Orange may be the new black, and January just might be the new fall.
Fall as in the season of TV premieres. Several shows mark either their returns or debuts this month, including two personal favorites and at least one new outing I’m certain to be watching.
At the top of the must-see list is the fifth season premiere of FX’s magnificent “Justified” on Tuesday night.
Modesto-bred star Timothy Olyphant heads up this critically acclaimed show as Marshal Raylan Givens. This season, he battles a crime family from the swamps of Florida. Also returning is fan favorite bad guy who you kind of feel like is a good guy, Boyd Crowder.
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Coming in close second is “Downton Abbey,” ushering in its fourth season Sunday on PBS. It promises to be a time of change as Lady Mary suffers from depression after losing husband Matthew at the end of last season. And poor Branson, without Matthew to back him up, will run up against grief from the Earl of Grantham.
As mournful the loss of Matthew will be, at least there’s a bonus to this delectable show’s return: One of my least favorite characters – no major spoiler, but it’s an inhabitant of the servant quarters – will depart.
Here’s a look at some other shows to look for this month, some I (rather embarrassingly) watch, some I don’t, and some new ones that might be worth giving a chance:
Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off: Yes, I’m serious. And, yes, I know this is mindless, ridiculous reality/competition television. But I just can’t resist the antics of “celebrities” battling as chefs.
The show returns for Season 3 with challengers including Chris Kattan (maybe he shouldn’t have left “Saturday Night Live,” after all), mama Brady Florence Henderson, comedians Judy Gold and Penn Jillette, pop “stars” Tiffany and Vanilla Ice, and more. (Food Network, Monday)
King of the Nerds: Yes, I’m still serious. But my son got me hooked on this reality/competition show that pits self-proclaimed nerds against one another in extremely nerdy contests.
Stars of the hilarious 1984 film “Revenge of the Nerds,” Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong, host this goofy competition and play the nerd card to the hilt.
Did I mention it’s all about nerds? (TBS, Jan. 23)
The following are shows that are popular with the masses, but haven’t made it to my DVR. Still, a lot of folks will be happy to see them return.
Community: Season 5 returned Thursday for this show, which reportedly will have a bit of a reboot, according to Internet interviews with star Joel McHale. (NBC, Thursdays).
Cougar Town:I’m pretty sure I’d like this comedy about a group of friends laughing and drinking their way through their 40s. They must be doing something right, since they’re about to begin their fifth season. (TBS, Tuesday)
Girls: The Season 3 premiere of the critically acclaimed premium channel show was created by and stars Lena Dunham, whose character, along with her friends, navigates the emotional minefield of being a 20-something. (HBO, Jan. 12)
The Following:Kevin Bacon stars in Season 2 of this show as an FBI agent on the hunt for a serial killer and his cult. (Fox, Jan. 19)
Shameless, House of Lies, Episodes:All three premium channel shows return the same night for what promises to be a triple-punch lineup.
“Shameless” begins Season 4, “House of Lies” and “Episodes” both Season 3. (Showtime, Jan. 12)
Finally, three promising new shows debuting this month. There are plenty of other new shows showing up on the various networks in January, but these are three that caught my eye:
Under the Gunn: I’m all in for this new competition/reality show starring “Project Runway” guru Tim Gunn.
Gunn hosts this new fashion creation series as he passes the mentor torch to former “Project Runway” contestants Mondo Guerra, Anya Ayoung-Chee and Nick Verreos.
The three now have to mentor and manage their own teams of designers to final success. (Lifetime, Jan. 16)
True Detective: Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson on a TV show? Together? If I had HBO, I’d tune in to this new show just to see these two at work.
They star as Louisiana detectives whose paths continually cross as they hunt a serial killer. (HBO, Jan. 12)
Rake: Since I really like Greg Kinnear, I just may have to tune into this one. Kinnear plays a criminal defense lawyer of questionable repute with some bad personal habits. (Fox, Jan. 23)
And, by the way, binge-watching phenom “Orange is the New Black” is expected to return to Netflix sometime in early 2014.
Producers are keeping the date under wraps, according to Internet reports.