'Downton,' 'Girls,' 'Idol' and more this January

January 8, 2013 - 8:32 PM
TV-Midseason Treats

This undated publicity photo provided by PBS shows Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess, left, and Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson from the TV series, "Downton Abbey." Where once the post-holiday schedule was a blizzard of chilly reruns, January is aburst with premieres and finales. Already, the much-adored British miniseries "Downton Abbey" has made its much-awaited season return Sundays on PBS. On IFC on Fridays, the hilarious "Portlandia" is back for its third season of sketch comedy poking fun at the peculiarities of Portland, Ore., starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. And NBC's mystery melodrama "Deception" has arrived on Mondays. (AP Photo/PBS, Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE, Nick Briggs)

NEW YORK (AP) — Where once the post-holiday schedule was a blizzard of chilly reruns, January is aburst with premieres and finales.

Already, the adored British miniseries "Downton Abbey" has made its much-awaited season return Sundays on PBS.

On IFC on Fridays, the hilarious "Portlandia" is back for its third season of sketch comedy poking fun at the peculiarities of Portland, Ore., starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.

And NBC's mystery melodrama "Deception" has arrived on Mondays. Meagan Good stars as a detective going undercover at the home of a rich family to investigate a murder within the clan.

On Tuesday, PBS' "American Experience" begins a three-week documentary miniseries, "The Abolitionists," spotlighting Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown and Angelina Grimke.

Also on Tuesday, the FX drama "Justified" is returning for its fourth season of Kentucky hill-country crime-fighting led by Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (series star Timothy Olyphant).

On Thursday, comedic action centers at the White House with the premiere of NBC's "1600 Penn." Josh Gad ("The Book of Mormon") stars as the goofball son of the incumbent U.S. president (played by Bill Pullman) who keeps the first family in a stir, yet manages to make everything turn out all right by the final fade-out.

President Barack Obama is hosting the cast and crew from the fictional White House at a private screening Wednesday at the real White House.

The Gallaghers of "Shameless" are a much different family. In this dark comedy, William H. Macy stars as the boozy single father of a brood of kids who manage their ragtag Chicago homestead in spite of dad's overindulgences. Also starring Emmy Rossum, it returns Jan. 13 for its third season on Showtime.

Also on Jan. 13, HBO's comedy "Girls" returns for a second season sure to be at least as ballyhooed, discussed and argued about as the first. Lena Dunham (who also writes, produces, directs and created the series) stars as one of a quartet of twentysomething gal pals in New York.

Right after "Girls," HBO launches the second season of "Enlightened," an affecting comedy starring Laura Dern as a confused New Age-y activist who's bent on changing the world.

What was Carrie Bradshaw like before Sarah Jessica Parker and "Sex and the City"? Find out on "The Carrie Diaries," which debuts on the CW on Jan. 14. AnnaSophia Robb stars as the high-school era Carrie in this likable prequel.

"American Idol" returns Jan. 16 on Fox. Veteran judge Randy Jackson will be joined by Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban. Ryan Seacrest, as always, is the affable host.

After five seasons, Fox's lovably inscrutable sci-fi series "Fringe" concludes its head-scratching run on Jan. 18. Stars include Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble.

Fox's bloody suspense drama "The Following" premieres Jan. 21. Kevin Bacon stars as a former FBI agent drafted back into service to chase a serial murderer and his vicious disciples.

My, how Spartacus' army has grown! Commanding thousands of freed slaves, Spartacus is primed to bring down the entire Roman Republic as the final season begins for "Spartacus: War of the Damned," Jan. 25 on Starz. Liam McIntyre plays the rebel leader.

The world of "Dallas" will be rocked during its second season with the death of arch-villain oilman J.R. Ewing (played, of course, by Larry Hagman, who died in November while the series was in production). Also starring Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray, this rebooted (so to speak) version of the long-running CBS prime-time soap returns on TNT on Jan. 28.

FX weighs in with an edgy new drama "The Americans" on Jan. 30. It stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell as two KGB agents posing as the heads of a normal American household in the 1980s, as they work tirelessly to bring down the U.S. on behalf of Mother Russia.

On Jan. 31, NBC unveils a new medical drama "Do No Harm." Steve Pasquale ("Rescue Me") stars as a neurosurgeon with a great bedside manner who inconveniently shares a body with his sociopathic alter ego.

The same night, NBC closes the book on the brilliant mockery of "30 Rock." This Tina Fey comedy wraps seven seasons of making fun of pop culture, modern life and especially its own real-life broadcast network — which, like the rest of the TV universe, has even more midseason goodies in store come February.

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EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier