Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
From left: Party Of Five (Photo: Vu Ong/Freeform), Everything's Gonna Be Okay (Photo: Pamela Littky/Freeform), AJ And The Queen (Photo: Saeed Adyani/Netflix), and Star Trek: Picard (Photo: Trae Patton/CBS All Access)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

Television scheduling has shifted so much since the advent of “peak TV” that new shows are constantly sprouting up even in the dead of winter. The 2020 premieres start with the reboot of a tearjerker drama, the return of an iconic captain, a few fiery stand-up specials, and RuPaul’s first foray into scripted series. The A.V. Club has put together a preview of what you can look forward to this month, including premiere dates for returning shows. You know what they say: New year, New Pope.


January 1

Spinning Out (Netflix)

Spinning Out appears to want to do for ice skating what Black Swan did for ballet. Kaya Scodelario from the Maze Runner franchise plays Kat, a skater who is trying to come back after a dangerous spill on the ice, and hooks up with a “bad boy” skating partner instead of continuing her former solo career. Fans of The Cutting Edge will appreciate that setup, but Spinning Out takes a darker turn, what with Mad Men’s January Jones as Kat’s mean skate mom who yells out helpful encouragement like “You’ll never be a champion! Never!” Kat is also grappling with “a fiercely kept secret that could unravel her entire life,” according to the show description, which likely helps account for the menacing soundtrack and intense party scenes in the trailer. Hopefully, we get to the root of that secret in the show’s first 10 episodes; meanwhile, look for skating champ Johnny Weir in a recurring role, as well as an appearance by skating enthusiast Jonathan Van Ness. [Gwen Ihnat]


January 3

Ilana Glazer: The Planet Is Burning (Amazon Prime)

“You’re going to be shocked… and impressed,” Ilana Glazer promises in the trailer for her first stand-up special, Ilana Glazer: The Planet Is Burning. She’s actually referring to the differences between herself and her beloved Broad City character, Ilana Wexler, but given that her tour sold out, she could just as easily be talking about her stand-up comedy. Glazer riffs on topics like homophobia, fascism, the Pink Tax, and patriarchy more generally—all topics that set the world of discourse on fire as the actual planet heats up all around us. That might sound a bit heavy for a comedy routine, but then, Glazer and her Broad City collaborator Abbi Jacobson often found a way to explore similarly weighty issues—like codependency and sexuality—in a manner both refreshing and humorous. So even as The Planet Is Burning, we’ll sit down for an hour with Ilana Glazer. [Danette Chavez]


January 4

Dracula (premieres January 1 on BBC One; available January 4 on Netflix)

Sherlock creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are back, along with Bram Stoker’s famed Gothic monster, Dracula. But don’t expect this three-part series to follow Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) as he tries to rescue his wife Mina (Morfydd Clark) from the old count’s clutches. Moffat and Gatiss have opted to make Dracula the “hero of his own story” rather than merely set him up as the villain in someone else’s. That presumably makes the Harkers the antagonists; the stake-wielding Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells) and Mother Superior (Joanna Scanlan) certainly appear less than friendly in the trailer. These new characters and twists aren’t the only ways in which Moffat, who wrote the series with Gatiss, is revamping the source material. In a recent interview with The Times, he downplayed Dracula’s queerness, describing the creature who likes to mesmerize men for their bodily fluids as “bi-homicidal,” not bisexual or anything like that. But otherwise, Moffat says he believes “horror should be transgressive, it should not be cozy,” so be on the lookout for some “really, really weird things” when Dracula premieres later this month. [Danette Chavez]


January 7

FBI: Most Wanted (CBS)

