Winter TV preview: Saul, Frank and others to look forward to

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Congratulations, TV lovers. You’ve survived the least wonderful time of the year. In December, Hollywood takes the equivalent of a long holiday, packing the schedule with reruns and holiday specials you’ve seen 80 times.

Well, never fear. January is almost here.

Over the next few months, some of television’s best shows return, and networks will try to atone for their canceled flops with new, sparkling offerings that just might become must-see viewing.

Here, in chronological order, is a guide to the most promising shows:

 'The Italian Americans'

“Downton Abbey”: A beloved member of the family is dying — the Earl of Grantham’s dog. Don’t worry. It’s not all tea and sympathy. In fact, Season 5 is the rosiest to date, with talk of marriage in the air. Sunday, PBS

“American Idol”: The 14th season kicks off with the judges holding auditions in their hometowns. Wednesday, Fox

“Babylon”: Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) is the latest hotshot film director to jump into television with this dramedy about a modern police force in London. Let’s hope it’s not just “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” with British accents. Thursday, Sundance

“Portlandia”: The Fred Armisen-Carrie Brownstein creation gives us the story we’ve been dying for: the history of feminist bookstore owners Toni and Candice. Look for guest appearances from Matt Groening, Seth Meyers, Oscar the Grouch and Paul Simon. Thursday, IFC

“Girls”: Hawkeye haters will side with Lena Dunham’s self-destructive character Hannah as she enrolls in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and immediately butts heads with her fellow classmates. Jan. 11, HBO

“Togetherness”: Jay and Mark Duplass, a staple on the indie-film scene, make their TV debut as a writing team in this comedy about four adults crawling toward their 40s. The brothers may not have any major hits under their belts, but they’re always interesting. Jan. 11, HBO

“Parks and Recreation”: There are only 13 episodes left of this undervalued sitcom that makes a three-year jump from the end of last season. Look for Megan Mullally, Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe to pop in for their final goodbyes. Jan. 13, NBC

“Wrestling With Death”: For those who like their reality TV country-fried, meet the Lathams of Osceola, Ark., who run a funeral home by day and then operate a wrestling league at night. Jan. 13, WGN America

“12 Monkeys”: Terry Gilliam’s 1995 sci-fi film gets the small-screen treatment as a man travels into the past to stop a plague that’s wiping out most of humanity. Jan. 16, Syfy

“Whitney”: Angela Bassett makes her directorial debut in this biopic that’s more fascinated with Whitney Houston’s relationship with Bobby Brown than her voice. Jan. 17, Lifetime

“Backstrom”: Now that “House” has retired, Fox needs a new pain-in-the-behind hero. Enter Rainn Wilson, playing a decidedly more brilliant jerk than he did on “The Office.” He’s a rumpled Portland detective who does not have a badge in political correctness. Jan. 22, Fox.

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