Television

Better TV in store come January

Maureen Ryan
Chicago Tribune (MCT)

"Lost" returns Jan. 21 with a two-hour season premiere.

I'm not usually a fan of January, but this year, the wintriest of months is shaping up to be quite eventful, TV-wise. "24" finally returns Jan. 11, "Battlestar Galactica" begins airing its final batch of episodes Jan. 16, "Burn Notice" returns Jan. 22 and "Damages" also returns sometime during that month. And that's to say nothing of all the TV hoopla that will surround the Inauguration on Jan. 20.

I've been saying it for a while now: This year, the middle of the TV season - January especially - promises to be quite a bit more interesting than the rather lackluster fall.

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You know all that stuff I've been writing recently about how much I am enjoying "Chuck" (Monday 8 p.m., NBC)?

Well, I've seen all of the episodes that air in November and despite a couple of mildly insane implausibilities, they are a great deal of fun. And the show is hitting on all cylinders lately, so the implausibilities don't really bother me at this point.

The antics at the Buy More, where Chuck's absences are increasingly noticed by management, are especially delightful.

As the dreaded Emmett Millbarge, Tony Hale is a fine addition to an already entertaining supporting cast.

Jordana Brewster is good as Chuck's ex-girlfriend Jill, who is in all three November episodes. I especially enjoy that, as has often been the case this season, Chuck sometimes solves his own problems and doesn't have to constantly rely on Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and Casey (Adam Baldwin) to bail him out. The take-charge Chuck is awesome.

More awesome: Baldwin as Casey. He makes me laugh merely with grunting sounds. Speaking of awesome: Bruce Boxleitner and Morgan Fairchild will stop by Dec. 1 to play the parents of Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin).

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Speaking of NBC shows I am enjoying a lot (aside from "Knight Rider," obviously),

"Law & Order" (Wednesday 10 p.m., NBC), which I recently reviewed positively, welcomes former "ER" star Sherry Stringfield in the Nov. 19 episode.

She plays the law clerk to a judge (Ned Beatty), and I won't say more about the episode except to note that it's always fun to watch Michael Cutter (Linus Roache) in crusader mode. But it must be said, Cutter does have a point in the Nov. 19 episode, which starts off as a simple case of murder but soon becomes much more.

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Just a quick word to let you know that "The Unit" (10 p.m. Sunday, CBS) two-parter that began Nov. 9 is really worth watching (Part 1 is available at CBS.com). If you haven't been watching so far this season, here's what you need to know going in: Special Forces unit member Mac (Max Martini) found out that his wife, Tiffy (Abby Brammell), had an affair with his commander, Col. Tom Ryan (Robert Patrick). The unofficial code of the unit says that, under those circumstances, Mac would be justified in killing Ryan. As the first episode begins, Mac is pondering that option.

The other bit of intel: Jonas' daughter has enlisted, and as the episode begins, she's in danger in Iraq. Before the first 10 minutes of "Into Hell, Part 1" were over, the characters had been placed in physical jeopardy and also in interesting moral dilemmas. And Regina Taylor, as Jonas' wife, Molly, is terrific in a home-front plot.

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