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New year, new shows

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New year, new shows New year, new shows

A look at some of 2014's early TV offerings

It's a new year. People all over the country are looking for ways to change their lives for the better in ways both large and small.

That New Year's proclivity toward change is present in the world of television as well; each January brings us a wealth of new network offerings aimed at trimming the unwatched fat and finding new hits to capture viewers. You never know what's going to stick; here are some of the fresh attempts TV will be making over the next couple of months to draw in your eyeballs.

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chicago

'Chicago PD' Wednesday, Jan. 8; 10 p.m. (NBC)

I know, I know does the world really need another police procedural? It seems as if the majority of network offerings are some iteration of this formula.

But there's no disputing that 'Chicago PD' has the pedigree. The show, which is a spin-off of sorts from the equally accurately-named 'Chicago Fire,' comes from producer Dick Wolf, whose 'Law & Order' franchises are largely responsible for the proliferation of procedurals across the broadcast landscape.

This one focuses on a group of police officers in you guessed it Chicago. Essentially, the show will split its attention between two groups; you'll have the uniformed beat cops and the detectives that are part of the department's elite intelligence unit. The cast doesn't have a ton of star power, but rest assured there will be at least one Elias Koteas sighting.

It's possible that the market for these types of shows has reached a saturation point, but it must be noted that anyone who doubts Dick Wolf does so at his or her own peril.

spoils

'The Spoils of Babylon' Thursday, Jan. 9; 10 p.m. (IFC)

As a rule, I tend to steer clear of miniseries when I do these previews. I also tend to mostly avoid offerings from outside the ken of the broadcast networks. However, sometimes a project comes along that is so delightfully intriguing that it simply demands to be addressed. 'The Spoils of Babylon' is one such project.

This six-part comedic series on IFC is the brainchild of Matt Piedmont and Andrew Steele from Funny or Die; it's a loving parodic homage to the lavishly epic television events of the 1970s and 1980s. The concept is simple: 'Spoils' is supposed to be a condensed version of a never-before-aired 22-hour miniseries based on a sweeping novel by self-proclaimed 'undisputed master of dramatic fiction' Eric Jonrosh.

It's the story of oil tycoon Jonas Morehouse (Tim Robbins) and the bizarre machinations of his family, including adopted son Devon (Tobey Maguire) and daughter Cynthia (Kristen Wiig), designed to skewer all of the conventions of old-school 'event television.' Author Jonrosh (played by Will Ferrell) serves as a framing device.

'The Spoils of Babylon' has a chance to be one of the comedy highlights of the year.

enlisted

'Enlisted' Friday, Jan. 10; 9:30 p.m. (FOX)

This single-camera comedy focuses on a group of misfit soldiers serving as the caretakers of a military base in Florida. While most of the base's contingent is deployed overseas, brothers Derrick and Randy Hill are assigned to Rear Detachment, staying behind to take care of Fort McGee. But when the oldest brother Pete returns to the US after punching a superior officer while stationed overseas, he is placed in charge of some of Fort McGee's misfit toys including his brothers.

One wonders about the thought process that goes into greenlighting a show such as this one. A sitcom about inept soldiers getting involved in hijinks seems like it might fall flat given the current climate. Perhaps the writing can overcome some of that, but considering show creator Kevin Biegel's biggest claim to fame is the abysmal 'Cougar Town,' that seems unlikely.

They might be shooting for 'Stripes,' but my guess is that they wind up with something akin to an even-less-funny live action version of 'Beetle Bailey.'

true

'True Detective' Sunday, Jan. 12; 9 p.m. (HBO)

'True Detective' is a short-season offering from HBO. The sheer volume of talent involved in this undeniably ambitious show not to mention the intriguing underlying concept - makes it one that warrants mentioning. 

This debut season of the show features Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as a pair of Louisiana detectives. As the season unfolds, multiple timelines will be used to track these two men over the course of 17 years as they attempt to bring a serial killer to justice.

The series is designed to operate as an anthology; subsequent seasons will feature different casts and different storylines. So every season of 'True Detective' is unbound by went before; it's a concept that (in slightly different form) has served 'American Horror Story' quite well.

HBO's combination of higher production values and fewer content restrictions allows for a lot of leeway, and with McConaughey and Harrelson both of whom are experiencing career resurgences headlining, this show could be excellent.

intelligence

'Intelligence' Monday, Jan. 13; 10 p.m. (CBS)

Ah, CBS. You have to love a network with such a rigidly followed game plan. They've clearly reached the classic 'if it ain't broke' conclusion with regards to their programming. 'Intelligence' is the sort of show you get from a network that has no problem with derivative programming. Despite already having a magic computer show starring a 'Lost' alumnus in 'Person of Interest,' they've decided to add another one to the roster. This one is different, though in this one, the computer is actually in the guy's head!

