The cast of Downton Abbey (PBS)

Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Sunday, January 3. All times are Eastern.

Top pick

Downton Abbey (PBS, 9 p.m.): It seems odd to think of a time when Downton Abbey could make a claim to being one of the best (or at least most entertaining) shows on television. It found a way to perfectly marry its upstairs and downstairs as a mechanism for soapy pleasures, was gorgeously constructed to recreate an Edwardian estate, had some lovably hateful characters, and was held together by the charisma of Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess above all else. Tragically, a combination of shiny new shows and a lot of questionable story choices caused the show to fall from grace, becoming mostly notable for discussions about why it was still taking up slots in the Emmy nominations. Yet it’s persevered with a stiff upper lip throughout it all, and as Emily L. Stephens said last year, is still capable of delivering its best self:

…. deftly paralleled characters, a dragging plot arc culminating in decisive action, an uncharacteristically subtle vein of social criticism, some entertaining side stories, and a dose of naked sentimentality. A change of scenery and glamorous costumes don’t hurt, either. Best of all, it’s packed with attempts to stir up scandal that are squashed by the the sweet, sweeping power of love. It’s the best of both worlds: the sordid thrill of villainy, but none of its lingering ugliness.

We’ll have to see if this final season (which has already aired in the U.K., so no spoilers everyone) manages to send the series out on a high note. Emily has pulled on her finest corset, perfected her tea time mannerisms, and figured out how to arch her chin up at exactly the right angle for the occasion.

Also noted (season premiere edition)

Galavant (ABC, 8 p.m): Few renewals last year were more surprising than a season two pickup for ABC’s quirky yet low-rated medieval madrigal. (A renewal that the creative team’s more than a little smug about, given the season premiere’s title is “A New Season aka Suck It Cancellation Bear.”) Dan Caffrey’s back keeping score of the misadventures of Galavant, Sid, and Princess Isabella. Part of this episode takes place around a shipwreck, so our fingers are crossed that Galavant gives him the “Galavant and King Richard stuck on a boat together” episode he’s wanted since the finale.


Also noted

The Simpsons (Fox, 8 p.m.): Homer’s had so many jobs over the life of The Simpsons that it’s become a running joke, but tonight it turns out that his favorite job isn’t even on that list: “dishwasher at a Greek restaurant.” Dennis Perkins is calling shenanigans on that claim because he thinks Beer Baron, imitation Krusty, and country western manager all sound like pretty sweet gigs.

Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life (Fox, 8:30 p.m): Brooklyn Nine-Nine is heading back to its old Tuesday shift this year, and in its place comes this comedy from Jay Lacopo about a group of dudes hanging out in Los Angeles and getting into situations where looking like an ass is the best-case scenario. Noel Murray’s checked out the first few pages of the Guide, and his initial reaction is to leave it on the shelf for a while:

Fox’s new sitcom Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life probably doesn’t deserve to be dinged just because it may owe its existence to showbiz chauvinism. Cooper Barrett is a mediocre comedy, but it means well. It’s not some aggressive, obnoxious reaffirmation of the patriarchy. Still, a lot of what makes the show such a big zero is rooted in this idea that merely green-lighting a series about “bros being bros” is half of the creative battle.


Bordertown (Fox, 9:30 p.m.): In a move to restore the Animation part of the Animation Domination, Fox is shelving The Last Man On Earth for the time being (and leaving all of us with a maddening cliffhanger) and replacing it with this Mark Hentemann/Seth MacFarlane series about an American border patrol agent and a prosperous Mexican immigrant who find regular reasons to clash. It’s a topical comedy to be sure, but according to Danette Chavez, topical doesn’t translate to being clever:

[Hentemann-McFarlane have] spent years making it clear that no topic is taboo, no entity too vaunted or pitiable to remain off limits. Which is why Bordertown is open for “equal opportunity offense,” sending up everyone from poor whites (who are depicted as inbred and slovenly) to famous actors (there’s a Philip Seymour Hoffman joke thrown in for not-so-good measure). There are also plenty of cutaways and a running alien probe gag that’s just one long, awful rape joke. After setting up a target like Bud, the show just diffuses its satire by making digs at progressives and the less fortunate.

Tomorrow in TV Club

It’s a brand new year, and you know what that means: a bunch of brand-new content to look forward to! We’ve put together our annual list of our most highly expected entertainments for 2016, and it’s full of plenty of returning favorites and anticipated series premieres.


