Now that the new year has finally arrived, the television landscape is about to get a lot more interesting.
In the past, mid-season was a dumping ground for television. But in the age of cable, some of the best TV shows come out in the early part of the year, as other fall favorites return for additional episodes.
To help you keep track of what’s coming up, we’ve assembled a list of 13 of the most promising new and returning TV series.
Season Premiere: Tuesday, January 8
One of FX’s signature shows returns roughly three months after the events of the third season finale, which saw U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) realize that his own father, Arlo (Raymond J. Barry) had killed a policeman because he believed that he was protecting Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) from Raylan. Arlo went even further and took the blame for a murder that Boyd committed.
Just because Arlo is behind bars doesn’t mean that he’s completely out of the picture. The fourth season of “Justified” will revolve around a Harlan county mystery that dates back to Raylan’s childhood which even has ties to Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns). Meanwhile, Boyd finds a new rival in the form of Billy St. Cyr (Joe Mazzello), a snake handling preacher who may have criminal ties of his own. Patton Oswalt and Ron Eldard will also join the cast this season in recurring roles. Natalie Zea will also be back for a few episodes as Raylan’s estranged ex-wife, Winona.
But the question for “Justified” fans is will this be the season that Raylan’s fellow Marshals, Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts) and Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) finally get something meaningful to do?
Season Premiere: Thursday, January 17
Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) is back in action after a long break between seasons. This season on “Archer,” Benjamin will participate in a crossover of sorts with his other animated series, “Bob’s Burgers,” as Archer is stricken by amnesia and he finds himself flipping burgers before assassins come to eliminate him.
In other developments, Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler) and Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell) are seemingly back together and Ray Gillette (Adam Reed) apparently isn’t faking his paralysis this time. Archer’s cyborg ex-fiancee, Katya Kasanova (Ona Grauer) is set for a reappearance and at some point, Barry Dylan (Dave Willis) will probably escape from the Horizon space station. That’s more of a blind prediction, but it’s a pretty safe bet.
Premiere Date: Monday, January 21
“The Following” brings perennial movie star, Kevin Bacon to TV as former FBI Agent Ryan Hardy as he is forced out of retirement to pursue a charismatic serial killer, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) who has apparently enlisted a number of people to kill in his name. Hardy already put Carroll away once, but that was before Hardy slept with Carroll’s ex-wife, Claire Matthews (Natalie Zea). Despite Carroll’s “forgiveness” for that, it only makes things more personal.
Fox is betting heavily on “The Following” and it appears to be one of the more intriguing new dramas of the year. This might be the closest thing to a dark and violent cable drama on network TV to come along in a while. But that style of drama doesn’t always attract large broadcast audiences.
Premiere Date: Wednesday, January 30
Get ready to jump back to the ‘80s, comrades!
FX applies their signature style to this period piece set during the early Regan years in Washington D.C. with the seemingly normal family led by Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell).
However, Philip and Elizabeth are secretly deep cover Russian spies who are running a network of KGB operatives right under the government’s nose at the height of the cold war. But their loyalties to their mother country may be strained by their love of life in America and their very real feelings for each other.
Even the Jennings’ children don’t know who they really are... but secrets like that almost always come out. The question is how far will will Philip and Elizabeth go to protect themselves?
Premiere Date: Friday, February 1
Netflix begins its ambitious original programing plans in force with “House of Cards,” a remake of a British political TV thriller. “Lilyhammer” may have been Netflix’s first original series, but “House of Cards” ups the game by bringing Kevin Spacy to TV in his first television leading role.
Spacey stars as Rep. Frank Underwood, a ruthless politician who schemes with a reporter named Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) to bring down everyone in the government who dared to cross him. And because Netflix does things differently than conventional networks, all 13 episodes from the first season will be released on the same day.
Season Premiere: Thursday, February 7
Attention Greendale Human Beings!
After ten months away, “Community” is finally returning to NBC... except without series creator, Dan Harmon. The new showrunners, David Guarascio and Moses Port are fresh from ABC’s “Happy Endings,” so they have some experience with an insane brand of comedy and they’ve promised that they won’t screw it up.
Although it’s too early to pass judgment, the previews of “Community” season 4 look promising and Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) will finally confront his long elusive father while the Dean himself, Jim Rash will write an episode dealing with a Greendale Alumni reunion.
It’s impossible to ignore that Chevy Chase has left “Community” and this will be his last season on the show. What this means for Pierce Hawthorne isn’t clear, but Chase will appear in almost every episode, including the fourth season finale.
