Friday, Jan. 22 (SyFy)
Series Debut: Before the Cylons could nearly wipe out mankind in Battlestar Galactica, mankind had to create Cylons 58 years earlier in Caprica. This prequel series from the Battlestar minds is less “sci-fi” in some ways (no spaceships; suits and ties instead of uniforms), even more so in others (personal tech and virtual reality gone wild; installing beings—maybe even souls—into robots), but still tackles familial, political and social-class drama with same bite of BSG. After a technology mogul’s (Eric Roberts) young daughter (Alessandra Torresani, the topless brunette in Caprica ads everywhere) is murdered, he learns she’d not only been spending online time in a hedonistic virtual-reality club, but her digital self still exists there—and, like a chip off the genius block, she’d somehow programmed all of her memories and feelings into her virtual twin. Pair this new discovery with just-emerging “Cylon” robotic weaponry technology, and Battlestar geeks know here we’re headed. Not that any prior Battlestar Galactica knowledge is required; Caprica stands alone and could very well surpass BSG creatively if it stays the course of this killer two-hour pilot. Oh, and Torresani’s character is 15—ponder that when you see SyFy’s “Eve” promos.
Thursday, Jan. 21 (ABC)
Series Debut: Last summer, we got Grey’s Anatomy in space (Defying Gravity); now, we have Grey’s Anatomy in a law firm … Wait, wasn’t that Ally McBeal? The concept of pretty professionals boning other pretty professionals in the workplace is apparently timeless, and The Deep End is nothing if not witless, er, timeless. How about Grey’s Anatomy in a CPA office? Muffler shop? Del Taco? Telling sign: The biggest star here is … Billy Zane.
Thursday, Jan. 21 (USA)
Winter Premiere: Season 3 continues, and burned spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) recovers from last August’s harrowing career/life-altering cliffhanger by—what else—dressing up sharp and taking a new job. If Donovan and co-stars Gabrielle Anwar and Bruce Campbell weren’t so damned smooth, Burn Notice’s bait-switch-bait-explosion-switch-gunfight-bait-gotcha! rhythm would get old, but it still works like a C4-loaded charm. Speaking of old, who’da thunk the biggest surprise of tonight’s premiere would be a Cagney & Lacey reunion? Michael calls in his mom (Sharon Gless) to talk a same-age insurance clerk (Tyne Daly) out of sensitive documents; ‘80s (re)bonding ensues. Don’t worry—there’s car chases and gunplay, too.
Monday, Jan. 25 (FX)
Season Premiere: When Damages premiered in 2007, I had to ask myself “Do I need another legal drama in my viewing life?” But, just as The Shield was no ordinary cop show, Damages is no ordinary courtroom series— and at least Vic Mackey was upholding the law in his own twisted way. Damages’ Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) only cares about winning, right or wrong, and Close manages to make her an almost sympathetic antihero. Almost. This season, Patty is appointed by the government to recover billions of dollars lost in rampant Wall Street investment fraud. Who to root for?
Monday, Jan. 25 (Showtime)
Series Debut: Marc Wootton is allegedly a “British comedy sensation,” even though his ’Merican debut La La Land (wherein he plays three different characters trying to make it in Hollywood, interacting with unsuspecting real people) is about as funny as watching Borat on basic cable. Sacha Baron Cohen already pranked here and did it better. But, if you’re still awake/sober after the season premieres of Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union which air before it on Showtime tonight, Wootton’s psychic “Shirley Ghostman” is good for a few giggles.