The Great Midseason TV Cram: 8 Shows to Catch Up On for 2013

New episodes are dwindling as we near the end of the year, and after this week it's safe to say that your DVR will (mostly) be hibernating until January. But don't let the lack of television fool you into spending your precious viewing hours visiting with your family and friends or engaging in holiday cheer! Now is the perfect time catch up on returning midseason series, so we've compiled a checklist of shows that deserve your immediate attention—the better to prepare you for their upcoming premieres. Pour yourself a glass of eggnog, grab a plate of gingerbread men, and start cramming!


Note: You won't find Archer, Justified, Portlandia, Pretty Little Liars, Being Human, Downton Abbey, or Spartacus on this list, simply because they appeared on it last year and we wanted to highlight different shows. But you should totally catch up on many of those, too.



Bunheads

The second half of Season 1 begins Monday, January 7 at 9pm on ABC Family

COMMITMENT: Ten episodes of the Gilmore Girls-style speed-talking you didn't know you missed.

WHY YOU SHOULD CATCH UP NOW: Don't be faked out by the series' name; while it may be a goofball, esoteric reference to ballet dancers, there's a humor and voice to Bunheads that's not well-represented anywhere else on television. The series follows Michelle Simms, an ambitious Vegas showgirl victimized by circumstance to live in a small, not-at-all-Vegas town whose residents find her peculiar, perplexing, and maybe a little whorish. Naturally, she's a hit with all the high school girls who've been taking ballet all their lives under the guidance of a stringent mistress and town matriarch who, by that same twist of fate, is Michelle's new housemate. The show is bright, at times cheery, but not without moments of pathos. For Gilmore Girls fans—Bunheads is the work of GG creator Amy Sherman-Palladino—it's like watching an alternate universe where Stars Hollow rejects Lorelai like a baboon heart and it's fascinating. Also, in one of the episodes, there's a dream dance sequence set to "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," so that should sew it up for you right there.

CHEAT SHEET: Watch the pilot, "For Fanny" (Episode 2), and "Nutcracker in Paradise" (Episode 10) to get a basic feel for the story. Catch "Movie Truck" (Episode 6) and "What's Your Damage, Heather?" (Episode 7) for more insight into the kids. GG fans should probably make sure to include "No One Takes Khaleesi's Dragons" (Episode 9) for a Kirk fix. —Nick Campbell



Cougar Town

Season 4 premieres Tuesday, January 8 at 10pm on TBS

COMMITMENT: Three seasons comprised of sixty-one half-hour episodes, though almost everyone—including producer Bill Lawrence, in oft-repeated public statements—recommends you skip the first few and start at either Episode six, “A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me),” or the Season 1 Thanksgiving episode, “Here Comes My Girl.”

WHY YOU SHOULD CATCH UP NOW: If you’ve avoided Cougar Town because of its title or its erstwhile premise, you’re missing out on a sitcom with more warmth and nuance than those high-concept vestiges suggest. (And if you've avoided it because of its low ratings on ABC, its move to TBS for Season 4 should give it a little more freedom in the numbers department.) In the last two-and-half seasons, the series has rounded into a fine ensemble piece about friends and neighbors forging a charmingly codependent (and wine-dependent) community. The cast—which features Courteney Cox, Christa Miller, Busy Philipps, and Brian Van Holt—shares an easy, buoyant chemistry that preserves the balance between unabashed silliness and emotional honesty. Co-created by Lawrence and Kevin Biegel, Cougar Town shares the manic comic sensibility of their previous work, Scrubs (as well as many of that show's actors in roles of various size); if you enjoyed Scrubs, you’ll probably enjoy this one, too.

CHEAT SHEET: Fifty-plus episodes can be a lot for a show not currently streaming on Netflix or Hulu. If you want a sample, add Season 2, Disc 1 to your Netflix queue; it includes an especially winning string of episodes, and a representative cross-section of Cougar Town’s comic and emotional strengths. —Andy Daglas



Enlightened

Season 2 premieres Sunday, January 13 at 9:30pm on HBO

COMMITMENT: One enriching and life-affirming ten-episode season.

