Winter TV is the new fall TV. Once a fallow period stuffed with shows networks didn’t think were good enough to front-load into September, midseason has become every bit as exciting as the traditional season premiere time. And we’re not just talking about the return of cable favorites like Girls, Archer, Portlandia, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead (not to mention PBS standby Downton Abbey); even the networks have promising new shows to offer, including The Following, a Fox drama that numbers among critics’ and fans’ most anticipated premieres of the year. And don’t forget the potentially problematic return of Community. Below, we round up 30 notable new and returning shows we’re anticipating (and, in some cases, dreading) in the months to come.
Portlandia Season premiere: January 4, 10pm, IFC
After a delightful holiday special in mid-December, Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen are back for another full season of hipster and yuppie skewering. Topics tackled in its third year will include disappointing meditation crushes, TV spoilers, the frustrations of splitting checks at birthday dinners, and other phenomena that hit a bit too close to home.
Downton Abbey Season premiere: January 6, 9pm, PBS
For those honest souls among us who have resisted the temptation to watch Downton early, Season 3 holds the promise of Shirley MacLaine, the continued adventures of Mary and Matthew, and much more soapy goodness.
Bunheads Midseason premiere: January 7, 9pm, ABC Family
Will Amy Sherman-Palladino’s quirky drama about a Vegas showgirl turned small-town ballet teacher finally develop a plot in the second half of its debut season? Who cares! As long as the pop culture-referencing banter and bizarre dance sequences set to They Might Be Giants songs continue, Bunheads will continue to hold our attention.
Deception Series premiere: January 7, 10pm, NBC
Here’s a show we hope will be Revenge-y: Deception stars Meagan Good as a detective unraveling the mystery of her socialite friend’s death.
Pretty Little Liars Midseason premiere: January 8, 8pm, ABC Family
We didn’t find out much in PLL’s fun, train-based Halloween special, but the promos for the second half of Season 3 suggest that we’re about to learn what’s really going on with Toby.
Justified Season premiere: January 8, 10pm, FX
Fans of Justified may wonder what’s left for Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens to tackle in Season 4. According to showrunner Graham Yost, “We’re doing a couple different things this season. One is that we open with a flashback to what happened 30 years ago, loosely based on something that did happen around that time, called The Bluegrass Conspiracy. What we decided to do this season was have more of a mystery and, in a sense, a big fugitive pursuit. They don’t know who he is, so there’s that mystery to solve, and then it’ll go on from there.” Sounds promising.
Washington Heights Series premiere: January 9, 10pm, MTV
MTV’s new reality series follows a diverse group of nine young people living in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood — and looks like it will be, at the very least, less irritating than Jersey Shore and The Real World.
1600 Penn Series premiere: January 10, 9:30pm, NBC
1600 Penn comes at a time when TV is saturated with political comedies and dramas, so it’s going to have to be pretty damn great to get us on board. Unfortunately, considering that New York Magazine TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz recently called the show “a half-hour of your life you’ll never get back,” we’re not holding out much hope of that.
Banshee Series premiere: January 11, 10pm, Cinemax
And here’s some more bad news: We were looking forward to Banshee, a drama about an ex-con who impersonates the murdered sheriff of a small town in Amish Country, largely because it’s executive produced by True Blood and Six Feet Under mastermind Alan Ball. But now that we’ve seen the first episode, we’re disappointed to report that its plot and characters are about as subtle as a vampire bite and it looks like it was made by a film student who’s really into Fight Club.
Cyndi Lauper: Still So Unusual Series premiere: January 12, 9pm, WE
We wouldn’t bet on Cyndi Lauper’s reality show being Emmy-worthy or anything, but as fans we won’t be able to resist watching the always-quirky 59-year-old pop star navigate her music career and family life.
Girls Season premiere: January 13, 9pm, HBO
The second season of the show that launched a thousand thinkpieces is just as full of provocative moments, wise observations, and hilariously awful sex scenes as its predecessor. Look forward to Hannah making a concerted effort to mature, Marnie rebuilding her life from the ground up, a deflowered Shoshanna babbling her way through her new love life, and Jessa dealing with the fallout from her sudden marriage to a wealthy square — and, of course, that much-anticipated Donald Glover guest spot.
Shameless Season premiere: January 13, 9pm, Showtime
“Now that we’re a family again, I want to encourage us to be all for one and one for all,” says William H. Macy’s Frank in the trailer for the third season of Shameless. But really, what are the odds of that happening?
Enlightened Season premiere: January 13, 9:30pm, HBO
Here is where we shamelessly plead with you to watch the second season of Laura Dern and Mike White’s criminally ignored dark comedy about a Type A executive who’s been banished to her company’s island of broken employees after her very public nervous breakdown leads to a stint in yoga rehab. Seriously, this is an excellent and shrewdly written show about a complex (and not always likable) character — and if more people don’t start tuning in, it may not get a third season.
House of Lies Season premiere: January 13, 10pm, Showtime
Still smarting from last season’s sexual harassment scandal, Galweather Stearn rises again for more addictive management consulting douchebaggery. This year, our eyes are on Kristen Bell’s Jeannie, who took center stage in the explosive Season 1 finale.
The Carrie Diaries Series premiere: January 14, 8pm, The CW
The CW brings us the only thing we wanted less than another season of Gossip Girl: a teenage prequel to Sex and the City. To be fair, it does have a 1980s New York City setting going for it. And at the very least, it can’t be worse than that second SATC movie.
