Top TV Picks For January

This month, there are a whole slew of new shows and season premieres on TV, from top series American Idol on Fox to the movie-worthy cast of HBO's Luck. Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay Times suggests you try dramas Justified and Touch — and run away from sitcoms Rob and Work It as fast as you can. He talks to Audie Cornish.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From the stage, now to the small screen. We have a pile of new shows this winter season and new episodes of returning shows, including the biggest series of all, "American Idol."

Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay Times joins us once again to help sort through the options. Welcome, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS: Thank you.

CORNISH: Let's start with your favorite TV show of the season coming up.

DEGGANS: Yeah. My favorite has got to be "Justified." This is entering its third season on FX and it's about this U.S. marshal by the name of Raylan Givens. And he's in the modern world, but his attitude is really more like an old school gunslinger-type marshal. And he constantly has to pull himself back from shooting and killing people who cross him. And now, he finds himself in this weird position where he wants to settle down while also chasing down some of the most dangerous criminals in Kentucky.

And I think we've got a clip here that shows him in a fight with his archrival and also, weirdly, an old friend, Boyd Crowder.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "JUSTIFIED")

TIMOTHY OLYPHANT: (as Raylan Givens) I'm a deputy U.S. marshal here.

WALTON GOGGINS: (as Boyd Crowder) (Unintelligible) Givens, Raylan.

OLYPHANT: (as Raylan Givens) And you think I'm going to hand a man over to you to be murdered like he's what? Some pig I borrowed from you?

GOGGINS: (as Boyd Crowder) You gave me your word.

OLYPHANT: (as Raylan Givens) I've got half a mind to kick...

DEGGANS: And the fight starts.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: Boys will be boys, you know.

CORNISH: Another show - another police show that you're interested in is "Southland," right? And I remember this being on network TV and then kind of bouncing to one of the sort of cable channels after suffering in the ratings.

DEGGANS: Yeah. You know, "Southland" was an NBC show and it really had the unfortunate luck of debuting the season before NBC decided to give Jay Leno his own show at 10:00 p.m. and blow out all the 10:00 p.m. dramas. So, they had a season where they struggled in the ratings and NBC cancelled them. But TNT picked them up.

It's still, I think, one of the best depictions of an urban police force that's on television now. I can't watch the "Law and Orders" and the "CSIs." They're a little too fantastical for me, but "Southland" is about getting inside the head of cops.

CORNISH: OK. So, you've given us the lowdown on some returning favorites, but are there any freshmen, any new shows that you love?

DEGGANS: Well, everybody's going to look at "Luck," which is the new HBO series starring Dustin Hoffman. That premieres later in the month. It's almost a feature film that's been stretched out over a series. Dustin Hoffman is playing a gangster who gets out of jail and decides to buy a race horse.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "LUCK")

DUSTIN HOFFMAN: (as Chester Bernstein) Beautiful day at the track. And so the jackpot will top $3 million. Good luck.

DEGGANS: So, all the action is set around the racetrack. And the creative minds behind this are David Milch, who we know created "Deadwood" and also was the creative force behind "NYPD Blue," and Michael Mann, who was the creative force behind "Miami Vice." And what I love about this series is that it is about middle-aged guys, from the richest gangster to the losers who, you know, lose their welfare check at the track every week. And there's no series out there who really focuses on middle-aged guys in all their crusty glory.

CORNISH: So, Eric, let's help everyone save some time and talk about the shows they shouldn't bother watching.

DEGGANS: OK. Well, there's a show on CBS called "Rob" that just started. It stars Rob Schneider, who used to be in "Saturday Night Live" and the "Deuce Bigalow" movies and he actually married a Latina woman. And so the comedy is based around this idea of him marrying a woman he doesn't know well and then trying to get to know her Mexican-American family. And it's just awful. It's a bad sitcom and it piles stereotypes on top of it. He says he feels like he's at a Julio Iglesias concert when he's hanging out with her family. It's just terrible.

ABC has another comedy that's also pretty bad called "Work It" about men who have to dress up like women to get work.

CORNISH: And why do people hate this show so much? Because, I mean, I've watched a few "Bosom Buddies" episodes in the past. Like, what went wrong here?

DEGGANS: Well, two things. I think representatives of the transgender community said it encourages people to make fun of men who dress like women. And then some feminists are upset because they feel like it exaggerates this idea of the man-cession, men losing jobs more than women in the recession, which was true early on, but does not seem to be so true now.

CORNISH: Lots to choose from, Eric. Thanks so much.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

CORNISH: Eric Deggans is a TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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