Oprah has her own network. I would like my own network too, please. The Jimmy Network. Emphasis on the "my." Is it my imagination, or does every show on this new cable vehicle have to have "Oprah" in its title?
As significant as it is — and as cheesed-off as her loyal fan base is now that they realize they have to pay for cable to see her — the arrival of own isn't the only big TV headline as 2011 rolls off the presses. No less than two dozen new series say hello to the primetime world in January, combined with the winter return of such popular shows as Parks and Recreation, Justified, Jersey Shore, Southland, Hot in Cleveland, the final season of HBO's Big Love and that strange new concoction of American Idol.
Why the leaping lords of television bombard us with so much fresh programming at the start of the year, I've never fully understood. Don't they know we have enough on our plates with keeping resolutions and tax preparation?
Some of the new creations you already may have seen. Among them:
Shameless, 9 p.m. Sundays, Showtime: Porn movies take more time to heat up than this shockingly chaotic version of a hit Brit series. (Or so I've been told.) With a kitchen sex scene, blow job, bare breasts and bondage in the first 20 minutes alone, you may wonder as I did: William H. Macy, so respected; Emmy Rossum, so delicate in Phantom of the Opera — what the heck were you thinking?
Episodes, 9:30 p.m. Sundays, Showtime: Matt LeBlanc returns to series television playing a spoiled, jaded actor who's a big cock. Oops, I'm sorry — he reportedly has a big cock. You guessed it: He's playing himself. (Beginning in February, the show goes head-to-head against Matthew Perry's new sitcom, Mr. Sunshine, on ABC. Can't have enough Friends, I guess.)
The Cape, 9 p.m. Mondays, NBC (Channel 4): I admire NBC for going to the superhero well again and again, and, while this yarn with David Lyons (ER) as a disgraced cop turned costumed crimefighter doesn't have the pop-culture potential of Heroes, its homage to such pulp legends as Batman and Daredevil may appeal to fans of pure comic-book escapism.
Lights Out, 10 p.m. Tuesdays, FX: Until The Fighter comes to television — and maybe even after it does — this brutally realistic tale of a downtrodden ex-champ (familiar TV face Holt McCallany) will more than suffice. Blending traces of Rocky, Raging Bull and Cinderella Man, this drama has the look of a knockout.
Live to Dance, 8 p.m. Wednesdays, CBS (Channel 62): Did you ever think Paula Abdul could carry her own reality series? Well, somebody did, because the Wispy One is now the judging focal point of this wild dance-crew competition, which will go toe-to-toe against American Idol beginning Jan. 19. How long can Dance live?
And among the New Year's entries you have yet to peep:
Off the Map, 10 tonight (Jan. 12), ABC (Channel 7): It's the next logical progression for ABC dramas: A Grey's Anatomy-style cast goes native, practicing medicine in a South American clinic. Jungle love, anyone?
Being Human, 9 p.m. Mondays (Jan. 17), Syfy: Talk about trying to capitalize on every hot entertainment trend at once! I can almost hear the pitch for this series, based on a popular British saga: "You see, a vampire, a ghost and a werewolf walk into a bar, ..."
Skins, 10 p.m. Mondays (Jan. 17), MTV: Also based on a hot British show — can't American producers come up with original ideas anymore? — this scripted series depicts teens gone wild into sex, drugs, drinking and other perversions. It's the anti-Glee.
Harry's Law, 10 p.m. Mondays (Jan. 17), NBC: Academy Award-winning actress Kathy Bates as a trash-talking, take-all-prisoners defense attorney in a role David E. Kelley created for a man. Watching the great Bates at work is anything but Misery.
Heavy, 10 p.m. Mondays (Jan. 17), A&E: Fat has become the new thin on TV, but with the same raw-nerve honesty of its shows like Intervention and Hoarding, A&E strips away the game-show and sitcom elements of obesity to follow 20 overweight people competing for more than a cash prize: They're fighting for their lives.
Retired at 35, 10:30 p.m. Wednesdays (Jan. 19), TVLand: This sitcom companion piece to Hot in Cleveland starts off dry as the sand outside its Florida retirement village, but picks up its comedic pacemaker by the second episode. Worth a peek just to see George Segal playing the banjo, Jessica Walter and recurring guest Shelley Long.
Perfect Couples, 8:30 p.m. Thursdays (Jan. 20), NBC: This feels like NBC's attempt to emulate ABC's monster-com Modern Family, and with the Peacock's success at crafting comedies lately, who can blame them for trying?
Fairly Legal, 10 p.m. Thursdays (Jan. 20), USA: Likable Sarah Shahi (The L Word) stars as a lawyer-turned-litigator whose magic touch can fix everybody's problems but her own. Given USA's success at creating original hours with strong, quirky female leads (In Plain Sight, Covert Affairs), don't judge Legal too quickly.
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, 10 p.m. Fridays (Jan. 21), Starz: Among the many enticements of this prequel to last year's Spartacus: Blood and Sand is the return of Lucy Lawless as Lucretia, in a steamy sex scene with another woman! Xena: Warrior Princess junkies, the dream is alive!
Kourtney and Kim Take New York, 10 p.m. Sundays (Jan. 23), E!: Couldn't New York take Kourtney and Kim instead?
Working Class, 8 p.m. Fridays (Jan. 28), CMT: Ed Asner returns to series comedy? On Country Music Television? Well, shut my mouth! He's got spunk.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.