Josh Holloway plays Gabriel Vaughn, a high-tech operative who winds up as the subject of an experiment that implants a computer chip in his head, giving him the sorts of crazy powers that Hollywood thinks computers give you. He also plays by his own rules and breaks protocol, so he winds up closely monitored by the agency that created him.

We'll have to wait and see whether 'Intelligence' was a smart play or not, but considering the success of 'Person of Interest,' it seems likely that it will catch on.

chozen

(Note: 'Intelligence' had a special premiere preview on Jan. 7 before moving to its permanent time slot.)

'Chozen' Monday, Jan. 13; 10:30 p.m. (FX)

As far as early 2014 offerings go, this might be the goofiest premise of all. 'Chozen' is an animated series that features Bobby Moynihan (of 'SNL') as the voice of the titular Chozen, a gay white rapper who has just been released from prison and is looking to rebuild his music career.

Yeah you read that right.

One mark in the show's favor is that while it was initially intended as the first original series for the new FXX network, 'Chozen' was moved to the more prominent FX in order that it might be paired with that network's popular 'Archer' as part of an animation block. It's a show of good faith regarding the new show's quality.

The show is a collaborative effort between the producers of 'Archer' and HBO's 'Eastbound & Down' suffice it to say, there are some legitimate comedic chops at work behind the scenes. If the two groups can actually find a way to cohesively bring together their respective sensibilities, this show could wind up being one of the biggest and funniest surprises of the season.

'Rake' Thursday, Jan. 23; 9 p.m. (FOX)

The eminently likeable Greg Kinnear returns to television and makes his first foray into a scripted series - with this show, an adaptation of a wildly successful Australian series of the same name. Kinnear plays Keegan Deane, a gifted defense attorney whose gifts don't translate to the rest of his life. His personal problems are legion; his self-destructive habits and attitudes have him at odds with such disparate entities as his ex-wife, his bookie, his colleagues and the IRS.

The trailers for this show look entertaining enough. However, it's hard to say whether a legal comedy/drama blend such as this one will be able to find an audience. They're certainly lucky to have Kinnear, who has a knack for subverting his own natural amiability to create engaging rascals, rogues for whom we can't help but root. There are plenty of sharp-witted bad boys with hearts of gold littering the television landscape; my guess is that Kinnear can hang with any of them.

'Rake' will likely be able to ride out any early rough patches on the strength of Kinnear, but if the concept doesn't capture the imagination of audiences, it could well be one and done.

black sails

'Black Sails' Saturday, Jan. 25; 9 p.m. (Starz)

Shiver me timbers! Yo ho ho and all that! Pirates are coming to the small screen!

'Black Sails' is essentially a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale 'Treasure Island,' featuring stories that happened 20 years before the events of the book. It's a lavish period piece and most definitely a gamble; for whatever reason, outside of the (admittedly massive) success of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise, pirates have long been losers in the entertainment world.

Still, the show seems like it has some perfect storm potential. With Michael Bay on as producer, we can probably expect some significant spectacle. Show creator John Steinberg has legitimate creative bona fides he was behind the excellent (and criminally underwatched) 'Jericho.'

By all accounts, the show is a revelation so much so that upon watching the eight episodes that make up the first season, network executives greenlit a renewal for a ten-episode second season months before a single minute of the show actually aired. That is as big a vote of confidence as you can give in today's television climate. Expect success from 'Black Sails.'

 'Mixology' Wednesday, Feb. 26; 9:30 p.m. (ABC)

A bunch of singles looking to mingle seems like this is well-worn sitcom territory. However, 'Mixology' is following a very different path.

Apparently, the entire season is taking place in one night. That's right it's a sitcom that's a few explosions and Kiefer Sutherlands away from '24.'

It seems like a weirdly gimmicky premise, but the co-creators of the series (Jon Lucas and Scott Moore) are no strangers to the alcohol/compressed timeline combo, having written feature films that used the combination both successfully ('The Hangover') and less successfully ('21 & Over'). The ensemble cast features 10 major players five men and five women looking for love in a trendy Manhattan bar. Each character will have his or her backstory revealed via flashback as the evening's interactions play out over the course of the season.

My guess is that 'Mixology' won't get a quick hook, if only because it has a built-in expiration date. The real question is how the concept can progress if the series actually gets renewed.

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These are just a few of the new shows coming your way in the first few weeks of 2014. There will be even more coming down the pike as the snow melts and we make our way into spring and on to summer. As to the question of how many of these shows will still be standing six months from now? We'll just have to watch and see.

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 15:07

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