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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

May is mostly a dead zone of season finales and reruns as TV gears up for the summer. (There’s no off-season anymore; get used to it.) But! Remember all those shows I’ve told you to watch harder in this very column? You know, the shows that are all readily available in various on-demand forms? Now’s the time to catch up! Here’s 12 to start with:

Wynonna Earp (Syfy): Wynonna Earp (Melanie Scrofano) is a modern-day descendent of Old West gunslinger Wyatt Earp, who was also a supernatural demon hunter (just roll with it), and she’s back in town to re-smite evil souls (or Revenants). It’s all true enough to the comic-book source, and Scrofano is a likable combo of badass and goofball.

Orphan Black (BBC America): In Season 4 of tense clone-soap Orphan Black, Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) investigates Beth, the deceased sister-clone whose identity she stole at the beginning of the series, as well as the origins of the clone conspiracy. Also, there are more clones, upping Maslany’s character load for the season to eight (and still no Emmy).

Hap and Leonard (Sundance): Hap and Leonard is a six-episode tale about ’80s Texans Hap (James Purefoy) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams), a pair of luckless laborers dragged into a get-rich-suspiciously-easy scheme by Hap’s ex-wife (Christina Hendricks). The plan soon spirals into a cacophony of conflicting agendas and colorful characters, with Fargo-like comic-to-violent jolts.

Idiotsitter (Comedy Central): An unemployed Ivy Leaguer (Charlotte Newhouse) takes a baby-sitting job—but the “baby” turns out to be an adult wild-child heiress (Jillian Bell) under house arrest. As the series progresses (or regresses), it’s clear that Bell and Newhouse can do stoopid repartee almost as well as the Broad City ladies. All this, and a Channing Tatum cameo!

Baskets (FX): Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis), having flunked out of a prestigious French clown academy, returns to uncultured ’Merica to be a rodeo clown—and then it gets weird. (Chip’s mom is Louie Anderson in drag, for just one example.) Baskets is a funny-to-sad-to-funnier-to-sadder commentary on artistic failure and Western decline, but don’t be afraid.

Better Call Saul (AMC): Better Call Saul continues to be a minor-miracle follow-up to, and expansion on, Breaking Bad in a flawless second season, further transforming small-time lawyer Slippin’ Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) into medium-time legal shark Saul Goodman. Even better, Rhea Seehorn, Michael McKean and Jonathan Banks get equal time to shine.

Banshee (Cinemax): Season 4 will be the last for this gritty slice of Amish-country crime noir, so there’s hope for eventually catching up on Banshee. The twisted tale of an ex-con/thief (Antony Starr) who assumes the identity of Sheriff Lucas Hood in the small town of Banshee, Pa., has taken many a bizarre turn, but the outcome is always the same (and bloody).

Vinyl (HBO): Vinyl is as excessive and beautiful as you’d expect a collaboration between Martin Scorsese, Terence Winter and Mick Jagger to be, mixing Almost Famous’ music-saves earnestness with Velvet Goldmine’s visceral glam bombast and Boogie Nights’ druggy chaos—and cranking it to 11 in 1974 NYC. It’s not perfect, but neither is rock ’n’ roll.

The Detour (TBS): Jason Jones (The Daily Show) and Natalie Zea (Justified) star as harried parents on a family road-trip where everything that could possibly go wrong does—spectacularly. Sound like National Lampoon’s Vacation? It is, but far funnier than last year’s limp Vacation reboot—and usually dramatic Zea is a comedic revelation.

Billions (Showtime): Damian Lewis (as a charismatic hedge-fund billionaire) and Paul Giamatti (as a troubled U.S. attorney) churn bluster and testosterone Acting! against each other, but they’re not Billions’ most interesting players: Maggie Siff, as a psychiatrist-turned-performance-coach with an invisible, spooky command, could lead this series on her own.

Teachers (TV Land): Teachers is a part of TV Land’s makeover from reheated sitcom repository to smart comedy destination, and six-woman improv troupe The Katydids (their first names are all variations on “Katherine”) gender-flip Super Troopers into an elementary school, dosed with Broad City’s fearless, vanity-free pursuit of so-wrong laughs.

Not Safe With Nikki Glaser (Comedy Central): Comic Nikki Glaser gets right down to topics like “losing your virginity, masturbation and putting stuff in your butt!” Not Safe is a sex-and-relationships talk show with fellow-comedian gab and pre-taped bits—it’s been done before, but Glaser has the smarts and presence to rise to the level of Amy Schumer.

