The holidays are over and for many that means heading back to work. For others it means there’s finally new episodes of television to watch! But I bet you didn’t realize just how much TV was starting so soon. Here’s a primer to get you prepared for the new and returning genre series hitting the small screens this January.
I was late to the party for AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire and FX’s Fargo and trying to watch them legally and without paying extra on top of our cable bill, Netflix, and Amazon Prime subscriptions was more difficult than I’d imagined. You’d think in this age of DVRs, on demand, and the ever-growing number of streaming services, getting caught up on a show that’s currently airing (or just ended) with services you already pay for would be simple as pie. But if you’re not already signed up for every single service, you may find yourself in a financial bind when it comes to finding just-aired TV episodes. Hence my advice. Your interests may vary, but start recording all of these shows right now! Just in case.
The Shannara Chronicles (MTV, January 5th)
Premise: Based on Terry Brooks’ Shannara book series (and focused most closely around The Elfstones of Shannara), this new fantasy series is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which magic now thrives and technology is a thing of the past. The Four Lands depicted are inhabited by humans, elves, dwarves, and gnomes alike and we kick things off with three young heroes (two women, one man) attempting to stop a demon army. And of course a classic love triangle to boot. It’s your basic sword and sorcery type deal but I will admit to being happily surprised with how good the production looks considering MTV isn’t known for this particular kind of story. Fans of the series should be relived to know that although there will be deviations from the books, Brooks has worked closely with the creators.
Items of interest: If, like me, you haven’t read Brooks’ series, you may want to jump on this one based on simply your love of fantasy or the cast involved. While MTV has cast several newcomers, The Shannara Chronicles also features geek favorite actor John Rhys-Davies (Indiana Jones, The Lord of the Rings, Sliders) and Arrow’s Manu Bennett. Also, it was filmed in New Zealand so there’s bound to be fantastic landscapes to ogle over each week.
Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments (Freeform, January 12th)
Premise: One of the newest shows to debut on the rebranded ABC Family, Shadowhunters is another book adaptation. You may recall Cassandra Clare’s series was already brought to life on the big screen in 2013’s The Mortal Instruments. The story remains mostly the same here focusing on young Clary Fray, a human-angel hybrid whose secret destiny (not to mention family tradition) it is to fight demons. She gets to join others in that fight, discover special powers, and learn more about her mother while trying to save her from dark forces.
Items of interest: While this one is filled with lots of unfamiliar faces, it does feature a fairly diverse cast. And hey, if you weren’t a fan of the film this is a great second chance to see one of your favorites come to life.
Second Chance (Fox, January 13th)
Premise: Previously titled The Frankenstein Code and then Lookinglass, Second Chance is a loosely adapted version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It centers on a corrupt and disgraced police officer who is brought back to life after he’s killed at 75. Wealthy twins revive him in a younger state through cell regeneration technology they’d been experimenting with but he needs to return regularly for treatment in order to remain alive. Oh, he also gains super strength.
Items of interest: True Blood and Pacific Rim’s Rob Kazinsky is our lead here. Downside? Fox is notorious for canceling genre shows early. Only start this one if you haven’t already been burned several times over.
Sesame Street (HBO, January 16th)
Premise: Sunny day, sweepin’ the clouds away. You know, the ushe. Ok, I know this one might seem like an odd inclusion but learning is fun and so is passing on the tradition of Sesame Street to your children. The long-running PBS series is starting a new era at HBO with some new sets and a new theme song but it’s sure to be business as usual.
Items of interest: You never know who’s going to show up on Sesame Street and they always make tons of pop culture references for adults. Bonus, if you don’t have HBO the episodes will air on PBS at a later date.
How to get caught up: “D” is for “Don’t worry about it.” But if you’re interested in watching old episodes, you can view them on HBO Go and HBO Now.
Agent Carter Season 2 (ABC, January 19th)
Premise: A 1940s period piece featuring one of the best characters to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Agent Carter is a spinoff of Agents of SHIELD which doesn’t require you to be a comic book fan at all. It focuses on Agent Peggy Carter’s dilemma of always being the best man for the job in a time when women are meant to fetch coffee and stay silent. Suffice to say, Peggy faces these challenges head on, manages double spy duty and saves the world many times over. It also features lots of intrigue, spy gadgets, dynamic friendships with both men and women, and fantastic costumes. Season 2 has Peggy moving from New York to Los Angeles.
Items of interest: Peggy, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy, Peggy…
How to get caught up: Right now the first eight episodes of the series aren’t streaming anywhere for free but you can purchase a hard copy of Season 1 or purchase the season and single episodes on both Amazon Prime and iTunes.
