I realize it's wrong to identify with Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining. Still, we've all suffered though the winter blues before. Instead of attacking loved ones with an axe, however, I'd like to recommend watching TV to pass the time. And whether it's Grammy time, AMC raising the Dead or the return of a real Community and a Smash hit, there's enough to keep you (and even those creepy little twins) from succumbing to any cabin fever.
Dallas, TNT, Mondays, 9 p.m./8 p.m. CT
When this ''80s series was revamped last year, I remember thinking that bringing back any other relic from that era – from leg warmers on down to Boy George – would have made more sense. Watching J.R. and Bobby Ewing (Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy) and their offspring continue to deal with all their sibling rivalry and assorted rich people problems seemed completely ridiculous. It was way out of touch with the world we currently live in. Then, I read a friend's Facebook post, noting that she was sitting down with a big bowl of popcorn to watch the Season Two premiere of this Dallas redux. That's when it all fell into perspective. Sure this show flies about 10,000 feet over the top, but that's its charm. Every once and a while, you need empty calories that taste good anyway. And Dallas is as empty and delicious as the junk food you want to consume while watching it. Watch now. Feel guilty in an hour.
Smash, NBC, Tuesdays, 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT
I readily admit that I'm about as qualified to review anything involving Broadway musicals as Justin Beiber is to write a thesis on quantum physics. Unless it's a middle school production that my daughter happens to be in, I just have no interest in such shows. However, Smash is back for a second season and because it comes from executive producer Steven Spielberg and continues to get a massive promotional push from NBC, I feel obligated to give it a look. The show continues to follow the cast and producers of a musical about Marilyn Monroe as they struggle to get the play on Broadway. The show features everything from a drug-addled starlet to a philandering director to lovelorn ingénue….meaning that it remains as classy a soap opera as you're ever going to find on television. I'd love to elaborate on that notion more, but if there's one format I know even less about than musicals, I'd have to say it's soaps.
Community, NBC, Thursdays, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT
In the best possible way, this series is like the psycho killer in every horror/slasher movie ever. Just when you think it's dead, it stirs back to life. And this comedy that's nominally about a group of community college students who form a study group has returned yet again, despite low ratings, for a fourth season of dangerous strangeness. There's never been a sit-com quite like it. The series is continually living several zip codes outside of the box, confounding sit-com conventions with oddball episodes parodying action and horror movies or animating its characters like an old-fashioned video game. The quirks don't always work, and all the oddities probably drive away far more viewers than they attract, but Community is never boring and that's something few network shows can claim these days.
Do No Harm, NBC, Thursdays, 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT
I realize that this new show set a record when it premiered last week. And not the kind of record you celebrate by going out for ice cream afterward. Do No Harm had the lowest rated new network show debut ever. Not exactly a good indication that it's going to make it past Valentine's Day. Still, while far from being a perfect show, it's at least better than its sad record indicates. This is a modern-day take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, about a Philadelphia doctor (Steven Pasquale) who is a renowned surgeon by day but for semi-explicable reasons becomes a psychopath by night. The gaps in logic in the premise are big enough to drive a whole other show through, but that's actually what makes it entertaining. It ain't Mad Men. Rather, it's just a weird riff blending a medical procedural with a horror movie, and if you view it simply hoping for some kitschy fun, you may end up hoping it manages to eke out a few more weeks on the air.
Touch, Fox, Fridays, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT
Poor Kiefer Sutherland. He must be sooooo tired. First he spends all those years saving America from certain annihilation on 24. And now, he's starting a second season doing the same with this Fox series. This time around, though, he's got to do it without karate skills or expert marksmanship or cell phones that work five floors underground. Here, he's playing the father of a mute boy whose fascination with numbers patterns may hold the key to humanity's future. Season One had a few decent moments, with good dad Sutherland digging to find out the true nature of his son's problems. Season Two looks to be more like a spinoff of The X-Files, wherein he is trying to find out more about the mysterious corporation that's after his boy and others with similar skills. There was something charmingly intimate and emotional about last year's episodes, as opposed to all the 24-like action scenes so far this year. Still, even as the reluctant hero this time around, Sutherland adds an element of intensity that's worth watching and rooting for.
55th Annual Grammy Awards, CBS, Sunday, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CT
There's one thing I hate about most awards shows (well, two, if you count that whole "Who are you wearing?" thing that happens on the red carpet). Sure there will be a clip of the nominees' work shown here and there but for the most part, you never get to see these performers do the thing they're getting nominated for. Which is what makes the Grammys the best awards show going. You actually get to watch musicians on a stage doing the stuff that may earn them a prize. Even better, the Grammys also make an effort to include performances from all musical generations, so your daughter can thrill to Taylor Swift while you get a few minutes with Elton John (both of whom will indeed be performing this year). The Oscars and Golden Globes my get all the hype, but until they start having the nominees reenact scenes from their movies live onstage, I'll stick with the Grammys.
The Walking Dead, AMC, Sundays, 9 p.m./8 p.m. CT
A couple of weeks ago, while interviewing this show's executive producer, I learned this trivial fact. The series' title doesn't refer to the zombies roaming the earth, looking for some finger food. Rather, it is meant to describe the doomed human survivors trying to avoid them. I mention this because a) it's cool and b) it's precisely the sort of twist that makes Walking Dead one of the most surprising, innovative dramas on television. It returns this week with the second half of its third season, picking up just as a potential showdown between the two camps of survivors comes to a head. I realize that this is perhaps the darkest drama, both literally and metaphorically, on television. However, it's also a show that's not afraid to kill central characters and ask deep, dark questions other series shy away from. Even as zombies are ripping the entrails from their victims. Who knew that a show about nothing but death would be this lively?