Nicolas Cage swears, Ted Danson runs for office, and the small-screen MCU is reborn this January on TV

Nicolas Cage swears, Ted Danson runs for office, and the small-screen MCU is reborn this January on TV

From left: The Watch (Photo: Alex Telfer), History Of Swear Words (Photo: Netflix), WandaVision (Photo: Disney+), and Mr. Mayor (Photo: Tina Thorpe/NBC)
From left: The Watch (Photo: Alex Telfer), History Of Swear Words (Photo: Netflix), WandaVision (Photo: Disney+), and Mr. Mayor (Photo: Tina Thorpe/NBC)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

It’s now been 10 months since TV productions were shut down or otherwise suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is also roughly how long we’ve been hearing that soon, “there will be no new TV to watch.” But the year 2020, besieged as it was, still managed to yield plenty of exceptional series, new and returning. And 2021 is starting off with a big bang, or the rebirth of the small-screen Marvel Cinematic Universe in WandaVision, the first of 10 announced Marvel series for Disney+. This January, TV viewers will also be treated to a profane etymology lesson courtesy of Netflix and Nicolas Cage, a comically unsettling sci-fi series starring Alan Tudyk, the latest Terry Pratchett adaptation, and a promising Salt-N-Pepa biopic. (Be sure to check out our list of season premiere dates for returning series like Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, American Gods, Riverdale, Batwoman, and Servant.)

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The Watch (BBC America): Premieres January 3

The Watch (BBC America): Premieres January 3

“Watching BBC America’s The Watch—at least, watching it as a fan of Terry Pratchett’s massively best-selling Discworld novels, on which it’s (very) loosely based—is a bit like listening to two songs running at the exact same time. There’s the surface-level tune, i.e., all the things that’ve been lifted directly from Pratchett’s long-running satirical fantasy series: the names, the plot points, the orangutan librarian. And then there’s the far weirder show that’s lurking underneath all the stuff ostensibly meant to lure the Pratchett fans in: a grungy effort that, for some reason, aspires to be the most punk-rock cop show ever made, complete with flashing neon lights, Pixies needle drops, and a liberal dosage of raised middle fingers.” Read the rest of William Hughes’ review.

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Call Me Kat (Fox): Premieres January 3

Call Me Kat (Fox): Premieres January 3

Kaley Cuoco isn’t the only Big Bang Theory alum heading up a new series—Mayim Bialik’s made the move to Fox to star in Call Me Kat, an adaptation of Miranda Hart’s winningly uncomfortable, self-titled sitcom. The sitcom stars the former Amy Farrah Fowler as Kat, a woman on the brink of 40 who isn’t all that interested in other people’s plans for her. So she takes the money her mom (played by Swoosie Kurtz) has saved for her wedding and puts it into a cat café. Bialik and fellow executive producer Darlene Hunt, who created The Big C, look to carry on Cathy Jamison’s convention-eschewing ways, as Kat tries to outline her own path in life, independent of the expectations of others. There’s also a workplace comedy nestled within the cat condos and scratching posts of Call Me Kat, with Kyla Pratt and Leslie Jordan as the café’s lively employees. [Danette Chavez]

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History Of Swear Words (Netflix): Premieres January 5

History Of Swear Words (Netflix): Premieres January 5

In his first TV appearance—not counting all those National Treasure reruns—since hosting Saturday Night Live in 2012, Nicolas Cage hosts Netflix’s History Of Swear Words, a ribald look at the etymology of blue language. The six-part series explores the origins, cultural impacts, pop culture usage, and even science of curse words. Joining Cage in reveling in saying the soft part loud are Joel Kim Booster, DeRay Davis, Open Mike Eagle, Nikki Glaser, Patti Harrison, London Hughes, Jim Jefferies, Zainab Johnson, Nick Offerman, Sarah Silverman, Baron Vaughn, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. But History Of Swear Words doesn’t want to just dwell in the gutter. Executive producers from Funny Or Die, B17 Entertainment, and Bellamie Blackstone have put together a team of language parsers that includes experts like Benjamin Bergen, a cognitive scientist and author of What The F, as well as lexicographer Kory Stamper, erstwhile A.V. Club collaborator and author of Word By Word. [Danette Chavez]

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Coyote (Paramount+): Premieres January 7

