In January, A Boomlet Of Season Premieres And New TV Shows

Audie Cornish talks to Eric Deggans, the TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times, about TV shows starting up in January.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're looking at a new year; and for TV critic Eric Deggans, that means a new batch of TV shows. Eric, thanks for joining us.

ERIC DEGGANS: Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: So in January, there's this little boomlet of season premieres and brand-new shows. What's your favorite?

DEGGANS: Well, I'm interested in this show on NBC, called "Deception." It's kind of a complicated drama, but it's - this rich girl is found dead. And it turns out that her best friend is a police officer who works undercover. And so the police go to her and sort of ask her to go undercover with this family, and try to find out why this woman got killed.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW "DECEPTION")

LAZ ALONSO: (as Will Moreno) You go in, wearing a wire.

MEGAN GOOD: (as Joanna Padget Locasto) No. What? No. No way.

ALONSO: (as Will Moreno) You give Robert Bowers a sob story. See if he invites you to dinner. Edward's living there now. He's separated from his wife.

GOOD: (as Joanna Padget Locasto) Look, they're gonna know I'm a cop.

ALONSO: (as Will Moreno) No, no. See, we can hide that.

DEGGANS: Yeah, and so this is interesting not just because it's a convoluted drama that could be complex and interesting, but because the star is African-American. And we haven't seen too many shows starring black characters, in the last few years. So...

CORNISH: No, especially dramas. I remember...

DEGGANS: ....this could be important for a lot of reasons - especially dramas.

CORNISH: ...people made a big deal out of Kerry Washington coming to "Scandal," on ABC; and now, it looks like NBC is getting in on this.

DEGGANS: This would be the second network TV show starring an African-American female, this season. And that makes it a milestone, for sure.

CORNISH: And Eric, a show that's actually coming back for a third season - "Downton Abbey." I'm going to play you the trailer because it sounds far more exciting than I realized the show could ever be.

(LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: Cheerio. What, what. Let's hear it.

(SOUNDBITE OF "DOWNTON ABBEY" TRAILER)

CORNISH: Hey, now. Downton.

DEGGANS: I don't know why - I always want to talk in a British accent, when I hear that show.

CORNISH: You probably should not.

(LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: I know, I know. I sound like a bad character from "Gilligan's Island," or something.

CORNISH: But is it going to be good? I mean, some people were sort of -what's the proper term? - poo-pooing the Season 2.

DEGGANS: Yeah. You know, for me, the bloom is off the rose a little bit. It was interesting to see the dynamics of a household at that point in time, in the 1920s; when things were much more rigid, and sort of traditional. I think that wears thin in Season 3. We have Shirley MacLaine showing up as an American relative, so we'll see how that works. So far, I've seen the first three episodes of the new season and, you know, she's a pistol - as always - and shakes up the household a little bit. She's sort of the American version of Maggie Smith's character.

So it's interesting to see those two actresses kind of bounce off of each other. But I'm not sure that's enough to make the show as interesting as it was in its first season.

CORNISH: Another show spicing things up with a special guest star is "Smash," right?

DEGGANS: Exactly. We're going to see Jennifer Hudson join the cast - former "American Idol" contestant, Oscar winner and now, she comes in playing a very successful stage actress.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW "SMASH")

CHRISTIAN BORLE: (as Tom Levitt) A very special guest - two-time Tony Award winner Veronica Moore.

(SNIPPET OF SONG)

JACK DAVENPORT: (as Derek Wills) What is the best piece of advice to someone who's about to get exactly where you are?

JENNIFER HUDSON: (as Veronica Moore) Someone's always waiting to take you down, honey. But if the work's good, they won't be able to.

DEGGANS: Now, "Smash" took a lot of criticism. It had one of the best-reviewed pilots of last season, but it also was one of the most disappointing series. And one of the things they did, they jettisoned several characters that fans didn't like. I've seen the first two-hour show, and it looks really interesting. And I think people who wanted to give the show a chance last season, will like it even more now.

CORNISH: All right, Eric. Well, you know, dramas have been doing pretty well the last season. But I want to know about comedies. What's out there? What's good?

DEGGANS: Well, TBS has rescued yet another show from the clutches of a network that was about to lose it. "Cougar Town" is moving from ABC to TBS. And anybody who's a fan of this show - including me - has got to be glad about it. This stars Courteney Cox as the ringleader of a troop of buddies. They're all middle-aged. They live in Florida - you know, I've got to love that; I'm here in Florida.

(LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: And they drink a lot of wine, and they have a lot of good ties with each other. You've got to love that.

CORNISH: And it's interesting because TBS rescued Conan O'Brien, right?

DEGGANS: Exactly. We're seeing this more and more often; cable channels thinking about taking shows that maybe didn't work out so well on the network, and featuring them to their own success. TNT rescued the NBC drama "Southland," which is also going to come back in the winter. So there is a history there.

CORNISH: And as for more comedies on network?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, I was also thinking about NBC's "1600 Penn." Now, some viewers may have seen the preview of this comedy, set in the White House; starring Bill Pullman as the president, and Jenna Elfman as the first lady. But it's really going to come back for its series run in early January. And it's a pretty funny rah. And, you know, given how serious some of the stuff out of Washington has been lately, I think maybe we could use a laugh or two, from there.

CORNISH: Eric, thank you so much.

DEGGANS: All right. Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News.

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