The Midwest is currently so cold, boiling water is magically turning into snow, but it’s not all doom and gloom out there – there’s still midseason TV to look forward to. Once considered the bastard stepchild of scheduling and a ratings sand trap when it came to launching new shows, midseason TV has slowly come into its own. Sure, it may not be as hyped or as glamorous as the fall TV schedule, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of reasons to tune in. Here are 15 new and returning programs worth your time:
Returning Show: Downton Abbey
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith
Premiered: January 5th (PBS)
After almost a year-long hiatus from U.S. TV (and a season three shocker that left viewers reeling), the beloved British drama regroups and rallies. Well, sort of. While six months have passed on the show, it’s still a dark time, as Lady Mary continues to mourn and changes at the house loom.
New Show: Intelligence
Starring: Josh Holloway
Premieres: January 7th (CBS)
The sci-fi action-adventure series marks the return of Lost‘s Holloway to TV. But instead of playing a loose canon ex-con, he’s playing a government agent with a supercomputer microchip in his brain that allows him to hack the planet – for the good of humankind, of course.
Returning Show: Justified
Starring: Timothy Olyphant
Premieres: January 7th (FX)
Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Olyphant) returns for a fifth season – one that promises guest stars galore to pop up in the criminally overrun Harlan County, Kentucky. But the 13-episode spotlight shines on Michael Rapaport, who plays gator-farming bad guy Dale Crowe, Jr.
New Show: The Spoils of Babylon
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell
Premieres: January 9th (IFC)
A chintzy, melodramatic miniseries starring Maguire, Wiig, Ferrell, Tim Robbins, Jessica Alba, Val Kilmer, Haley Joel Osment and Michael Sheen that uproariously spoofs ’70s and ’80s sagas like The Thorn Birds and Rich Man, Poor Man. Need we say more?
Returning Show: The Walking Dead
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohan
Premieres: February 9th (AMC)
The undead rise again in the second half of Season Four. Technically it’s not a new season, but it sure seems like one. With the group divided, it’ll be a New World Order – expect Carl and Daryl to step up, plus the return of one major character (and the shocking death of another).
New Show: True Detective
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey
Premieres: January 12th (HBO)
The combination of Harrelson and McConaughey is reason enough to press record, with Season One consisting of eight episodes and focusing on two Louisiana detectives hunting for a serial killer. But the series will feature a different cast of characters and storyline each season.
Returning Show: Girls
Starring: Lena Dunham
Premieres: January 12th (HBO)
They’re back! Season three brings more dramedy, hipster soundscapes and awkward lessons learned for Hannah (Dunham) and her NYC cohorts. Might they actually get their shit together? One thing they are getting: their first black female friend (Danielle Brooks, a.k.a. Taystee from Orange Is the New Black).
New Show: The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon
Starring: Jimmy Fallon
Premieres: February 17th (NBC)
The long-standing late-night talk show gets yet another makeover as Jay Leno is once again given the boot. This time his replacement is former Saturday Night Live player and Late Night host Jimmy Fallon, who’ll stay grounded in NYC. (Fellow SNLer Seth Meyers then slides into Fallon’s old gig on February 24th)
Returning Show: Orange Is the New Black
Starring: Taylor Shilling, Danielle Brooks, Laura Prepon
Premieres: June 6th (Netflix)
Despite reports to the contrary, Prepon will be back for Season Two (and possibly Three), albeit in a limited role. While no official date has been announced yet, the second season of the buzzed about women’s prison show should be available for streaming in early 2014.
New Show: Chozen
Starring: Bobby Moynihan, Method Man, Michael Peña
Premieres: January 13th (FX)
Is the world ready for a gay white rapper? From the creators of Eastbound & Down comes an animated comedy that takes on the machismo (and misogyny) that’s synonymous with rap music. With a tagline like: “In hip-hop, you’re either on top, or you’re on the bottom,” who can resist?
Returning Show: House of Cards
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright
Premieres: February 14th (Netflix)
Season One of the revered political drama earned Netflix its first Emmy nominations, so the second season – available in its entirely on Feb. 14 via the on-demand streaming service – has a lot to live up to. One thing’s for sure: The saga of newly appointed VP Francis Underwood (Spacey) will be binge-worthy.
New Show: Wahlburgers
Starring: Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg
Premieres: January 22nd (A&E)
A&E is hoping that the brothers’ new reality series – based on their Boston-area burger joint – will be its next big hit. Afterall, they’re launching the show in the primo timeslot right after controversial ratings hit Duck Dynasty.
Returning Show: Game of Thrones
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington
Premieres: April 6th (HBO)
After Season Three’s carnage, how’s the hit drama supposed to top itself? Why, more carnage, of course. While there’s no official premiere date for Season Four yet, it should arrive by spring, and the storyline will be based on the second half of author George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords.
New Show: The Real World: Ex-Plosion
Starring: Seven strangers (and their exes)
Premieres: January 8th (MTV)
With Jersey Shore trailing off in the rearview, MTV tried to shake things up during the 29th season of The Real World, which first premiered in 1992, by putting seven strangers in a house – with their exes. The 12 castmates (only five former flames were willing to participate) will wreak havoc on host city San Francisco.
Returning Show: Portlandia
Starring: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein
Premieres: February 27th (IFC)
Call it the Quirky Show That Could: The satirical series that pokes fun of the eccentricities of Northwestern tree-hugging hipsters sails into its fourth season. Upping the quirk quotient is a new bevy of guest stars, including Maya Rudolph, Olivia Wilde and even the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. You’ve come a long way, baby.