Great TV Shows Coming Back This January!

So, these next few weeks are big weeks for TV: it’s the beginning of the midseason, and some shows are coming back that haven’t seen the light of day since spring! I thought I would shamelessly plug a few of my favorites that aren’t getting CSI-type ratings and encourage you to give them a try.

Pretty Little Liars – returns for the second season (or second half of the first season) on Monday January 3rd.

Warning: contains some rather vague, large-scale spoilers.

There’s nothing brilliant about Pretty Little Liars. It’s a lot like Gossip Girl, except not quite so edge-of-your-seat-covering-your-eyes, and most of the characters are reasonably relatable and reasonably kind. It has its corny moments, and the mystery guiding it is bound to be disappointing when all is revealed. But it’s still a fun show to watch, and so far the romance track-record is phenomenal.

Not only did it go straight for the high school teacher-student relationship which is almost never done on TV, especially without vilifying the teacher, but it also shamelessly plays love-interest musical chairs, which I am not too embarrassed to admit that I love! Before the relationships even get stale, the writers are already breaking them up and setting them up with someone new – and that’s quite a statement coming from me, because I am infamously ADHT when it comes to TV couples…I just tire of them so easily, and am ready so early for a mixing up. Well, Pretty Little Liars delivers.

What is it about? Well, one year ago, Aria, Hanna, Spencer (female), Emily, and Alison were all popular girls and inseparable best friends. But Alison disappeared. Her body has since been found, and the girls have begun to receive texts, e-mails, etc. from someone calling his/herself “A”, who pretends to be Alison and knows every last secret about our leading ladies. Alison herself was a queen bitch and it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to be friends with her, but that’s not really important.

Aria is having an affair with her English (of course it’s English, it’s always English) teacher Ezra Fitz (played by Ian Harding, I mention him because he’s delicious).

They’ve tried several times to break up without success. She had a brief flirtation with a new guy after Fitzy disappeared for a while trying to get over her, and this new guy was so sweet, but Aria just wasn’t ready to move on, and who could blame her because Mr. Fitz is a textbook Fox. I’m telling you, this man is gorgeous. Aria is our main character, and sort of our gateway into the show-verse, and she sort of suffers from main-character syndrome in that she’s essentially perfect. Her main concern besides her relationship with her teacher has been her father (Chad Lowe)’s philandering ways and her parents’ divorce. It’s nice to see her so concerned with her family, but the scenes of the parents fighting were very stressful to watch.

Hanna also has family troubles. Her mother didn’t want a divorce, and her daddy is marrying his new wife with stepchildren in tow, and now Hanna and Mommy are low on funds. Hanna used to be overweight, but she’s scratched her way to popularity and she’s more than a little neurotic about the whole thing.

Things went to hell with her long-time crush and now long-time boyfriend, and she’s developing the most delightful friendship with essentially the geekiest boy at school. Gotta love it!

I don’t much care for Spencer Hastings. She’s the rich girl who is the 4.0 student, driven crazy by the need to be perfect. Her family is a bunch of rich, uptight, emotionally distant and morally questionable a-holes. Her older sister, though, has had several hot boyfriends who have had an interest in Spencer, an interest which she has returned. That’s right, twice. And there have only been 10 episodes of this series. Spencer also did the big no-no of falling for the ball boy (which is to say, at the tennis court) at the country club. Hastings girls do not fall for the help!

Finally, Emily. I find Emily likeable, but her main storyline has been her burgeoning lesbianism, and her developing relationship with Maya (played by Bianca Lawson) who now lives in Alison’s old house.

Sorry, but yawn. I haven’t liked Maya from the start…maybe it was because they smoked pot the first time they met. I don’t know. The actress who plays Maya doesn’t look it, but she has been playing teenagers for over 15 years. More than that.

You might recognize her as Kendra from the second season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. –

She also plays Emily Bennett on The Vampire Diaries. I never liked Kendra or Emily…all of this is probably feeding my Maya-dislike. I’m hoping Maya is “A”, but most TV shows are too afraid to turn the lesbians evil.

