January brings some fresh opportunities for the broadcast and cable networks to try and lure you back with new and returning programming. Among the highlights: costume drama fiends will be lined up for the Jan. 8 return of British drama Downton Abbey; FX’s Justified returns for a third season of Kentucky shootouts on Jan. 17; HBO’s cult comedy Eastbound and Down returns on Feb. 19; auteurs David Milch and Michael Mann unite for HBO’s Luck, launching Jan. 29; and Kiefer Sutherland returns to television with Fox’s Touch, which will get a preview broadcast on Jan. 25. (It officially premieres on March 19.)
Absolutely Fabulous, the outrageous British cult comedy that gave the world the fashion-obsessed Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), will celebrate its 20th anniversary with three brand-new specials this year, the first of which airs on both BBC America and Logo on Jan. 8 at 10 p.m. ABC will offer the globe-spanning espionage/revenge drama Missing, starring Ashley Judd as a former CIA agent in search of her son, who vanished in Europe, and Game of Thrones’s Sean Bean, beginning March 15. In the not-soon-enough category, Mad Men’s long-delayed fifth season is expected to turn up on AMC sometime this spring, possibly as early as March.
Elsewhere, the usual slew of reality shows—Fox’s American Idol (Jan. 18), NBC’s The Voice (in the coveted post–Super Bowl slot on Feb. 5), and CBS’ The Amazing Race (Feb. 19)—returns with new cycles, while AMC gets into the unscripted business with the Kevin Smith–produced Comic Men, launching Feb. 12. And ABC may have a contender for the worst television show of all time with Work It, a cross-dressing “comedy” starring Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco that already has GLAAD up in arms. (It uses male anxieties, unemployment, and a relentless misogyny to wring jokes out of a stale, Bosom Buddies–like premise.)
Rather than flood the airwaves in the fall, the broadcasters chose to hold back many of their more intriguing offerings until midseason, which means that viewers will get to decide the fates of more than a few passion projects in the next few months, while the networks line up what’s still left on the shelves (Awake, Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, and Scandal to name but a few) for the spring. Will these new shows click with their respective audiences, or will they end up in the ever-growing rejected pile for the 2011–12 season?