Every year, people wait for the fall season of television, when all the new shows, full of promise, hit the airwaves. But that’s not the only time when new programming can debut, as networks always save a few, mostly in case some of their can’t miss fall shows actually crash and burn, or at least don’t get full season orders. Every January, there is a rush of new shows, many of which, unfortunately, don’t get enough promotion and inevitably don’t last longer than their initial runs. But that doesn’t mean they’re bad shows, in fact, many of them are quite entertaining (shows like Parks and Recreation and Castle actually began their long lives as mid-season shows). With that in mind, we thought we’d direct your attention to a few shows that are making their debuts this winter that we feel really deserve a look.
One of two new NBC comedies on a network that has nearly given up on the concept after dominating Thursday nights for years with half-hour sitcoms, this show’s description doesn’t initially sound like a thrilling concept. But the truth is, this ensemble comedy about employees at a big box retail store (one which is thematically similar but legally distinct from Wal-Mart) is actually startlingly funny, with clever jokes and talented comedians endlessly riffing on life as a minimum wage drudge and the ridiculous, but (as anyone who has worked in retail will tell you) completely realistic situations that take place every day. Call it a bigger budget Clerks for a new generation. It’s not going to re-invent the wheel, but for sheer laughs, it’s one of the better comedies on TV right now.
This show, a lighthearted affair about the cast and crew of, you guessed it, a Spanish soap opera, will largely sink or swim on the comedic abilities of star Eva Longoria. To her credit, she seems more than willing to go all out, no matter how many embarrassing situations her character ends up in. While this show is no Jane The Virgin, which seems to have cornered the market on telenovela humor, it’s still got its share of good jokes about the industry, including a plethora of tanned, muscular leading men who end up shirtless a lot, and, of course, the ever-present wind which allows hair and clothing to flow dramatically. Paired with the aforementioned Superstore, the two drastically different workplace comedies are a decent way to while away an hour.
8. The Shannara Chronicles
Based on a long-running series of fantasy novels by author Terry Brooks, this show takes place on a future Earth, where magic awoke, and the human bloodline has split over generations into elves, gnomes, trolls, and other traditional fantasy races. As is usual in these sorts of things, an ancient evil that was once locked away is breaking free, and a group of unlikely heroes is assembled to fight it. It’s clearly an attempt to try to recreate in some small way the successes of other fantasy novel franchises such as HBO’s Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings films, and the fact that it’s airing on MTV might cause some concern. Don’t worry, though, the show is a well-crafted representation of Brooks’ series (the plot is a loose adaptation of his Elfstones of Shannara novel), and while it’s full of exactly as many young, pretty people as you’d expect from MTV, the acting is good and the story intriguing enough that the first season, at least, should be a satisfying adventure with some interesting characters.
7. Shades of Blue
Actor, singer, and one half of the first incarnation of Bennifer, Jennifer Lopez makes her return to TV in this gritty crime drama about a dirty cop working undercover for the FBI. It’s exactly what you think it is, which is another taut conspiracy-filled, adrenaline-fueled, and drama-heavy thriller where nothing is exactly what it seems. But hey, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and they even brought in Ray Liotta to chew the scenery as one of the crooked cops and a close friend of Lopez’s character. We expect at least five different twists and a significant body count before the first season ends.
6. You, Me, And The Apocalypse
It seems like FOX’s Last Man on Earth has introduced a new genre: the post-apocalyptic comedy, as characters try to find the funny in the end of the world. Originally created and aired for British television, this miniseries, starring an ensemble cast including The Office alumni Jenna Fischer and Parks and Recreation‘s Rob Lowe, begins with the news that a comet is set to hit the Earth in 34 days, almost certainly destroying civilization. The show then follows various people around the world as they try to prepare for the inevitable end of existence, with many hilarious situations along the way. Who says that Armageddon can’t be funny?
5. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
Now that superhero shows have established their spot on television, it’s time for the spin-offs. This one, from The CW, which already brings us DC Comics-based hits Arrow and The Flash, brings in supporting characters from both parent shows and throws them into a super-team tasked with saving the world from the immortal Vandal Savage (introduced briefly during a Arrow-Flash crossover event earlier this season). Oh, and there’s time travel involved, so things are almost certain to get messy. It’s not exactly the Justice League, but given the quality we’ve come to expect from The CW’s established shows, it’s almost certain to be a fun ride.
4. The Magicians
A series best described as “Harry Potter if Hogwarts had started at a university age instead”, this SyFy Original (wait, come back!), based on a series of novels, follows a gifted young man obsessed with magic, who gets accepted into a hidden school for magic. There’s a larger plot afoot, of course, as an unknown force is gaining strength and attacking magicians, and the main character might just be the only hope. We literally weren’t kidding when we said this was an older version of Harry Potter. Oh, and his best friend didn’t get accepted to the school, but desperately wants to learn magic, and might be headed down a dark path to get what she wants. It’s stylish, it’s mysterious, and like we said, if you liked Harry Potter, it’s definitely a mature take on the genre.
The premise, loosely based on a character from Neil Gaiman’s critically acclaimed series of Sandman graphic novels, is that the Devil has grown bored of Hell and decides to take a vacation to Earth. While there, he forms a partnership with a police officer and decides to use his powers to solve crimes, while heavenly forces attempt to get him to return to his real job. That’s right, it’s a crime procedural with mythological overtones, almost certainly spawned from FOX’s unlikely hit Sleepy Hollow. The early preview trailers are a little eye-rolling, and the show doesn’t seem to know what sort of tone it’s going to have, but the premise is crazy enough that it just might work. Besides, it will help fill the time before American Gods comes out, and we just can’t resist Neil Gaiman.
2. American Crime Story
This show, whose first season is dedicated to re-creating the infamous O.J. Simpson case and trial, is almost certainly a terrible idea. But that doesn’t mean that a lot of people won’t end up watching it for out of sheer morbid curiosity, and as distasteful as the subject matter might be, there were a lot of things about that particular case which seemed ripped from the headlines of a TV crime drama, as opposed to the opposite usually being true. This show is also going to be hard-pressed to compete with the rising phenomenon that is Netflix’s Making A Murderer series, but could perhaps hope to piggy-back off the viewer fascination in true crime stories.
1. The X Files
Technically, this isn’t a debut, but we’re willing to bend the rules if you are. The franchise that just won’t go away gets another shot at revival with a short miniseries aimed at possibly answering some of the many, many questions that the original show and subsequent films failed to deal with. We’re just kidding, they’ll never answer half the questions fans might have, but the series promises to be a mix of “Monster of the Week” stories and episodes that move along the established mythology of the show. If you were a fan of the original X Files, you’ve probably already got this circled on your calendar, but this is a perfect opportunity for you to try and get some new friends hooked. You never know, they might bring it back again, or make another movie!