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Banshee (Friday, April 1, Cinemax), season premiere: Anyone flinching at the hand-to-hand-combat brutality of Daredevil has never seen Banshee—which is probably most of you, because, you know, Cinemax. Fortunately for those suffering from Too Much TV Syndrome, Season 4 will be the last for this overlooked, gritty slice of Amish-country crime noir (stay with me), so there’s hope for eventually catching up. The tale of an ex-con/thief (Antony Starr) who assumes the identity of Sheriff Lucas Hood en route to tracking down his former partner/girlfriend (Ivana Milicevic), who’s hiding out in the small town of Banshee, Penn., has taken many a bizarre turn, but the outcome is always the same (and bloody): The local Amish mafia, Native Americans, skinheads and even some members of Hood’s own police force would like him gone and/or dead. Season 4 picks up two years after the events of Season 3’s shattering finale—Banshee isn’t a jump-in-anywhere story, so do not attempt—with Eliza Dushku joining the fray as an FBI profiler who may be just as eff’dup as Hood. Banshee is a wild ride—add it to your TV homework.

Dead 7 (Friday, April 1, Syfy), movie: “From the makers of Sharknado … Say ‘Bye Bye Bye’ to zombies!” Yes, it’s real: a zombie-apocalypse Western starring various members of ’90s boy bands ’NSync, Backstreet Boys, O-Town and 98 Degrees. (Sorry, Color Me Badd do not represent.) Aside from the admittedly slick gimmick, there’s little about Dead 7 that The Asylum’s Syfy zombie series Z Nation doesn’t do better/funnier, but rookie horror writer Nick Carter (of the Backstreet Boys, who also stars) at least deserves credit for keeping this slab of cheese somewhat coherent—emphasis on “somewhat,” since none of the boy-banders can act, and there’s an incongruent Mad Max element thrown in because, well, why the hell not? Also: cameos by Jon Secada (!) and Everclear’s Art Alexakis (!!).

Wynonna Earp (Friday, April 1, Syfy), series debut: It only sounds ridiculous because it is: Wynonna Earp (Melanie Scrofano) is a modern-day descendent of Old West gunslinger Wyatt Earp, who was also a supernatural demon hunter. Now it’s Wynonna’s turn, as she returns to her hometown of Purgatory to re-smite the evil souls (or Revenants) taken down once-upon-a-time by Great Grandpappy—with an assist from the now-immortal Doc Holliday, of course. Wynonna Earp holds true enough to the ’90s IDW comic-book source material, and Scrofano easily brings her to life as a likable combo of badass and goofball. Another winner from Syfy—hopefully, the Dead 7 lead-in will draw some eyeballs, because Wynonna has no established support series on Fridays after tonight.

The Powerpuff Girls (Monday, April 4, Cartoon Network), return: After a decade away, Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup are back! (We’re going to pretend that ill-advised 2014 Powerpuff Girls 3-D special, made with no input from series creator/writer/director Craig McCracken, never happened.) Likewise, The Powerpuff Girls 2016 won’t involve McCracken, but it does have his approval; aside from some new voice talent and a refreshed theme song from indie-rockers Tacocat, they’re still the same pint-sized Townsville superheroines saving the world before bedtime. Is Cartoon Network taking reboot requests? My comeback wish list: Sheep in the Big City, Grim and Evil and, most of all, Space Ghost Coast to Coast—SG is truly a hero for our modern times.

American Idol: American Dream (Tuesday, April 5, Fox), special: It’s been 14 years since American Idol was launched as a $inister initiative to destroy music, a product-placement garbage cannon inspiring millions of karaoke dropouts to eschew hard work and talent in favor of jumping a cattle-call train to Overnight Sensationville. Burn in hell, Simon Fuller, Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest. American Idol: American Dream (ha!) looks back on 15 seasons of pop failure dotted with the occasional bona-fide talent who likely would have become a star on their own. (There’s a reason Carrie Underwood plays the EnormoDome while Taylor Hicks headlines boat shows.) Again, burn in hell, Simon Fuller, Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest. The merciful end of American Idol is at hand, but the damage is done, and our tone-deaf Precious Snowflakes who’ve been conditioned to believe they crap rainbows still have an open mic on The Voice. One last time: Burn in hell, Simon Fuller, Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest.

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Archer (Thursday, Jan. 8, FX), season premiere: After last season’s cocaine ’n’ country detour, Sterling Archer (the voice of H. Jon Benjamin) and crew are back in the spy game—but no longer as ISIS, since that name’s been, uh, compromised. After he’s done wallowing in “cobra whiskey and lady-boy hookers,” the new father (congrats, Archer and Lana, even though only one of you was aware of it) will be freelancing for the CIA. Other than that, it’s business—and deliciously crass hilarity—as usual. Favorite line of the new season (so far): “Eat a buffet of dicks.”

Banshee (Friday, Jan. 9, Cinemax), season premiere: The strangest action-thriller you keep missing opens Season 3 with a one-two punch of bloody violence and steamy sex—Cinemax hasn’t gone completely straight. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore that Banshee, Penn., “sheriff” Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) is a fraud; apparently, only a criminal can dispense justice in this town (while making felonious bank on the side). But it does, and he’ll face as much hell from his girlfriend/deputy as he will enemies old (the local Amish mob) and new (an Indian tribe out for his blood). How many times do I have to tell you to just watch Banshee already?