Mid-Season Premiere: Sunday, February 10
2012’s most improved TV show returns in just over a month for the second half of its third season. When “The Walking Dead” starts up again, look for the war between the prison survivors led by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the people of Woodbury led by The Governor (David Morrissey) to rapidly escalate even as Rick’s sanity continues to slip away.
The mid-season premiere will quickly revisit the cliffhanger that saw both Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) facing an angry crowd calling for their blood at Woodbury. Back at the prison, Rick is going to have to deal with the new survivors led by Tyreese (Chad Coleman). And while Tyreese wants to co-exist with Rick, the former sheriff may not be so welcoming. Some of Tyreese’s own group may also prove to be dangerous.
These episodes represent the swan song of “Walking Dead” showrunner, Glen Mazzara. But Mazzara may go out with a bang if the remaining episodes bring the prison storyline to its bloody conclusion.
Network: The CW
Premiere Date: Tuesday, February 19
“Farscape” creator Rockne S. O'Bannon makes the starburst to network television with the long-in-development “Cult.” This new series follows Skye (Jessica Lucas), a production assistant on the popular crime drama “Cult” starring Roger Reeves (Robert Knepper).
Skye soon learns that someone is taking inspiration from the crimes depicted in “Cult” and committing them in real life. To track down the killer or killers, Skye teams up with Jeff (Matt Davis), a crusading online journalist. The early question for this series is whether Roger is aware of the copycat crimes. And if so, is Roger also responsible for them?
The CW doesn’t always get well written dramas on their TV schedule. But with O’Bannon at the helm, “Cult” deserves a look.
Premiere Date: Spring 2013
Another Rockne S. O'Bannon TV series hits the air early this year. But unlike “Cult,” “Defiance” is squarely back in the sci-fi genre as Syfy and Trion Worlds team up for a unique melding of TV and gaming.
“Defiance” takes place on Earth after a war with several alien races left the world terraformed and greatly changed. Forced to live together in peace with their former alien adversaries, the small mining town of Defiance is protected by Lawkeeper Jeb Nolan (Grant Bowler) and his adopted daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), a young alien woman with a violent streak.
Events on the “Defiance” TV series will reflect in the upcoming “Defiance” video game, with the game also seeding storylines for the television show. It’s the first time something like this has been tried, so there’s no guarantee how successful it will be. But it’s good to see some actual sci-fi on Syfy again.
Season Premiere: Sunday, March 31
“Game of Thrones” season 3 will adapt George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords; which is the third novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire series.
Because “Storm” is also Martin’s longest novel in the series, the third season of “Game of Thrones” will only cover about the first half of the book, while bringing in new cast members Diana Rigg, Ciarán Hinds, Tara Fitzgerald, Mackenzie Crook and more as the story widens in scope once again.
Without spoiling the events of the third novel, let’s just say that there are more shocking moments ahead.
And not everyone will make it out alive.
Network: BBC America
Mid-Season Premiere: April 2013
“Doctor Who” turns 50 this year. And to kick off the celebration, “Doctor Who” season 7 will resume in April with eight new episodes as the Doctor (Matt Smith) finally catches up with Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman) while he investigates the mystery of her multiple incarnations across time and space.
Although story details are scarce, fan favorite writer Neil Gaiman will return to the series in an episode that brings back the Cybermen as another episode will take viewers on a "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.”
Premiere Date: ?
Thomas Harris’ iconic serial killer, Hannibal Lecter is coming to television sometime in 2013, presumably as a part of NBC’s midseason schedule. However, the network has yet to confirm a premiere date for “Hannibal.”
Regardless, “Hannibal” is building buzz for its strong cast including, Laurence Fishburne, Gina Torres, Caroline Dhavernas, Leslie Bibb and Gillian Anderson as well as Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Lecter himself.
The series will focus on the early days of Lecter’s relationship with FBI Profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), whose investigations will set “Hannibal” in motion. For now, Graham sees Lecter as his friend and mentor.
But eventually the truth about Hannibal Lecter’s true nature will come out... And he’s likely to have some of the characters for dinner... with “farva beans and a nice chianti.”
Premiere Date: Spring 2013
Seven years after it was cancelled by Fox, “Arrested Development” makes one of the most unlikely returns in live action television history when it comes to Netfliix this spring. The entire original cast is back, including Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter.
Some of the supporting characters are also on tap to return, including Barry Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler), Bob Loblaw (Scott Baio) and Kitty Sanchez (Judy Greer) as well as new guest appearances by Isla Fisher, Maria Bamford, Blake Anderson, Ben Schwartz, Carl Weathers, Andy Richter and Conan O'Brien.
Netflix hasn’t confirmed the premiere date yet, but all 14 episodes are expected to debut on the same day this spring.