Anna Sophia Robb, The Carrie Diaries, Kevin Bacon, The Following, Meagan Good, Deception, Freddie Highmore, Bates Motel

A&E; NBC; CW; Fox

New Year = New TV Shows to Obsess Over.

At least that's what broadcast and cable network execs will be hoping as they premiere a slew of freshman series over the next few months. But which ones are really worth your all-too-precious time? We waded through the glut of midseason offerings so you don't have to—we're generous like that—and emerged with eight of the most promising new series of 2013. Here, we present our first four picks. Check back early next week for the rest!

THE FOLLOWING (Fox, premieres January 21): The best pilot of the entire 2012-13 TV season is also one bitingly twisted piece of work. What else would you expect from The Vampire Diaries' Kevin Williamson? Kevin Bacon stars as Ryan Hardy, a hard-drinking former FBI agent who gets called in to consult when the serial killer he put away escapes prison intent on finishing the job with his only surviving victim. But that's just the beginning of the nightmare: Said psycho, Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), a former literary professor obsessed with the works of Edgar Allan Poe, has recruited a devout cult of followers to continue his murderous spree and, in the process, torture Ryan for not only locking him up but also for falling in love with his ex-wife, Claire (Justified's Natalie Zea). Bacon, working some serious Kiefer-in-24 heroic mojo, has never been better, especially when sharing the screen with deliciously charismatic Brit Purefoy. In the four episodes we've seen, their cat-and-mouse game makes for one dark, heart-stopping thriller—which is good news for viewers, but maybe not so much for Ryan and the pacemaker in his chest.

THE CARRIE DIARIES (The CW, January 14): Sarah Jessica Parker is nowhere to be found in this Sex and the City prequel, but dare we say you won't even miss her? AnnaSophia Robb (Soul Surfer) is a breakout star-in-the-making as 16-year-old Carrie Bradshaw, a sensitive high schooler in ‘80s-era suburban Connecticut who's dealing with the death of her mother and dreaming of a better life as a writer in Manhattan. The clever pilot includes several nods to the iconic HBO series, including a slo-mo stroll down a NYC street complete with a Carrie voiceover, Carrie's first moment of off-kilter fashion inspiration, and a budding romance with the new Mr. Big Man on Campus, Sebastian Kydd (Austin Butler). But the true magic of this drama from Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz is that, by the end of the first hour, you feel like these Diaries have their own entirely fresh tales to tell.

DECEPTION (NBC, January 7): Trust us, this primetime soap is much juicier than its blah title suggests. After party-girl heiress Vivian Bowers dies of an overdose in a seedy motel room, suspicious FBI agent Will (Laz Alonso) recruits his former partner (and ex-girlfriend) Joanna (Meagan Good) to infiltrate the troubled young woman's family and discover the truth about her death. The twist? The undercover gig is personal for Joanna, who grew up in the Bowers household—her mom worked for the filthy-rich fam—and was Viv's childhood BFF. Was the socialite's death an accident? Suicide? Or did a member of her own secret-riddled clan kill her? Having seen the first few twist-heavy episodes, we wouldn't put anything past this dysfunctional crew, which includes Alias vet Victor Garber as Vivian's pharmaceutical-exec dad and Damages' Tate Donovan as her brother, who may or may not have gotten away with a previous murder. Here's the simple truth about Deception: It's as insanely addictive as Revenge in its season-one heyday.

BATES MOTEL (A&E, March): What do you get when Lost's Carlton Cuse and Friday Night Lights' Kerry Ehrin take on one of Alfred Hitchcock's classic films? This utterly original Psycho prequel, which follows teenager Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) as he struggles with normal high-school angstand one abnormally close Mother—in a place where things are not quite what they appear. After the mysterious death of his father, Norman and mom Norma Louise (Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga) attempt to make a fresh start in an eerie Northern California coastal town, where they set about reopening a local motel. The bloody genius of this cable drama is the way it slowly  gets under your skin, at once making you empathize with the troubled teen at its core, even as you're aware of the cross-dressing, butcher-knife-wielding serial killer he'll inevitably become.

Check out the video trailers above, then sound off in the comments about which shows you're most psyched about!

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