Rejoice! The dumpster fire that was 2016 is finally behind us, and 2017: A New Hope has begun. I’m optimistic that there will be some great TV in our future, as the upcoming roster for January shows looks promising. After the holiday season is over, the television schedule tends to be a little underwhelming. However, from returning eclectic favorites like Portlandia to the Carrie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds HBO doc Bright Lights, at least January 2017 is shaping up to be pretty darn good.
Portlandia (IFC, returning Jan. 5)
Since 2011, Portlandia has been churning out the best comedy about hipster culture. Stars Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen excel in the specific and spot-on portrayal of the quirky characters in Portland, Oregon. From peculiar feminist bookstore employees to fictionalized versions of themselves, Brownstein and Armisen continuously deliver their own special brand of weird funny. While this show isn’t for everyone, if you enjoy smart and self-aware humor (and perhaps craft beer and fair trade coffee too) you’ll dig Portlandia.
Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (HBO, premiering Jan. 7)
As if 2016 wasn’t emotionally difficult enough, we had to lose two magnificent broads back-to-back. I must admit that Carrie Fisher’s death hit me pretty hard, both because of her turn as Princess Leia as well as her great talents as a writer, storyteller and comedian. Then her mother, film legend Debbie Reynolds, died less than 24 hours later. Bright Lights, an HBO documentary about these two dynamite ladies, couldn’t have come at a better time. Personality-wise they couldn’t have been more different. Reynolds was a product of Old Hollywood: affected, polite, measured and confident. Fisher was left-of-center, outspoken and self-deprecating. Yet in spite of their differences, their mother-daughter bond was so strong, it carried over into death.
Taboo (FX, premiering Jan. 10)
Taboo stars dreamy bad boy Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and comes from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and famed director and producer Ridley Scott (Blade Runner.) You had me at Tom Hardy. This miniseries is about Hardy’s character, a renegade believed to be dead, returning to London from Africa to collect his inheritance. It’s a British period drama (taking place in the 1810s) and plays like an interesting blend of Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey. If this piques your interest, you should check it out.
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS, returning Jan. 11)
Like John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is a successful spin-off of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Both programs pay homage to their predecessor; however, Full Frontal especially is completely on-brand and unique to Bee. She gives her take on world events, and isn’t afraid to share how she views the world as a woman (a perspective long absent from the late-night landscape). Bee puts her razor-sharp wit on display weekly on TBS, and has found her audience. There was a lot of pressure on Bee as the only woman on the scene to establish her viewer base and make an impact right away. Through staying true to herself and not trying to emulate anyone else, Bee has done a smashing job setting herself apart from the pack.
A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix, premiering Jan. 13)
Of all my selections for this month’s preview, this is the wild card. Some of us may remember these eerie and darkly funny novels from our childhood, written by Lemony Snicket and first released in 1999. The first three books were turned into a movie starring Jim Carrey back in 2004, but the series has mostly been dormant since the last installment came out in 2006. So, why now for a TV series? There isn’t a more reliable platform for an unusual show than Netflix, so why not now? Plus, it has Neil Patrick Harris playing Count Olaf, the primary antagonist, alongside a cast of interesting actors bringing unusual characters to life. I think a little whimsical, literary escape sounds pretty good in the dead of winter.