1. 1. Justified (FX)
Season 5 of Justified finds Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens tangling with some Florida lowlifes, relatives of Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman), one of Harlan County’s sleaziest denizens. Plus, Boyd (Walton Goggins) tries to find a way to get Ava (Joelle Carter) out of prison… and he exacts a bloody revenge against those who put her there in the first place. Along the way, wisecracks are exchanged, along with gunfire.
Season 5 premieres on Tuesday, Jan. 7 at 10 p.m.
2. 2. Girls (HBO)
The stellar third season of HBO’s Girls finds the quartet struggling with new challenges and the first two episodes — which air back to back as a one-hour premiere — reintroduce new realities for these characters. (The brilliant second half of the premiere is a precise and gorgeous tone poem about a road trip.) While Hannah (Lena Dunham) has settled into a life of domestic bliss (relatively) with Adam (Adam Driver), Marnie (Allison Williams) is in a perpetual state of free fall, reeling from her breakup with Charlie (Christopher Abbott). Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is trying to find her wild side, while Jessa (Jemima Kirke) continues to create chaos in her wake. Change both big and small is on the horizon for these women, and the first few episodes of the season capture the pain and humor of self-transformation. Not to be missed under any circumstances.
Season 3 premieres Sunday, Jan. 12 at 10 p.m.
3. 3. Shameless (Showtime)
Just when you think things couldn’t get worse for the hardscrabble Gallagher clan, it does. In Season 4 of Showtime’s addictive Shameless, it finally seems as though life for the Gallaghers has improved — Fiona (Emmy Rossum) is excelling at her new job and her new relationship, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is enrolled at college, and Debbie (Emma Kenney) is taking her first tentative steps into womanhood — until everything falls apart again. Frank (William H. Macy) takes things to a whole new level of disgusting (you’ve been warned), while Veronica (Shanola Hampton) and Kevin (Steve Howey) face some surprising news. It’s the Molotov cocktail of television shows.
Season 4 premieres Sunday, Jan. 12 at 9 p.m.
4. 4 and 5. Switched at Birth and The Fosters (ABC Family)
ABC Family has really stepped up its game with two emotionally resonant family dramas, Switched at Birth and The Fosters, both of which return with new episodes on Jan. 13. These shows manage to subtly shift the conversation not just towards inclusion or representation, but toward representational normalcy, whether it’s for blended families, same-sex couples, or the deaf community. Plus, they’re both just well-crafted, well-written shows that are teeming with genuine emotion.
Season 3 of Switched at Birth premieres Monday, Jan. 13 from at 8 p.m. The mid-season premiere of The Fosters’ debut season follows at 9 p.m.
5. 6. Archer (FX)
James Bond has nothing on Sterling Archer, the debonair super-spy with a penchant for the quippy, as well as shooting first and asking questions later. Season 5 of Archer once more follows the dysfunctional gang at the even more dysfunctional espionage agency ISIS. Madcap adventures follow.
Season 5 premieres on Monday, Jan. 13 at 10 p.m.
6. 7. Suburgatory (ABC)
ABC’s off-kilter family comedy — about the hell that is suburbia — returns for a third season after what seems like being off the air for several years. While this sly show has returned with its humor intact, several members of the cast haven’t made the journey back to Chatswin (Alan Tudyk’s Noah Werner, Rex Lee’s Mr. Wolfe, and Parker Young’s Ryan Shay). But Tessa (Jane Levy) and Co. continue to provide enough charm and sarcasm to make this one comedy worth checking in with.
Season 3 premieres on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 8:30 p.m.
7. 8. Sherlock (PBS)
What more is there to say: You know you’ll be watching as Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman) return for a third season of cerebral mysteries courtesy of Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and Co., which reveals just how Sherlock managed to fake his death two years ago… and points toward the future of these professional sleuths.
Season 3 premieres on Sunday, Jan. 19 at 10 p.m. Check your local listings for details.
8. 9. The Americans (FX)
Break out the mom jeans: Phillip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) return for the second season of FX’s superlative Cold War period drama The Americans. Expect more dead drops, dead-eyed betrayals, and, well, dead spies. A routine mission goes terribly awry, and the suspicions of Phillip and Elizabeth’s daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), mount.
Season 2 premieres on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 10 p.m.
9. 10. Portlandia (IFC)
Put a bird on it! IFC’s quirky sketch comedy show Portlandia returns for a fourth season of bizarro fun. Guests lined up for Season 4 of the Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein-created comedy include Kirsten Dunst, k.d. lang, Maya Rudolph, and Olivia Wilde, while former guest stars Ed Begley Jr., Steve Buscemi, Jeff Goldblum, Kyle MacLachlan, and Jason Sudeikis will return.
Season 4 premieres on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 10 p.m.
10. 11. Hannibal (NBC)
Bryan Fuller’s gorgeously twisted serial killer drama returns for a second season of killer twists. With Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) on the loose and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) under a psychiatric hold, who will stop the cannibal’s reign of terror? Hannibal is equal parts dreamy and terrifying, and Season 2 promises to deliver more beautiful nightmares.
Season 2 premieres on Friday, Feb. 28 at 10 p.m.
11. 12. Bates Motel (A&E)
There is more murderous Oedipal drama ahead on Season 2 of A&E’s modern-set Psycho prequel Bates Motel, as the cliffhangers established at the end of the first season — including the consequences of the blackout rage felt by Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) toward his teacher, Miss Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy) — are swiftly tied off, and new characters, such as Norma’s brother (Kenny Johnson), are introduced.
Season 2 premieres on Monday, March 3 at 9 p.m.
12. 13. Call the Midwife (PBS)
If you’re not watching British period drama Call the Midwife — about a group of midwives and nuns in 1950s East End London — you’re missing out on one of the most nuanced and touching shows on television today, not to mention a powerfully moving storyline involving ex-nun Shelagh (Laura Main), who falls in love with widowed Dr. Turner (Stephen McGann) and leaves the order, choosing romantic love over her vocation to God. Her choice — and anguish — is presented as something deep and powerful with lasting repercussions, and the show delves into this plot with a beauty that is startling to behold. Throw in Miranda Hart’s Chummy, Jessica Raine’s Jenny, Bryony Hannah’s Cynthia, Helen George’s Trixie, and fantastic turns by Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris, and Judy Parfitt, and you have the makings of tea cozy television for the ages.
Season 3 premieres on Sunday, March 30 at 8 p.m. Check your local listings for details.