- 12 Monkeys (Syfy)
Friday, Jan. 16 (Syfy)
Series Debut: The 1995 Terry Gilliam film is a sci-fi classic, and Syfy's 12 Monkeys wisely doesn't attempt to replicate it, instead creating a new(ish) story within the framework. Aaron Stanford (Nikita) plays Cole, a time-traveler from the, natch, post-apocalyptic future of 2043, sent back on a mission to stop the Army of the 12 Monkeys terrorist group from unleashing a virus that kills 7 billion people. That's about it for the similarities; this 12 Monkeys is grittier (read: cheaper) and faster-paced than the movie, and Stanford is even less Bruce Willis-y than Emily Hampshire (as mental patient Goines) is Brad Pitt. The series also doesn't slow down to explain the ins and outs of time travel much, because there are only 13 episodes and Syfy figures you're already hip to properly spelled sci-fi. Combined with the similarly apocalyptic Helix (which also returns tonight), welcome to Fatal Fridays.
New Season: One of the selling points of Portlandia has always been that if you don't like one sketch, there's another coming along in a minute. In Season 5, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are going a different route and spending a whole episode with one pair of characters (last week's premiere focused on feminist bookstore owners Toni and Candace; tonight's ep is about Lance and Nina—you know, with Brownstein as the mustached dude and Armisen as the needy girlfriend). Change is good, but this setup is probably going to be stretched thin over eight or 10 episodes ... though I'd totally watch 30 minutes of frequent guest star Annie Clark (St. Vincent) facing off against Armisen's gearhead Studio Guy.
World's Funniest Fails
Friday, Jan. 15 (Fox)
Series Debut: Why, Terry Crews, why? Is the covert comedy weapon of Brooklyn Nine-Nine stooping to host an Internet clip show in the Fox dead zone of Friday night (the final season of Glee is also here, by the way) under corporate duress? Flex twice for yes, Terry! If you're unfamiliar with this little thing known as The Entirety of Cable, World's Funniest Fails features comedians you've never heard of making withering, snarky pop-up comments on YouTube videos. For an hour. Your mom with the AOL account will love it.
New Series: Critics love Duplass brothers (Jay and Mark, the latter you'd recognize from The League) movies—not necessarily this critic, but other critics. Their new HBO midlife-crisis dramedy Togetherness inhabits the same subdued, intimate world of their films—I'm not invoking the term "mumblecore" here—with Mark and Melanie Lynskey as an over-it married couple who let his unemployed actor friend (Steve Zissis) and her chronically single sister (Amanda Peet) move into their home because, hey, does anything really matter anymore? Just pour the wine. Togetherness is an odd fit between Girls and Looking on Sundays, but it's worth tracking to see if these characters ever escape their respective funks.
The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore
Monday, Jan. 19 (Comedy Central)
Series Debut: You may be wondering, "Why isn't it called The Minority Report?" Originally, the Colbert Report replacement starring Daily Show "Senior Black Correspondent" Larry Wilmore was going to be titled as such, but then Fox announced that it was considering producing a TV series based on the 2002 movie of the same name, leading Comedy Central to say, "Screw it, just call it The Nightly Show," which clicks nicely with lead-in The Daily Show. At least better than the other title that was in the running, Battlefield Earth With Larry Wilmore.
Tuesday, Jan. 20 (FX)
Season Premiere: Raylan's (Timothy Olyphant) endgame in the ... sigh ... final season of Justified, home of the best dialogue on TV, is to bring down frenemy Boyd (Walton Goggins) once and for all, using the love of Boyd's life, Ava (Joelle Carter)—obviously, it's going to get messy. Raylan and Boyd's Roadrunner/Coyote dance isn't the only drama afoot in Harlan, Ky., however: Dixie Mafia heads Katherine Hale (Mary Steenburgen) and Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) are plotting a multimillion-dollar robbery—to be carried out by Boyd—and there are some new heavies in town stirring up trouble (guest power-players Garret Dillahunt, Jeff Fahey and Sam Elliott—sans 'stache!). But with all of this coming down the pike, the biggest surprise of the Season 6 opener, "Fate's Right Hand," is a sad, touching performance from previously written-off hillbilly Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman). Sons of Anarchy was tough, but Justified is the FX loss that's really going to sting.
Listen to Bill on Mondays at 8 a.m. on X96 Radio From Hell; weekly on the TV Tan podcast via iTunes and Stitcher.