American Idol Season premiere: January 16, 8pm, Fox
Oh, we couldn’t care less what happens on the stage anymore. There is one reason and one reason only that we plan to tune in to the 12th season of American Idol: the producers’ brilliant move to cast divas Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey as judges. Of course there’s a rivalry. Expect big hair and flying sparks.
Archer Season premiere: January 17, 10pm, FX
Super spy Sterling Archer returns for a fourth season of the FX cartoon. Among the upcoming 13 episodes will be a crossover with Bob’s Burgers — which, of course, shares a principal voice actor with Archer in the perpetually harried-sounding H. Jon Benjamin.
The Following Series premiere: January 21, 9pm, Fox
Undoubtedly TV’s most buzzed-about midseason show, The Following casts Kevin Bacon as an FBI agent pursuing a serial killer who’s manipulated technology to unite serial killers around the country in a cultish network.
The Taste Series premiere: January 22, 8pm, ABC
As wary as we are about any new network reality competition, we may have to check out The Taste. Aside from being suckers for cooking shows, we are big fans of Nigella Lawson and Anthony Bourdain, who join Ludo Lefebvre and Brian Malarkey as mentor/judges to four teams of professional and amateurs cooks collaborating on a single weekly dish.
Project Runway Season premiere: January 24, 9pm, Lifetime
Oh, we know: Another season of Project Runway? Haven’t we all OD’d on this once-brilliant show that’s been on a long, slow decline ever since ditching Bravo for Lifetime? Now that Project Runway: All-Stars and Project Accessory and, who even knows, Project Flip-flop are propping up that network’s primetime schedule, is there ever a time when there isn’t some permutation of this show on TV? Look, these are all valid points. But by now, we’ve learned that we’re never gonna quit Prunway, so we’ve just learned to embrace it. (Then again, we are also very nervous about Season 11: all team challenges and no Michael Kors?!)
RuPaul’s Drag Race Season premiere: January 28, 9pm, Logo
Meanwhile, if you do manage to cut the Project Runway cord, here’s an ideal replacement. Combining elements of drag and ball culture with fashion-forward design challenges and Miss Tyra-inspired critiques, RuPaul’s Drag Race is the smartest, funniest, and all-around most entertaining reality competition on TV.
The Americans Series premiere: January 30, 10pm, FX
Welcome back to TV, Felicity! The Americans stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as a seemingly regular couple in 1980s DC who lead double lives as KGB spies.
Smash Season premiere: February 5, 9pm, NBC
Reactions to NBC’s musical Broadway drama flipped from hopeful to disappointed to outright snarky over the course of its first season. This year we’ll see whether a new showrunner, Gossip Girl’s Joshua Safran, can save Smash.
Community Season premiere: February 7, 8pm, NBC
Speaking of troubled shows, Community premieres roughly four months later than originally intended, meaning that we can look forward to a winter Halloween episode and Christmas in the spring. But that’s not even the most worrisome thing about the upcoming fourth season of the beloved sitcom; its return means we’ll also finally learn whether the show will sink or swim without its singular creator, Dan Harmon.
The Walking Dead Season premiere: February 10, 9pm, AMC
December’s mid-season finale left us with so many questions — and made it clear that Walkers aren’t the biggest threat to our protagonists’ survival anymore. What’s gonna happen to Daryl and Merle now that they’ve been reunited in the Woodbury arena? Did seeing tanks of severed heads and his secret zombie daughter finally kill Andrea’s crush on the Governor? Will Rick ever learn to trust Michonne? And how long will anyone in Tyreese’s new group last before they’re unceremoniously written off the show?
Zero Hour Series premiere: February 14, 8pm, ABC
Finally, someone has figured out how to transform The Da Vinci Code into a network drama. Yes, it’s an international mystery of ancient signs and symbols, one of those premises that keeps announcing to us how huge and important it is. But at least the villain is the excellent Michael Nyqvist, who you might remember from his role as Mikael Blomkvist in the original Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movies.
Cult Series premiere: February 19, 9pm, The CW
It’s a TV show called Cult about a TV show called Cult, and finds a blogger and a production assistant teaming up to investigate the apparently real cult behind a series of disappearances that seem to have been inspired by the show. Confused yet? So are we, and frankly we’re not sure whether such an ambitious premise is going to work for The CW, but we sure are suckers for stories about cults.
Out There Series premiere: February 22nd, 10:30pm, IFC
Linda Cardellini (yes, Freaks and Geeks’ Lindsay Weir), Fred Armisen, Megan Mullally, and Pamela Adlon are among the talented voice cast of this animated comedy series that follows three socially awkward, small-town teenage boys looking for love, enduring their families, and trembling at the brink of adulthood.
Game of Thrones Season premiere: March 31, 9pm, HBO
Encompassing the first half of A Storm of Swords, the third book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, Game of Thrones Season 3 promises to further escalate the war that raged last year. Although details about the upcoming season are still under wraps, the audio teaser above sets the stakes pretty damn high.
How to Live with Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life) Series premiere: April 3, 9:30pm, ABC
Yup, it’s a family economic crisis sitcom about an uptight divorcée moving in with her wacky parents. But the divorcée is Sarah Chalke (you know, Roseanne’s Becky #2) and her mom is Elizabeth Perkins, so we’re going to ignore our reservations about the setup and give it a try.