Coyote (Paramount+): Premieres January 7

David Graziano trades the fantastical parable of American Gods for a much more literal take on immigration stories with Coyote, a new CBS All Access drama (formerly of Paramount Network, soon to be of Paramount+) starring Michael Chiklis and Juan Pablo Raba. Coyote centers on Ben Clemens (Chiklis), a newly retired U.S. border patrol agent who is blackmailed into helping a debonair cartel leader, El Catrin (Raba), find the loopholes and literal gaps in the U.S.-Mexico border. These are the people Ben has, according to promotional materials, “spent his career trying to keep out of America,” though it’s left unsaid that his work led him to enforce such policies against all manner of migrants, not just cartel members. But Ben will apparently have some kind of change of heart once he sees what the migrant journey looks like from the beginning, instead of its culmination at the border. Chiklis is bound to sell Ben’s inner turmoil to audiences, but whether Coyote will truly bring nuance to TV’s immigration narratives with its sensational premise is a much dicier prospect. [Danette Chavez]

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Mr. Mayor (NBC): Premieres January 7

Mr. Mayor (NBC): Premieres January 7

The latest NBC sitcom from Tina Fey and Robert Carlock has already been retooled a couple of times: Mr. Mayor was originally conceived as a 30 Rock spin-off that would’ve followed Jack Donaghy’s political ambitions in New York City. When negotiations with Alec Baldwin fell through, the lead role was recast with Ted Danson and the setting changed to Los Angeles (reportedly because Danson refused to move to New York). NBC pressed on to bring this lighter take on city government, à la Parks And Recreation, to its midseason lineup. Mr. Mayor follows Neil Bremer (Danson), a wealthy, retired businessman who runs for mayor of Los Angeles for reasons that have very little to do with civic duty. It’s only when he wins that Neil starts to figure out what his platform should be, with some help from his staff (played by Bobby Moynihan and Mike Cabellon). Holly Hunter co-stars as Arpi, the immensely more qualified deputy mayor, who’s even more determined than Succession’s Rhea Jarrell. [Danette Chavez]

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Tiger (HBO): Premieres January 10

Tiger (HBO): Premieres January 10

Tiger Woods’ life, including his meteoric rise in the sport of golf, gets the documentary treatment for the second time in as many months in HBO’s Tiger. Following the December premiere of Tiger Woods: America’s Son on ESPN, this two-part doc from filmmakers Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land) and Matthew Hamachek (Amanda Knox) aims to both drawn an “intimate picture of the prodigy whose dedication and obsession with the game of golf not only took his fame and success to new heights” and trace the “dark, spiraling road” that Woods found himself on before making a comeback in 2019. Airing across two nights, Tiger includes never-before-seen-footage as well as interviews with those closest to the golf wunderkind. Tiger Woods: America’s Son offered remarkable analysis of how Blackness shaped Woods’ life, so it’ll be interesting to see how this Alex Gibney-co-produced offering handles the golf star’s multicultural background. [Danette Chavez]

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WandaVision (Disney+): Premieres January 15

WandaVision (Disney+): Premieres January 15

With Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet saga taken care of, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is poised to go in some weird directions—the first of which we’ll get see on Disney+ with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany’s WandaVision. Seemingly positioned as a weirdo, high-concept sitcom in the vein of Bewitched, WandaVision looks like it’s going to take full advantage of the chaotic reality-altering powers that Wanda (Olsen) has in the comics, paired with a take on Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s brilliantly bizarre Vision book from a few years ago. The potential weirdness could be a good hook for the Marvel agnostic, but everyone else will surely be eager to see what kind of ramifications this has for the future of these characters—after all, Wanda is apparently going to be in the new Doctor Strange, and Vision was dead that last time we saw him. [Sam Barsanti]

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Walker (The CW): Premieres January 21

Walker (The CW): Premieres January 21

The CW’s already reimagined Archie as hot and Nancy Drew as, well, fairly in line with the classic character from Carolyn Keene’s works. Now it’s time to brace ourselves for a Walker, Texas Ranger with a greater penchant for introspective glowering than leading with his fists and feet. Jared Padalecki, fresh off a 15-season run on Supernatural, stars as the eponymous ranger in this new drama, as well as executive produces alongside Anna Fricke and Dan Lin. This Cordell Walker appears a bit more angsty than his original, Chuck Norris-shaped iteration; but even though he’s a widower, he still seems to enjoy throwing down at a moment’s notice. Lindsay Morgan, Mitch Pileggi, and Odette Annable co-star, and Genevieve Padalecki shows up as Cordell’s late wife, Emily, which is not weird at all (hey, if it works for the Padaleckis, who are we to judge?). [Danette Chavez]

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Losing Alice (Apple TV+): Premieres January 22

