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2013 TV: Past favorites, new shows make list of 10 to watch

By Jennifer Vineyard, Special to CNN
January 4, 2013 -- Updated 1833 GMT (0233 HKT)
Fox's new series starring Kevin Bacon,
Fox's new series starring Kevin Bacon, "The Following," is a series to watch in 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some of TV's delectable dramas will be in hibernation for a while longer
  • In the meantime, there are 10 other series to watch in 2013
  • Those include returning shows like "Game of Thrones" and "Girls"
  • There are also new series highlighted, like "The Following" and "The Americans"

Editor's note: This post may contain spoilers.

(CNN) -- While some of the more delectable TV dramas will be in hibernation for a little while longer -- "The Walking Dead" returns from its fall finale February 10, while "Breaking Bad," "True Blood" and "Dexter" will be back for new seasons later this year -- and other long-loved comedies will be coming to an end ("30 Rock" and "The Office"), there are still some promising new programs for TV lovers, as well as some returning favorites.

CNN Entertainment rounds up the best of what to watch in 2013. Ready, set (your DVRs), let's go:

"Game of Thrones," Sunday, March 31, HBO

Is it fair to say that the most anticipated show is the most pirated one? The third season of "Game of Thrones" is part of the third book (and longest volume) of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, "A Storm of Swords" (the rest of the book will become season four). Breaking up the book into two seasons still means some subplots and backstories have been scrapped for maximum impact -- and bloodshed. Martin says he plans to hide from the Internet during one of the episodes (perhaps the Red Wedding?) because he expects massive outrage beyond the level of when Ned Stark was beheaded. You've been warned.

Meanwhile, there are a ton of new cast members helping out the rest of the Stark family: Bran learns to control his psychic powers with a new friend, Jojen Reed (played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster); Sansa gains a new ally in the Queen of Thorns (Diana Rigg); Jon Snow has to get in good with the King-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds); and there's still the problem of the White Walkers.

All this, of course, readers of the books know, but expect some twists not in the original material along the lines of Daenerys' kidnapped dragons last season. "There's such a loyal fan base for the books that you would get really weighed down in the obligations to the fans (so) you have to make it your own," said Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion. "Otherwise, it's too much pressure."

"The Following," Monday, January 21 at 9 p.m. on Fox

A lone serial killer is scary enough, but Kevin Williamson's new drama "The Following" multiplies the possibilities. What if a serial killer started a cult, and turned other people into serial killers as well? The incredibly intelligent and charismatic Joe Carroll (played by James Purefoy) is incarcerated, but his followers are out there in the world, killing in his name and style, with a murder philosophy inspired by Edgar Allen Poe.

The FBI brings in a former agent to consult, the troubled Ryan Hardy (played by Kevin Bacon), who put Carroll away in the first place. But this is all part of Carroll's larger plot, which also includes kidnapping his son from his ex-wife (Natalie Zea), a love interest he and Hardy share. All the twists and turns (and sex and violence) make this intense and unsettling show a must-see, even if sometimes you'll want to cover your eyes.

In other serial killer news, later this year we'll get two prequel series: NBC's "Hannibal," about FBI agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and his work with the infamous Hannibal Lecter before he realized his predilections. "The X Files'" Gillian Anderson returns to TV after 10 years to play Lecter's psychiatrist. The second series, "Bates Motel" on A&E, is about "Psycho" character Norman Bates while his mother was still alive. Airdates for both are still to be decided.

"The Americans," Wednesday, January 30 at 10 p.m., FX

It's 1981, the start of Ronald Reagan's presidency, and two Cold War spies from Russia are living in America, posing as an American couple with kids in the suburbs of Washington. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, who have an arranged marriage so they can be sleeper agents with a network of informants, even if over time, the marriage actually becomes real (or at least real enough to fool the kids, who have no idea). Down the street, Stan, one of the neighbors, is an FBI counterintelligence agent, setting the stage for some messy interactions. Show creator Joe Weisberg is a former CIA agent (as well as the son of ultraconnected Lois Weisberg), and the time slot is the former home of "American Horror Story," so expect it to be gritty and dark.

"Downton Abbey," Sunday, January 6 at 9 p.m., PBS

World War I is over when season three begins, but a bad investment has derailed the Crawley family fortune -- or rather, Cora's fortune -- so if the Earl of Grantham wants to maintain their lavish lifestyle, cuts will have to be made -- or someone with funds will have to be convinced to hand it over. This is the setting for the visit of Cora's mother, Martha (played by Shirley MacLaine), for the impending wedding of Matthew and Mary, which of course unnerves the Dowager Countess. She quips, "I'm so looking forward to seeing your mother again. When I'm with her, I'm reminded of the virtues of being English." "But isn't she American?" Matthew asks. "Exactly," she replies.

Despite a few additions in the cast (downstairs servants, babies), the cast was also downsized: the deaths of not one but two major characters loom this season. Have the Kleenex ready.

"The Carrie Diaries," Monday, January 14 at 8 p.m., CW

What was Carrie Bradshaw like before we met her on HBO's "Sex and the City"? Courtesy of Candace Bushnell's book series, the CW has an answer in "The Carrie Diaries," which starts shortly after her mom's death.