Shameless (Sunday, Jan. 11, Showtime), season premiere (pictured below): No longer knockin’ on heaven’s door, professional alcoholic Frank (William H. Macy) has a new liver (which he wastes no time road-testing), and Fiona (Emmy Rossum) is pushing her own bad-boy limits by juggling four men (including the back-from-the-not-dead Jimmy/Steve/Jack, who only counts as one). But of all the troubles the family has in Season 5—and there are plenty, as usual—none are more terrifying than the creeping coffee-shop gentrification of their craphole Chicago ’hood: The Gallaghers vs. Hipsters war is on!

Parks and Recreation (Tuesday, Jan. 13, NBC), season premiere: NBC is burning through Parks and Recreation’s final episodes back-to-back on Tuesdays for seven weeks—damn, that’s some cold Jerry Gergich treatment. While the perfect Parks and Rec finale actually aired a year ago (“Ann and Chris,” the one in which Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe left the show), at least we’ll have a little more time with these characters—now fast-forwarded to the year 2017, because why not? All I want is for Andy (Chris Pratt) to reunite with MouseRat, or at least for Ron (Nick Offerman) to reunite with the Meat Tornado.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Wednesday, Jan. 14, FXX), season premiere: A decade?! It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is kicking off Season 10?! And is renewed for two more?! Suck on that, Friends. In typically random Sunny fashion, the first episode finds the Gang on a flight from Philly to Los Angeles, attempting to break baseball legend Wade Boggs’ record of downing over 50 beers each (save for Mac, who’s acting as “commissioner”) before they reach California. Lessons learned: Boggs’ cross-country chug-a-thon record is a real thing, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is still bringing it. Hard.

Man Seeking Woman (Wednesday, Jan. 14, FXX), series debut: When he splits from his girlfriend, Josh (Jay Baruchel) walks away—followed by a literal raincloud. His first post-breakup blind date is with an actual troll. Man Seeking Woman is full of such absurdist visual gags, punching up what’s essentially just a comedy about a put-upon Jay Baruchel-type looking for love, aided/wildly misdirected by his far-cooler bud (Eric Andre—yeah, a stretch), who drops such romantic wisdom as “Tinder is like Facebook, but it’s just like, straight to smashing.” Man Seeking Woman is cute with the potential to wear thin fast—proceed with caution.

Also premiering this week: Portlandia (IFC, Jan. 8); Glee (Fox, Jan. 9); Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO, Jan. 9); Comedy Bang! Bang! (IFC, Jan. 9); Girls, Togetherness, Looking (HBO, Jan. 11); House of Lies, Episodes (Showtime, Jan. 11); Workaholics, Broad City (Comedy Central, Jan. 14).

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True Detective (HBO): Creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto probably screwed himself by launching this mesmerizing crime anthology with stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson at the top of their respective games. Good luck following up these eight near-perfect episodes.

Banshee (Cinemax): This left-field, visceral mashup of Justified, Twin Peaks and Fight Club went pulp-gonzo harder in Season 2, expanding the world of Banshee, Penn., just enough to introduce even more Amish mobster/Ukrainian thug mayhem. It’s that weird, and that cool.

Shameless (Showtime): Things somehow got worse as they got better for the Gallagher clan in Season 4, with William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum delivering alternately heartbreaking and hilarious performances. This is America’s family.

Justified (FX): Star Timothy Olyphant put his boot down and rescued Justified from becoming entirely the show of Boyd (Walton Goggins) in its fifth and penultimate season, and brought some new colorful characters along for the ride.

Broad City (Comedy Central): Few comedies arrive as fully-realized as Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s Broad City (though it did have a head-start as a Web series); their broke Brooklynites are the female flipside of Workaholics, only smarter, funnier and occasionally grosser.

Helix (Syfy): This Arctic Andromeda Strain/Walking Dead hybrid from Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) crept up with no big splash, but it did earn a second season for 2015—catch up on Netflix now.

The Americans (FX): Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys continued to out-spy Homeland while still stuck in Cold War 1981, facing down more danger (and wigs) than Carrie and Brody could ever imagine.

Archer (FX): Meanwhile, Archer (code-named Archer Vice) blew up its spy premise and dove face-first into cocaine and country music. Literally.

House of Cards (Netflix): Vice president Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) delivered a shocking twist in the first episode of Season 2, and the train didn’t stop a-rollin’ from there. As with actual D.C. politics, it’s best not to think too hard about the machinations en route to the presidency

Fargo (FX): Lorne (Billy Bob Thornton), Lester (Martin Freeman) and Deputy Molly (Allison Tolman) shut down the “You can’t touch that movie” doubters from frame one with this dark, funny adaptation that faltered fewer times than True Detective. Oh, you bet’cha.

