One of the best things about launching TVLine.com when we did (the site did go live, right?) is that it came on the cusp of much fresh fare hitting the airwaves. This month alone, you’ve got 14 TV series making their debuts, while a slew of returning favorites (Parks and Recreation included) are set to uncork new seasons. And the other 11 months of the year promise to deliver even more TV treats.
With that in mind — and to help you get to know the TVLine staff even better — here are the TV events that have each of us excited for 2011. In Comments, tell us what you are looking forward to!
MICHAEL AUSIELLO, Editor-In-Chief
Parks and Recreation | They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but when NBC put Leslie Knopes and Co. on extended hiatus, my heart only grew… well, pissed! What were they thinking?! Eh, no matter. It’s coming back on January 20, at which point all will be right with the world.
The Killing | I know next to nothing about AMC’s new crime thriller, but based on the network’s near-perfect track record — Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and the late, lamented Rubicon — I’m going to go out on a limb and assume this thing’s gonna be a winner.
Torchwood | The new season has a new Stateside distributor (Starz), a bigger, more international playing field (Capt. Jack hits Rodeo Drive!) and some promising new blood (Mekhi Phifer!). Ready for summertime takeoff!
True Blood | Even if I didn’t know that the fourth season was going to introduce witches into the mix, I probably would’ve made a joke here about how sure I was that I would be spellbound. A joke like that one, in fact.
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena | I’ve seen the first episode, and it’s good. Really good. So good that I’m going to say something I thought unthinkable just a few months ago: This franchise is much bigger than any one actor, and that includes even the extraordinary Andy Whitfield. Here’s hoping they find a worthy enough successor that allows the show to go on.
MATT WEBB MITOVICH, Editor-at-Large
The second seasons of Justified and The Walking Dead | I so enjoy Justified that I’ve been trying to ration the three screeners FX sent my way last month; that has been a torturous process. The wait for The Walking Dead promises to be just as agonizing, if only because it’ll be a 10-month gap ‘tween the shortened first season’s finale and October’s Season 2 opener.
American Idol | I must confess that I “checked out” of America’s most watched TV series last season, and it sounds like I didn’t miss much. (Quick, name who won! And… crickets.) But having glimpsed almost a half hour of Season 10, I’m quite curious to see if Steven Tyler, J.Lo and a better crop of crooners will in fact energize the aging reality juggernaut.
Smallville‘s series finale | We’ve been waiting a super-long time for Clark to meet his destiny. Come late May, we get to see just how the CW series will wrap up its 10-year run. (Ideally, it involves a red cape and a bit of aeronautics.)
HBO’s Luck | The headstrong mix of writer David Milch, director Michael Mann and two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman reads like a recipe for nitroglycerine. That’s why there is no way I am missing a moment of HBO’s (likely) next great drama series, this one delving into the ethically and literally muddy world of horseracing.
Terra Nova | Some may snark about the delays and behind-the-scenes shake-ups sustained by Fox’s upcoming Steven Spielberg-produced time-travel series, which sneak-peeks in May. For them I have one word: dinosaurs!
MICHAEL SLEZAK, Senior Editor
American Idol‘s 10th season | The greatest pop-cultural phenomenon of the last decade cannot end with the whimper of Lee DeWyze gasping his way through U2′s “Beautiful Day.” So whether or not Season 10′s Simon Cowell-free panel of Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson proves to be ridiculous, sublime, or somewhere in between, is there a reality-TV fan alive who’s not at least a little interested in seeing what TV’s No. 1 series looks like after a massive facelift?
The X Factor | Even if you’re one of those certifiable folks who enjoy a seven-month Idol “off-season” — blasphemy if you ask me! — you can’t deny being a bit curious about Simon Cowell’s U.S. version of Britain’s megahit singing competition. Still, go ahead and pooh-pooh the concept, if you must; we won’t be able to hear you as we crank up the volume on a future crop of hitmakers in four distinct categories (boys, girls, groups, and “over-25s”).
Courteney Cox‘s Emmy Nomination | Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I’m convinced Cox’s hilarious, touching work on Cougar Town‘s terrific second season will finally score her the Emmy nod that eluded her during 10 seasons of Friends (making her the only member of that ensemble to never net such an honor). One more snub and I’m starting a petition for Nancy Grace to take up the cause on behalf of the criminally maligned actress. Justice must be obtained at any cost!
Bravo’s Going Platinum | To use a Simon Cowell-ism, she went from zero to hero between American Idol‘s eighth and ninth seasons. Now, exiting Idol judge Kara DioGuardi is coming to Bravo with a new series that will watch singer-songwriter types duel to the musical death in a series of challenges that we’re hoping will invoke the best aspects of the network’s Top Chef and Project Runway. Hey, when it comes to pop-culture redemption, there are no boundaries.
Doctor Who | It took Matt Smith and Karen Gillan the better part of Who‘s fifth season to get into a groove as the raggedy Doctor and his miniskirt-clad companion. But a thrilling two-part finale buoyed by Alex Kingston’s crazy-sexy-cool River Song left fans of the British sci-fi staple clamoring for more. For its upcoming season, American fans (who often must dodge across-the-pond spoiler carriers) are being rewarded with two episodes set and shot in the USA. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey awesomeness is sure to ensue.
MEGAN MASTERS, West Coast Editor
Life Unexpected‘s series finale | Of course, I am dreading saying goodbye to this CW series’ fam. Fortunately, showrunner Liz Tigelaar has promised LUX devotees (like, um, me) a satisfying sendoff for Lux and Co., so I’ll be front and center for the final two hours airing Tuesday, January 18 — and with a big ol’ box of Kleenex in tow. Silver lining? Liz just signed a development deal with ABC Studios, so it shouldn’t be long until her wonderful work is back on the small screen.
Parks and Recreation | Proving you shouldn’t mess with Ron Swanson and that manly ‘stache of his, Parks and Rec is (finally!) returning to NBC. Someone get me a big plate of breakfast foods, and I’ll be good to go.
The Return Of Some Friends | Being the Friends fanatic I am, it’s hard to put into words how excited I am about having Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc back on primetime TV. True, Perry’s Mr. Sunshine (ABC, Feb. 9) and LeBlanc’s Episodes (Showtime, Jan. 9) are a far cry from their old laugh track days, but with just a click of the remote — to Courteney Cox’s Cougar Town, of course — I’ll be transported back to Central Perk. And honestly, where else could I want to be?
Big Love | Will Bill find success in the senate? Will the sisterwives live happily ever after? Will society ever accept the now openly polygamist Henricksons?! I love me lotsa Love and won’t miss a second of its fifth and final season.
Shameless | Showtime, you’ve done it again, you saucy little minx! Shameless is yet another example of the quality programming the cabler has produced in recent years. Simply put, it’s a compelling look at a wildly wayward family headed up in theory by William H. Macy’s 24/7 drunkard, but held together in reality by Emmy Rossum, as his plucky daughter.
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