WHY YOU SHOULD CATCH UP NOW: One of television's under-discussed gems, the not-quite-comedy-not-quite-drama-not-for-everyone Enlightened stars Laura Dern as Amy Jellicoe, a woman who treats a work-related nervous breakdown with New Age mumbo-jumbo and returns to the office as a self-proclaimed "agent of change" and proponent for all things eco-friendly who's in harmony with the universe's invisible vibes, man. Amy is one of television's most fascinating characters; her well-intentioned good will is grating on those around her, just like those Greenpeace kids who go door-to-door, but Enlightened manages to simultaneously parody and praise the do-good movement by making Amy both a villain to the accepted norm and a champion for quieter voices, whether they be dolphins in fishing nets or the losers in her basement department. But where Enlightened is especially wondrous is in its overall production. This is the most "complete" show on TV next to Breaking Bad because of its cinematography, musical score, direction, and writing. I was late to Enlightened, like many of you probably were, but once I started I devoured it. I LOVE this show.

CHEAT SHEET: There's no such thing as a bad episode in Season 1, and because they're only thirty minutes long, you're just being lazy if you skip around. But if you must, watch the ground-laying "Pilot," the mobbing "Someone Else's Life," the mystical "The Weekend," the charming "Sandy," and the alternate-perspective-showcasing "Consider Helen," one of the best episodes of television in all of 2011, when the show last aired. —Tim Surette



Girls

Season 2 premieres Sunday, January 13 at 10:30pm on HBO

COMMITMENT: Ten very marathon-able half-hour episodes.

WHY YOU SHOULD CATCH UP NOW: Hopefully by now we can forget about that weird buzz-typhoon that accompanied Girls' premiere, but make no mistake, initially it was downright impossible to appreciate creator Lena Dunham's quarterlife dramedy on its own merits. Words like "wunderkind" or "overprivileged" or "hipster" or "white-centric" were thrown around as though they couldn't be applied to nearly any successful modern comedy, and one big fact got lost in all that noise: Girls is terrific. Who knew a show about a very specific group of friends from a very narrow demographic could hold such universal appeal? With its understated humor, observational wit, fantastic soundtrack, and occasionally heart-wrenching angst, Girls is not only a show to fall in love with, it's a show that aims to love you back.

CHEAT SHEET: Ten episodes is not a huge commitment, plus most of the show's subtle emotional arcs benefit from experiencing every awkward moment. But definitely don't miss "Pilot," "All Adventurous Women Do," "Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident," and "She Did." —Price Peterson



The Legend of Korra

Book 2 (the second half of Season 1) premieres sometime in 2013—we're hoping for spring—on Nickelodeon

COMMITMENT: Twelve half-hour episodes of animated awesome.

WHY YOU SHOULD CATCH UP NOW: The Legend of Korra is one of my top shows of 2012, so it shouldn't be a surprise that I think everyone should prepare for the next installment. The show takes place 70 years after the also awesome Avatar: The Last Airbender; the titular character is the world's latest incarnation of the Avatar, a spiritual figure who can bend (read: control) all four elements—earth, air, water, and fire—while other people can only bend one element, and some no elements at all. Set in a city rife with anti-bending rhetoric from a group calling themselves the Equalists, the series has lots of terrifically animated and choreographed action and a dark, twisty, and compelling plot that at its core is about class and politics. It won't be long before you forget you're watching a "kids' show." And you'll be okay to watch Korra even if you've never seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, so don't let that deter you... though having seen it will add a bit of depth to some aspects in Korra.