From Dusk Till Dawn (El Rey): Another film-to-TV transition that defied the haters, From Dusk Till Dawn expanded the 1996 cult classic into an even crazier, racier 10-episode ride where the definition of “the good guys” is subjective.

Game of Thrones (HBO): Like anyone’s going to make a list without Game of Thrones. Get real.

Silicon Valley (HBO): Mike Judge finally, if not intentionally, created the sequel to Office Space with Silicon Valley, a hysterically profane (and tech-jargoned, at least at first) saga about programmers in waaay over their heads. If only Halt and Catch Fire had been half this much fun.

Veep (HBO): Speaking of profane: VP Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her team continued to fail upward in Season 3, from WTF? to the brink of POTUS. Pray for your country.

Bates Motel (A&E): Murder, drugs, love triangles, commercial zoning disputes—Bates Motel has it all! Norman (Freddie Highmore) became as intriguing as mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) in Season 2, no small feat, as did some of the supporting players. Why wait for Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival? It’s already here.

Mad Men (AMC): Splitting the final season in half was a lousy idea (the Mad Men buzz is pretty much nil at this point), but those first seven episodes provided a course-correcting jolt that should make for a hell of a 2015 finale, whenever that happens (hopefully, not in the ’70s).

Orphan Black (BBC America): See Game of Thrones.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO): Sure, it’s a Daily Show knock-off with F-bombs—but those rants! Corporations, media, condiments—suck it! Everything the overblown Newsroom attempted over three seasons, Oliver nailed in 30 minutes.

Legit (FXX): Poor Jim Jefferies. His Louie-like Legit finally got good by the end of its first season, then FX exiled it to the untested FXX for Season 2: no promotion, no viewers, just yelling into a vast, empty room. See what you missed on Netflix (along with Jeffries’ stand-up specials).

Playing House (USA): Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham as almost-uncomfortably close BFFs failed on network TV, but found a niche on cable with Playing House, which could be the first series ever to make pregnancy play funny and inclusive.

Parks and Recreation (NBC): While as excellent as ever, Season 6 probably should have been the last (maybe even halfway through), but at least we’ll get a proper sendoff for NBC’s last great Must-See comedy in 2015.

Rick and Morty (Adult Swim): Few “get” Community, but Dan Harmon’s other TV project, the animated, and simultaneously brainy and crude Rick and Morty—imagine Back to the Future with more universes, booze and malicious aliens—clicked immediately on Adult Swim.

Louie (FX): Louis C.K. made us wait two years for a new season, then delivered 14 arty-if-not-always-funny installments of Louie, which were rightfully hailed as “brave,” “experimental” and “mostly free of black T-shirts.”

Maron (IFC): Marc Maron didn’t stray too far from the formula of his debut season in his second go-round—regarding how difficult it is to be Marc Maron, specifically, and a middle-aged white dude with a podcast in general. Still brilliant.

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix): Season 2 leaned more dramatic than comedic, and pulled killer performances from everyone in (and out) of Litchfield Penitentiary. Creator Jenji Kohan is well on her way to achieving the heretofore-thought impossible: Topping her previous series, Weeds.

The Leftovers (HBO): Life sucks when you’re not Raptured, and The Leftovers was the ultimate summer-bummer wallow, not to mention the vehicle that finally made Justin Theroux matter.

Rectify (Sundance): And while we’re on the topic of dramas filmed in Depress-o-Vision … damn.

Longmire (A&E): In its third season, Longmire fully broke away from its Justified Out West trappings and became a gripping, dusty crime drama in its own right. A&E rewarded this creative triumph—and high ratings—with a cancellation notice in order to make way for more Duck Dynasty. Fortunately, Netflix came to the rescue, and Season 4 will be streaming by late 2015. I’m beginning to understand you cable-cutters …

Coming next week: Part 2—even more shows!

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In 2011, Charlie Sheen was fired from CBS’ Two and a Half Men for being, well, more Charlie Sheen than he had been during production of the sitcom’s previous seven seasons. He then went on a public-meltdown tour, including the infamous scorched-earth “Winning” carnival that eventually became the actual My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not an Option Tour. To further prove that he was sane and sober-ish, he also hosted the Gathering of the Juggalos that year, and dated and/or married a succession of adult-film starlettes.

Naturally, this all led to another TV deal: FX, home to edgy comedies like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Louie, Archer, The League and Wilfred, set up an unusual deal for Sheen and Anger Management, a sitcom wherein he plays an anger-management therapist conveniently named, as he was on Two and a Half Men, “Charlie.” The network ordered 10 episodes with the option to buy 90 (!) more to take the series directly to $yndicationville, depending on the initial order’s reception.