Emily actually had one of the more interesting relationships on the show to date with Toby, someone considered for a while as Alison’s killer. I loved her and Toby so much! I’m still holding out hope. I can’t back this statement up with proof, but I really think that most fans want her with  Toby.

He’s really just misunderstood, but he never manages to get his name cleared, poor kid. I love Toby.

Toby has a stepsister, Jenna. He was accused of setting fire to their house which resulted in her being blinded, but it was actually Alison and our girls who did it, and poor Toby took the fall. Alison blackmailed him into it by threatening to reveal his sexual relationship with Jenna. In an interesting twist, it’s Jenna who has been forcing Toby into the relationship – he’s not that interested in her. So Jenna just got that much more interesting. And thank you, Show, for that bit of almost-incest. Apparently Spencer and the rest of our gang thought that Toby had motive to kill Alison just because of that little secret. I’m sorry, but I think he would admit to sleeping with his step-sibling before he would kill somebody. If he did kill Alison, though, I wouldn’t blame him, because as I might have mentioned, Alison was kind of evil, and not in the Katherine/Azula good way.

Even though the show takes place in high school, there isn’t that much incest interest. We’ve got Toby and Jenna, though that’s not exactly amicable and not exactly blood. Aria has a brother which she takes an Elena-Jeremy sort of interest in, only not quite as intense. She was mentioning to her friend something in her Facebook newsfeed from her brother’s page, and her friend was giving her a weird why-are-you-Facebook-friends-with-your-brother type of look, and Aria explained that it was “a moment of weakness”. Interesting wording, Aria. Hmmm… Unfortunately he’s not really around enough to ship the two of them, and honestly, he cannot compete with Fitzy’s face.

Alison had an older brother, who shows signs of being rather wicked himself. Too bad she’s dead. I would love to see a flashback of them together. But there’s very little to get excited about there.

There are lots of pretty faces on Pretty Little Liars. Unfortunately the hot cop (Bryce Johnson, briefly seen on the very brief Lonestar which I liked) who was heading up Alison’s murder investigation seems to be gone. He wasn’t very nice, but I so wanted to ship him with Hanna.

Big Love – returning for the fifth and final season on January 16th.

What do I say about Big Love? It’s a crazy but addictive show – not a drama, not a comedy – it’s something altogether different. As happens on many HBO shows, you’ll find yourself interested things that you never thought would interest you. All of the sudden, polygamist compound politics will keep you coming back rather than the question of whether or not Benny and Margene will ever act on their chemistry.

If you’re not watching Big Love already, then shame on you.

It’s the story of Bill Henrickson, who grew up on a Mormon polygamist compound in Utah, but became a made-man in Salt Lake City, and deciding that he wanted to live The Principle, added Nikki and Margene to the marriage he already had with Barb. Three wives, one husband, eight children.

Don’t forget Bill’s family back in Juniper Creek – his conservative, sleezeball father, his borderline psychotic mother, his troubled brother Joey (who should never wear a shirt), and Joey’s wife Wanda who seems to live on another plane of existence. Wacky adventure ensues.

Margene was not a Mormon, in fact, she was the babysitter. Nikki, on the other hand, grew up on the compound and is one of many children of the “the prophet” Roman Grant. Her full blood brother Alby (their mother Adaleen can be included among the other clinically-questionable ladies) is the skeeviest guy that ever walked the planet.

I started watching it with great hope for incestuous content. Unfortunately, I have thus far been disappointed. HBO is so great, because like Degrassi, it will “go there”. But it hasn’t with this show.

There have been some close calls, though!

First: Alby and Nikki. Granted, (pun!) he’s not a desirable. But they’ve had some scenes where they have…been very close. They’re sometimes pitted against each other, and sometimes they take refuge in each other. There are screwed up families, and then there are the Grants.

Next: Ben and Sarah. Bill’s oldest daughter and oldest son haven’t had too many scenes together of closeness, but they have shown an inordinate interest in each other’s sex lives, and Ben and Sarah had a rather fantastic scene after her prom when she revealed to him that she was with child. The shame!

