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To most people, the end of the holiday season is a bleak time. January is typically reserved for taking down Christmas lights, recycling that fir tree, and miserably returning to work or school with nothing to look forward to until summer. But there is one place where January is a time of great joy and celebration: on television.
January marks the beginning of the second half of the television season, where shows that have gone on break for the holidays return and new shows, or midseason replacements, premiere. This year, the lineup of midseason series looks particularly impressive.
Jan. 13 marks the much-anticipated return of “Girls,” the HBO comedy written, produced, directed by and also starring Lena Dunham. When the show premiered last spring, Dunham received much press for her semi-controversial style of mixing realistic drama and comedy, similar to the raunchy cable comedy “Louie.” “Girls” also attracted an extremely dedicated audience, helped by a short first season and a marketing push by HBO. Loyal followers will be glad to hear of the show’s second season premiere this month, which boasts guest stars like Patrick Wilson, Donald Glover and Rita Wilson.
Another big television event is the return of “Cougar Town,” the former ABC sitcom, which will now be shown on TBS starting Jan. 8. The show has had a rough run despite being one of the funniest comedies on TV, mostly due to its title (it is about wine-loving neighbors and friends, rather than older women on the hunt for younger men, as the title might suggest), which has deterred many from watching it. After being cancelled by ABC last year, “Cougar Town” was saved by TBS and last Tuesday marked its triumphant return to TV.
Also exciting is the arrival of some brand new shows, premiering this month on both cable and network channels. On Jan. 21, Kevin Williamson (writer of the “Scream” series, “Vampire Diaries,” and “Dawson’s Creek”) will premiere his new TV drama “The Following.” I was lucky enough to get a preview screening of the show’s first episode at Comic-Con this year and was blown away. The pilot follows former FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) as he tracks down the escaped serial killer Joe Carroll, whom he imprisoned years earlier. Throughout the episode, the audience learns that Carroll has gained followers, fans of his killing spree who could be anyone, who begin to do his deathly bidding. This sets up the show perfectly for episodes and seasons to come. Creator Kevin Williamson’s familiarity with television, character-based stories and serial killer themes blend perfectly in “The Following,” which feels comfortable to watch yet remarkably fresh and exciting.
Another new drama is FX’s “The Americans,” which premieres on Jan. 30. The show takes place in 1980 Cold War America, a time and place where KGB officers have infiltrated the country, disguised as American citizens. The show’s main characters Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) are two such soviet agents, posing as a married couple living with their two children in Washington D.C. Like “The Following,” this FX show posits that danger could be lurking anywhere. With two fantastic lead actors and a compelling story, “The Americans” looks to be a good fit on the FX schedule, which already boasts popular action-packed and character-driven dramas “Sons of Anarchy,” “Justified” and “American Horror Story.”
On Monday, NBC aired its newest midseason drama “Deception,” which has been compared to the wildly popular ABC series “Revenge.” In the coming months, midseason shows will continue to premiere. The CW will attempt to shake up their bland schedule on Feb. 19 with the meta-mystery “Cult,” starring Matt Davis (“The Vampire Diaries”) and Alona Tal (“Veronica Mars,” “Supernatural”). On March 3, ABC will premiere “Red Window,” another revenge drama starring Radha Mitchell as a woman seeking justice after her husband is murdered.
So instead of mourning the holidays this January, turn on the TV and immerse yourself in a new show (or the return of one you already adore). From the looks of this year’s midseason lineup, you will not be disappointed.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of January 11, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.