Truly, there is no stopping Dick Wolf—the Law & Order impresario has taken his unslakable thirst for procedurals across the country and broadcast networks (from New York to Chicago; from NBC to CBS, but never Netflix). His latest law enforcement drama, FBI: Most Wanted, is a spin-off of the Missy Peregrym-led FBI, which began its life as a proposed spin-off of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Alana de la Garza, now an alum of two Wolf franchises, co-stars with Julian McMahon in FBI: Most Wanted. She plays Isabel, an assistant special agent in charge, while he’s Jess LaCroix, a “seasoned agent” who shares a last name with a type of seltzer water. Together with Keisha Castle Hughes’ and Kellan Lutz’s characters, they hunt—fanfare—the Bureau’s Most Wanted. Along with de la Garza, Wolf’s also reteamed with producers René Balcer, Arthur W. Forney, and Peter Jankowski. Don’t expect FBI: Most Wanted to break free of the Wolf template, but if we’re lucky, the new procedural will make for some dependable dinner viewing. [Danette Chavez]


Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC)

If Glee graduated and got a corporate office job in San Francisco, it would be Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Jake In Progress creator Austin Winsberg and director Richard Shepard follow NBC’s Smash and Rise with the new musical drama series starring Jane Levy, alongside Skylar Astin and Lauren Graham. It is also NBC’s first project to come out of the deal between Universal Music Group and Lionsgate Television. The show revolves around Levy as Zoey Clarke, a computer coder who has an unusual gift fall into her lap after an MRI mishap: She can hear the innermost thoughts of the people around her in the form of song (music royalties galore!). Borrowing from the “guardian angel” trope, Zoey turns to her neighbor Mo (played by Alex Newell), a cool and collected DJ who helps Zoey navigate her new “ability.” The show seems to incorporate elements from Eli Stone with everyone breaking into song and dance at the most inopportune times, while oozing with the light-hearted cheesiness of Pitch Perfect. [Angelica Cataldo]


January 8

Party Of Five (Freeform)

A reboot of a classic is bound to draw a critical eye from the fans beholden to the original. However, even Party Of Five purists can acknowledge that much has changed since the simpler days of the Salingers, a family that tragically lost its parents in a car accident. Original creators Amy Lippman and Christopher Keyser have returned with a new story that is unmistakably rooted in our current environment. The older Acosta children—Lucia, Ella, Beto, and Emilio—must learn how to navigate the world after their parents are suddenly deported. Fans will likely recognize some familiar beats from the original, including the telltale woes of adolescence, having to raise a baby sibling, and an older brother who is forced to set aside his personal hang-ups and mature rather quickly. However, the Acostas are also experiencing the very real effects of immigration policies that tear families apart daily. It’s a sobering premise, and with the remarkable performances featured in brief glimpses and trailers, it’s also poised to be a revisit teeming with heart and humanity. [Shannon Miller]


Cheer (Netflix)

Cheer is the latest docuseries from Last Chance U creator Greg Whiteley; the six-episode season centers on Navarro College’s competitive cheerleading squad. These Corsicana, Texas “inspiration leaders,” to borrow a phrase from Bring It On, have won 14 National Championships in the last 20 years, but they can’t rest on their laurels. Every year brings fresh obstacles in the form of new competitors and injuries. Directed by Whiteley, Cheer will give Netflix viewers an inside look at the world of Navarro College Cheer, and front-row seats to the road to (potentially) another National Championship. With Last Chance U, Whiteley demonstrated an ability to capture the triumphs and personal setbacks of young athletes while letting them lead the story, and Cheer looks no different. If you’ve been missing the West Dillon Panthers or the East Mississippi Community College Lions, then this Cheer’s for you. [Danette Chavez]


January 10

Medical Police (Netflix)

