24, Kiefer Sutherland

FOX

Enough with the Rudolph and Frosty Claymation specials! Oh, who am I kidding? I love them just as much as the next guy, but it's time to start thinking about some real TV again, now that the New Year is upon us. Thank goodness, a slew of new shows and returning faves will be premiering in the coming month. (Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.)

We've got all the premieres listed below in order of airdate, along with the dish about which January newbies are—and aren't—worth watching. Allow me to break it down for ya...then mark your calendars, rev up your TiVos and get ready to get back on that couch!

Dirt (FX), Jan. 2
You know the dirt that gets so deep under your fingernails you can't seem to get it out no matter how hard you scrub? Well, that exact feeling came to mind while watching the first three episodes of FX's new show Dirt, and unfortunately, that's not meant as an endorsement. The show is just icky—and not in a good way like Nip/Tuck or Dexter. You'll feel like you need a shower. The biggest problem? Not a single character on the show is even remotely likable. I really wanted to enjoy this series—after all, it is Courteney Cox (who doesn't love her?) and a fantastic premise (tabloid journalism is so now) but unfortunately—at least for this viewer—Dirt does not live up to its promise.

In Case of Emergency (ABC), Jan. 3
Thankfully, half of the Courtney Cox and David Arquette duo got things right, because although it's hardly the next Arrested D. or The Office, In Case of Emergency is actually pretty entertaining. Arquette stars as a businessman who wants to kill himself, but instead accidentally shoots his foot, sending him to meet a hot doctor played by Lori Laughlin. Arquette is just one-fourth of the equation here—the show is about a quartet of highly dysfunctional fortysomethings who went to high school together: Jonathan Silverman plays the insecure dweeb, Kelly Hu is the hot girl turned hooker and Greg Germann is the diet guru suffering a mental breakdown. The plot is a little predictable, and a few of the jokes need work, but Emergency is actually worth checking out.

Knights of Prosperity (ABC), Jan. 3
Donal Logue is back on television! And finally, it seems he may have found a show that lives up to his talent. While the first episode of Prosperity leaves plenty to be desired, the cast has chemistry, and the show gains momentum with each new ep. It could very well be a contender for your permanent DVR lineup. Logue plays a washed-up janitor who assembles a gang of would-be thieves (who are just about the least-savvy crooks around) to rob Mick Jagger.

Beauty and the Geek (CW), Jan. 3
The geeks are gettin' some! That's right. According to executive producer Jason Goldberg, this season's cast is one saucy group. Not only does one of the ditzy babes fall for one of the socially challenged dorks, but apparently there's a sex scandal as well! "There were a lot of fireworks in the house this year for some reason," Jason tells me. Hmmm...Sounds a little more like The Real World than B&TG to me, but Jason insists the show is still sweet at its heart. "It's funny because it's competition based and it has money at the end of it, but [the contestants] are actually there because they want the experience. That's what's different about this show. It's really humbling for people to admit their weaknesses and learn their strengths and ultimately celebrate who they are."

The L Word (Showtime), Jan. 7
Perhaps the most underappreciated series on Showtime returns with a lot of heat for its fourth season. It picks up right where the finale left off, with Bette on the run with Angelica, and Tina desperate to find her ex-lover and their daughter. Things only get crazier from there, with a breakup, a bad car wreck and a "gift" for Shane that turns her world upside-down—all within the first episode.

The Apprentice (NBC), Jan. 7
The Donald is back, and so is the hair! But Carolyn and George are history—and so is the show's former backdrop of New York City. In their place is this glorious place we call Hell-Ay (or L.A.), and the new boardroom babe is none other than Trump's own offspring, Ivanka. And of course, there is a new twist. Along with Donald and Ivanka, each week's winning team leader will be alongside to make the deciding factor on who is fired. But aside from the location and personnel change, everything else is pretty much Apprentice status quo—so bring on the backstabbing, crying and bitchery!