Even though Anger Management turned out to be just another hacky, laugh-tracked sitcom of the CBS variety wedged oddly into FX, the June 2012 premiere episode became the highest-rated comedy debut in cable history—which was 23 million fewer people than who tuned in to see Ashton Kutcher replace him on Two and a Half Men. Different shades of Winning.

Even though Anger Management’s 100th and final episode airs on Monday, Dec. 22, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of FX who’s aware that it’s even still on. After the initial curiosity wore off, the show’s ratings dwindled week by week, to the point where it’s now barely pulling Pasta Boat infomercial numbers. FX has been blowing through back-to-back episodes for months now just to get it over with by Christmas. (By the way: To the exec who green-lit Anger Management’s back 90—your bonus this year is a Pasta Boat.)

The last time Anger Management made the news was when co-star Selma Blair threw herself off the money train last year by calling Sheen out on his supposedly lax work ethic—bam, fired, replaced overnight. Not to side with the “rock star from Mars” here, but can Blair really call a guy who’s cranking out 90 episodes in a year lazy? Making mediocre TV is hard work—just ask Ashton Kutcher and Jon Cryer.

As I pointed out when I reviewed the premiere episode in 2012, Anger Management is still a better comedy than Two and a Half Men. That’s like saying herpes is better than gonorrhea. However, Men is run by a Hollywood hack who hasn’t had a new idea since the ’90s (Chuck Lorre) and takes itself seriously as a continuance of the “artform,” while Anger Management is slowly suffocating the sitcom with a pillow. Most of the jokes never land (despite what the laugh track indicates); cast members and storylines disappear and reappear randomly (Shawnee Smith, as Charlie’s ex-wife, is always in the opening credits, but rarely appears anymore—you should have gotten her deal, Selma Blair); the show’s women are written so misogynistically that porn actresses would wince (the casting sheet probably just reads “Alcoholic Slut” and “Alcoholic Slut No. 2”); and the stench of We Don’t Care Anymore is thick (the last episode is actually titled “Charlie and the 100th Episode”).

Which is why I’ve watched Every. Single. Episode. From the beginning. My morbid fascination with this death-march is weird, for sure, but I have enjoyed watching the wheels fall off as it grinds toward its final destination. Anger Management may not have killed off the plague of the traditional sitcom, but I salute Sheen for trying (and for the adult-film starlettes, and the drug tolerance, and …). You’re a great American, Carlos Estevez.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR DEC. 23 AND 30!

Continuum: Season 3

The mission of timecop Kiera (Rachel Nichols) to stop the Liber8 terrorists from 2077 in 2014 becomes more dangerous than ever—unless an alternate timeline was created and none of it has happened … or will happen. Huh? (Universal, Dec. 23)

Banshee: Season 2

The most badass action series you’ve never heard of returns for a second season of sex, violence and Amish politics, as fake sheriff Hood (Antony Starr) and fake housewife Carrie (Ivana Milicevic) outwit real gangsters. Get it. Now. (HBO, Dec. 30)

The Brittany Murphy Story

Amanda Fuller stars in the not-at-all exploitative “true” story of actress Brittany Murphy, from Clueless in the ’90s to her death in 2009, as told through the Hollywood magic of terrible wigs and pure conjecture. (A&E, Dec. 30)

Hell Fire

After a robbery goes bad, things get even stranger for four desperate hookers when they realize they’ve inadvertently kidnapped the Antichrist (J. Scott Green), who actually turns out to be a relatively fun dude. Aw. (Maxim Media, Dec. 30)

Shameless: Season 4

It’s winter in Chicago. Lip’s in college, and Fiona’s steady job has almost elevated the Gallaghers to the middle class—so of course it’s all going to fall apart, just like Frank’s liver. Shameless is the American family TV series. (Warner Bros., Dec. 30)

More New DVD/VOD Releases (Dec. 23 and 30)

Dec. 23: Dominion: Season 1, Pride, Richard Pryor: Icon, Sanatorium, Traffickers, The Trip to Italy, Two-Bit Waltz. Dec. 30: Dance-Off, The Equalizer, Kelly and Cal, Reach Me.

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Banshee (Friday, Jan. 10, Cinemax), season premiere: If you haven’t yet seen the first season of Banshee, do so—it’s a 10-episode rush of gonzo-pulp mayhem that defies reason, and yet it somehow still works, like a visceral mash-up of Justified, Twin Peaks, Fight Club and some sexy number you’d see much later in the night on Cinemax. You’d sprain something if you jumped in on Season 2 tonight. Go ahead; The Only TV Column That Matters™ will be here, waiting.