CHEAT SHEET: It's twelve episodes of a half-hour show! You can watch it on a single Saturday! Oh, like you've never watched twelve episodes of something in a day? Fiiiiiiine. I guess you can skip to Episode 6, "And The Winner Is...," to get a sense of the show during one of its best episodes without being totally lost or having too much spoiled. If you like it, go back an start from Episode 1 and work forward to have some plot holes filled in. And then, since you watched it all in one day, you can just move on to all three seasons of A:TLA! —Noel Kirkpatrick



Shameless

Season 3 premieres Sunday, January 13 at 9pm on Showtime

COMMITMENT: Twenty-four hours of sometimes-silly comedy, realistic family drama, and cathartic, raw emotion.

WHY YOU SHOULD CATCH UP NOW: We throw around terms like "underrated" so often that the designation almost loses all meaning, but Shameless is, without a doubt, the most underrated show on television. It doesn't get any real awards attention and it's never brought up in the discourse of current greats, and that's just, well, a shame. Part of the reason you probably haven't caught up is that Showtime wrongly promotes and positions the show as if it's this wacky family comedy with William H. Macy at the center and while those things aren't untrue, they also aren't really fundamental to what makes Shameless tick. This is a show about the whole (giant) Gallagher family, and somehow, John Wells and his writing staff manage to service each of the characters quite consistently. But at the center is a powerhouse, complex performance by Emmy Rossum that rivals all the great leading performances across television. Few shows know how to build devastating, wrenching moments like Shameless. If you like Parenthood but wish the Bravermans weren't so well-off and comfortable, this is a show for you.

CHEAT SHEET: The show is serialized but not extremely plot heavy, so in theory, you could jump in with the beginning of season three this January. But in doing so, you'll be missing out on wonderful character development and a number of good, long cries. At worst, burn through the second season's dozen episodes. —Cory Barker



Suits

The second half of Season 2 beings Thursday, January 17 at 10pm on USA

COMMITMENT: Twenty-two one-hour episodes full of snarky comebacks, bromance, and Gina Torres being an HBIC.

WHY YOU SHOULD CATCH UP NOW: The first season of Suits was great and all, but the first half of the second season, which left us clinging to the side of Hiatus Mountain back in August, managed to take an enjoyable show with an admittedly slapsticky premise—former slacker fakes his way to corporate lawyer nirvana—and turn it into a captivating, character-driven drama. Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams cash in on their chemistry as two of the most complimentary characters to hit USA since Neal and Peter over on network sibling White Collar, and they keep the tone from getting TOO heavy with pop-culture laden barbs, but the stakes are very real this season with a few blasts from the past showing up to ruffle our leads' impeccably dressed feathers.

CHEAT SHEET: The entire series is currently available on Hulu, but if you don’t want to go back and start from the veeeery beginning, you can probably get a handle on Season 1 armed with the pilot and the Wikipedia summary. However, we’re only ten glorious episodes into Season 2 and January 17 is almost an entire month away, which is ALMOST forever, so, uh, no excuses. Besides, do you REALLY want to skip Gale from Breaking Bad being a manipulative dick for ten episodes? I didn’t think so. —MaryAnn Sleasman



Workaholics

The second half of Season 3 premieres Wednesday, January 16 at 10pm on Comedy Central

COMMITMENT: Thirty half-hour episodes full of glossy-eyed goodness.

WHY YOU SHOULD CATCH UP NOW: You know those types of guys who start off as abrasive jerks but after a few beers with them you realize that they're just good-natured, insane magnets of fun? That's Ders, Adam, and Blake, the stars of this rollicking Comedy Central slacker comedy. Workaholics is littered with jokes about boners and marijuana—topics that often lead to fratty locker-room talk—but in the hands of the show's bumbling stars result in blissfully unaware and hilarious idiocy. This is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia for a new generation that prefers its scumbags stupid instead of selfish.

