Last night’s two-hour season premiere of PBS’s Downton Abbey marked the unofficial return of Quality Television to America. And not a minute too soon—ever since Breaking Bad concluded its fifth and final season in September, we’ve been starved for the kind of meaty, character-driven dramas that have led critics to declare this the golden age of television. Fortunately, five of the best shows around are debuting new seasons in the next few months. Below, a preview of what to expect from your favorite programs. Spoiler alert: If you aren’t caught up on any of these shows, you might want to hit the “Back” button on your browser. What are you doing on the internet, anyway? You should be binge-watching episodes.
Will Hannah ever finish her eBook? Where did Jessa disappear to? Are Marnie and Charlie back together for good? Are Shoshanna and Ray broken up for good? Those are some of the tantalizing mysteries with which Lena Dunham’s brilliant series about disaffected Brooklynites left its fans last spring. At least some of the answers are suggested in the trailer to the third season, which reveals Adam behaving like a weirdo, Jessa foisting herself on everyone around her, Hannah being neurotic, Marnie getting into shape, and Ray, well, being Ray. Ray does get the best line in the trailer, when he suggests that Hannah “put one crumb of human compassion on this fat-free muffin of sociopathic detachment. See how it tastes.”
Jan 12, HBO
House of Cards
When last we saw this Netflix-produced series, Congressman Frank Underwood (played with courtly malice by Kevin Spacey) had just been offered the Vice Presidency, a major step in the scheme he had been plotting all season. Meanwhile, a trio of reporters were digging into the mysterious death of another congressman, Peter Russo, who appeared to have committed suicide after an alcoholic bender. In the trailer for the second season, we see Underwood fighting back against his enemies, cheered on by his equally calculating wife, a Lady Macbeth type played by Robin Wright. “There is but one rule,” Underwood declares. “Hunt or be hunted.”
Feb 14, Netflix
Elmore Leonard died in August, but the television show Justified, based on Leonard’s writings and featuring Leonard himself as an executive producer in the early seasons, is still going strong, with a fifth season about to debut. The fourth season saw our protagonist, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, tracking down a fugitive who had been on the run for 30 years, and involved the expected quantity of shoot-outs, Western-style heroics, and deliciously witty banter. This season introduces a new Harlan family, the Crowes, who raise gators and are led by Dale Crowe, Jr., played by newcomer to the series Michael Rapaport. Fortunately, all the regulars are back—Boyd Crowder, Ava Crowder, Wynn Duffy.
January 7, FX
In the season premiere, Lady Mary finally emerged from deep mourning for her late husband and began to take an interest in the management of the estate. Downstairs, Thomas launched several more intrigues, while the younger staff got themselves in a twitter over Valentine’s Day. A lost letter from Matthew Crawley turned up, providing clarity as to the fate of the family fortune. And Lady Rose sneaks off into the village to attend a dance, where she characteristically flirts with everyone in sight. Meanwhile, the romance between Lady Edith and publisher Michael Gregson heats up, with Gregson announcing that he’s found a way to divorce his wife.
Ongoing (Next episode: Jan 12), PBS
Game of Thrones
Season three of this epic fantasy series, based on the books of George R.R. Martin, ended with the betrayal of Robb Stark by Walder Frey’s men, seemingly handing victory in the Westeros civil war to the Lannisters. Back in King’s Landing, siblings Cersei and Tyrion remain unhappily married, Tyrion to Sansa and Cersei to Loras. At Castle Black, Maester Aemon sends ravens to ever corner of Westeros warning of the coming of the White Walkers. Sam tells Bran and his entourage of a secret passage through the wall. And across the narrow sea, Daenerys continued her triumphal march, freeing the slaves of Yunkai. What will season four hold in store? Only the show’s creators (and people who have read ahead in the book series) know for sure.
Spring (date TBA), HBO
Have we left off any of your favorite shows? Tell us in the comments section below.