Playing multiple characters as he did in his strange but delightful earlier series We Can Be Heroes and Summer Heights High, Australian comedian Chris Lilley's new show, Angry Boys, is an odd, offbeat charmer. The series is basically about the aches and pains of male adolescence, though Lilley approaches this general topic from strange angles -- he plays twins, one deaf and both harmless delinquents, he plays a black American rapper, and he plays the Asian mother of skateboarder, and he plays a middle-aged lady who's juvenile corrections officer. Not everything hits perfectly, and some of the jokes are Australia-specific in a way that American audiences might not get (us included), but it's a weird and curiously thoughtful show that's at times laugh out loud spot-on. (Premiered on HBO last night, airs Sundays at 10pm)
Project Runway: All Stars
If the recent Top Chef: All Stars season is any indication, inviting back some old favorites can reinvigorate a long-in-the-tooth competition series. And many favorites are indeed back, folks like Austin Scarlett, Rami, and Sweet P. There are also much-reviled villains like Kara Janx and famous cat thrower Kenley Collins. Sure the show's glitter has dimmed since it moved to Lifetime and the creative production team the Magical Elves jumped ship, but the format is still more engaging than most reality television, and really who hasn't missed watching Austin swan around the design room? They ought to make it work and be "in" and all that catchphrasery. (Premieres on Lifetime, Thursday Jan. 5 at 9pm)
Making a series based on characters from an eighteen-year-old movie (and an even older novel) doesn't seem all that innovative, but we're still intrigued nonetheless. A lot of that is owed to the solid cast, which includes Josh Lucas in the lead role, the always terrific but criminally underemployed Molly Parker as his wife, Juliette Lewis as his sassy assistant, and Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer in a recurring role. The show, which is set several years after the action of the original story, could be just another clunky legal drama or ultimately directionless mystery series, but we'll definitely give it a watch for those actors' sake. Juliette Lewis alone makes anything worth checking out, right? (Premieres on NBC, Sunday Jan. 8 at 9pm)
We know we keep harping about this show, but it's a television series, in 2012, about theater! Big, broad, easy-lifting Broadway musical theater, but theater all the same. Which is pretty exciting and extremely rare. (No, Glee does not really count.) And the pilot delivers on all the requisite swoons and silliness of the genre, while also maintaining a surprising level of smarts and sophistication. But mostly yeah: auditions and dance rehearsals and imagined musical numbers! On TV, at long last! (Premieres on NBC, Monday Feb. 6 at 10pm)
ABC's Work It (Jan. 3), about two guys dressing in drag and pretending to be women to get jobs, looks about as horrifying as any new show has in this TV year. The dumbly renamed Are You There, Chelsea? (Jan. 11) seems like a single joke -- Chelsea Handler is a party girl screw up -- that falls flat. Speaking of old jokes, do we really need a Napoleon Dynamite TV series (Jan. 15), almost eight years after the fact? And what we've seen of The River (Feb. 7) takes a cool concept -- found-footage mystery/horror set in the Amazon -- and squashes it with weak writing. But our prediction for worst new show of the midseason is MTV's I Just Want My Pants Back (Feb. 2), a trying-too-hard series about sexy young things living and loving in Brooklyn that, while desperately claiming to be true-to-life, in no way resembles what sexy young things living in Brooklyn are actually like. Here are your pants, now go home.