EXCLUSIVE: Ten Must-Watch Half-Season Shows

January brings the return of most of our favorites (come on, February!), but it’s also a time when those pesky little half-season shows make their seasonal debuts. We decided to round up five returning half-seasoners coming back to our screens over the next couple months and five brand new ones that you should be watching this winter as you hunker down with your remote.
—Danielle & Joe

RETURNING

1. The Americans, FX | Wednesdays @ 10 | Season 2 premieres Feb. 26
We’re so obsessed with our number one that we both had to write about it.

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Why we love it:

JK: This is easily my most anticipated show of 2013. The first season, which premiered last year, was phenomenal. What initially drew me in was the Cold War setting – I love a good spy story. But the tightly plotted, well-acted drama has so much more to offer than that. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, who play the Russian sleeper agents locked in a KGB arranged “marriage” are amazing in their roles, making the interpersonal dynamics of their relationship the most interesting aspect of the show (along with all of the awesome wig/costume ensembles Rhys and Russell get to wear).

DT: Matthew Rhys.

2. Bates Motel, A&E | Mondays @ 10 | Season 2 premieres March 3

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Remember Freddie Highmore, that twitchy little kid from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Finding Neverland? Well, he’s all grown up now and creepy as hell as Norman Bates in his pre-Psycho days. Last season began with a teenage Bates moving in next to the aforementioned motel with his overbearing mother, Norma, played by the fierce and fabulous Vera Farmiga. And strange things began to happen … the finale culminated with Norman’s violent side finally making an appearance, foreshadowing of events we know eventually occur. The plot plods along, but it’s just unsettling enough to keep you tuning in each week.
—DT

3. Hannibal, NBC | Fridays @ 10 | Season 2 premieres Feb. 28

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When NBC announced a pilot based on Thomas Harris’ serial killer savant, I was skeptical. How many more police procedurals do we need in primetime? It only took the pilot to convince me otherwise. I can’t overemphasize how beautiful this show is – the camera work, editing, and set design are unparalleled on network television. Mads Mikkelsen in the title role is appropriately charismatic and menacing. The best thing about Hannibal is that it’s legitimately scary, like nightmare-inducing (in the best kind of way).
—JK

4. The Following, FOX | Mondays @ 9 | Season 2 preview Jan. 19, premiere date TBA

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How do cults begin? What makes someone devote their entire lives to someone’s philosophies, even to the point where they’re driven to murder for the cause? The themes explored in “The Following” are undoubtedly interesting, but too slowly executed. Simultaneously brutal and intriguing, the series explores the seedy underbelly of the serial killer psyche. James Purefoy plays Joe Carroll, the Poe-crazed villain with Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy, the FBI agent with personal ties who’s trying desperately to track him down for the sake of his (meaning Carroll’s—uh-oh, plot twist!) wife and young son. The potential was there, but it didn’t hold my interest enough to rope me in for season 2.; it was moved to my DVR kill-list.
—DT

5. Orphan Black, BBC | Saturdays @ 9 | Season 2 premieres April 19

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Television’s best-kept secret is an awesome science fiction program airing all the way in cable’s nether regions on BBC America. I won’t say too much, because pretty much anything would be a spoiler, but Tatiana Maslany proves herself to be one of the best actors working as the protagonist (and antagonist, and periphery characters…). Orphan Black makes a great double feature with BBC’s Doctor Who (returning in the fall).
—JK

NEW

1. Us & Them, FOX | Time slot and series premiere date TBA

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Jason Ritter sure likes his Gilmore girls! In this American knock-off of Gavin & Stacey, Jason and Alexis Bledel play a pair of online daters who finally decide to meet in person. Even though he lives in New York and she lives in Pennsylvania, the hardest part of their budding romance actually turns out to be their interfering family and friends. I admittedly am only giving this a shot because I think Jason is adorable and his break-up with Sarah Braverman was one of the saddest part’s of Parenthood‘s fourth season. I like Alexis well enough, but I literally cringed at the phrase, “geez Louise” in the trailer, so I have my reservations about this one.
—DT

2. The Spoils of Babylon, IFC | Thursdays @ 10 | Premieres Jan. 9 

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IFC is debuting this spoof of an 80’s melodrama, and it looks pretty fantastic. The cable network is known to let it’s comedy shows, like Comedy Bang Bang and Maron get a little strange and creative, which allows for programming unlike anything on television (save for maybe Adult Swim on Cartoon Network). The all-star cast, including Tobey McGuire, Will Ferrell, and Kristen Wiig has me intrigued.

—JK

3. Resurrection, ABC | Sundays @ 9 | Series premiere March 9

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What if a deceased loved one showed up on your doorstep like it was no big deal? “Resurrection” is a walking dead of a different sort, in which people are brought back to life and go on as if no time has passed since their death. Starring Kurtwood Smith (Red Forman!) and Frances Fisher, it looks to put a peculiar twist on the phrase “afterlife.”
—DT

4. True Detective, HBO | Sundays @ 9 | Premieres Jan. 12

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HBO’s new murder mystery series looks like it has some potential. It stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as detectives assigned to a gruesome murder in the bayou. HBO has a good track record, with Game of Thrones, Girls, Vice and much of their other original programming. It’s going to be interesting to see how they handle a procedural.

—JK

5. Enlisted, FOX | Fridays @ 9:30 | Series premiere Jan. 10

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An interesting take on a workplace comedy, “Enlisted,” starring Geoff Stults, “centers on Sgt. Pete Hill who, after a stint in Afghanistan, is stationed at a small military base in Florida to tackle the toughest job of them all leading his dysfunctional brothers’ squad.” (IMDb) Could be interesting. I remember Geoff as Ben Kinkirk from 7th Heaven and if memory serves me well, he and his brother George (Kevin Kinkirk) are boring as bricks as actors with zero personalities. Hey, people can change.
—DT

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