Shameless (Sunday, Jan. 12, Showtime), season premiere: Fiona (Emmy Rossum) and her job may finally have the family “creeping up on the poverty line,” but all is not yet well in Gallagher world: Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is finding college tougher than he thought; Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) and Debbie (Emma Kenney) have become hormonal-teen assholes; Ian (Cameron Monaghan) is still missing; and, even worse, Frank (William H. Macy) has been found and returned—and he’s learned a few … new ways … to get alcohol into his body now that he can’t drink. Four seasons in, Shameless has yet to run out of ways to simultaneously delight and disgust. Once more: Forget Modern Familythis is America’s family.

True Detective (Sunday, Jan. 12, HBO), series debut: Show creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto has set up True Detective as an anthology series that would introduce a new setting and cast every season—so he probably screwed himself by producing such an incredible first run, with stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson turning in some of their most intense performances to date. The pair play disparate detectives (Harrelson’s Martin Hart is a linear-thinking traditionalist; McConaughey’s Rust Cohle is hyper-smart profiler with a penchant for unsettling spiels about the futility of existence) investigating an occult-style murder in 1995 Louisiana. The twist is, the two are telling the story from their own viewpoints in 2012, being interviewed by police about a similar recent killing. Even with the time shifts, True Detective is seamless and riveting, more of an extended indie film than a crime series. If you see only one TV show this year, 1. Why are you on this page, snobby? And, 2. Make it True Detective.

Bitten (Monday, Jan. 13, Syfy), series debut: Welcome back to Gorgeous Supernatural Creatures Just Trying to Fit in Mondays, with returning series Lost Girl and Being Human, and new Syfy entry Bitten—for those keeping score, that’s a succubus, a vampire, a ghost and now three werewolves. Bitten stars Laura Vandervoort (Smallville) as a werewolf who’s split acrimoniously from her beardy-man pack to live the “normal” life of an urbanite—who has to strip down and wolf-out in the woods on occasion. Like Lost Girl and Being Human, Bitten looks like it was shot for $1,000 over the weekend in Vancouver, but it doesn’t achieve the deft humor/drama mix of either—so it piles on the sex scenes. Prediction: Hit.

Archer, Chozen (Monday, Jan. 13, FX), season premiere, series debut: As we—and they—learn in the first episode of Season 5, Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) and the International Secret Intelligence Service have been causing global havoc for years without the sanction of the U.S. government, thus setting up a season-long arc with the on-the-lam spy gang attempting to unload a ton of cocaine before Pam (Amber Nash) ingests it all, because, you know, Archer. Moving the show to Mondays seems like an equally suicidal mission, but at least FX finally has a semi-worthy animated companion in Chozen, the story of a gay white ex-con rapper on a mission; it’s from the minds behind Archer and Eastbound and Down. It’s half-baked, but Chozen is at least good enough to beat off the competition … phrasing.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR JAN. 14!

Army of the Damned

Followed by reality-TV cameras, a police chief (Sully Erna—yes, the singer of Godsmack) and his men battle a small-town zombie outbreak. Also starring rassler Tommy Dreamer, porn star Jasmin St. Claire and … Joey Fatone?! (Screen Media)

Carrie

An outcast high-schooler (Chloë Grace Moretz) with telekinetic powers gets revenge-y at her prom, and the Liberal Media blames it on her religious mother (Julianne Moore). Based on a book, movie and first-person shooter. (MGM)

Riddick

In the third and final (?) installment of the series, Riddick (Vin Diesel) finally decides to get the hell off of the stupid desert planet (good call) and sends a signal to the mercenaries out to capture/kill him (bad call). Oh, and now he has a pet! (Universal)

You’re Next

A gang of ax-wielding killers take a rich family hostage in their home, and it’s up to a 98-pound houseguest (Sharni Vinson) to save everyone from the animal-masked assailants. Surprise! They all die. (Lionsgate)

More New DVD Releases (Jan. 14)

A.C.O.D., Big Sur, Enough Said, Fresh Meat, Fruitvale Station, Gasland Part II, Getting That Girl, How to Make Money Selling Drugs, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Short Term 12, A Single Shot, The Spectacular Now, 20 Feet From Stardom, Voodoo Possession.

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Arrow (The CW): The comic-book superhero series that got it right in its first year has been on fire in Season 2, jacking up the action to thrillingly visceral levels, as well as giving both our hero’s allies (love that Felicity) and enemies (hate that Malcolm) generous chunks of screen time. Oh, and the Flash!

Justified (FX): Despite the guns, guns, guns promos, Justified is all about the consequences and the dialogue, and Season 4—which had to follow a landmark “just try and top that” season—had plenty for Marshal Raylan, Boyd and anyone unlucky enough to be attached to them. FX’s best drama, period.

Banshee (Cinemax): This gritty-weird series about an ex-con assuming the identity of a small-town sheriff to reunite with his former lover/partner—and their loot—should have been a pulp-crime mess, but the deepening story (and the hyper-violent action) can’t be denied.