CHEAT SHEET: There's nothing serialized about the show, so feel free to flip around. But if you're looking for highlights, try Season 1's "To Friend a Predator," Season 2's "Dry Guys" and "6 Hours Till Hedonism II," and Season 3's "The Business Trip," "Real Time," and "Flashback in the Day." —Tim


Which returning midseason shows are you most looking forward to? What's on your personal "shows to catch up on" list?

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I really enjoy Bunheads. Definitely recommend catching up on that. As well as Don't Trust The B in Apartment 23 and Happy Endings.
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Definitely agree on Korra. Phenomenal show that really deserves to have the "kids show" moniker removed. The original Avatar was often more popular with adults than it was with kids due to the very strong writing, story, and choreography. Korra takes it a couple notches further with a darker, more involved and intellectual storyline, and older characters. This show truly is a must.
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Enlightened, Girls and Workaholics are no brainers. Quality TV. Not sure why I stopped watching Shameless. I remember liking it. But Suits is the new overrated show of the decade, replacing Modern Family. The others, well, to quote every TV troll out there: "eh"
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Shameless and Suits are both 2 of my favorite shows on television right now. Shameless is funny, gritty, and emotional all at the same time. They party, have sex, steal, and basically do whatever they need to to get by, yet remain this loyal family who resolutely takes care of each other.

And Suits, is fantastic. Gabriel Macht as Harvey Specter is one of the greatest characters on television right now. With Patrick Adams as Mike, the photographic memory having sometimes pot smoking brilliant intern, it's a must see.
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Shameless is AMAZING!- Everyone should watch it. It's got so much more depth to it than the UK version. The character development is fantastic and you just laugh, cringe and cry in almost every episode. So so good.
I'm from Manchester, England btw.
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I started catching up on "Enlightened" after reading this article. I didn't think I'd like it despite the strong cast, but it really is funny and uplifting. A good choice for sprinkling some light onto my darker TV choices.

Folks, if you had to pick between Suits and Girls, which would you choose?
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Suits is really good but sometimes I feel like I'm watching the same episode over and over again. You gotta go with Girls IMO. It's the younger, broker generation of Sex and The City. Brilliant writing. Excellent music.
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Suits, definitely!!
The girls in GIRLS are so annoying it's unbelievable!
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Thanks. I shall give Suits a whirl. :D
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suits and cougar town are good. watched first episode of shameless but couldnt get into it have watched all of the shameless uk and this one is just basically the american version same names etc, i think it like the inbetweeners us didnt go anywhere because same story line as the uk version would be more interestimg if wasnt same
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The first seasons of Shameless were almost identical to the UK version, scene for scene, word for word at times, but by the end of season 1, and especially season 2, it had taken a whole different course all its own. And lets face it, the US version is miles ahead of the UK version in terms of production values (lighting, camera, sound, etc)
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They might have the money to throw at the production end of things but a pig with lipstick on is still a pig. Much prefer the UK version.
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Have to agree. The coarseness of the UK version just works. I try to watch the US version as I usually like William H. Macy's work, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I think those of us who spent years watching the UK version find it hard to adapt, as it was such a brilliant piece for its time.
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I personally had the opposite opinion. I watched the first 3 seasons of the UK series, then the US, then the rest of the UK series and found it more and more contrived and depressing as it just kept dragging on. But, to each their own.
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Enlightened & suits they both are awesome bunheads is also good.But girls is worst season i didn't like it at all.
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90210 anyone?
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I'll probably give "Enlightened" a try- finally! I've been hearing a lot about it, but never quite felt like it. I don't really know why. Maybe I've never thought the premise that interesting or the fact that's a comedy, or just had too many shows to watch already. Since it's low season on tv now, I gotta find something to watch. I really like "Shameless" and I definitely recommend it. It's not my favorite show out there, but it's pretty good. The acting is great and although it can be a little silly at times, but it can be outrageously funny and daring most of the time.

