By Chuck Barney
As usual, the early part of the new year presents a gluttonous feast for television fans who have been eagerly anticipating the return of old favorites such as “American Idol,” “Lost,” “24” and others.
But it’s also time to look ahead to several new programs streaming down the pipeline. Here are a few that have piqued our interest:
“The Pacific” (HBO): So far, we’ve glimpsed only a couple of short trailers and an online slide show, but it has been enough to boost our excitement for this long-awaited 10-part follow-up to “Band of Brothers.” Once again, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg turn their attention to World War II — this time presenting the epic action from the perspective of a group of U.S. Marines. Shot in Australia, the budget is enormous, and the battle scenes spectacular, but, as usual, we’re counting on the intimate personal stories to draw us in. (Debuts March 14).
“Justified” (FX, March): Timothy Olyphant (“Deadwood”) stars as a modern-day Deputy U.S. Marshal in this drama series, formerly titled “Lawman.” We’ve got some good blood lines here: The character, Raylan Givens, comes to us from famed novelist Elmore Leonard, and the series was developed by Graham Yost (“Boomtown”). FX previously struck gold in the crime genre with “The Shield.” (Debuts in March; Date TBA)
“The 39 Steps” (PBS): “Masterpiece Classic” favorite Rupert Penry-Jones stars in this romantic new remake about a secret agent who tangles with German spies on the eve of World War I. We’re curious to see how it stacks up against the thrilling page-turner by John Buchan and the big-screen classic by Alfred Hitchcock. (Debuts Feb. 25).
“Life Unexpected” (The CW): Critics have been chirping about the charming pilot of this offbeat family drama since last summer. It’s about a teenager (Britt Robertson) who was abandoned at birth and re-connects with her parents (Shiri Appleby and Kristoffer Polaha). Although they are no longer a couple, they agree to take on guardianship responsibilities. (Debuts Jan. 18).
“Rubicon” (AMC): First came “Mad Men” and then “Breaking Bad.” Now, AMC goes for the quality hat trick with this political mystery drama. The show is pegged to a brilliant analyst (James Badge Dale) at a national think tank whose work leads him to uncover a clue that points to an unfolding global conspiracy. Lili Taylor and Miranda Richardson also star. (TBA).
Also on our radar: In May, “Lost” (ABC) will air its highly-anticipated series finale (TBA). We’re expecting it to be the subject of college dissertations. With “The Wire,” David Simon created one of the best TV dramas ever. Now, he delivers “Treme” (HBO), a series that explores the cultural scene in New Orleans, post-Katrina (April). “America The Story of Us” (History Channel) is an epic 12-part series that tries to wrap its arms around 400 years of U.S. history. (TBA). The 11-part “Life” (Discovery Channel) might be even more ambitious, spanning every continent to provide a “definitive exploration of our planet’s living things.” (March).