Shameless (Showtime): The Gallaghers continued their grimy reign as America’s Family, and Season 3 injected all-too-real drama and fallout for their many, many questionable actions. No other series can match Shameless for sheer volume of yeah-it’s-cable-but-they-can-get-away-with-that?! situations.

Bates Motel (A&E): Sure, it seemed a like terrible idea at first, but the subtle, creeping terror of Psycho: The Wonder Years worked, thanks to Vera Farmiga’s sympathetic but wildly unpredictable Norma Bates. We know where it’s all going, but the ride so far is addictive.

Archer (FX): Season 4 kicked off with a hysterically blatant nod to star voice H. Jon Benjamin’s other series, Bob’s Burgers, and ended with a tribute to obscure Adult Swim series Sealab 2021. The characters are idiots, but Archer’s scripting is stoopid-smart.

Veep (HBO): Speaking of hapless dumbasses guided by comedic genius, Veep’s second season stayed the course of Vice President Selina Meyer’s slog through deflating beltway politics and worse PR. It’s funny, profane and probably closer to the truth than C-SPAN.

Breaking Bad (AMC): Obviously. Breaking Bad’s final season may have tied up more neatly than logically, but a drama this perfectly executed over five years earned more than a few last Wile E. Coyote outs. Go back and re-watch the whole series without the weekly critical media over-over-analysis; you’ll enjoy it even more.

The League (FXX): Even a gonzo throwaway episode dedicated entirely to peripheral characters Rafi and Dirty Randy couldn’t distract from the scarily consistent and ruthless comedy of The League’s fifth season. It’s finally a viable heir to the Sunny in Philadelphia crown—or Shiva.

Ray Donovan (Showtime): Gigantically-noggin-ed Liev Schreiber is an unlikely leading man, but his portrayal of Ray Donovan, a Hollywood “fixer” with a family from hell (Bah-ston, actually), kills. Even better is Jon Voight’s giddy, nothing-to-lose performance.

The Blacklist (NBC) After two years of empty talk, NBC finally made good on the idea to produce “cable-quality” programming, first with Hannibal, then the superior crime serial The Blacklist. The series doesn’t shy from intensity and violence, and James Spader is, well, James Spader.

Parks and Recreation (NBC): On the flipside, now that NBC has discovered the ratings gold of ineptly staged musicals, smart underperformers like Parks and Recreation are likely doomed. Too bad; Seasons 5 and 6 have been the comedy’s strongest yet, even with the impending losses of Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe.

Masters of Sex (Showtime): A semi-factual ’50s period piece with the warm look (and contentiously slow pace) of Mad Men, Masters of Sex delivered on the years-building Lizzy Caplan hype and, even though it’s as much soap opera as historical document, radiated raw humanity. The (purely clinical) nudity and sex didn’t hurt, either.

13 Runners-Up: The Americans, American Horror Story: Coven, Bob’s Burgers, Eastbound and Down, Grimm, House of Cards, Maron, New Girl, Orange Is the New Black, Raising Hope, Rectify, Sons of Anarchy, Trophy Wife.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR DEC. 31!

CBGB

The story of Hilly Kristal (played by Alan Rickman) and the legendary ’70s punk club that launched thousands of bands. Also starring Taylor Hawkins as the worst Iggy Pop ever, and Opie from Sons of Anarchy as, natch, a biker. (Xlrator)

Don Jon

Porn aficionado Don Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and rom-com lover Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) try to make a relationship work despite unrealistic expectations on both sides and the fact that she’s Scarlett Goddamn Johansson. (Relativity)

Hell Baby

When an expectant couple (Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb) moves into a cursed house, it’s up to a pair of Vatican exorcists (Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon) to vanquish the evil. It’s Reno 911! meets The Exorcist meets House Hunters. (Millennium)

InAPPropriate Comedy

A tablet full of offensive apps becomes the excuse for a random series of comedy sketches starring Adrien Brody, Rob Schneider, Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan and others. Directed by the ShamWow guy, so you know it’s funny. (Freestyle)

Sweetwater

An ex-prostitute (January Jones) makes a new life for herself and her husband in 1800s New Mexico, only to have it ripped away; bloody, horrific vengeance and Jones’ bloody horrific acting ensue. Yet it’s still better than The Lone Ranger. (Arc)

More New DVD Releases (Dec. 31)

Angel of the Skies, Black Angel, Cassadaga, Last Love, Love Marilyn, Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear, Percentage, Sanitarium, Shaolin Warrior, Sister, When Calls the Heart, Zombie Hamlet.

Published in TV

December—and 2013, really—is pretty much D-U-N done. Here’s what The Only TV Column That Matters™ recommends you look forward to in January 2014:

Community (NBC; Thursday, Jan. 2), season 5 premiere: The Greendale gang returns to save NBC Thursdays. And while we’re being overly optimistic: Six seasons and a movie!

