The arrival of 2014 has brought us the return of several outstanding television shows and a number of promising new ones from which to choose. With the inflated admission prices at movie theaters these days, it’s nice to know that we can enjoy quality entertainment without leaving the comfort of home. And actually many of the programs on the tube these days are better than a lot of selections on the big screen. Let’s have a look at some of the programs available in January. Although I have not yet seen all of them, I will assign scores to the ones I have viewed.
The critically acclaimed and superbly acted “Downton Abbey” kicked of its fourth season on PBS last Sunday with a marvelous two-hour episode. If you haven’t yet discovered this opulent show about the wealthy Crawley family residing in the magnificent Yorkshire country house named Downton Abbey, you’ve been missing television at its very best. The series is set during the reign of King George V and takes us inside the lives of the Crawleys and their servants. This outstanding show, which airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on PBS, boasts superb acting, lush scenery, beautiful costumes, and stunning sets. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss it because this one is a bona fide 10.
Another great show that returned for its fifth season last week is “Justified” starring Timothy Olyphant as deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens. The series is based upon the novels “Pronto” and “Riding the Rap” and the short story “Fire in the Hole” by Elmore Leonard, and it follows the law-enforcement career of Givens as he doles out justice in the Kentucky town where he grew up. The writing for this show is phenomenal, and the series achieves a great blend of drama, romance, action, mystery, and humor. “Justified” airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX, and it is another 10.
“Intelligence” is a new show that made its debut last Tuesday, and it has a lot of promise. The hero of this action show is Gabriel Vaughn (Josh Holloway), who has the distinction of being the first human to be connected into the grid of global information via a microchip implanted in his brain. Thus, he can gain access to data centers around the world to guard the United States against all its potential enemies. Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger) is the director of the United States Cyber Command and Vaughn’s handler. Because Vaughn has a propensity for being reckless and violating protocol, Strand appoints Secret Service Agent Riley Neal (Meghan Ory) as his protector. The show airs on Mondays at 10 p.m. on CBS, and based upon its exciting premiere episode, it earns a solid eight.
If you enjoy shows with a western theme, you may want to check out “Killer Women,” the story of Molly Parker (Tricia Helfer), who is the only female member of the Texas Rangers. She’s a former beauty queen and the daughter of a sheriff, but she is as tough as she is pretty, and she’s not in the least intimidated by her male counterparts. You’ll find this show on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on CBS, and although it has been described as a female version of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” I thought Helfer was very good. It gets a respectable seven, and I will watch it again.
Although I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, “The Spoils of Babylon” looks like one of the more interesting new shows of the winter. The miniseries is a spoof of mega dramas such as “The Thorn Birds” and “Rich Man, Poor Man,” and it boasts an incredible cast that includes Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Tim Robbins, Tobey Maguire, Val Kilmer, Haley Joel Osment, Jessica Alba, and Carey Mulligan. How can it miss with stars like these? Check your listings for the times when this show airs on IFC.
“True Detective,” made its debut on Sunday, Jan. 12, at 9 p.m. on HBO. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson star as Rust Cohle and Martin Hart respectively, two detectives who meet in attempting to catch a serial killer who has been on the loose for 17 years in Louisiana. The series is scheduled to run for eight episodes for its first season, but plans already are under way for subsequent seasons. This should be top notch!
One of the best shows of the 2013 season returns on Jan. 13. From the time it made its debut on Sept. 23, 2013, “The Blacklist” literally captivated its viewers with the story of Raymond Reddington (James Spader), a former government agent turned rogue who was on the run for years until one day when he suddenly surrendered to the FBI on the condition he works solely Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). In each episode, Reddington helps the FBI bring the world’s most notorious criminals to justice. Both Spader and Boone are outstanding in this terrific crime drama, which earns an impressive nine. You can see “The Blacklist” every Tuesday on NBC at 10 p.m.
One of my favorite shows returns after the Jan. 19 NFC football game on FOX. “The Following” is a chilling tale about the attempt of former FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) to hunt down and capture Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), a sadistic serial killer who has escaped from prison. It was Hardy who had Carroll incarcerated in the first place, and now he is out and has formed a cult of followers who are willing to do anything for him. Yes, you guessed it. This one is a thrilling 10.
Two more new shows are noteworthy. The first is “Rake,” which makes its debut on Monday, Jan. 20, at 9 p.m. on FOX. In this combination of comedy and drama, Academy Award nominee Greg Kinnear plays criminal defense attorney Keegan Deane, who is anything but the stereotypical lawyer. His ex-wife can’t stand him, and judges think he is a disgrace to his profession. Nevertheless, he is a borderline genius with an abiding respect for the law, and he’s willing to take the cases all other lawyers avoid. This has the potential to be a real winner.
Finally, if you are a swashbuckling fan, Starz has a real treat in store for you because its original pirate series, “Black Sails,” will begin airing on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 9 p.m. Although Jonathan Steinberg wrote the series as a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” be forewarned this isn’t for the children because the advance publicity promises there will be lots of violence, profanity, and sex. The series revolves around Captain Flint’s (Toby Stephens) indefatigable search for the world’s biggest treasure. Aye matey, I’ll be aboard when she sails. Will you?