Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Sunday, January 13. All times are Eastern.
Girls (HBO, 9 p.m.): One of the most divisive (and rewarding) TV experiences of 2012 returns with its second season, and no matter what Todd VanDerWerff has to say about the next chapter in the lives of Hannah Horvath and friends, you’ve already made up your mind about them. If you love the show, you’re going to love this première; if you hate it, the episode will throw kindling on that ire. (In which case maybe you should divert your attention elsewhere for the evening—save yourself the burst blood vessels and crack open a book or something.)
Once Upon A Time (ABC, 8 p.m.): The plot synopsis for this hour tells of Mr. Gold trying a new spell on “a reluctant guinea pig,” and Oliver Sava really hopes he’s supposed to take that description literally. Who doesn’t love magical guinea pigs?
The Simpsons (Fox, 8 p.m.): Pulling a reverse “Bart The Genius,” the fate of (and funding for) Springfield Elementary rests on the test performance of one Bartholomew J. Simpson. Robert David Sullivan will don his vintage “Bart Simpson: Underachiever (and proud of it, man)” T-shirt for the occasion.
Bob’s Burgers (Fox, 8:30 p.m.): Introduced in the episode “Human Flesh,” Sam Seder’s by-the-books health inspector, Hugo, returns for “Nude Beach.” Rowan Kaiser is detecting a trend with those titles—one that flies in the face of the health/decency standards Hugo is sworn to protect.
Revenge (ABC, 9 p.m.): The show comes across an abstract concept that’s more fun to yell than its own title: “Sabotage.” Carrie Raisler can’t stand it, Revenge, and she knows ya planned it.
The Good Wife (CBS, 9 p.m.): Recurring player Elsbeth Tascioni runs afoul of the law, thus requiring a helping hand from Alicia. In the event neither can perform their lawyerly duties, a David Sims will be assigned to the defendant.
Family Guy (Fox, 9 p.m.): The friendly rivalry between Stewie and Brian gets much less friendly when the former’s new play proves more successful than that of the latter. Kevin McFarland thinks this sounds just like the historical friction between Shakespeare and Marlowe—only it’s more plausible that the Shakespeare to Brian’s Marlowe actually wrote the play attributed to him.
Downton Abbey (PBS, 9 p.m.): With the fate of Downton hanging in the balance, Mary and the Dowager Countess make one last effort to stave off financial ruin. If that doesn’t work, Sonia Saraiya knows a guy who could refinance Lord Grantham’s mortgage for a song.
Shameless (Showtime, 9 p.m.): This hour-long dramedy quietly improved over the course of its second season, and Joshua Alston quietly suggests you check out its third-season debut. Failing that, he loudly insists “Hey, there are BattleBots in this for some reason!”
American Dad (Fox, 9:30 p.m.): Steve’s school project requires Stan to divulge some secrets about his past. The minute the true location of Area 51 is revealed, Kevin McFarland is booking a round-trip flight to the location.
Enlightened (HBO, 9:30 p.m.): Against all odds, this curious little outlier on the HBO grid received a second season, thus giving A.V. Club readers a reason to give the meditative corporate satire a second chance—which ought to go real well with Brandon Nowalk’s reviews.
Happy Endings (ABC, 10:01 p.m.): Previously for British eyes only, the “lost” kickball episode from Happy Endings’ second season gets its due in its nation of origin. In response, David Sims is feverishly removing all the extraneous “u”s and “Wot’s that mate? Yorkshire pudding God save the queen isn’t Benny Hill bloody hilarious?”s from his review.
Don’t Trust The B---- In Apartment 23 (ABC, 10:31 p.m.): June makes nice with women from her gym whom Chloe can’t stand—which doesn’t say a whole lot about the women. They could be rude, they could be overly perky, they could owe Emily Guendelsberger money and Chloe is just angry on Emily’s behalf…
TV CLUB CLASSIC
The Simpsons (3 p.m.): Albert Brooks shows up to voice self-help guru Brad Goodman—meaning Nathan Rabin is only a Hank Scorpio and a Tab Spangler away from watching Brooks saunter off into that overly yellow sunset. (Until he gets to The Simpsons Movie, which, by our calculations, should be sometime in 2029—right around the time Brooks’ army of mordantly humorous clones take control of the U.S. government.)
WHAT ELSE IS ON?
The Golden Globes (NBC, 8 p.m.): The A.V. Club cordially invites you to join in on a live chat about the shammiest sham award show that still enjoys a degree of clout in the film and television spheres. (Or just spend three hours marveling at how wonderful hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are.)
House Of Lies (Showtime, 10 p.m.): Rowan Kaiser takes another look at the venom-soaked comedy The A.V. Club called one of the worst new series of 2012. But hey, maybe it turned into can’t-miss television over the hiatus—and maybe Kristen Bell will come to your house and reenact your favorite Veronica Mars moments if you watch this première episode. (Spoiler alert: It didn’t, and she won’t.)
Pete Rose: Hits & Mrs. (TLC, 10 p.m.): The latest bid for Hall of Fame legitimacy from the MLB’s all-time career hits leader is this six-part TLC docuseries. If it works, watch for Barry Bonds: AsteRisks and Craig BiggiOh My! when nominees for the hall are submitted next year.
Californication (Showtime, 10:30 p.m.): After hearing The A.V. Club might not continue weekly coverage for Californication’s sixth season, the series decided to pull out all the stops and put on a show. Either that or “Hank goes Broadway” was the last log line on the show’s checklist of showbiz settings.
Wanderlust (Cinemax, 7:20 p.m.): The shaggiest of David Wain’s shaggy film output strands Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd on a commune that’s home to crunchy versions of Malin Akerman, Kathryn Hahn, Ken Marino, Jordan Peele, and every other person necessary for making an ensemble comedy in the 2010s.
Revenge (TV Guide, 9 p.m.): Before she was one of the Big Bads of a show about REEEEEEEVEEEEEENGE!, Madeleine Stowe co-starred alongside Kevin Costner in a movie about REEEEEEEVEEEEEEEEEEEENGE! Tony Scott directed, and you’ll holler “REEEEEEVEEEEEEEEENGE!” for a full 120 minutes.
NFL Playoff: Texans at Patriots (CBS, 4:30 p.m.): The Texans magical season could all end here, on the same field where New England handed Houston one of its four losses on the year.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Banshee (Friday): The home of Strike Back and Hunted introduces another blockbuster action thriller made on a pay-cable scale—though the results this time around are less… explosive. Ryan McGee isn’t thrilled about Banshee’s pilot—or that pun we just made about it.