Sex Sent Me to the E.R. (Discovery Fit and Health; Friday, Jan. 3), series debut: Fine. You win, Discovery. Repeats will air on TLC, too.

Killer Women (ABC; Tuesday, Jan 7), series debut: Tricia Helfer stars as a tall ’n’ troubled Texas Ranger who has a “sixth sense” about why the ladies sometimes murder. It usually involves a man. Or Zappos.

Intelligence (CBS; Tuesday, Jan. 7), series debut: Lost’s Josh Holloway is a hunky/stubbly U.S. intelligence operative with a Wi-Fi chip in his brain that allows him to hack online data. Insert virus joke here.

Justified (FX; Tuesday, Jan. 7), season 5 premiere: Marshal Raylan goes up against a new crime family from the Florida swamps, while Boyd gets in deeper with the Detroit mob. Whatever happened to Local First?

Cougar Town (TBS; Tuesday, Jan. 7), season 5 premiere: They’re back. They’re drunk. They’re still pretty damned funny.

American Horror Story: Coven (FX; Wednesday, Jan. 8), winter premiere: An unexpected visit from Stevie Nicks flusters obsessed witch-fan Misty. Aren’t all visits from Stevie Nicks unexpected?

Parks and Recreation (NBC; Thursday, Jan. 9), winter premiere/100th episode: That dozen-viewer bump from Community should get P&R right back on track.

The Spoils of Babylon (IFC; Thursday, Jan. 9), miniseries debut: Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell, Jessica Alba, Val Kilmer, Tobey Maguire, Haley Joel Osment, Tim Robbins, Michael Sheen and others star in this epic, sweeping comedy of sweeping epic-ness.

Helix (Syfy; Friday, Jan. 10), series debut: The new sci-fi drama from Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) is about a disease outbreak that could wipe out mankind—and the deeper conspiracy behind it, because the mankind-wiping-out disease wasn’t enough.

Banshee (Cinemax; Friday, Jan. 10), season 2 premiere: The weirdest series on premium cable (sorry, True Blood) returns with more violence, sex, Amish politics and Ukrainian mob intrigue than ever. See? Weird.

Shameless, House of Lies, Episodes (Showtime; Sunday, Jan. 12), season premieres: The Gallagher clan, the Kaan consultants and Matt LeBlanc are back for Seasons 4, 3 and 3, respectively. Pity the Home Box Office shows that have to go up against this killer lineup.

True Detective (HBO; Sunday, Jan. 12), series debut: OK, well-played, HBO: Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson star as Louisiana detectives who run up against one another over the course of a 17-year murder investigation. It’s followed by the one-hour Season 3 premiere of Girls—game on, Showtime.

Bitten (Syfy; Monday, Jan. 13), series debut: A ridiculously hot werewolf (ridiculously hot Laura Vandervoort) struggles to choose between her new big-city Earth life and her dumb ol’ ancestral world; it follows the season premieres of the equally-conflicted Lost Girl and Being Human.

Archer (FX; Monday, Jan. 13), season 5 premiere: New night, same … Danger Zone!

Chozen (FX; Monday, Jan. 13), series debut: An animated comedy about an ex-con gay white rapper, produced by the Eastbound and Down team. Need I even go on?

The Following (Fox; Sunday, Jan. 19), season 2 premiere: Bereaved Hardy (Kevin Bacon) is on the mend—but will he continue his hunt for presumed-dead serial killer Carroll (James Purefoy)? Well, it’s either that, or 15 episodes of AA meetings.

Wahlburgers (A&E; Wednesday, Jan. 22), series debut: Mark and Donnie Wahlberg help out with their brother Paul’s hamburger joint back home in Boston. This already sounds better than an Entourage movie.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR DEC. 24!

Adventures in the Sin Bin

A shy teen virgin (Michael Seater) lends out his van, the “Sin Bin,” to his pals for sex, all the while dreaming of being with Suzie (Emily Meade). Meanwhile, the director dreams of being Wes Anderson, and Jeff Garlin just hangs out. (Phase 4; released on Dec. 27)

Insidious: Chapter 2

The Lamberts (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) are still haunted by evil spirits, as well as a film studio bent on making at least another billion bucks. Not to be confused with The Conjuring, the director’s other identical 2013 movie. (Sony)

Una Noche

A Havana teen must choose between helping his wrongly accused friend escape the country and reach Miami, more than 90 miles away across the ocean, and staying to protect his sister. This one was definitely filmed in Instagram. (MPI)

More New DVD Releases (Dec. 24)

The Berlin File, Caesar Must Die, Frontline: Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria, Humanity Has Declined: The Complete Collection, More Than Honey, WWE Survivor Series 2013.

Published in TV