Elsewhere, Danette Chavez takes a look at the newest incarnation of Todd Margaret to see if the shortened title means his decisions have also stopped being increasingly poor (we’re guessing they haven’t). And in preparation for the final season premiere of American Idol, Gwen Ihnat sits down with season seven champion David Cook for an Expert Witness installment on what it means to be on that stage and what life is like after the voting stops.

What else is on?

Undercover Boss (CBS, 8:30 p.m.): The CEO of Shoppers World starts working at his discount apparel/merchandise stores and learns that shoplifters are a huge problem. Perhaps we’re finally going to see an episode of Undercover Boss with a vigilante twist, which would definitely liven up the format.


Hoarders (A&E, 9 p.m.): “In the eighth season premiere, a germaphobe jeopardizes her health in a filthy hoard overridden with mice.” How is it possible to be both a germaphobe and a hoarder? It seems like the sort of thing that would break your brain in two.

Finding Bigfoot (Animal Planet, 9:30 p.m.): Tonight’s episode is titled “Squatch Wars: U.S. vs. Canada.” Finally, some solid investigative journalism from Finding Bigfoot! The truth of the long-standing covert war being fought with mythological creatures between us and our neighbors to the north will come out! Platoons of yetis fighting in the hidden woods, spilling blood in an effort to conquer the other nation.

We Steal Secrets: The Story Of Wikileaks (National Geographic, 9 p.m.): Like The Fifth Estate but without the Cumberbatch of it all, this special gets into Julian Assange and the Wikileaks crusade for free information.


Worst Cooks In America (Food Network, 9 p.m.): The eighth season begins with selection of the new recruits. We’re assuming that the judging process is an excessively painful process. For the judges, not the competitors.

Cutthroat Kitchen (Food Network, 10 p.m.): “A donut challenge determines the winner.” Well, that makes sense to us! Donuts (at the Big Donut) make the world go round, a treat when you are down.

Newlyweds: The First Year (Bravo, 9 p.m.): The third season premiere selects a new batch of lovebirds who are trying to navigate the post-honeymoon phase. We’re a bitter individual, so we’ve already started the divorce pool for which couple crashes against the rocks first.


Rocky (AMC, 8 p.m.): The recent awesomeness of Creed makes now as good a time as ever to go back to where it all began, where a young up-and-comer named Rocky Balboa had the chance to go into the ring with world champion Apollo Creed, the man whose son he’d one day go onto train on an eerily similar path.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (TNT, 8 p.m.): Man Seeking Woman returns this week, so get ready to have Jay Baruchel in your lives by re-experiencing this film where he is the interloping force between immortal dueling wizards played by Nicolas Cage and Alfred Molina! Sadly, Molina is not deploying his thick Yonkers accent from Show Me A Hero, and Cage’s volume is cranked down from Bad Lieutenant levels. We want any actor featuring those two to be an all-you-can-eat buffet of scenery.

Exodus: Gods And Kings (HBO, 8 p.m.): This film earned a dishonorable mention in our list of 2015 outrage for its whitewashed casting that blithely assumed we’d buy Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton as Egyptian princes. And it could have earned so much apathy on its own by being yet another grand cinematic adaptation of history/mythology that we as an audience didn’t ask for and that all blur together into a grandiose blob that one day we’ll get drunk and half-watch on cable.


The Notebook (ABC Family, 9 p.m.): I love those cupcakes like McAdams loves Gosling!

Galaxy Quest (Syfy, 9 p.m.): This delightful spin on Star Trek and Star Trek fandom is still one of the best sci-fi movies from the last two decades, and we’re cautiously optimistic about the TV adaptation currently in development at Amazon. By Grabthar’s hammer, you shall be avenged.


Walk Of Shame (Cinemax, 10 p.m.): Elizabeth Banks’s agent should be embarking on his own walk of shame for thinking this outdated and unfunny film was a good starring vehicle for his client.


Sunday Night Football (NBC, 8:20 p.m.)

College Basketball, Oregon at Oregon State (Fox Sports, 7 p.m.)

College Basketball, Wake Forest at Louisville (ESPNU, 8 p.m.)

College Basketball, Colorado at Stanford (ESPNU, 10 p.m.)

High-School Football All-Star Game: Semper Fidelis All American Bowl (Fox Sports, 9 p.m.)


In case you missed it

Sherlock: A Sherlock special set in the Victorian time period of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, with Martin Freeman’s Watson mustache achieving transcendent quality? How could we say no to that? Allison Shoemaker lets us know whether or not it lived up to the hype.