Not to be confused with Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital, which came from executive producers Rob Corddry, Jonathan Stern, and David Wain, with Erinn Hayes and Rob Huebel playing funny doctors at a children’s hospital in Brazil, Netflix’s Medical Police comes from executive producers Rob Corddry, Jonathan Stern, and David Wain, with Erinn Hayes and Rob Huebel playing funny doctors at a children’s hospital in Brazil. Medical Police is actually going to be some kind of spin-off/reboot of the Adult Swim show (apparently in an unofficial capacity), with some of its other stars—including Corddry, Lake Bell, Ken Marino, and Malin Ackerman—set to appear, and it involves Huebel and Hayes’ doctor characters getting drafted into some kind of thrilling government mission to stop the release of a terrifying virus. That’s exactly the kind of ridiculously high-minded premise that would’ve felt right at home on Childrens Hospital, and if that show is really anything to go by, anything involving a “plot” will just be a jumping-off point for ridiculous gags. [Sam Barsanti]


Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt For The Bone Collector (NBC)

TV hasn’t exactly been lacking for detective shows, or even crime shows with Bones in the name, but that won’t stop NBC, home of the Dick Wolf procedural, from adapting Jeffery Deaver’s novel The Bone Collector. Russell Hornsby, hot off performances in The Hate U Give and Creed II, leads the Hunt For The Bone Collector as Lincoln Rhyme, the eponymous forensic criminologist who became paraplegic after suffering near-fatal injuries. Lincoln still consults on NYPD cases, which is how he meets with Amelia Sachs (Arielle Kebbel), a rookie cop and PhD student. They each have their reasons for tracking down the Bone Collector (Brian F. O’Byrne), the “most infamous serial killer of the last two decades.” The last adaptation of Deaver’s novel, a feature film that starred Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie, was a surprise box office hit, and with Seth Gordon directing the pilot, Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt For The Bone Collector could make a better first impression than whatever else is coming off the detective show assembly line. [Danette Chavez]


AJ And The Queen (Netflix)

RuPaul takes his mentoring act on the road in AJ And The Queen, a scripted comedy he created with veteran sitcom writer and producer Michael Patrick King. The Drag Race founder stars as Ruby Red (that would be the queen of the title), a drag queen who’s as down on her luck as her little stowaway AJ (Izzy Gaspersz). After her ex (Josh Segarra) steals the seed money for her proposed nightclub, Ruby has to start touring again, which is how she meets AJ, who asks for a ride to Texas but clearly needs so much more. You can probably guess where this goes—AJ and Ruby learn to open up and rely on each other… from one truck stop to another, uh huh. Drag Race alums like Blanca del Rio, Latrice Royale, Jinkx Monsoon, Pandora Boxx, and Miss Vanjie herself make appearances throughout, along with Michael-Leon Wooley, Tia Carrere, and Jane Krakowski. Sure, this song about found family may sound familiar, but as Drag Race has proven, knowing the words ensures we’ll enjoy it. [Danette Chavez]


January 12

The Outsider (HBO)

Stephen King gets the umpteenth adaptation of his work in recent years with HBO’s new miniseries based on the 2018 novel of the same name. This latest blend of crime thriller and supernatural intrigue begins with detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) investigating a boy’s sadistic murder. But what first seems like an open-and-shut case with an obvious culprit (Jason Bateman, also taking directing duties for the first couple of episodes) soon develops an impossible twist: Evidence puts Anderson’s prime suspect in two places at once at the time of the murder. Fans of King adaptation Mr. Mercedes will get to see that show’s private investigator Holly Gibney appear here as a wiser, older woman (played by Harriet’s Cynthia Erivo), and—better still—TV crime-drama superstar Richard Price (The Deuce, The Night Of, The Wire) is writing and serving as showrunner. All of which suggests this mystery will be magical beyond King’s story. [Alex McLevy]


Sanditon (PBS)