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Thanks for recommending Shameless, one of the best and most brilliantly acted shows out there!
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I've only seen cougar town and I love it!
Shameless seems to be the most interesting show in this list
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What about Young Justice?!
Same level as Legend of Korra!
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Sorry, but no. Young Justice, while good, does not come close to the level of quality that is Legend of Korra. And this comes from someone who avidly watches both series.
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I love Bunheads, Shameless (the UK version sucks compared to the US version which is sorta a total switch from other adaptments imo) and Suits.
Still haven't seen anything from Enlightment or Girls so I need to get my hands on those boxes. Cougar Town is my guilty pleasure *schh*
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I would of loved to see Jane By Design in that category but of course ABC Family has to cancel it! My year was ruined! :( I could care less about Bunheads.
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yeah!! Girls and Suits! Can't wait til they both come back!!
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californication??? anyone????
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suits and shameless are fabulous
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I decided today I'll catch up on Revenge over the holidays. I'd only seen the pilot and it was okay, but I didn't watch any episodes after that because I thought it'd be too soap opera-y for me. Anyone want to talk me out of watching it? Heh.
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u should definitely watch revenge
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Love Bunheads so I'm glad it's mentioned.I am trying to catch up as much as possible on Switched at Birth-I decided to give it a try and watched the last eight episodes of season one when they aired & just bought vol. one of it on dvd and am catching up on the first 10 episodes of the series before season two starts.Ill have to wait til episodes 11-22 are avaiable on DVD to catch up.
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"House of Lies" one of the funniest,smartest and most innovative shows ever. I,m just glad I see how great it is. This show deserves much more appreciation than it gets!!
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Ya I'm not sure how this show hasn't caught on a bit more, considering its lead role in Don Cheadle. Absolutely hilarious show.
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I love that you're one of the two sites (other is A.V. Club) that gives a sh*t about Enlightened. I mean like it IS one of the most best comedy or drama or whatever genre it is on TV right now. It gives the audience something to laugh and cry about. And it also gives you the sense of ~change, as if you're Amy, after every episode.
In other words, I cannot wait for the new season (along with Girls, Suits, Shameless and Korra)
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Lost Girl should be on this list too!
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Love me some Lost Girl! S3 starts in a couple weeks too!
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I just bought the S1 box, can't wait to see it.
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Loving Suits, can't wait for the 2nd part of S2. The 1st Season was great but the 2nd really blew up the roof and became amazing.
May try to catch up on Bunheads, Girls and/or The Legend of Korra during the holidays....
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First season of Shameless was amazing. But I got really disappointed at season 2. I didn´t finish it. So if you watch it, maybe remember to low your expectations on the second one so you can still feel happy about it.

Suits is defenitely underrated. It's never boring. It has far less characters than The Good Wife and lacks the political side. But there is the sense of humour and very good writing as well. If you like the pilot, you will like it all.
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Shameless and Workaholics are my favorites.
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I love Shameless and Girls :)
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suits ☺
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Cougar Town :D
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None of the above
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took the words right outta my mouth.
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Bunheads & Suits!!
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SUITS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ahem. Witty dialogue, wardrobe that is out of this world, pretty, savvy, sassy, and smart people/characters. Great dynamics/relationships for everyone. High stakes. Suits started off awesome and season 2 just knocked it out of the park so far...so yeah. I'm catchup on Suits if I can find the time, even though I've probably seen every episode at least twice already.
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korra!! :D
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shoutouts to having legend of korra in here WOOOOT :D:D!!!!
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JUSTIFIED returns january 8th and really looking forward to it.
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Agreed, that really should've made the article.
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I think list is really for the more underrated shows that not alot of people are watching right now. Justified is one of FXs biggest shows, its not something they really need to put in this list.
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Yes, Justified! I envy those who can marathon now, and watch it with fresh eyes. You've got time until the 8th!
I recommend everyone who hasn't, to catch up with Person of Interest before it comes back next week. I watched all season one during the summer and man, what a honeymoon! My boyfriend was jealous! ^_^
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Suits
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I know I'm extremely excited that Lost Girl starts January!!!... Although I live in Canada so maybe that's only here? Anyways, yay new season of Lost Girl!!!
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Korra!!
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I highly, HIGHLY, recommend Suits. It's brilliant and I challenge you all to watch it and not fall in love with Donna.