Ben and Margene. They’ve been flirting since practically episode one. He’s grown up since then. I don’t want to spoil it for you…but things happen. Unfortunately, it’s all positioned as “bad” instead of as two people who love each other coming together. But don’t worry, if you get invested in their flirtation, I promise you that something will come of it.

That’s Frankie in the back there, with the blond hair

Sarah and Uncle Frankie. Bill’s nasty father has many wives and many children, some of whom are quite young. One of whom is Frankie. Troubled, he encounters Bill in the city, and Bill tries to be a positive influence in his life. Frankie wanders a bit into Sarah’s life as well. Unfortunately, nothing really happens (yet…but I don’t think Sarah’s around in this season, Amanda Seyfriend is apparently too busy…I’m sad but good for her though). But there’s some great tension there, and I don’t think it was in my head. He was her date to prom. Or was Ben? Doesn’t matter – they’re equally good.

Wanda’s brother JJ (also Nikki’s first husband) has his own ideas about incest which are eye-poppers but not exactly satisfying. You’ll have to watch it to know what I mean. JJ’s creepiness is perhaps even more than Alby a dissuading factor in finding his relationship with Wanda anything more than disturbing.

One of the best relationships on the show so far was the nothing that happened between Barb and Tommy as they worked together at Bill’s new Casino. Sigh.

This promotional image is soooo misleading

Actually, the show is frustratingly clean and moral. Fidelity. Loyalty. Crap like that.

Watch Big Love!

V – returning for the second season on January 4th.

So, I might have mentioned how annoying I find Logan Huffman as Tyler on V. What I didn’t mention was how much I enjoy the show.

There’s not much plot to talk about – it’s High Concept. Aliens arrive. They’re bad, but act like they’re good. And that’s that. The show focuses on FBI agent Erica (who suffers from having too many good love interests), and her small rebellion, including…

Father Jack, a priest

Kyle Hobbs, a mercenary, and Ryan, one of the aliens. Tyler is Erica’s son.

He is in love with Lisa, the alien princess, daughter of High Commander Anna aka The Queen V. Anna is another badass lady that I’ve never cared for. I’m happy to realize that I actually do have ones that I like and ones that I don’t. That being said, her savvy is awesome.

Among the aliens is Joshua, another member of the rebellion, aka Fifth Column. I love Joshua. Is it just because he’s good looking? Maybe. Probably. I don’t know. I just know that I like him.

And I can’t not mention Nick Lea (gushed about in my Vertical Limit post) as Erica’s ex-husband. I hope he’s in the show this upcoming season more than he was in the 12-episode first season.

No incest, no potential even, which is sad.

But if you want to ship along with me, ship Lisa and Joshua!!!!! They are intensely hot in all of their scenes together. If only she wasn’t stuck on that loser Tyler.

Please give V a try. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s very entertaining.

Also coming back is Starz’ Spartacus on January 21.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand had thirteen episodes that aired last spring.

Andy Whitfield (whom I am proud to say I already recognized from Gabriel, and anyone who has played a protagonist angel gets a smile from me) plays the titular character, and was diagnosed with cancer before filming of the second season could begin. Unfortunately, he is not yet well enough that he can again portray Spartacus, and I believe the showrunners are recasting. In the meantime they are airing a prequel series called Gods of the Arena featuring most of the same characters.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand was created by Steven K. DeKnight, whose name I recognized immediately as having worked on Buffy The Vampire Slayer in its later years.

That I should recognize his name really shouldn’t be any surprise, because I basically memorized every episode that featured Spike and Buffy having sex. Anyway, being on premium cable, you can expect content that may be objectionable to some viewers, and you will not be disappointed. It’s bloody. There’s also a fair amount of other bodily fluids involved. Sometimes there is more than I ever wanted to see. Things that cannot be unseen. There is not just a lot of nudity, you will actually be surprised when characters wear clothing. But that’s all part of ancient Rome.

Don’t go into this show thinking that it will be another Rome. It’s different.  There are things in common, but it is different. A lot of people wanted another Rome, because Rome was so wonderful. It’s important not to have that expectation, so you won’t face that disappointment. There will never be another Rome, and that’s just something that we’re all going to have to accept. But Spartacus is fun. Another thing you have to know is that the first episode isn’t great. It’s kind of boring, and kind of silly-looking. They really change the style once the season gets going, and the show really gets its footing as it progresses. You have to give it chance, you can’t let yourself get turned off by the first episode and not watch the second.

