Tube Talk: New and returning shows

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

Now that the holiday hoopla is over, new seasons of old favorites are returning to our screens. Downton Abbey’s highly-anticipated third season premiered Jan. 6, but Jan. 8 was also a big night as ABC Family’s addictive series Pretty Little Liars kicked off its third season, FX’s critically-acclaimed Justified returned for its fourth season, and Cougar Town — which was canceled last spring by ABC — finally found its new home on TBS.

Given how often Cougar Town moved around the old ABC schedule (including an extended hiatus that was so long, a lot of viewers assumed it was gone for good), finding it on TBS shouldn’t deter viewers at all. Cougar Town fans will also appreciate the seamless transition the comedy has made from broadcast to cable.

However, if you expected coarser language and edgier storylines on cable, you might be a little disappointed. The look, feel and voice of the show remain pretty much the same as before. Jules (Courteney Cox) and the cul de sac crew still love their wine, her ex-husband Bobby (Brian Van Holt) still lives in his boat in the parking lot, and their 21-year-old son Travis (Dan Byrd) is still the most mature character on the show. The new season reveals the genesis of the core friendships, shows that Ellie (Christa Miller) actually does have a softer side, and might just find oddball neighbor Tom (Bob Clendenin) inching closer toward acceptance by the close-knit clique.

Along with returning shows, this is also the time of year when mid-season replacements start to debut.

Just a few years ago, mid-season was a time of year relegated to launching second-string series — shows that weren’t deemed strong enough to survive the fall season and were waiting in the wings to fill schedule holes left by newly-canceled series. The importance and impact of the fall season dimmed somewhat after cable networks like AMC, FX and TNT created their own (often haphazard) seasons, capitalizing on the off-season and siphoning broadcast viewers over to cable.

The result? Broadcast networks are more inclined than ever to save some of their best new shows for mid-season premieres. Even so, a few clunkers will make it into the mix.

NBC’s newest series, Deception, debuted Jan. 7. It’s pretty much NBC’s entry into the soapy-mystery-revolving-around-a-dysfunctional-super-wealthy-family format that made ABC’s Revenge an instant hit.

The CW has a promising new show premiering this week. The Carrie Diaries is based on Candace Bushnell’s book of the same name. It focuses on Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw as a teen-ager, before she moved to and fell in love with Manhattan. It’s sure to appeal to SATC fans and The CW’s younger viewers.

Next week, we’ll look at even more new shows set to debut later this month.

Programming notes

Downton Abbey, 8 p.m., Sundays, on PBS’s Masterpiece

The Carrie Diaries, 7 p.m., Mondays, on The CW

Deception, 9 p.m., Mondays, on NBC

Pretty Little Liars, 7 p.m., Tuesdays, on ABC Family

Cougar Town, 9 p.m., Tuesdays, on TBS

Justified, 9 p.m., Tuesdays, on FX

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to

From the Jan. 9-15, 2013, issue

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