Winter TV: From Philip K. Dick to ‘The Chi’—All the New Midseason Shows You Need to Watch

If you happen to live on the East Coast, then you know this feeling: cold. It’s genuinely, bone-chillingly, brutally cold out there right now. No one wants to leave the house. And for that, there’s another feeling: the idea that you don’t have to abandon the comfort of your couch. Sound boring? It won’t be. Thanks to that joy known as “midseason premieres,” there’s plenty of television coming your way to keep you entertained. From comedians talking to people to the latest crime soap opera from Ryan Murphy, there’s more than enough to fill the hours. Start programming your DVR and Netflix queue now.

The Chi (Sunday nights, Showtime)

One popular media narrative about Chicago’s poor, black neighborhoods is that they’re a breeding ground for bloodshed, a den of bodies and bullets. It’s not all true, but for many residents who call the South Side home, it is an inescapable fact of daily life. In Lena Waithe’s new Showtime drama, The Chi, the Emmy-winning writer is trying to get at the root of these social maladies through the lives of four black men and the city that’s trying to pull them under; Mudbound’s Jason Mitchell and Moonlight’s Alex Hibbert offer up mesmerizing performances (black women are given less screen time, and consequently their characters don’t feel as full). From the batch of episodes I’ve seen, Waithe’s domain is much smaller than the Baltimore evoked in The Wire or even the New Orleans of Treme, dramas as much about a city and its bureaucratic failures as it is about the people who populate it. Her reach doesn’t go much beyond the neighborhood’s limits, which is easy to misinterpret as a weak point, but it turns out to be one of the show’s strongest attributes: its focus on interior storytelling. Two deaths bookend the debut episode, and on the first watch I found this especially cruel, but I think Waithe is trying to take us somewhere new. The violence may be unavoidable, but the stories behind it have a power and a beauty all their own. —Jason Parham

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman (Jan. 12, Netflix)

As David Letterman himself says in the trailer for his new Netflix miniseries: He used to have a late-night show, then he didn’t. Now he (and a lot of other folks, really) are glad he’s back. But that doesn’t mean My Guest Needs No Introduction is just another talk show. Each hour-long episode will feature, yes, a guest, but also field segments related to that person’s interests. And with a VIP list that includes Tina Fey, Jay-Z, Malala Yousafzai, George Clooney, Howard Stern, and Barack Obama himself, those interests promise to be very compelling. New episodes, starting with Obama’s appearance on the premiere, will post each month through June. Come for the conversations, stay for Letterman’s impressive beard. —Angela Watercutter

Corporate (Jan. 17, Comedy Central)

Oh, it’s grim. Oh, it’s so, so grim. If you’re going to watch this unrelentingly bleak (and so very green-tinted) satire of conglomerate-drone life, it’s probably best not to do it in a too-small cubicle, holding an untoasted grocery-store bagel and staring down the barrel of a CC-laden email chain about a minute change in the protocol of the Compliance Department’s bimonthly status meetings. In fact, unless you actually like your job—or are just a fan of Lance Reddick, who blows the roof off this show as the psychopathically driven CEO of multinational megalith Hamtpon DeVille—you may want to stay away entirely. It’s not that it’s not funny, it’s that even the satire is too damn real. —Peter Rubin

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (Jan. 17, FX)

Considering how engrossing and addicting the last installment of American Crime Story was, chances are the latest miniseries from the House that Ryan Murphy Built will be just as good. But unlike The People v. O.J. Simpson, this 10-part series promises a lot more glitz, glam, and psychological thriller thrills. Inspired by the events leading up to—and following—the murder of fashion mogul Gianni Versace, Murphy’s latest crime story will be able to mix the lush, over-the-top Miami life of the legendary designer (played by Edgar Ramirez) with the mental tribulations of his killer, Andrew Cunanan, who murdered four other men before Versace in 1997. Like O.J., however, The Assassination of Gianni Versace has a stacked cast, which includes Ricky Martin (as Versace’s boyfriend Antonio D’Amico) and Penelope Cruz as Versace’s sister Donatella. Fill the watercooler, people are going to be gathering around when this one hits. —Angela Watercutter

Counterpart (Jan. 21, Starz)

