Sunday, Jan. 10 (HBO)
Season Premiere: Is Roman Grant really dead? Even though it appeared Big Love’s ubiquitous bad guy had been snuffed in last year’s finale, this season begins with the prophet of Juniper Creek simply “missing.” The Only TV Column That Matters™ will let on that Roman does appear in the first couple of episodes of Season 4, he’s mobile, and he’s still a pain in multitasking Mormon Bill Henrickson’s ass—think Weekend at Bernie’s, that’s all I’m sayin’. Like Bill, Big Love has always managed to juggle multiple storylines and characters effectively, and this season looks to be a veritable Chuck-a-Rama of polygamist drama: In addition to his home-improvement stores, Bill’s opening a “family-friendly” casino on American Indian land and contemplating a run for the Utah Senate (hey, who isn’t?). On the wives front, Margene is becoming a home-shopping TV star, Nicki isn’t quite over her extramarital (or is it extra-extramarital?) fling, and Barb is more conflicted about all of this than ever. Speaking of conflicted, rest-stop-cruising Alby (now Juniper Creek’s default leader) gets a boyfriend, Bill’s daughter Sarah gets married, and son Ben gets a gig with a Christian rock band. And that’s not even half of what’s coming in Season 4—who needs Roman?
Sunday, Jan. 10 (NBC)
Season Premiere: When last we left Chuck Bartowski in April 2009, he’d downloaded a new version of the spy-intelligence-loaded Intersect into his brain—and, apparently, Intersect 2.0 includes martial-arts fighting skills. Nine months and several “Save That Show!” fan campaigns later, Chuck is back with an unprecedented amount of hype from NBC. Aside from these two drastic changes, it’s business as usual: Chuck’s back working as a spy and at the Buy More, the gang’s all here (except for Morgan’s girlfriend—not in the budget), and the romantic tension between Chuck and his handler Sarah remains … well, more like clings. It’s the only aspect of Season 3 that drags; everything else, from the action to the guest-star villains (including Angie Harmon, Armand Assante and even “Stone Cold” Steve Austin) is amped up and ready for some viewers. Too bad Heroes is still dragging down Mondays. Part 2 premieres Monday, Jan. 11 (regular timeslot).
Tuesday, Jan. 12 (TNT)
Return: The second season of cop drama Southland was canceled by NBC before it could even premiere last fall. Why? Thanks to the new nightly-at-nine abortion that is The Jay Leno Show, all real programming had to go earlier, and Southland (sorta The Shield-lite, centered around a rookie Los Angeles cop played by The O.C.’s Benjamin McKenzie) was deemed “too dark and gritty” for a family-hour timeslot—just ask Law & Order: SVU how that’s going. TNT has picked up Southland; the first seven episodes of Season 1 begin running tonight, followed in March by the unaired six produced for Season 2. The potential is all here for a quality cable series, and wouldn’t it be great if Southland matched or beat The Jay Leno Fail in the ratings, a la FX’s Sons of Anarchy? Dare to dream.
Wednesday, Jan. 13 (TNT)
Winter Premiere: It’s the most lightweight of TNT’s originals, but Leverage is also the network’s lone answer to the ridiculously successful USA formula: Action plus comedy plus sexy = hit. The Tim Matheson-led mashup of The A-Team and Ocean’s 11 added Jeri Ryan (subbing for pregnant Gina Bellman) to the crew before the fall break and, while she’s not all that convincing as a grifter, the show still breezes by on a sharp balance of hard-edged cool and goofy comic charm. If you’re jonesing for the return of Burn Notice (Jan. 21, BTW), try a shot of Leverage.