In Blood and Sand, Spartacus is enslaved by the villainous Roman Claudius Glaber (played by Craig Parker of Legend Of The Seeker) in his homeland and brought to Capua.

He ends up in the ludus (gladiator training facility) of Batiatus (played by the delightful John Hannah of the Mummy movies)

and his wife Lucretia (played by Lucy Lawless of Xena and Battlestar Galactica). Capua is a small pond compared to Rome, but Batiatus and Lucretia aren’t even the big fish there. Through out the season (and all through this prequel season as well) the two of them try to scheme their way to the top.

They generally scheme together (and generally seem to love each other), which is sort of refreshing, although Lucretia’s affair with their slave/gladiator Crixus sometimes gives her an ulterior motive.

Crixus, in turn, is in love with Lucretia’s house slave Naevia, and all of the dark-corner banging leaves you chewing your nails wondering when the whole thing is going to blow up.

Glaber’s wife Ilithyia (the daughter of a very important man in Rome) is a delightful and ruthless schemer herself. Lucretia has to kiss up to her, but there is push and pull of taking advantage in that relationship. Ilithyia comes to hate Spartacus almost as much as he hates her and Glaber.

In the ludus are the majority of the main characters. Crixus is the current champion who is constantly trying to push Spartacus down.

Doctore is the trainer.

Ashur is the guy who is always stabbing everybody in the back.

And my personal favorite is my darling Varro, who quickly becomes Spartacus’ best (only) friend. Varro became a gladiator to pay off gambling debt, but he has a wife, Aurelia, and a young son on the outside. (If you recognize her, it’s because she played Jennsen on Legend Of The Seeker, the sister of Craig Parker’s character!) She’s kind of mousy, but her scenes are peppered with moments of awesome.

Spartacus left behind a wife, Sura, whom he loves with a rather boring devotion. He fights for her, to be able to buy her back and bring her to him, and he becomes quite the champion. Another slave of Lucretia’s, Mira (who was also on Legend Of The Seeker as a Mord Sith), tries to put the moves on Spartacus, but he is resistant. He’s kind of a brooding pleasure-hater. But we love him. Just not as much as Varro.

That is the set-up for Blood and Sand. I’m not going to spoil everything and tell you how it ends, but the season finale is a great episode and the death count by the time the credits roll on the last episode of the season is painfully high.

Gods of the Arena takes place a number of years before, though I can’t tell you how many. It’s not because I’m keeping it a secret, I just don’t know. It takes place at the ludus, and focuses on Batiatus and Lucretia. The current champion at the ludus is Gannicus, and he’s not a bad looking man.

Watching him win a fight blindfolded did a lot for his appeal as well.

Doctore and Ashur are also present, and Batiatus purchases Crixus during the first episode. Naevia makes a quick appearance. These are the main characters that we recognize from Blood and Sand. I can only hope that we’ll soon see Varro, Glaber, and Ilithyia before it’s over.

Aside from Gannicus, we have another new character in Doctore’s wife, Melitta, who shows promise, and Lucretia’s old friend, Gaia, who is up to no good.

I’ve seen the first episode, and I started out a little unsure, seeing as how my two favorite characters – Varro and Ilithyia – were absent, and one of my least favorite characters – Crixus – was likely to have a primary role. But it had won me over by the end.

No incest promise, though. In fact, zero siblings to speak of. Almost zero relatives to speak of. Just that weasel Numerius and his parents. Batiatus has a father but we’ve never seen him. I guess family doesn’t mean much in Capua. We do meet Ilithyia’s father. And there is Varro’s son. But no brothers and sisters. Aurelia has a brother, but we never meet him. It’s not Darken Rahl or Richard, I’m pretty sure.

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One Response to Great TV Shows Coming Back This January!

  1. Shipcestuous says:

    It’s really hearbreaking to hear that Andy Whitfield has passed away. A lot of people checked out this page yesterday when the news of his death came out. He’ll be missed.

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