OK, so you know how you saw J.K. Simmons be a totally abusive jerk in Whiplash and you were like “Aw man, he was so sweet as the dad in Juno, who’s this guy?” but then you went back and watched Juno and thought, “Damn, maybe I liked the jerk better”? Well, Counterpart promises that you’ll be able to get all the Simmons variants you can handle. In Starz’s new drama he stars as Howard Silk, a bureaucratic nobody in a Berlin-based spy agency who one day meets his “other”—a completely different version of himself from a parallel dimension. The show promises to pose a lot of Sliding Doors-esque questions about what could have been, but more than that it promises two exceptional performances from an overly-talented Oscar winner. Tune in for that, then stick around for the espionage stuff. —Angela Watercutter

Mosaic (Jan. 22, HBO)

You actually don’t have to wait until January 22 to see this miniseries from Steven Soderbergh; it’s been available for weeks. But that was in its app incarnation, which let viewers choose how they wanted to follow the story. The version of Mosaic airing on HBO this winter will be Soderbergh’s six-part linear version. It’s hard to say if it’ll have the same thrills as a show you can control with your smartphone, but it’s still a thriller/mystery from Soderbergh starring Sharon Stone, Garrett Hedlund, and Paul Reubens and that’s always going to be worth checking out. —Angela Watercutter

A.P. Bio (Feb. 1, NBC)

While network sitcoms may be more DOA than LOL these days, NBC has managed to eke out a couple of MVPs in The Good Place and Superstore. Now, it’s hoping to extend that streak by taking harnessing one of the weirder minds Saturday Night Live has turned out in recent years. Mike O’Brien (the guy behind oddities like “Grow A Guy”) seems to have thrown Community and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia in a blender, thrown away 60% of the preening meta-ness, and allowed Dennis Reynolds to run wild. IASIP‘s Glenn Howerton plays Dennis Reynolds Jack Griffin, a disgraced philosophy professor who’s licking his wounds by taking year to teach high school in Toledo. And by “teach,” the show of course means “being an absolute dickbag, save for the slow melting of his icy exterior.” It’s not a fresh approach, but thanks to Howerton’s chops, and solid supporting work from Patton Oswalt and a cast of people I’ve never seen before, it’s worth a shot. —Peter Rubin

2 Dope Queens (Feb. 2, HBO)

Fans of Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson’s podcast 2 Dope Queens probably already know that any TV incarnation of their banter is going to be awkwardly-LOLing-on-the-subway funny. But what the duo are bringing to this series’ four hour-long specials besides their comedy chops are lots of cool friends. Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker, Orange Is the New Black’s Uzo Aduba, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Tituss Burgess, and Williams’ old Daily Show colleague Jon Stewart all show up to talk about everything from hair to black nerds to “hot peen.” The specials, directed by One Mississippi’s Tig Notaro, also feature a lot of guest comedians—and a lot of other predictably dope banter. —Angela Watercutter

Altered Carbon (Feb. 2, Netflix)

The wealthiest man in the world has died—again. And now former soldier Takeshi Kovacs, given a new lease on eternal life, has to solve his murder. With Altered Carbon Netflix is trying to do something wildly ambitious in prestige TV: put a dent in established science fiction viewing habits. Yet everything we’ve seen so far of this show about a world where everyone slides their digitized consciousness from one body to the next suggests it’s up to the challenge. Here’s hoping Netflix manages to capture the technicolor future of Richard K Morgan’s novels while avoiding the more problematic aspects. —Julie Muncy

Here and Now (Feb. 11, HBO)

The thing about Alan Ball’s genius is that it doesn’t reveal itself so easily. With Six Feet Under, he orchestrated a symphony of grief, death, and difficult love in the shape of the Fisher family, innkeepers of a Los Angeles funeral home. On True Blood, Ball again inverted the understanding of community and belonging through the people of Bon Temps, a fictional Louisiana town besieged by shapeshifters, mystics, and sex-obsessed vampires. The exterior of his newest HBO drama, Here and Now, looks to be his most understated yet: in roles outfitted by Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins, a progressive white couple shephards the lives of their four kids, three of which are adopted (from Liberia, Vietnam, and Colombia). Set against the “disparate forces polarizing present-day American culture,” Ball’s chronicle of a multi-ethnic family navigating the pitfalls and promises of contemporary life may be his most compelling experiment yet. —Jason Parham

social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired https://www.wired.com/story/midseason-tv-shows

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