Baskets (Thursday, Jan. 19, FX), season premiere: When Baskets premiered last January, it appeared to be a loony lark, like someone dared Zach Galifianakis to create a comedy bizarre enough to make even FX flinch: Aspiring artiste Chip Baskets (Galifianakis) flunks out of a prestigious French clown academy and returns home to uncultured Bakersfield to become a crestfallen rodeo clown. Oh, and the black comedy also features an undercurrent of commentary on the decline of Western civilization and the futility of artistry, as well as Galifianakis playing his own twin brother, Dale, and Louie Anderson in drag as their mom—comedy gold, right? Actually, yes. Baskets’ weirdness was balanced with a certain sweetness, and Anderson’s hyper-quotable “Christine” became the unlikeliest breakout character of the year. At the outset of Season 2, Chip attempts to flee Bakersfield (hobo-clown-style riding the rails, of course), and Christine finds romance (and water aerobics). So, yeah, still bizarre.
Beaches (Saturday, Jan. 21, Lifetime), movie: The original 1988 Beaches, from a different time when Garry Marshall movies weren’t complete shit (too soon?), is a cheesy-weepy classic that needs no “reimagining.” But since we’re in the post-imagination 2010s, here’s a new Beaches, complete with remade songs. While it’s tough to argue with the smart casting of Idina Menzel and Nia Long in the iconic Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey roles—not to mention cred-to-burn director Allison Anders replacing Marshall—is a note-for-note re-creation of this lifelong gal-pals tale really necessary? Nope, but Beaches will be an easy hit for Lifetime, which means we can probably look forward to an update of Pretty Woman, re-written by and starring Lena Dunham, by fall.
Hunted (Sunday, Jan. 22, CBS), series debut: Unfortunately, this is not a second season of Melissa George’s cool 2012 spy series of the same name, which was wrongfully cancelled and … I’m just talking to myself here, aren’t I? Anyway: This Hunted is a reality show that pits teams of regular folk against pro investigators in an elaborate game of digital-age hide-and-seek; the fugitive squad that can stay off the grid and avoid being caught for 28 days wins $250,000. Hunted offers a valuable lesson about the liability of your digital footprint (not to mention reality-TV camera crews and trucks—wouldn’t they be a dead giveaway?). You may need to disappear yourself sometime in the next four years, so pay attention.
Outsiders (Tuesday, Jan. 24, WGN America), season premiere: The 2016 epidemic of Too Many Shows caused the debut season of Outsiders to slip by me—but it was discovered by a record-setting number of WGN America viewers who instantly latched onto this Appalachian hill-folk drama like it was Sons of Anarchy in overalls. (Coincidentally, SOA’s Ryan Hurst is one of the stars.) Outsiders is rife with juicy hillbilly family drama and stick-it-to-the-man anti-authoritarianism, as well as the most mud-flinging ATV action you’ll see outside of the Outdoor Channel. The story: The isolationist, mountain-dwelling Farrell clan (with the patriarch an unrecognizable David Morse) wants nothing to do with modern society in lowland Kentucky—then along comes Big Coal, aided by local police, to run them out of their centuries-long home. It’s a visceral, pulpy ride—catch up on Season 1 on Hulu.
The Magicians (Wednesday, Jan. 25, Syfy), season premiere: Essentially “sexy Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts College,” the first season of The Magicians introduced a pretty, angsty cast with plenty of personal probs and supernatural challenges, if not much humor or personality (which would have made it more of a Freeform show than a Syfy series, but whatever). Season 1 did, however, find some footing by its closing episodes, resulting in a relatively spectacular finale that could have launched a promising second season. Early S2 signs point to more perpetually grey skies and hair-in-the-eyes moping, but with flashier, Doctor Strange-lite special effects and a slightly clearer dramatic path forward. Nice trick (sorry, illusion).