Now that we’re back from the holidays–and now that the networks have gotten through the first half of the 2013-2014 television season–it’s time for a whole new set of shows! This fall may have been a disappointment, from the boredoms of Hostages to the meager ratings for Trophy Wife (People, overcome your title-related prejudices! You will thank me!). But 2014 may just restore your faith in television, as Enlisted pulls off military comedy, True Detective makes the serial killer genre feel fresh again, and The Red Road and Growing Up Fisher bring folks who are almost never seen on network or cable–respectively, Native Americans and blind people–to the small screen. So mark your calendars for these eight new shows:
January 10: Enlisted (Fox) That Enlisted is one of the sweetest, most sophisticated, funniest comedies of the 2013-2014 season is doubly impressive because it tackled an act that ought to have been awfully hard to pull off: making a comedy about the U.S. military. But Kevin Biegel’s charming show about three brothers trying to rebuild their relationship and advance their Army careers at a stateside base succeeds at being supportive of soldiers while also being clear that war has a serious impact on even the most physically healthy veterans, and manages to be appreciative of soldiers’ skills while acknowledging that acquiring them can come at a cost. And it’s funny: Geoff Stults finally has the role he deserves as highly-achieving soldier Pete Hill, while Parker Young and Chris Lowell are hilarious as his brothers. Keith David is very sharp as their commander, and each episode reveals new strengths among the large and diverse ensemble cast.
January 12: True Detective (HBO): I have the first three episodes of HBO’s new anthology police series–like American Horror Story, each season will feature different characters and a different plot–and I’ve already watched them twice and I’m fiending for more. This first season features Matthew McConaughey as Rust Cohle, an intellectual cop traumatized by the death of his daughter and his work with a Texas drug enforcement squad, and Woody Harrelson as his partner Martin Hart, who are being questioned by two different sets of cops more than a decade after they thought they’d closed a serial killer case. The writing is gorgeous, the attention to people living at the margins of the Louisiana economy is often perceptive, and in a television environment that’s already saturated with dead women, brilliant killers, and troubled middle-age white dudes, True Detective manages to feel fresh even though it has familiar subject matter.
January 13: Chozen (FX): Depending on what happens with Angel Haze’s debut record, 2014 may be the year that an openly LGBT rapper finally achieves a secure place in the cultural firmament. But while we’re waiting for her album, FX is giving us Chozen, a silly, sometimes filthy, animated show about a white, gay rapper who’s trying to return to his old position in the industry after a stint in prison. Watching Chozen sip a forty by a college fountain, with two stuffed teddy bears his only companions, is a testament both to his delusion and, as his reverie progresses, what it might look like for a gay man to get to live out his fantasy life in music videos.
January 19: Looking (HBO): When Lena Dunham’s Girls debuted in 2012, the show met with a huge wave of criticism about its lack of diversity. Looking, which is set in San Francisco, follows a group of gay men who are further along in their careers and relationships than Dunham’s crew, and it’s not as daring about body image and sex as Girls has been. But Looking has clearly learned from the reaction to Girls. The show reflects the Bay Area’s diversity, it’s got sharp class politics, and as Patrick, a video game programmer hoping for a committed relationship, Jonathan Groff has never been more appealing.
January 22: Broad City (Comedy Central): Broad City‘s parody of Soul Cycle alone would be a reason to watch this new show from Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer about two friends, a lackadasical temp with a hard-partying streak, and an introvert who can’t muster up the will to kick a moocher out of her apartment, finding their way in New York City. But Amy Poehler is producing, and the show manages to work in all sorts of relatable sillinesses, like an epic trip to retrieve a package from UPS and a dogwalking gig gone wrong. Broad City could stand to pick up the tempo a bit, but I’m curious to see the show find its rhythm.
CREDIT: Sundance Channel
February 27: The Red Road (Sundance): I haven’t seen screeners for The Red Road yet, but I’m awfully fond of Jason Momoa and Julianne Nicholson. Sundance made a real splash in 2013 with Rectify and Top Of The Lake. That series and mini-series brushed back the dust of conventional wisdom to reveal the huge vein of ore to be mined from approaching under-discussed subjects, like what happens to death-row prisoners who are released, or familiar subjects, like child sex abuse, from new angles. The Red Road looks to be following that template, putting questions of Native American identity at the center of a crime drama. I can’t wait to see where the show takes
March 9: Resurrection (ABC): Zombie show The Returned has already touched on some similar themes. But I’m curious to see what ABC does with Resurrection, which asks what families who have lost loved ones might do if the people they believed dead returned to them–just as they were when they were thought to have died, no matter how much time has passed in between? The pilot is promisingly focused on the emotions involved in those reunions, but it’s got worrisome hints of an overall conspiracy. Let’s hope Resurrection resists the temptation to go digging around in the graves of its predecessor shows, and lets its world stay almost overwhelming in its strangeness and its sense of wonder.
TBA: Growing Up Fisher (NBC): NBC’s slate of theoretically-broad, throwback-ish comedies tanked this fall. Growing Up Fisher has some things in common with The Michael J. Fox Show, given that it follows a blind lawyer who has to adapt to new routines after he and his wife decide to divorce. But it’s a more focused show without Michael J. Fox‘s sour notes, and it’s got actual jokes. I’d watch J.K. Simmons in anything, but it would be particularly nice, after the failure of Ironside this fall, and the entirely-possible cancellation of Fox’s show, to have a character with a disability–and with a job and a family, rather than who’s treated as pathetic or angry–click with television audiences.