The 100 Season 3 (The CW, January 21st)
Premise: Another book adaptation, The 100 is a story about humanity retreating to the stars after a nuclear apocalypse laid waste to the Earth. Things are getting dicey on their space station home after almost a century when leadership decides to send 100 prisoners (who just happen to be under the age of 18) to the surface to test whether or not the land is inhabitable yet. Way harsh. Turns out Earth is survivable but not desolate as they were led to believe. Also, just because the Earth is survivable doesn’t mean everyone will survive and hard choices must be made by all.
Items of interest: After hearing the hype I just recently binged all of this one and was really surprised by it. The 100 is part Lost, part Battlestar Galactica and shares cast members from both. Also, if you like “strong female characters” this one has them in spades. If you dislike violence, this one probably isn’t for you.
How to get caught up: Seasons 1 (13 episodes) and 2 (16 episodes) of The 100 are currently streaming on Netflix while the whole series is available on Amazon and iTunes.
Note: Below is a trailer for Season 3, do not watch if you’re not caught up. (Here’s a link to the trailer for Season 1.)
Legends of Tomorrow (The CW, January 21st)
Premise: Based on DC Comics characters, this new series is a superhero spinoff from The CW’s Arrow and The Flash. But this time there’s time travel! Ok, we got a small bit of time travel on The Flash but Legends of Tomorrow is all about time travel! It features a time traveling professional who joins together heroes and villains for one epic group meant to save the world from immortal Vandal Savage. Hilarity (and awesome period clothing) ensues.
Items of interest: Arthur Darvill, Rory from Doctor Who, gets to be the Time Lord for a change! It also stars Victor Garber who is an international treasure. I hope they let him sing.
How to get caught up: Well you could watch approximately four seasons of Arrow and two seasons of The Flash but I’m going to say it’s not necessary. Just enjoy the ride and hit up Wikipedia if you’re wondering about any of the characters.
The X-Files (Fox, January 24th)
Premise: The truth is still out there! Mulder and Scully return for a relaunch of the ’90s TV series focusing on alien abductions and other unexplained phenomena. If you’re new to the FBI-focused show it’s been said the first and last episodes will tie into the larger mythology while everything in between will be standalone episodes. FYI: While the premiere is on a Sunday night (after the NFC Championship Game), it continues the following night and will eventually settle in its Monday slot. There will be six episodes.
Items of interest: We’re getting the band back together!!!! Yes, this is a big nostalgia trip for most of us. Also, Gillian Anderson is the best.
How to get caught up: Hmm. Quit your job and watch nothing but the X-Files this month? There’s nine seasons and two feature films.
Lucifer (Fox, January 25th)
Premise: Another comic book adaptation, this time it’s based on the Lucifer character created by Neil Gaiman for The Sandman, who eventually got his own self-titled series from Mike Carey. As you might have guessed, Lucifer is the Devil and after a hella long time ruling the underworld, he’s bored and now living on Earth. He’s also causing a bit of havoc along the way thanks to his unnatural abilities. In this TV version he chooses Los Angeles first and helps the LAPD solve cases. Lucifer premieres just after the second episode of the X-Files.
Items of interest: Buffy’s D.B. Woodside stars alongside lead Tom Ellis (who you may recognize from tons of British TV) as Amenadiel, an angel trying to get Lucifer back to hell. True Blood/Arrow actor Kevin Alejandro and Lesley-Ann Brandt (Spartacus) also star.
The Magicians (Syfy, January 25th)
Premise: It’s been said to death this is Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia for adults, but that really is the easiest way to describe The Magicians from author Lev Grossman. Based on a trilogy, this adaptation is my personal pick for most-anticipated new series this season because I’m a sucker for magical tales about magical people and places. The story focuses on Quentin Coldwater, a normal guy from Brooklyn who finds out magic is real, he can do it, and he’s going to a special school to learn more about it. Along the way he and his friends drink and screw a lot and get themselves into some trouble when they learn the fictional land of Fillory (read: Narnia) is a real place.
Items of interest: One of the standouts for me is the story of Quentin’s friend Julia, who learns about the magical world along with him but is denied entrance to the school. Oh, and Supernatural writer Sera Gamble one of the creators of the TV series. Needless to say, if part of you still wishes magic were real and you long to visit another land, get hooked on this immediately.
Jill Pantozzi is a pop culture writer and host who reports on all things nerdy and beyond! Her blog The Nerdy Birdwas recently relaunched with Patreon support and she’s formerly Editor in Chief of The Mary Sue. She’s written for MTV, Publishers Weekly, IGN & more. You can keep up with Jill, and her cats, on Twitter at @JillPantozzi and “like” her on Facebook.