Can a newly widowed Lady Mary learn to love again on “Downton Abbey”? Will Jennifer Lopez bring back the sizzle to “American Idol”? Are the zombies ever going to back the heck off on “The Walking Dead”?
These are among the pertinent questions as television’s winter season brings a blizzard of fresh programming to our TVs and laptops. In addition to returning favorites like these, viewers can look forward to a big batch of brand-new offerings.
The freshman roster includes the highly anticipated pairing of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in HBO’s dark crime series “True Detective” and the dramatic TV series debut of Greg Kinnear in Fox’s legal saga, “Rake.”
And while there will be the usual emphasis on cops and lawyers, the offerings also include mangy pirates (“Black Sails” on Starz), a female werewolf (“Bitten” on Syfy), reanimated corpses (“Resurrection” on ABC) and a dude with a supercomputer microchip implanted in his brain (“Intelligence” on CBS).
In addition, San Francisco will get some prime-time attention as MTV’s long-running reality series, “The Real World,” makes its second stop in the city by the Bay, and HBO launches “Looking,” a comedy about three gay roommates searching for love and happiness.
Of course, we’ll also need to carve out some time for a number of marquee events, including the Golden Globes (Jan. 12, NBC), Grammys (Jan. 26, CBS), Super Bowl (Feb. 2, Fox) and the Olympics (Feb. 6-23, NBC).
Here are the notable highlights of TV’s winter season, starting with new dramas, comedies and reality shows. The debut dates for returning series can be found in the inset box.
“Intelligence” – Josh Holloway (“Lost”) plays a high-tech intelligence operative enhanced with a supercomputer microchip in his brain. (9 p.m. Tuesday, CBS; moves to regular time slot 10 p.m. Jan. 13).
“Killer Women” – Tricia Helfer (“Battlestar Galactica”) plays the only female among an elite group of crime-fighting Texas Rangers. (10 p.m. Tuesday, ABC).
“Chicago P.D.” – A crime series from the people behind “Chicago Fire” about cops in the Windy City. (10 p.m. Wednesday, NBC).
“The Assets” – An eight-part limited series set in 1985 and based on the real-life exploits of a CIA counterintelligence officer. (10 p.m. Thursdays, ABC).
“Helix” – A thriller following a team of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who find themselves in a life-and-death struggle while investigating a case in the Arctic. (10 p.m. Friday, Syfy).
“True Detective” – McConaughey and Harrelson star as Louisiana State Police detectives brought in to revisit a bizarre homicide case they worked in 1995. (9 p.m. Jan. 12, HBO).
“Bitten” – A supernatural thriller about a female werewolf (Laura Vandervoort) who has abandoned her pack and taken refuge in a new city. (10 p.m. Jan. 13, Syfy).
“Rake” – Think “House” as a legal series. Kinnear plays a brilliant but self-destructive defense attorney. (9 p.m. Jan. 23, Fox).
“Black Sails” – Producer Michael Bay takes to the high seas for an adventure series set in the golden age of piracy. (9 p.m. Jan. 25, Starz).
“Star Crossed” – A teen sci-fi saga about aliens who have assimilated into the human school system. (8 p.m. Feb. 17, The CW).
“Resurrection” – Supernatural shenanigans are happening in a small Missouri town, where loved ones return from the dead. (9 p.m. March 9, ABC).
“Mind Games” – Two brothers (Steve Zahn, Christian Slater) run a unique agency that solves clients’ problems via the science of psychological manipulation. (10 p.m. March 11, ABC).
Going for laughs
“The Spoils of Babylon” – A six-part parody of the decadent soaps of the ’80s produced by Will Ferrell about a powerful family led by Tobey Maguire. (10 p.m. Thursday, IFC).
“Enlisted” – The military misadventures of three brothers stationed at a small Florida Army post and the group of misfits they work with. (9:30 p.m. Friday, Fox).
“Chozen” – An animated tale about a gay white rapper who is freshly out of prison and is looking for redemption. (10:30 p.m. Jan. 13, FX).
“Looking” – It has been called the gay male version of “Girls.” Three roommates attempt to find their bliss in contemporary San Francisco. (10:30 p.m. Jan. 19, HBO).
“Broad City” – An odd-couple tale about two pals navigating their way through their 20s in New York City. Based on a web series of the same name. (10:30 p.m. Jan. 22, Comedy Central).
“Mixology” – A show that follows 10 single New Yorkers at a trendy Manhattan bar over the course of one night. (9:30 p.m. Feb. 26, ABC).
“Sirens” – A group of Chicago EMTs get into “ridiculous antics” when not saving lives. (10 p.m. March 6, USA).
“Chrisley Knows Best” – A self-made Atlanta millionaire runs his business, and his family, with an iron fist. (10 p.m. March 11, USA).
Keeping it real
“Blood, Sweat & Heels” – Up-and-coming female movers and shakers chase their dreams in New York. (9 p.m. today, Bravo).
“100 Days of Summer” – Young and successful Chicagoans work and play hard over one intense summer in the Windy City. (10 p.m. Tuesday, Bravo).
“Mind of a Man” – A game show in which female contestants try to figure out what guys think about dating and marriage. (9 p.m. Wednesday, GSN).
“Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne” – A mischievous magician uses tricks to help people get revenge on people who wronged them. (10 p.m. Jan. 13, A&E).
“Crazy Hearts: Nashville” – Rising stars discover what it takes “to live and love” in Music City. (11 p.m. Jan. 15, A&E; moves to regular time slot 10 p.m. Jan. 16).
“Under the Gunn” – Fashion guru Tim Gunn presents competitive challenges to up-and-coming designers. (9 p.m. Jan. 16, Lifetime).
“The Fighters” – A gym owner works with boxing trainers to revive the sport in South Boston. (9 p.m. Jan. 23, Discovery).
“Private Lives of Nashville Wives” – The title apparently says it all. (10 p.m. Feb. 24, TNT).