Happy new year. This one will be better than the last.
First, in consideration of your feelings and constraints on your time, and our shared hope that the new year brings a cornucopia of delights – mark Sunday, Jan. 15 in your calendar. Make a note to get your PVR in order.
That night, Homeland returns (on Super Channel in Canada, 9 p.m.) and here's the official gist: "Carrie Mathison is back on American soil. She has begun working at a foundation whose efforts are to provide aid to Muslims living in the United States. Season 6 will tackle the after-effects of the U.S. presidential election, taking place entirely between election day and the inauguration." Uh oh.
That same night, PBS launches Victoria in its Masterpiece slot. "Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who) stars as the young Victoria, a tiny (4 foot 11), neglected teenager who overnight became Queen and eventually the most powerful woman in the world." They swooned in Britain when it aired there. You will too, if the Brit-history thing is your bag.
Not to be outdone, also on Jan. 15, HBO launches The Young Pope. That has Jude Law as Pius XIII, a fortysomething newly elected pontiff, believed by the Vatican to be young, with it and charismatic. He's also dangerous, possibly crazy and a crypto-fascist. The Guardian called The Young Pope "this millefeuille of madnesses." Well said. It's a stunningly original drama, made by Oscar-winning film director Paolo Sorrentino. So there.
That's just one weekend to note in the madness of midseason TV. Before the big clash on Jan. 15, CBC has Pure (Jan. 9), a drama about Noah Funk, "a newly elected Mennonite pastor, who is determined to rid his community of drug traffickers by betraying a fellow Mennonite to the police." And that's not the half of it, believe me. CBC also launches (Jan. 10) the comedy Workin' Moms, created by and starring Catherine Reitman, that "tests the modern ideal that women really can have it all." Listen, as least it wasn't given the title The Real Housewives of Canada.
Cardinal, CTV's adaptation of Giles Blunt's award-winning mystery novel, Forty Words for Sorrow, arrives on Jan. 25. From an early look at early portions, it looks excellent – a fine, chilling dive into Canadian noir. Also on the Canadian front, Hulu's 10-part adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, with Elisabeth Moss portraying Offred, starts streaming in April. It's not clear when Canadians will get to see it, or where. Somebody will step up. And on that theme, it's important to note that while there is a coming avalanche of interesting TV, in Canada we remain deprived of numerous channels and series that U.S. critics acclaim.
But, note too that Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée, (C.R.A.Z.Y., Dallas Buyers Club) directs all episodes of HBO's miniseries adaptation of the novel Big Little Lies, about three young mothers whose lives unravel into murderous rage. It stars Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman and is, right now, considered HBO's best shot at the must-see, talked-about series in early 2017. It arrives mid-February. Oh and, if that is not enough, HBO will also deliver The Wizard of Lies this spring, with Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer playing Bernie and Ruth Madoff.
The network midseason fandango is already under way. The Fox comedy The Mick got one sneak airing and lands on the schedule on Tuesday. Star, from Lee Daniels, who created Empire, lands on Wednesday this week and Emerald City, NBC's dark reboot of The Wizard of Oz, starts on Friday.
And, to conclude a short list culled from a very long list, Twin Peaks: 2017 arrives in the spring. So far, the most revelatory information is a trailer that features creator David Lynch eating a doughnut, with that menacing theme music playing. And I haven't even got to Netflix yet. Reasons to be cheerful for early 2017? Yes and yes again.
Celtic Soul (Super Channel, 8 p.m.) is, as I wrote before it had a brief theatrical run in Toronto, "a beautifully eccentric road-trip documentary in which Eoin O'Callaghan takes Jay Baruchel to the west of Ireland to connect with Jay's Irish family roots, and then on to Scotland where Jay sees, for the first time, Glasgow Celtic play. Celtic is his favourite soccer team. He's been a fanatical supporter since he was a kid." It's a splendid, engaging documentary, partly about sport and fandom, partly about the legendary Glasgow Celtic soccer club, but mainly about seeking out and finding "home," that place where you know your soul belongs. It's funny, poignant and utterly charming.