Before you meet Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma next month, PBS invites you to visit Sanditon, ITV’s imagining of the unfinished Jane Austen novel of the same name. Andrew Davies, who wrote perhaps the most cherished Pride And Prejudice adaptation, had only 11 chapters to work from, and uses his own storytelling instincts to round out this tale of social change set against the backdrop of the English seaside. When Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) ventures to the fishing village of Sanditon, she meets Sidney Parker (Theo James), the requisite handsome albeit standoffish Englishman. There’s a summer regatta, romantic sparks, and loads of social commentary in store for Stateside viewers, along with great performances from Williams, James, and even Kris Marshall, whom you may remember from Love Actually (or his weaselly appearance on Better Things season three). Unfortunately, these eight episodes are all we’ll get, as ITV recently opted not to move forward on a second season. [Danette Chavez]


January 13

The New Pope (HBO)

The Young Pope was Paolo Sorrentino’s surreal, lushly produced drama about cultivating absolute power (and, to a lesser degree, putting together a fabulous wardrobe for Jude Law). Naturally, the follow-up series, The New Pope, is about holding onto it (the clothes, too). Law’s Pius XIII returns to battle Pope John Paul III, the eponymous New Pope played by John Malkovich in unfettered form. The official trailer for the series, which is once again an international collaboration by HBO, Sky Atlantic, and Canal+, is more bonkers than a million kangaroo scenes. It’s clear that John Paul III, who became pope after Pius XIII fell deathly ill, views his predecessor’s recovery as anything but a miracle. But he’s in for the fight of his life with Pius, a.k.a. Lenny, who’s packing Jude Law abs, a white Speedo, and an army of followers who are willfully ignoring that whole “false idols” things in the commandments. We can’t wait to watch the sparks fly between pontiffs. [Danette Chavez]


January 14

Leslie Jones: Time Machine (Netflix)

Actor, Saturday Night Live alum, and Game Of Thrones superfan Leslie Jones makes her Netflix debut with Time Machine, a stand-up special directed by none other than Thrones “masterminds” (a term that becomes less applicable the more we learn about the making of the show) David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Jones promises to map her “evolution as an adult” in typically raucous yet intimate fashion, a journey which will hopefully not be compromised in its denouement by a couple of misguided creatives. We kid, of course—Benioff and Weiss previously directed “Walk Of Punishment,” which was actually pretty good. Let’s just hope they find a way to do right by this “Mother Of Dragons,” as Jones is billed in the trailer.


January 16

Everything’s Gonna Be Okay (Freeform)

As a writer and series creator, Josh Thomas knows how to weave a charming group dynamic; as one of the actors in those ensembles, he also knows just how to stand out. The upcoming Freeform comedy, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, draws from both of Thomas’ strengths in a story about an unconventional family dealing with an all-too-common occurrence: the death of a parent. Thomas plays Nicholas, a neurotic twentysomething who finds himself thrust into the role of caregiver to his two half-sisters (Kayla Cromer and Maeve Press) after their father dies. We can count on Thomas, who crafted an achingly hopeful (and queer) coming-of-age story in Please Like Me, to keep things poignant but never saccharine, both in front of and behind the screen. Cromer and Press are relative newcomers, but they each bring a distinct energy to the half-hour series; as Nicholas’ sister Matilda, who has autism, Cromer in particular is a breath of fresh air. [Danette Chavez]


January 17

Little America (Apple TV+)

With Little America, fledgling streaming service Apple TV+ hits another milestone—its first anthology series (the Amazing Stories reboot, which was ordered by Apple in 2017, has yet to come to fruition). Little America reimagines the stories of immigrant families in the United States, first told in Epic magazine, for the small screen—from an undocumented Mexican teen’s (Jearnest Corchado) foray into competitive sports to one man’s (Shaun Toub) refusal to give up on his starry-eyed dreams. The series, which has already been renewed for a second season, stars Zachary Quinto, Sherilyn Fenn, What We Do In The Shadows series breakout Harvey Guillén, Life Of Pi’s Suraj Sharma, and more. It boasts just as talented a roster offscreen: Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon, Lee Eisenberg, Sian Heder, Alan Yang, Joshua Davis, Arthur Spector, and Joshuah Bearman all executive produce, with Eisenberg and Heder also serving as co-showrunners. Bonus: you can settle in for a proper binge watch, as all eight episodes of Little America season one will be available on premiere day.


