Spartacus, The Americans 

Plus: Plastic Wives, Nikki & Sara

click to enlarge Spartacus: War of the Damned - STARZ
  • Starz
  • Spartacus: War of the Damned

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Spartacus: War of the Damned
Friday, Jan. 25 (Starz)

Season Premiere: In the final chapter of Starz’s green-screen blood ’n’ boobs epic, Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) and his army of leather models are running roughshod over Rome, killing and/or screwing and/or yelling at everything in sight. But he’s about to face his fiercest opponent yet: Marcus Crassus (Simon Merrells), a ruthless bastard with mountains of military money and a young Julius Caesar (Todd Lasance—or is it David Spade?) at his side. Three seasons and one new Spartacus later, this series (which, despite being essentially a cartoon, put Starz in the original drama game) isn’t any less dumb—but it also isn’t any less fun. Shut off your brain and enjoy the splatter.

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Swamp Pawn
Saturday, Jan. 26 (CMT)

Series Debut: Then again, if you shut off your gourd for too long, the lack of oxygen might turn you into a basic-cable executive who greenlights redneck reality shows after their expiration date. Country Music Television got whupped real good by TLC, A&E and pretty much every other network in the hillbilly sweepstakes; now, the channel you’d think would own the genre can’t even play catch-up, as Swamp Pawn (“Swamp folk and pawn shops—that’s gotta be a winner, right?”) isn’t anything you haven’t already seen 168 times this week. Face it, Viacom: CMT ain’t no MTV … which also isn’t MTV anymore.

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Plastic Wives
Sunday, Jan. 27 (TLC)

Special: Even more inexplicably, TLC—for better but mostly worse, a reality-TV trendsetter—is now trying to jump onto the overprivileged-housewives wave, which petered out two years ago, whether Bravo knows it or not. Plastic Wives’ twist is that these still-kinda-women are all married to insanely wealthy Hollywood plastic surgeons (redundant, I know) and consider their dead faces, poofy lips and basketball tits to be glorious advertisements for their hubbies’ work. Therein lies comedy—not to mention a labia in a jar. Yes, really.

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Nikki & Sara Live
Tuesday, Jan. 29 (MTV)

Series Debut: Seems like anything The Only TV Column That Matters™ actually likes and recommends on MTV these days gets instantaneously canceled; recent pick Underemployed was banished to Saturday nights midway through its first season and probably won’t be seen again. Which is why I shouldn’t tell you to watch Nikki & Sara Live, MTV’s new weekly late-night series—believe it or not, the net’s first since The Jon Stewart Show in 1995—starring comics Nikki Glaser and Sara Shaefer, based on their funny-as-hell podcast You Had to Be There. So, don’t (but do).

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The Americans
Wednesday, Jan. 30 (FX)

Series Debut: It’s 1981; Ronald Reagan has just been elected president as America is under siege from the Cold War and an onslaught of terrible, terrible music. In suburban Washington, D.C., long-embedded Russian KGB spies Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) are settling into their fake marriage—with real, unaware kids—in diverging ways: He’s now enjoying the American Way of Life and dreaming of a million-dollar U.S. paycheck for defecting; she’s still dedicated to the mission and Mother Russia. To complicate matters (more), an FBI agent (Noah Emmerich) who’s part of a new counterintelligence division charged with finding Spies Like Them, just moved in next door. The Americans powerfully combines the sexy espionage tension of Homeland with the hiding-in-plain-sight vibe of FX’s late, great The Riches, and Russell’s steely performance is easily a lock for future Claire Danes-ish accolades. The only possible knock against the series would be the period music—a chase scene set to Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk”? Come on …

Twitter: @Bill_Frost

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