Shameless and Cougar Town are also fantastic. The US version of Shameless is better than the original UK version (which was great for about 4 season but now it's crap). Emmy Rossum has been nothing short of phenomenal and definitely deserves a lot more recognition from the award's fairies.

I noticed Archer at the top of the article, which shouldn't need to be on this list because EVERYONE should already be up-to-date with the purely brilliant super-spy!

I've been wondering about Workaholics but it keeps getting compared to It's Always Sunny... which I don't like, but maybe I'll give it a go. I did watch the pilot for both Girls and Enlightened but I didn't enjoy either enough to continue watching, although now I'm wishing I'd at least given them the four episode test each.

I have absolutely no good reason for not watching Korra (or Avatar for that matter). I remember watching the pilot of Avatar but for some unfathomable reason I never followed it up. Maybe it was just because of the already overburdened list of shows that I was "currently" watching?

As for last years list, I was already up-to-date with Archer, Pretty Little Liars and Spartacus (although I've since let that slip). I still haven't started Justified, Being Human or Downton Abby though. I don't like Portlandia so that's out!

I think the only show that you missed off the list is Southland, which is one of the best (if not the best) cop show currently in production. Realistic, relatable characters, well written and well shot, it's great. Give it a try!
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KORRA!

The Problem with the ATLA is that there are a bunch of episodes that aren't important during that season, but then the characters come back in a later season.
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FYI, is the Lying Game any good?
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it;s a lot better than i thought it would be... despite the soapy premise, the characters are all believable and the villains are villainous and it;s very addicting
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I love soapy! Lol
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I like it, but i'm a sucker for teen shows!
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As am I! That's why I was wondering, because the promos during pll always intrigued me lol
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I'm catching up now on netflix and I'm in love! Thanks guys :)
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Depends, do you like Pretty Little Liars? It's very similar to that show, in tone and style.
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I love PLL, I just hated the slow pace of the whole who's A in the beginning
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Can't wait till Suits returns! Also, I loved the British version of Shameless, so I never really bothered to watch the US version. But I might give it a try now.
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Suits is the only one I care about.
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Shameless and Suits.
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White Collar? IMO one of the best shows on TV...
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Yes, love it too, and I prefer it to Suits. Suits is brilliant, with interesting characters like Donna or Louis (twisted, always fun). But after an initial coup de fondre, I realised it is a show that portraits success in a very conventional way -win! make piles of money! defeat the opponent! crush them under your shoe!- and I got a bit bored. Sad, because I think it's a great show, but I simply got fed up of all those glossy, sleek carpeted offices where people spent 20 hours a day plotting and succeeding. White Collar is just fresher, it also deals with friendship, but focuses in the differences between the characters, rather than bringing the young pup to the pack and try to make him learn from you- and plus, you get to see great art! I simply find the Neal-Peter duo more amusing than the Harvey-Mike one.
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YES! You've said all I wanted to say but couldn't find the words. I just want to add that I love how White Collar realistically deals with conscience, family and the whole issue of roots. I think they did a great job with Neal's evolution from a con whose only redeeming quality is his unconditional love for a girl to a person who has a life (and people in it) that's worth fighting for.
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white collar?
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Don't forget ,House of Lies, returning Jan13. Suits, House of Lies and Shameless, great fun.
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Shameless Girls and Enlightened Bunheads are what I like in a Cougar Town.

Also: Archer (duh!), PLL and Spartacus.
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White Collar. Also Warehouse 13, but the second half of the season doesn't start until April.
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I love Shameless. Watch it. Its very Showtime.
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