Returning shows: Cable
(HBO, Sundays 9p, returning Jan. 10)
HBO's polygamy drama is coming off its strongest season to date, and one that ended in a flurry of plot developments that point to an equally intriguing fourth season. Oscar-winner Sissy Spacek joins the cast in Season 4 as a Washington lobbyist, and upcoming episodes will explore Alby Grant's homosexuality and find Bill considering a run for political office.
(TNT, Tuesdays 10p, returning Jan. 12/Mar. 2)
The once-canceled NBC cop drama from executive producer John Wells ("ER") returns with a new network (TNT) and a new night (Tuesdays). "Southland" received positive reviews in its original incarnation, and returns with all seven of the original episodes beginning January 12th, followed by six brand-new episodes (which had been shot but never aired on NBC) starting on March 2nd.
(Lifetime, Thursdays 10p, returning Jan. 14)
The good thing about having to wait so long for that last season of "Project Runway"? The next season is already in the can and ready to go. Heidi, Tim and a new set of 16 contestants will make it work in New York City after the previous season took place in Los Angeles. Lifetime's accompanying series "Models of the Runway" returns as well.
(USA, Thursdays 10p, returning Jan. 21)
Although this generally well-reviewed action-dramedy hasn't aired since August, the seven new episodes beginning on January 21st are considered to be part of the same season (the show's third overall). USA has already picked up the Miami-based series, which follows spy-turned-investigator Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan), for a fourth season.
(FX, Mondays 10p, returning Jan. 25)
FX is promoting the third season of its acclaimed legal thriller as having the best cast on television, and that's not far from the truth. Joining back-to-back Emmy-winner Glenn Close and returning stars Rose Byrne, Tate Donovan, and Ted Danson in the upcoming season are Martin Short, Lily Tomlin, Keith Carradine, and Campbell Scott. What all those people will be doing is a mystery, however; FX is not releasing any details about the story.
Secret Diary of a Call Girl / State of the Union
(Showtime, Mondays 10p and 10:30p, returning Jan. 25)
Showtime brings its sexy English import back for a third season (after the first two scored unexpectedly high ratings for the network), while Tracey Ullman's sketch series also returns with a seven-episode Season 3.
Important Things with Demetri Martin
(Comedy Central, Thursdays 10p, returning Feb. 4)
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The Sarah Silverman Program
(Comedy Central, Thursdays 10:30p, returning Feb. 4)
The comedian's quirky sitcom returns for a ten-episode third season, with Sarah set to rig a mayoral election and engage in "competitive Holocaust memorial-building." (We won't spoil who wins.)
Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job
(Adult Swim, Sundays 12:30a, returning Feb. 28)
Signs point to Season 5 -- or should we say, Season Cinco -- of television's most unique show (if you haven't seen it, trust us when we say you'll find it either insanely funny or the most horrible thing you've ever seen) being the last for Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, although the increasingly popular duo have plenty of other projects they are pursuing together. The upcoming 10 episodes may include a "dark finale," a skit about aging boy band the Paynus Brothers, and guest appearances from Richard Marx, Patrick Duffy, Michael Gross, Will Forte, and Zach Galifianakis. No clips have been released yet, so you'll have to settle for this Business Hug to tide you over:
(AMC, Sundays 10p, returning Mar. 7)
While AMC's "Mad Men" gets all of the attention, the network's "other" drama "Breaking Bad" -- while admittedly dark and challenging -- might be that show's equal or better in terms of overall quality, acting, critical acclaim and cinematography. In Season 3, two-time Emmy-winner Bryan Cranston reprises his role as Walter White, a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who supplements his income by manufacturing crystal meth. In addition to dealing with events that developed at the end of the second season, upcoming episodes will feature a potential new partner for Walt, and explore Mexico's growing Santa Muerte ("Saint Death") religious movement.
30 for 30
(ESPN, Sundays 9p, returning Mar. 14)
ESPN's under-the-radar documentary series celebrates the sports network's 30th anniversary with 30 individual documentary features from acclaimed filmmakers, each focusing on an event or phenomenon from the past 30 years. Critics have praised many of the episodes that aired in the fall, and the series resumes in March with films about Michael Jordan's minor league baseball career (from Bull Durham writer-director Ron Shelton), the rise and fall of track star Marion Jones (from John Singleton), Rotisserie baseball, infamous Cubs fan Steve Bartman, the run-and-gun Loyola Marymount teams of the late 1980s, and more.
(Showtime, Mondays 10p, returning Mar. 22)
Too dark to be a straight comedy, and too funny to be a straight drama, Showtime's returning "Nurse Jackie" is, simply, Edie Falco, who captivated critics as a pill-popping nurse and mother in the show's first season last year. Season 2 will feature 12 new episodes, but Haaz Sleiman's character (fellow nurse Mohammed “Mo-Mo” De La Cruz) will not be back.
The United States of Tara
(Showtime, Mondays 10:30p, returning Mar. 22)
Showtime is pairing "Nurse Jackie" with the second season of the Diablo Cody-created "Tara," which earned star Toni Collette an Emmy for her performance as a wife and mother with multiple personalities. Oscar-nominated actress Viola Davis will appear in multiple episodes as an unconventional artist who enters the lives of Tara and her daughter Kate.
(Showtime, Sundays 9p, returning Apr. 11)
The fourth and final season of this costume drama finds King Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) moving on to his final two wives, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr. While one will literally lose her head, Henry only metaphorically loses his by the end of these ten episodes.
(Starz, tbd returning in April)
It's the best show you've never heard of. "Party Down" -- about a small group of employees at a catering company -- is easily one of the funniest comedies on television, although you may have to search through your program guide to find it. While Season 1 cast member Jane Lynch has been lost to Fox's "Glee" (she'll appear in just one of the ten new episodes), Megan Mullally ("Will & Grace") has been added to the ensemble, and Kristen Bell, J.K. Simmons, Joey Lauren Adams, Steve Guttenberg, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse will make guest appearances during Season 2.
View a comprehensive schedule of returning shows by premiere date in Metacritic TV.
What do you think?
What shows are you most looking forward to this winter? Let us know in the comments section below.