January 19

Avenue 5 (HBO)

It’s not quite “Titanic in space,” but Avenue 5, the latest from Veep creator Armando Iannucci, promises anything but smooth sailing for the beleaguered crew of a luxury starship. The sci-fi comedy is set 40 years in the future, when space tourism is more than just one of Elon Musk’s hobbies. Veep alum Hugh Laurie stars as Ryan Clark, the debonair captain of the eponymous spaceship, which is host to a cast of characters more colorful than a season’s worth of Love Boat guest stars, including Zack Woods as an almost cheery nihilist and Josh Gad as the billionaire owner of the Avenue 5. The “pleasure” part of this cruise is cut short by technical difficulties, as Captain Clark has to keep the crew, guests, and ship together. It’s early yet, but Avenue 5 certainly appears to have all the hallmarks of an Iannucci series: the hedonism and caustic humor; a veritable symphony of profanities; and of course, the Peter principle put into hilarious action. [Danette Chavez]


911: Lone Star (Fox)

Dick Wolf isn’t the only prolific TV producer with his eye on franchising. Just like Wolf has done with his Chicago shows and the Law & Order series, Ryan Murphy is taking the basic setup of his hit Fox drama 9-1-1 and shifting it over to a new group of brave cops and firefighters for 9-1-1: Lone Star. The show stars Rob Lowe as a former New York firefighter who lost his entire station on 9/11 and decides to move to Texas to start a new life with his son, played by Ronen Rubinstein. Like vanilla 9-1-1, it will also feature a whole group of first responders, with Liv Tyler playing a paramedic who doesn’t like the idea of some big-shot New Yorker getting in her way, and newcomer Rafael Silva playing the main cop. The change in setting allows the new gang to face new kinds of threats, trading 9-1-1’s big tidal waves for exciting land-based natural disasters. [Sam Barsanti]


January 22

Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens (Comedy Central)

Awkwafina’s (real name Nora Lum) profile has risen steadily since she appeared in Crazy Rich Asians: She joined the all-star heist crew of Ocean’s 8 before starring in Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, a heartachingly lovely and distinctly American film (we don’t care what the Golden Globes nominations say). But she’s going to start off 2020 with a decidedly less glamorous turn in Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens. Lum stars in the loosely autobiographical series that gives Comedy Central an inside look at her somewhat aimless existence pre-stardom. B.D. Wong co-stars as her dad, while Orange Is The New Blacks Lori Tan Chinn plays Nora’s grandmother who shares her penchant for fun. And Bowen Yang, who recently became only the fourth Asian American to join the cast of Saturday Night Live, co-stars as Nora’s no-nonsense cousin, who has great one-liners and very little patience for her slacker ways. Lum co-wrote the series with Karey Dornetto and Teresa Hsiao; Broad City’s Lucia Aniello directs. [Danette Chavez]


January 23

Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)

It would be tricky to say who’s more beloved at this point: Starfleet legend Jean-Luc Picard or Patrick Stewart, the man who brought his compassionate, no-nonsense approach to spaceship management to life. CBS All Access is banking on our lingering affection for both with this, Stewart’s first return to the role in 17 years, in a time that it’s hard not to think of as our darkest hours. The 10-episode series, co-produced by Alex Kurtzman, Michael Chabon, and Stewart himself, sees a mysterious young woman (Isa Briones) approach the retired admiral for help, prompting him to assemble a new crew of renegades to offer her some off-the-grid assistance. The marketing for Picard has been careful to keep the steady drip of nostalgia flowing with appearances from classic Trek characters and actors—and seeing Stewart back in action is a legitimate delight—but it remains an open question how well this new crew (which also includes Alison Pill and Santiago Cabrera) will stack up to the legend in their midst. [William Hughes]


