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TV Review | Winter TV promises return of acclaimed comedies, dramas

Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 08:01


Winter can be an unfortunate time for TV fans. With several shows still in the middle of their hiatus and others that aired finales in December, it can feel like all the best shows have disappeared. Luckily, there are some gems to tune into while waiting for “Scandal” (2012-present) and “The Walking Dead” (2010-present) to return to the television — or computer — screen.

 

 “Enlisted” 

This new comedy from Fox which premiered last Friday night to a warm reception, has pleasantly surprised critics and viewers alike despite less than stellar ratings. The sitcom follows three soldiers — Pete, Derrick and Randy — who are also brothers consigned to rear detachment duty — or rear D — at a Florida base comically named Fort McGee. 

Their responsibilities don’t exactly scream “action” — rear D soldiers are the troops left at home to take care of the base and the military families who live there. They spend their days finding lost pets, cleaning tanks and playing war games with a visiting Italian regiment. 

Eldest brother Pete (Geoff Stults) is an overachiever and less than thrilled that he has been tapped to lead the band of misfits that include his younger brothers — bitingly sarcastic Derrick (Chris Lowell) and lovable idiot Randy (Parker Young). The pilot had several laugh-out-loud moments and hopefully word-of-mouth and critical praise can make “Enlisted” the hit it deserves to be. 

 

 “Girls” and “Looking” 

These two “dramedies” from HBO are sure to get their fair share of press in the coming months. Lena Dunham’s “Girls” (2012-present) entered its third season earlier this month — and was renewed for a fourth before the premiere even aired. Dunham has kept plot details under wraps, though she has teased several big breakups and the return of Andrew Rannells as Elijah — the gay ex-boyfriend of Dunham’s character Hannah. 

Airing after “Girls” this winter is “Looking,” which premieres Jan. 19. The new show is led by Jonathan Groff — best known for his roles on “Glee” (2009-present) and the 2006 Broadway production of “Spring Awakening” — and revolves around a group of gay men living in San Francisco and navigating complicated love lives and professional challenges.

With “Girls” having achieved critical acclaim and “Looking” off to a promising start, HBO has secured solid Sunday night programming. 

 

Critically Acclaimed Political Thrillers Return

2013 was a dynamic and innovative year for television, proving definitively that — with few exceptions — the best dramas are no longer found on network television. This winter, two acclaimed shows return: Netflix’s “House of Cards” (2013-present) and FX’s “The Americans” (2013-present).

The Netflix show, which premiered last year on the streaming service, is back for a second season on Feb. 14, with Kevin Spacey’s conniving and manipulative Frank Underwood having worked his way into the vice presidency. 

“The Americans,” a thriller about KGB agents posing as an American couple, returns Feb. 21 after its well received first season. Spies Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings — played by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys — will have no shortage of challenges to face this season, not the least of which is their teenage daughter Paige (Holly Taylor), who begins to suspect her parents are keeping major secrets hidden. 

 

British Invasion

PBS has not traditionally been considered the home of popular Sunday night programming but this winter that is set to change. With the return of “Downton Abbey” (2010-present), now in its fourth season, on Jan. 5 and the third season of fellow British import “Sherlock” (2010-present) set to premiere Jan. 19, PBS will see impressive, and possibly record-breaking, ratings. In fact, “Downton Abbey” has already done so, drawing 10.2 million viewers to the premiere — the highest-rated drama premiere in PBS history. It would appear that the death of handsome earl-to-be Matthew Crawley in the season three finale of “Downton” has not affected audience interest in the period soap.

“Sherlock,” meanwhile, returns after two years off the air to a rabid fan base eager for new installments of the meticulously crafted detective drama. Since the show last aired, its two leads — Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman — have seen their careers explode with Cumberbatch appearing in seemingly every film that hits theaters and Freeman starring as Bilbo Baggins in the film adaptations of “The Hobbit” (1937). Yet their iterations of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, respectively, remain as popular as ever — at least according to U.K. ratings, which have been massive. Considering the level of anticipation for “Sherlock,” it’s likely that its U.S. viewership will be equally stellar.

 

The Olympics

The Winter Olympics may play second fiddle to the Summer Games, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to enjoy from NBC’s Sochi coverage. The run-up to the Games has been controversial — Russia’s treatment of LGBT citizens and the country’s so-called “anti-gay propaganda” law have become flashpoints. Some countries, including the U.S., Canada, France and Germany, will not be sending any high-level delegates to Sochi, and recent attacks by suicide bombers in Russia have done nothing to quell concerns about the political state of the country.

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