Losing Alice (Apple TV+): Premieres January 22

Lihi Kornowski and Ayelet Zurer star in Losing Alice
Lihi Kornowski and Ayelet Zurer star in Losing Alice
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+ gets its own neo-noir with Losing Alice, a cerebral thriller from Sigal Avin that combines non-linear storytelling with two powerful lead performances. Ayelet Zurer (Munich, Ben-Hur) stars as Alice, a filmmaker and working mother who begins to question her artistic relevance, as middle-aged people are wont to do. A chance encounter with Sophie (Lihi Kornowski), an up-and-coming twentysomething screenwriter, sparks an obsessive relationship, as Alic grapples with envy, guilt, and increasingly, fear. Touted as a gender-flipped Faust (by Apple TV+, anyway), Losing Alice aims to explore the complexities of how women relate to each other—in and out of the workplace, as friends, lovers, and mentors and mentees. The psychological thrills of Truth Be Told and Servant ended up too few and far between, but Apple might regain ground in the streaming wars with this suitably taut drama. [Danette Chavez]

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Salt-N-Pepa (Lifetime): Premieres January 23

Salt-N-Pepa (Lifetime): Premieres January 23

Salt-N-Pepa’s here—in musical biopic form, thanks to the legendary hip-hop group, who co-produced the film with Queen Latifah, and director Mario Van Peebles. This three-hour film traces the rise of Cheryl “Salt” James and Sandra “Pepa” Denton, as they go from Queensborough students to pioneers in the world of rap. G.G. Townson stars as Cheryl/Salt, Laila Odom as Sandra/Pepa, and Monique Paul makes three as Deidra “DJ Spinderella” Roper. Lifetime doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to biopics—for a reminder, we call your attention back to 2017’s Britney Ever After. But Salt-N-Pepa already has a leg up on previous biographical offerings by actually engaging with the music that made its subjects groundbreaking artists. The film will cover the group’s biggest hits, including “Let’s Talk About Sex,” “What A Man,” “Shoop,” and of course, “Push It.” Lifetime is debuting Salt-N-Pepa as part of an early winter lineup that includes The Wendy Williams Story (both productions will be accompanied by interview specials) and a new documentary, Whitney & Bobbi, about the late Whitney Houston and her late daughter, Bobbi Kristina. [Danette Chavez]

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Bridge And Tunnel (Epix): Premieres January 24

Bridge And Tunnel (Epix): Premieres January 24

Ed Burns takes the Bridge And Tunnel back to 1980s Long Island in this six-part dramedy. The multi-hyphenate New Yorker crafts a coming-of-age story about a group of twentysomethings as full of dreams as they are of doubts. Jimmy (Sam Vartholomeos) is a recent college grad who returns home for the summer between finishing college and starting a gig with National Geographic. Back in Long Island, Jimmy falls for his former girlfriend Jill (Caitlin Stasey) once more. As autumn looms, their rekindled romance starts to feel like an obstacle—especially for Jill, who’s worried Jimmy will want her to join him in Alaska, even though she wants to move to Manhattan to become a fashion designer. The rest of their starry-eyed friends also have big questions and plans, which they presumably mull over while on the Long Island Rail Road (the show was originally titled Gibson Station). Yes, these storylines all sound like they’re from a lifetime ago, but Burns has managed to wring significant charm from well-worn stories about life in (and around) the big city before in films like Sidewalks Of New York and Purple Violets. [Danette Chavez]

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Resident Alien (Syfy)

Resident Alien (Syfy)

In Resident Alien, Chris Sheridan’s adaptation of Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse’s eponymous comic series, the small Colorado town of Patience is already populated with weirdos long before the arrival of Captain Hah Re (Alan Tudyk). After a crash landing, the intergalactic voyager must disguise himself in order to avoid raising suspicion. But when one of the townspeople is murdered, Hah Re has to put his (secret) mission on hold in order to bring the killer to justice as Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, his human alter ego. Tudyk turns up the offbeat charm as an outsider trying to make his way in, then back out again, all while leaving the residents of Patience none the wiser. His kookiness is matched by co-stars Alice Wetterlund, Corey Reynolds, Sara Tomko, and Levi Fiehler, who all play prominent figures in the town (we’re sure Wetterlund’s D’arcy Morin would argue that the bartender of the local watering hole is just as important as the boy mayor). Originally scheduled for a summer premiere, Resident Alien is now part of Syfy’s midseason lineup. The sci-fi comedy-drama was previewed at New York Comic Con in 2020. [Danette Chavez]

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Returning

Returning

Javicia Leslie stars in The CW’s Batwoman
Javicia Leslie stars in The CW’s Batwoman
Photo: The CW

Doctor Who: Revolution Of The Daleks, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13, Cobra Kai season three (January 1); The Bachelor, season 25 (January 4); Dickinson season two (January 8); A Discovery Of Witches season two (January 9); American Gods season three (January 10); Servant season two (January 15); Batwoman season two (January 17); Riverdale season five (January 20); Snowpiercer season two (January 25)

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