Outmatched (Fox)

The “dumb dad” trope has been around since before The Flintstones, but the new Fox sitcom Outmatched (formerly known as Geniuses) wants to double down on the whole premise. Here Jason Biggs and Maggie Lawson play Cay and Mike, a pair of average South Jersey parents who have three gifted kids and one not as gifted (“She’s our star,” says Cay.) Outmatched seems like another doomed-to-fail attempt to bring back the multi-cam sitcom, as the bits about the parents smoking pot in the basement and asking the kids to use smaller words get old by the end of the teaser. The fact that the series is created by Lon Zimmet of Men At Work fame (also, the guy who reportedly pulled the plug on Happy Endings) isn’t exactly a mark in its favor either. The parents have a picture of Einstein on their dartboard to throw darts at—looks like the brand of humor in Outmatched will be far from subtle. [Gwen Ihnat]


January 28

Miracle Workers: Dark Ages (TBS)

The first installment of Simon Rich’s anthology series, Miracle Workers, was a godsend—absurdly funny, unabashedly human, and ultimately, close-ended. The new season transports the cast—Daniel Radcliffe, Geraldine Viswanathan, Steve Buscemi, and Karan Soni—to medieval times, where they chafe at the backwards notions as much as rough-hewn clothes and unwieldy suits of armor. Lolly Adefope and Jon Bass are also back, though it’s unclear in what capacity (along with Sasha Compère, Bass was part of the couple whose budding romance was humanity’s last hope in season one). We don’t know many of the particulars, though we did glean from the trailer that Radcliffe plays a prince who knows how to do little other than disappoint his father (new cast member Peter Serafinowicz), who, to be fair, appears about as personable as Vlad The Impaler. But Radcliffe, Viswanathan, Buscemi, and Soni shared such great chemistry as they thwarted (in Buscemi’s case, started) the end of the world in season one of Miracle Workers, that we’d gladly watch them weave on a loom if we had to. [Danette Chavez]


January 29

Next In Fashion (Netflix)

We would have thought that Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness would be the most ripe for a spin-off, perhaps in some sort of makeover format. But fashion expert Tan France got the jump on him, as his new Netflix show, Next In Fashion, was announced in May with a 10-episode debut season. France will co-host the Project Runway-style reality competition with style icon Alexa Chung, as 18 designers “face challenges centering on a different trend or design style that has influenced the way the entire world dresses.” The contestants have all worked for major brands and as stylists and are competing for $250,000 and the chance to debut their collection with Net-A-Porter. Deadline reports the contestants’ creations will be evaluated by a variety of judges, like stylist Elizabeth Stewart and “Instagram fashion guru” Eva Chen. No word yet on whether the French tuck will get its own episode. [Gwen Ihnat]


January 31

Ragnarok (Netflix) 

It looks like Norway might want its own, male version of Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, albeit a little more serious—and a lot more Scandinavian. The six-part series takes place in the fictional rural Norwegian town of Edda, where a group of teenagers is getting seriously worried about the climate change-based disasters starting to unfold: icebergs melting in days, hot and dry winters, and more. But the townsfolk aren’t necessarily what they seem, and as the trailer suggests, superpowers might be at play among these people worried that the natural disasters are a sign of the coming Ragnarok—Judgment Day—apocalypse. Weaving in Norse mythology and created/written by Adam Price (also responsible for the excellent political drama Borgen), this series might be just the thing for fans of Dark looking for their next supernatural foreign-language fix. [Alex McLevy]


Premiere dates

Doctor Who (January 1); Schitt’s Creek (January 7); Grace And Frankie, The Magicians (January 15); Sex Education (January 17); Curb Your Enthusiasm (January 19); DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow (January 21); Shrill, Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina (January 24); BoJack Horseman (January 31)

Finales

The L Word: Generation Q season one, Shameless season 10 (January 26); The Good Place series finale (January 30)

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