24 (Fox), Jan. 14
Of course, after its Emmy win and amazing fifth season, this new season of 24 is the most highly anticipated debut of January, and I promise you will not be disappointed. Not only will there be plenty of twists in Jack's family department, but Kiefer gets down and dirty, gritty and unshaven. This is not action-hero Jack but possibly deranged Jack, and the sixth season takes on an edgier tone than ever before. (I'll have much more for you on the new season in a 24 scoop extravaganza closer to the premiere!)

Extras (HBO), Jan. 14
So good. So good. Sooo good. That's what I can tell you about the first three episodes of the second season of HBO's Extras, which are so simultaneously cringe inducing and hilarious, you can't help but be thoroughly entertained. Ricky Gervais' alter ego Andy finally makes it big into his own show (a hokey, catch-phrase-laden "s--tcom"), and the success (or lack thereof) of the show provides a great through line, but as always, it's the guest stars that leave your jaw on the floor. Where else can you watch Orlando Bloom take the piss out of Johnny Depp (as he does in the first episode), David Bowie serenade a certain "little fat man" (second ep) or Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter, get his "Johnny" stuck in the hair of a veteran British actress (number three)? I am so in.

Rome (HBO), Jan. 14
Finally. The most addictive drama on HBO returns, after leaving us hanging with enough pulse-pounding, character-killing cliffhangers to set up a stellar second season. In case you haven't been keeping up on your history books, that dude Caesar really is dead, Marc Antony is livid and Octavio is stepping up in his role as heir apparent. But the most riveting (and heart-wrenching) drama comes from the mighty soldier Verenus, who goes off the deep end after burying his wife. As you may remember, she plummeted to her death after the Big V learned of her child with another man. Even if you didn't see season one, now is the time to catch up, because you have no idea what you've been missing.

The Hills (MTV), Jan. 15
Yes, the lowest common denominator of quality television—and the pinnacle of guilty pleasuredom—is back with a whole new season! I just caught up with Lauren Conrad (L.C.) herself, who revealed she has "a couple new love interests" this season. "Last season, we all had boyfriends," she explains. "And this season, we all start off single, so there is a lot more going out. I think we filmed, like, three times at clubs this last week—we do at least once a week going out. It's a lot more fun this year. You get to see me date, and I'm not very good at that. We [Audrina and Lauren] just went on a blind date together." Am I lame if I say I can't wait?

American Idol (Fox), Jan. 16
Have you heard of this show? Some guy named Ryan who works here told me it's good. I think I'm gonna check it out.

Monk (USA), Jan. 19
You know how Dexter Morgan channels his crazy into crime-solving do-goodism? Dude is just taking a page from Adrian Monk's book, and lucky for us, everybody's favorite obsessive-compulsive gumshoe is back on the case. Unlike Dexter, however, Monk has a certain charming throwback quality—it's not revolutionary television, but it's always fun—and it consistently delivers a great slate of guest stars. In the coming eps, look for Andy Richter as Monk's brand-new BFF (comedy gold, people!) and Sean Astin as a creepy Natalie-stalking murder suspect. The writers also have fun incorporating Traylor Howard's real-life pregnancy into the plot.

Psych (USA), Jan. 19
James Roday, where have you been all our lives? Roday as ESP fakester Shawn Spencer is a hidden gem of funnyosity, and Dulé Hill is now on his umpteenth year of stellar straight-man work (Martin Sheen's President Bartlet was his first foil). Throw in Corbin Bernsen as Shawn's perpetually annoyed cop dad, and you've got a recipe for a very funny detective show. The Santa Barbara-based cop series returns with Kurtwood Smith ("Red" from That '70s Show) guesting as an Alzheimer's-afflicted ex-cop who seeks Shawn's help in putting together the clues he can't find inside his own head.

—Additional reporting by Korbi Ghosh, Jennifer Godwin, Michael Berner and Marisa Roffman

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