By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
7:00 AM PST, January 3, 2014
In 2013, television got a lot of love from the appreciation societies, amateur and professional — some say it was the best TV year ever! (Notwithstanding the unprepossessing fall season.) Can 2014 do better? Will it be the fulfillment or the end of the medium's New Golden Age? These are the questions the baby year must be asking itself now, with its top hat and rattle and remote control, as it takes the stage of history.
"The Assets" (ABC). The story of CIA mole Aldrich Ames (Paul Rhys) and his unmasking by colleagues Sandy Grimes (Jodie Whittaker) and Jeanne Vertefeuille (Harriet Walter) is enacted by a mostly British cast to oddly enunciated effect in an eight-part miniseries.
"Intelligence" (CBS). (Moves to Mondays, Jan. 13.) Josh Holloway, who was Sawyer back on the island, stars as an intelligence op whose brain is jacked in to the Internet, with no roaming fees. Marg Helgenberger is his handler. Those still mourning "Chuck" might find a toehold here.
"Killer Women" (ABC). Cylon 6 Tricia Helfer dons jeans, boots and Stetson to play a Texas Ranger, like Chuck Norris. Must I tell you that as a woman, she has twice as much to prove? Dusty local color a plus.
"Chicago PD" (NBC). Dick Wolf spins off dirty good cop Jason Beghe and clean good cop Jon Seda from "Chicago Fire" into their own series. "You tell me the truth so I can lie for you," Beghe tells his team. "Let's try it your way," Seda says, when the book he goes by falls short. And thus is a philosophy expressed.
"Chasing Shackleton" (PBS). Three-part documentary follows a pack of modern adventurers who set out to relive the perilous sea-and-land journey undertaken by Antarctic explorer Edward Shackleton to save his stranded crew a century ago. You may see ironies that have escaped them. (Exciting, though!)
"Spoils of Babylon" (IFC). Elaborately framed mock-'70s family-saga miniseries plays for laughs by playing it straight. With Tobey Maguire as you've never seen him; Kristen Wiig as you have; Will Ferrell as an echo of Orson Welles.
"Enlisted" (Fox). Old-fashioned stateside military comedy (including a traditional "war games" episode), with Geoff Stults, Chris Lowell and Parker Young as brothers dynamic, cynical and strange. Contains three tablespoons of "The Bad News Bears," the most influential comedy of the last 100 years, seemingly.
"Helix" (Syfy). Ron Moore ("Battlestar Galactica") is an executive producer of this satisfyingly slow-paced disease-outbreak thriller, set in an Arctic research facility. Hubris probably had something to do with it. Billy Campbell is the investigator in charge, until the inevitable moment that he isn't.
"True Detective" (HBO). Deep, unfussy performances by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as partnered policemen — temperamental opposites, wouldn't you know — anchor this assured, Louisiana-set, naturalistic, slow-core murder mystery. Old tropes are freshened here.
"Don't Trust Andrew Mayne" (A&E). Magician Mayne makes trouble out in the world, using his powers of misdirection to baffle the innocent and bedevil the guilty. You might want to punch him. (See: "Jerks With Cameras," below.)
"Chozen" (FX). "Archer"-esque cartoon series about a gay white rapper coming back after a prison term (he was framed) is also a college comedy.
"Bitten" (Syfy). Laura Vandervoort is a Toronto-based photographer and werewolf who would just like to lead a normal life. Uh-huh. Features an ancestral manse called Stonehaven.
"Under the Gunn" (Lifetime). "Project Runway" meets "The Voice," as near as I can make out, with teams and coaches and a prize for whoever's left. "Runway" star Tim Gunn mentors the mentors.
"Jerks With Cameras" (MTV). The name sounds accurate, if the press release for this candid-but-not-always-hidden-camera series is anything to go by ("Get right up in people's faces ... poke the unsuspecting public until they get big reactions"). Allen Funt has a lot to answer for.
"APB With Troy Dunn" (TNT). Keen tracer of lost people Troy Dunn uses his know-how, organizational muscle and your help, America, to reunite those whom fate has put asunder. Some sort of social media component suggests these feats happen in real time.
"Looking" (HBO). Appealingly low-key, matter-of-fact and loosely played story of gay life in the camera-ready city of San Francisco. Jonathan Groff (man of the theater and "Glee"), Frankie J. Alvarez and Murray Bartlett are friends looking for love and whatever by hook or by Facebook. Scott Bakula and Russell Tovey recur.
"Klondike" (Discovery). The network's first scripted miniseries enlists Tim Roth, Sam Shepard, Abbie Cornish and Richard Madden in a tale of Yukon gold. Sure to turn out bad for somebody. With Johnny Simmons as young Jack London.
"Broad City" (Comedy Central). Amy Poehler-produced, New York City-set sitcom, starring gal pals Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, is a sort of "Girls Unleashed" or possibly the female "Workaholics" you have been waiting for.
"Wahlburgers" (A&E). Show-biz brothers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg interfere with nonacting sibling Paul in one of his Boston eateries. Features appearances by "the real Johnny Drama" and other old-homestead types. If someone doesn't drop a big tray of something, I have never watched television.
"Rake" (Fox). Greg Kinnear plays a dissolute L.A. lawyer with a gambling problem, getting by on the last remnants of a boyish charm — though we are also invited to regard him as a (comical) jerk. Antiheroic in a shaggy 1970s mode.
"Black Sails" (Starz). Michael Bay-produced pirate epic regards the anarcho-syndicalist commune that was life under the Jolly Roger. ("We have no kings here," says one pillar of this community. "We don't rely on wages.") Bonus thread: a Long John Silver origin story. Naked sex too — it's premium cable, yo. (Ho ho.)
"Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond" (BBC America). A not entirely idealized look at 007 creator Ian Fleming (Dominic Cooper), his days in naval intelligence and the women who loved him, though he treated them ill. Anna Chancellor is the character who'll make you think "Moneypenny." Samuel West is his M.
"The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon" (NBC). Not new, and yet new; new, and yet not.
"Star Crossed" (CW). Earth girl and space boy share a forbidden love as terms in an immigration metaphor. On the CW, where if it's worth happening, it's worth happening in high school. (Romeo and Juliet were kids too, I know, kids.)
"Private Lives of Nashville Wives" (TNT). A radical new concept in television.
"Mixology" (ABC). From the writers of "The Hangover." Ten people walk into a bar looking for love and whatever. The night will last a season, if the series does.
"Resurrection" (ABC). Eight-year-old Missouri drowning victim pops up alive in a Chinese rice paddy, three decades later and not a minute older. (Viewers of "The Returned" may experience feelings of deja vu.) Omar Epps, Frances Fisher and Kurtwood Smith, it is good to see you.
Dates to Be Determined
"Saint George" (FX, January). George Lopez returns to situation comedy.
"Game of Arms" (AMC). Competitive arm wrestling. It's a thing.
"Triptank" (Comedy Central, April). Cartoon blackout show in the icky-baroque Adult Swim vein. ("Robot Chicken" producers are involved.) No cow too sacred to spook nor icon above preaking. Comedians of note speak the words.
"About a Boy" (NBC). Clunky pilot fails to answer the age-old question of what to do with David Walton, the involvement of Minnie Driver (costar) and Nick Hornby (source material) notwithstanding. (My money was on "Bent," so what do I know?)
"Crisis" (NBC). Another D.C. thriller, with a literal busload of high school students, including the president's son, kidnapped to no clear purpose. But Gillian Anderson is in it, which is enough purpose to start.
"Believe" (NBC). Good guys and bad guys fight over a paranormally gifted little girl, but not even she knows when this show might air.
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