Tuned In: Unwrap these resolutions for 2013

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As 2012 ebbs away and 2013 looms large, it's time to consider the state of prime time and needed fixes to favorite shows.

But it's not just the networks and their series that need to make New Year's resolutions: Viewers also need to reconsider spending some time with the best shows they're not watching.

Resolutions for networks

Fox's "Glee" (9 p.m. Thursday, WPGH) needs to cut its original cast members loose.

Much as they've proved enjoyable over the years, the show's efforts to keep them around smack of illogical desperation.

Does anyone really buy Finn (Cory Montieth) as a temporary glee club sponsor? Or that so many characters who graduated in May would come home from college to participate in high school productions?

An occasional return -- like for the episode set over Thanksgiving -- is fine but beyond that, "Glee" needs to move on. The new characters are sufficient replacements and when the show stays focused on the kids in high school, it's fine -- not great (the show's best episodes are in its past) but certainly watchable.

Now that ABC's "Revenge" (9 p.m. Sunday, WTAE) has gone the way of "Alias" with a plot involving a conspiracy-minded organization ("the Initiative"), it's become convoluted and a lot less fun. The show still has its moments but has lost touch with its "Count of Monte Cristo" inspiration and spun off into cuckoo soap territory. It needs to return to its roots.

New episodes of "Revenge" resume Jan. 6 but then it will be a choice between it and "Downton Abbey," a far superior soap in every way.

As much as I loved "Homeland" (returning next fall on Showtime) in its first season, it rocketed off the rails in season two with too many unbelievable plot twists that brought to mind "24." Not that there's anything wrong with "24" but in its first year "Homeland" was more grounded, less pulpy. That's no longer true.

Then there's FX, home to two of the most sadistic shows on TV, "Sons of Anarchy" and "American Horror Story" ("Sons" returns next fall; "AHS" finishes its second season with four episodes beginning this week at 10 p.m. Wednesday).

"Sons," in particular, is a smart, well-written drama but it is so, so brutal. This season one character ended up with a face full of nails and another saw his daughter set afire and killed in front of him. Edgy is fine but the cruelty got to me.

Same for "American Horror Story," which turned me off with its murderous Santa (Ian McShane, "Deadwood") in what passed for a Christmas episode. Sure, it's a horror show set in an asylum, but those scenes of premeditated mayhem outside Briarcliff Manor were the most upsetting thing I watched this season.

Resolutions for viewers

Any episode now, ABC's "The Neighbors" (8:30 p.m. Wednesday, WTAE) may implode but until it does, it's a TV comedy worth defending. Yes, many critics hated it but the vitriol was wholly undeserved.

The show is wacky in its premise -- human family moves in next door to extraterrestrial neighbors -- but it's perfect for parent-child co-viewing with enough layers to entertain everyone.

Fans of soaps -- I'm looking at you, disappointed "Revenge" viewers -- should give ABC's "Nashville" (10 p.m. Wednesday, WTAE) a shot. And, no, you don't have to be a fan of country music to enjoy the "All About Eve"-style plots revolving around up-and-coming singer Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere, "Heroes") and veteran Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton, "Friday Night Lights"). It's not ground-breaking but it's thoroughly enjoyable.

Similarly, ABC Family's "Bunheads" (9 p.m. Mondays beginning Jan. 7) is an enjoyably witty, soapy show from the writer of "Gilmore Girls." It's yet to reach the creative heights of "Gilmore" but this story of a dance teacher (Kelly Bishop from "Gilmore Girls") and her daughter-in-law (Sutton Foster) running a dance studio in a small town is a delight for fans of gentler, serialized storytelling.

"AHS" executive producer Ryan Murphy has the same credit on NBC's "The New Normal" (9:30 p.m. Tuesday, WPXI), a wildly uneven comedy. The story of a gay couple and the woman surrogate carrying their child is occasionally strident in the defense of gay rights. And conservative characters either sound hilariously mad or like liberals trying to write conservatively.

But the lead characters are often entertaining as is the surrogate's bespectacled daughter in this sitcom that mixes outrageous humor with heart.

Fans of cop shows who haven't watched TNT's "Southland" (10 p.m. Wednesdays beginning Feb. 13) are missing out on the best police show on TV. A gritty, character-based drama, "Southland" last season offered a strong dramatic platform for Lucy Liu, who's now starring on "Elementary."

But it's the show's regulars -- Ben McKenzie, Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Regina King -- and sharp writing that make trips to L.A.'s seamy, underbelly worthwhile.

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Rob Owen writes this Sunday TV column for Scripps Howard News Service. Contact him at: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. Rob Owen writes this Sunday TV column for Scripps Howard News Service. Contact him at: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published December 30, 2012 5:00 AM


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