Shades of Blue (Thursday, Jan. 7, NBC), series debut: When The Player was quietly but unofficially canceled last year, Shades of Blue materialized out of nowhere as its NBC Thursday replacement. A gritty cop drama pitting Jennifer Lopez against Ray Liotta? Sounds like a forgotten ’90s flick you’d run across on TNT at 3 a.m., but Shades of Blue is more like The Shield with bigger hair: NYPD detective Harlee Santos (Lopez), having spent most of her career skirting legalities with “creative” police work, is busted by the FBI and forced to take a deal to secretly inform on her equally sketchy colleagues (including Liotta and Drea de Matteo), or risk never seeing her moppet daughter again (because of course Harlee’s a single mom). What follows is mucho capital-A Acting!, few twists you didn’t fully expect, and the nagging truth: “Well, it’s not the worst show NBC’s thrown at us this season.”
Angel From Hell (Thursday, Jan. 7, CBS), series debut: At least CBS is still trying to break out of its tired sitcom mold, first this season with Life in Pieces, and now, the ultimately doomed Angel From Hell. Like Life in Pieces, Angel From Hell follows the single-camera format sans canned laughs, and features a solid cast (Jane Lynch, Maggie Lawson, Kyle Bornheimer and Kevin Pollak). But then it goes weird, if not Wilfred: Is the crazy lady (Lynch) who’s forced her way into the stable-if-dull life of Allison (Lawson) actually a guardian angel, or a stalker, or a figment of her imagination? Two more questions: Who thought they could stretch a Hallmark Christmas movie trope into a series? And: Why was the debut of Angel From Hell delayed by a couple of months? Was it the “ultimately doomed” thing?
Shameless (Sunday, Jan. 10, Showtime), season premiere: America’s Greatest TV Family returns for a sixth go-round that is, more so than any previous season, a direct continuation of the previous one for the Shameless clan: Fiona (Emmy Rossum) is still sleeping with, and getting promoted by, her diner boss; ditto Lip (Jeremy White) with his married college professor; Frank (William H. Macy) is a distraught ball of mush over his cancer-suicide girlfriend; Debbie (Emma Kenney) is knocked up; Ian (Cameron Monaghan) won’t take his meds; Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) is fresh out of juvie; and their squalid South Chicago neighborhood is still under siege by gradual hipster gentrification. (Recoil in horror as the Alibi Room bar suffers its first “Appletini” order.) Welcome back, Gallaghers—this country needs you now more than ever.
Second Chance (Wednesday, Jan. 13, Fox), series debut: First it was The Frankenstein Code, then Lookinglass, and finally, Second Chance—the show still sucks, but at least it went through a drawn-out, committee-think, network-nightmare process to arrive at the dullest title possible. The setup: A 75-year-old disgraced ex-sheriff (Philip Baker Hall) is gunned down by corrupt cops while protecting the kids of his FBI agent son (Tim DeKay), but then “brought back to life” as a 35-year-old version of himself (Rob Kazinsky) by a pair of rich twins (Adhir Kalyan and Dilshad Vadsaria) who made their millions with a social-networking site but are now totally into bioengineering. Also, New Guy (a way better show title, BTW) has super-strength, as well as scores to settle. As stoopid as all this sounds, it was actually done better and smarter by CBS’ plot-identical Now and Again in 1999. Look up that show instead.
Younger (Wednesday, Jan. 13, TV Land), season premiere: Sutton Foster charmed critics and a handful of fans on ABC Family’s long-canceled Bunheads, but the new-ish, Darren Star-produced Younger, now kicking off Season 2, should finally be her Big Break (or at least as big as you can get on TV Land if you’re not Jim Gaffigan). For the uninitiated, Foster stars as a 40-year-old woman posing as 26 to break into the cutthroat world of … book publishing? Just go with it: Foster is fantastic; the writing has an edge new to TV Land (and no laugh track!); and the show’s Politics of Ageism are far sharper and less heavy-handed than you’d expect—oh, and Hilary Duff is finally not annoying in something. Major victory right there.