There's a bit of retroactive continuity at play; granted, very little was mentioned about that time period on "SATC," but now there's a bratty sister and a father who didn't leave. At the start of her junior year, Carrie (played by AnnaSophia Robb) balances friends, frenemies, first crushes (the delectable Sebastian), and losing her virginity (Seth Bateman's rec room ping pong table beckons). An internship at a law firm in Manhattan gives her the opportunity to meet and mingle with a glamorous new world.

If the series follows the books, we'll also eventually get to meet a young -- but still slightly older -- Samantha Jones, who turns out to be cousins with the most popular girl in school, Donna LaDonna. Expect the clothes to be retro and fabulous, courtesy of costume designer Eric Daman, an original "Sex and the City" wardrobe alum and the man responsible for the fashion on "Gossip Girl."

"Arrested Development," spring, to be decided, Netflix

It has been a long seven years since "Arrested Development" was on Fox, but the Bluth family's revival on Netflix is almost upon us. The entire original cast returns for a 12- to 15-episode run (already expanded from the original order of 10) that will be available to watch all in one fell swoop.

This time around, the show will work as an anthology, with each episode focusing on one particular character (Michael, Gob, Buster, et al), where they've been since the family fell apart, and how they've been brought back together to help set up the eventual "AD" movie. Liza Minnelli, Judy Greer, Isla Fisher, Carl Weathers and John Slattery will be among the guest stars. No touching!

For those who can't wait until spring for their madcap comedy fix, we recommend "Community," which returns to NBC on February 7.

"Girls," Sunday, January 13 at 9 p.m., HBO

Will Hannah and her friends grow up in "Girls" this season? A little bit. Now living with gay ex-boyfriend Elijah, Hannah (show creator Lena Dunham) struggles to find experiences to write about -- and luckily for her, she's got new love interests post-Adam in Donald Glover and Patrick Wilson.

Not so luckily for Adam, who's still recovering from being hit by a truck. He's not over Hannah, try though he may. Marnie can't quite get rid of Charlie, either, and she's finally about to take on some bold sexual proposals, even if her relationship with her mother (played by Rita Wilson) has undermined her confidence. "Our relationship is slightly antagonistic," Wilson said. "Loving, but a little conflicted."

Jessa finds that being a newlywed with Chris O'Dowd isn't all it's cracked up to be, while Shoshanna struggles with combining love and sex. "It's all the things that you do when you're young and trying to get someone to sleep with you," said co-executive producer Judd Apatow. "It's usually weird, and you're happy to have someone, but you still regret it underneath the exchange. And then you're happy to have a good story."

"1600 Penn," Thursday, January 10 at 9:30 p.m., NBC

"The Book of Mormon" star Josh Gad is the co-creator of "1600 Penn," the comedy about the first family in which he also stars as Skip, the madcap man-boy son of President Dale Gilchrist (Bill Pullman) and stepson of first lady Emily Gilchrist (Jenna Elfman). Critics have been slow to warm up to the show, because the pilot isn't as funny as it should be, but by the second or third episode they've been won over by the dysfunctional family's antics, which benefit from Gad's sense of musical and physical comedy.

Pullman -- whose brood also includes three other kids, one of whom is a pregnant teen first daughter -- is someone who's used to playing the commander in chief from his "Independence Day" days. "We wanted someone who you could see not only as your president, but as your dad," Gad said. "When we re-watched 'Independence Day,' we said, 'Let's re-elect that guy.'"

"Smash," Tuesday, February 5 at 9 p.m., NBC

With a two-hour season premiere, "Smash" is back with a bang: there's the new showrunner fresh off "Gossip Girl," Josh Safran; new guest stars (Jennifer Hudson, Sean Hayes, Jeremy Jordan and Liza Minnelli as herself); and new shows-within-the-show: "Beautiful," for Hudson's character, "Liaisons" (based on "Les Liaisons Dangereuses") for Hayes, and "Hit List" for Jordan.

"My character is a musician, a composer and he works as a bartender," Jordan said. "And he's self-destructive," which will help him fit in with many of the pre-existing characters. Some of the drama this season is due to mixed reviews of the Marilyn Monroe musical "Bombshell," ethical questions about how its director treats his leading ladies and inquiries about how the producers got their financing.

"The great thing about doing a series about the Broadway community is that the possibilities are endless," said Megan Hilty, who plays "Bombshell" contender Ivy Lynn, still waiting in the wings after last season's breakdown. "There's awards season, rival musicals, all kinds of things we can get into." Hilty's hoping her character can get some love as well: "I want her to have a good boyfriend (this season). Tell everybody I'm holding auditions!"

"Shameless," January 13 at 9 p.m., Showtime

Since we last crashed at the Gallaghers, Fiona got her GED, Steve/Jimmy gave his wife Estefania's boyfriend Marco his identity, Karen ditched her newborn and Frank was kicked out.

When we find them again, 137 days later, Frank's missing, Lip's in legal trouble, and Fiona's conflicted about how domestic she wants Jimmy to be. As Veronica points out, "There's nothing sexy about a man with a mop." But before she can really complain that things have gotten boring between them, someone gets kidnapped, a murder gets committed, one of the kids is told he/she has cancer, a body gets dismembered and tossed overboard "Dexter"-style, and someone else gets buried in a front yard grave.

Plus there's all the domestic drama, with wives turning up, dads getting kicked out, new kids being added to various households and sexual predators on the loose. It's not going to be easy for the Gallaghers to get by this season, but when is it ever?

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