong acting, sufficient story-telling, intriguing characters, solid acting and all the violence and gratuitous nudity you would expect from Cinemax.

10. Downton Abbey (PBS–Jan. 5, 8 PM): If there was one show I considered leaving off of this list, it would likely be Downton, but I found just enough room for it, and it is still a show I watch and occasionally enjoy, so here we are. Let me actually explain my reservations on Downton though. While it’s a beautifully crafted and expertly acted show, Julian Fellows too often relies on true soap opera tactics to create drama. Too much conflict on Downton is the end result of miscommunications, or eavesdropping, simply put, the right people not having the right information. Fellows hides behind the period for much of this. Think about the episode from season 3 when Lady Sybill died, and the disagreement between the doctors on the proper course of treatment. That was a miscommunication issue that led to the death of a major character. Too much of that goes on in Downton. That said, I’ll be watching come Sunday night.

9. Enlisted (FOX–Jan. 10, 830 PM): Enlisted is the only new network show on this list. As it is a brand new network show, I’ve not seen any of it and I know very little about it. What I do know is that many professional TV critics whose opinions I value have been at least fairly enthusiastic about this show since they first saw the pilot last summer. Enlisted was supposed to premiere in the fall, but FOX pushed it, and then threw it on Friday nights after Raising Hope. I may not be in the TV business, but even I know that’s not good. That doesn’t tell me the show isn’t good (or even great) though, it just tells me FOX doesn’t know how to sell it (much like Raising Hope or Ben and Kate). The general premise of the show is three very different brothers, all in the Army, are stationed at the same base, and presumably hijinks ensue! It most notably stars Piz from Veronica Mars (Chris Lowell), and I’m looking forward to seeing what FOX has here.

8. Psych (USA–Jan. 8, 8 PM): I don’t think Psych will ever be confused as an all time classic TV show, but not every show has to be. Some shows just need to be fun and funny, and Psych has that down cold. With an incredible cast with maybe the best chemistry on all of TV (including the greats), Psych just continues to make me laugh and provide so much joy.  In fact, Psych: The Musical, which aired in December, was simply one of the most fun experiences I had watching TV all year. That’s what Psych is here for. To give us fun, quirky comedy with hilarious nicknames and pop culture references, and I welcome it back to my TV. I suppose my only hope is, with her ABC sitcom failing, Maggie Lawson will come back on board if there are any more episodes.

7. Cougar Town (TBS–Jan. 7, 9 PM): The good people at Turner broadcasting know good network TV when they see it. After saving Southland many years ago, last year the 4th season of Cougar Town premiered on TBS after 3 seasons on ABC. The most telling thing about the first season on TBS was that nothing seemed to change. Cougar Town still felt like Cougar Town. That’s doubly impressive, because not only was there a network change, but creator/show runner Bill Lawernce also left prior to that 4th season. Smartly, TBS is bring the cul-de-sac crew for a season 5, and letting us spend more time with our favorite winos who refuse to work!

6. Girls (HBO–Jan. 12, 9 PM): The second season of Girls had some very impressive highs (One Man’s Trash), but also was a small let down in other areas. It felt sometimes that Lena Dunham was trying to do her very best Louis CK impression, having episodes ands story lines that didn’t fit with the over all narrative. But the reason that works for Louis CK is that he goes all in on it. There is no over all narrative. Ms. Dunham sometimes tried to have it both ways in season 2, which sometimes resulted in great success, but other times not. But whatever the show was, it was always interesting, thoughtful, beautifully written and well acted (and funny when it was trying to be, which was not all the time), so I’ll always be looking forward to more episodes of Girls. After all, Hannah Horvath is the voice of my generation.

5. Sherlock (PBS–Jan. 19, 9 PM): Welcome back to the Batch and Martin Freeman. After taking 2013 off, Sherlock is back on PBS with 3 new episodes. Without a doubt my favorite incarnation of the Sherlock Holmes story, and for my money, the best Sherlock and Watson ever. Everything is right about it. Cumberbatch nails the prickly demeanor of Sherlock Holmes, making him just the right amount of jerk, while giving us enough to understand the connection that Watson feels towards him. And, along those lines, this incarnation of Sherlock perfectly captures the homoeroticism of the friendship between Holmes and Watson. The chemistry between the actors is top notch. Any episodes we get of Sherlock (much like Luther) are a gift we should be thankful for!

4. Shameless (Showtime–Jan. 12, 8 PM): Sunday nights in January are going to be really tricky to manage! I spent a lot of words in the Terriers Memorial List explaining why you should be watching Shameless, so I won’t go on for too long here. What I will say is that I’m so happy to have Emmy Rossum back on my TV, and can’t wait to see what sort of hilarious and heartbreaking disasters the Gallagher family gets into this season. Please watch this show!

3. True Detective (HBO–Jan. 12, 8 PM): See what I mean about Sunday nights? I guess I should tell you what True Detective is first…Starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey (along with Michelle Monoghan), True Detective is a cop story set in New Orleans, and follows a 17 year murder investigation. From what I have heard from those who have seen episodes, it is about as good as it gets, and with that cast, is anyone surprised? I think this show also presents an interesting glimpse into what the future of TV may be. If this show goes on after this season, it will be with a whole new cast, and a whole new story, providing an opportunity for actors as impressive as the ones here to come in and do a season of TV. That’s something worth being excited about.

2. Justified (FX–Jan. 7, 9 PM): Simply one of the best things on TV, period. Olyphant, Goggins and crew have captured an environment and a world that is second to none. There are many that would argue the show has never hit the heights it did in the Margo Martindale centric season 2, but I am not including among those. While Mags Bennett was definitely the best “big bad” of a season Justified has done, the show has continued to impress with the work of Olyphant and Goggins. And, I can’t think of a single reason why that wouldn’t continue going into season 5. For a show that is as serious as Justified, it’s amazing just how much fun it so often is, and that is a tribute to Mr. Elmore Leonard, who created the character of Raylan Givens, and Graham Yost, creator and show runner. Performances that astound, dialogue that crackles and tension you can often cut with a knife, Justified is the most underrated show in the Golden Age of TV.

1. Community (NBC–Jan. 2, 8 PM): Welcome back Dan Harmon. After an interesting and strange 4th season, the show gets to return to its roots, with its creator and central voice, Mr Harmon, back in as show runner. Community has often been so great not because it was funny (which it often is), but because of everything else it does. Community is thoughtful, it’s often sad, and always contemplative. Harmon has something to say, and he uses these characters (specifically Danny Pudi’s, Abed) to show us his weird, little world. I cut season 4 and it’s substitute show runners more slack than most, because I recognized how difficult of a job they had. But that said, it’s so good to have Harmon back. I’m hearing that the early episodes return us to Harmon’s weird, little world in amazing fashion.

So there you have it. Happy New Year! I hope you got a shiny, new TV for Christmas, because you’re gonna need it!

-CJ

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