What’s New in Television: January 2011

In the midst of our long winter, as the cold tightens its icy grip all across the country, television finally decides to awaken from its month long slumber.  As all of your television favorites return to the airwaves over the next month of so, we’ll take a look at some of the new offerings being served up by the networks this January.

Lights Out – The cream of the crop of the early television season, Lights Out explores the life of former heavyweight boxing champ Patrick “Lights” Leary (Holt McCallany) five years after his dethronement and retirement at the urging of his wife.  As his bank account empties and life falls apart, Leary continues to be seduced by the life that he left and the former opponent who continues to challenge him to one more fight.  Lights Out faces the uphill battle fought and lost by most sports-related scripted programming, and in fact opened with a soft 1.5 million viewers last week, below FX President John Landgraf’s expectations.  However Lights Out is the one new January debut that deserves your hour a week.  Lights Out airs on Tuesday at 10/9 Central on FX.

Off the Map – Do you like Grey’s Anatomy?  Private Practice?  How about these shows set in a jungle?  Well then ABC’s got the show for you, the latest edition of Shonda Rhimes’s paint-by-the-numbers medical soaps.  Off the Map stars Caroline Dhavernas of Wonderfalls fame as Dr. Lilly Brenner, a recent transfer to a clinic in South America, which is of course understaffed and undersupplied.  One thing the clinic is not short of is attractive young people as Dhavernas is joined by Mamie Gummer and Zack Gilford.  Of course the youngs end up butting heads with the olds of the clinic in this completely unnecessary addition to the ABC lineup.  Of course the setting of Off the Map will be intimately familiar with Lost fans as the show took over many of the locations of the former show.  Off the Map debuted last week to modest ratings but was lost amidst the scrambled network lineups due to the memorial service in Tucson.  Off the Map airs on Wednesday at 10/9 Central on ABC.

Being Human – The first of the January imports from across the Atlantic is Being Human, the US remake of the BBC original series of a vampire, werewolf, and ghost roommates just trying to live their human-style lives in Boston.  The first two episodes of the remake are essentially scene-for-scene replicas of the superior British version of the show.  Add in the standard love interests and 20 something drama, Being Human has a hard time deciding what kind of show it wants to be which is okay, but the bigger issue is that the show all about the supernatural trying to be human lacks the required emotion and humanity in its plot and characters.  Being Human airs on Monday at 9/8 Central on SyFy

Skins – Also coming across the pond to push the boundaries of teenage television is Skins which follows a group of high schoolers as they grapple with the issues that arise in that awkward period of life when you are no longer a kid, but clearly not yet an adult.  Skins will be rejected by the mainstream media critics as fantasy just as Jersey Shore might have been had the reality smash been scripted rather than reality.  Of course the critics have a point, but fantasy it is not, at least not completely.  Perhaps the better description is hyperreal, but certainly not far from the truth for a smaller segment of the nation’s younger population.  Starring virtual unknowns, Skins is wonderfully shot in a docu-film style, impressive for its cable progeny and the low budgets that come with.  Skins will be ultimately judged not on its style but its content but I will certainly be onboard for the ride.  Skins airs on Monday at 10/9 Central on MTV.

Perfect Couples – When NBC decided to expand their Thursday night comedy block an extra hour in order to bring back Parks and Recreation they had to fill another half hour.  So after rejecting running Office repeats, it was time to throw Perfect Couples into the slot after Community.  Perfect Couples received a sneak peek after the finale of The Sing-Off in December.  The show is nothing particularly memorable but with some nice performances by the ensemble cast.  The biggest problem however is that the show simply does not fit with NBC’s Thursday night lineup.  Then again Oliva Munn is always nice to look at.  Perfect Couples airs on Thursday at 8:30/7:30 Central on NBC.

Fairly Legal – Continuing the slick yet forgettable USA network brand is Fairly Legal, starring Sarah Shahi as Kate Reed a former lawyer turned legal mediator.  Apparently we the audience were so sick of lawyer shows that the nets decided the prescription for our ailment was the exciting world of legal mediation.  While the show brings little new to the table, Shahi is the highlight of the pilot, following up her terrific work in the short-lived Life.  Like most USA shows however, the gloss and shine of the series is likely to be gone by the conclusion of the season.  Fairly Legal airs on Thursday at 10/9 Central on USA.

Harry’s Law – Every season has a show so bad that you scratch you head and wonder how the show was greenlit.  Harry’s Law is that show.  Starring Kathy Bates as Harry, a patent lawyer who has a life crisis and decides to open up a storefront law firm in Cincinnati, Harry’s Law is simply just another insanely bizarre legal show from David E. Kelley.  If you’ve seen one, then you’ve seen Harry’s Law.  Save yourself your dignity and do not watch this.  Harry’s Law airs on Monday at 10/9 Central on NBC.

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