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Winter TV Watch List: You (and Janet) Are Invited to the Year’s Hottest ‘Afterparty’!

Also: Janet Jackson, the Playboy Mansion, and a return to the ‘Ice Age’

Welcome to the 500th week of January! Somehow, this month keeps plugging along. But that’s OK if there is still some great TV to watch and, thankfully, there is, including one of the most inventive comedies to come around in a long time, a sudsy new primetime soap, and a documentary that everyone will be talking about.

On with the television!

Tiffany Haddish The Afterparty
Apple TV+

“The Afterparty”
Friday, January 28, Apple TV+

Apple’s latest buzzy series is co-written and directed by “21 Jump Street” filmmaker Christopher Miller (his creative partner-in-crime, Phil Lord, is a producer), someone who has gotten very good at upending expectations. (Consider: “The LEGO Movie,” “21 Jump Street” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”) “The Afterparty” takes place at (duh) an afterparty following a high school reunion, where a bunch of friends (and potential enemies) gather after an awkward evening reliving the past. Oh, and one of them ends up dead. The ridiculously starry cast includes Sam Richardson, Tiffany Haddish, Zoë Chao, Ben Schwartz, Ike Barinholtz, Ilana Glazer, Dave Franco and Jamie Demetriou. And there’s a nifty conceit where each episode is structured around the interrogation of one of the characters (and the design of that episode matches the style in which the character is telling the story). This could be your next streaming obsession and proof that Apple TV+ can create a comedy favorite that isn’t called “Ted Lasso.” [TRAILER]

winter tv finale
Nancy Drew
The CW

“Nancy Drew”
Friday, January 28 at 9 p.m., The CW

“Nancy Drew” doesn’t get much attention. It’s not as dark or strange as its channel-mate “Riverdale” and doesn’t have the edge of the dearly departed “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (an obvious point of comparison). But it is a nicely contemporized version of the plucky girl detective, created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer as the feminine counterpart to his Hardy Boys series and played here by Kennedy McMann, which weaves in supernatural and outlandish elements to her sleuthing without ever losing the show’s inherent humanity. (The show was co-created by “Gossip Girl” creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage.) Fans of the show will be looking forward to the finale, and maybe it’ll give those who have never watched a reason to tune in. These mysteries won’t solve themselves. [SPINOFF NEWS]

winter tv watch list movie
ice-age-adventures-of-buck-wild
Disney

“The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild”
Friday, January 28, Disney+

The “Ice Age” continues. One of the biggest “gets” when Disney acquired Fox was ownership of the animated “Ice Age” franchise, one of the most popular and profitable series of animated films ever. (Sadly, Disney decided to shutter Blue Sky, the animation studio that produced the “Ice Age” movies. A third-party vendor handled the animation here.) This time around, Buck Wild (voiced once again by Simon Pegg), the one-eyed weasel-type creature, rescues a pair of possum brothers from dinosaur domination. Other characters from the franchise return but original voice stars like Ray Romano and John Leguizamo sat out this new go-around (they are replaced by Sean Kenin Elias-Reyes and Jake Green respectively). No matter who is starring, this should be a fun animated romp the whole family can enjoy. [TRAILER]

winter tv watch list documentary
Getty Images

“Janet”
Friday, January 28 at 8 p.m., Lifetime/A&E

Following the terrific New York Times documentary on the Super Bowl scandal comes this two-night, four-hour event that includes participation from Janet Jackson herself (Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty). Timed to the 40th anniversary of her very first album, this new documentary that airs on both A&E and Lifetime, promises an “intimate, honest and unfiltered look at her untold story.” Jackson is, of course, one of the most celebrated and controversial figures in pop culture and a perpetual, endlessly creative force of nature. Peeling back the curtain promises to be incredibly illuminating. [TRAILER]

winter tv watch rewatch of the week
Fringe
Warner Bros/Bad Robot

“Fringe”
HBO Max

“Fringe” was recently added to HBO Max, which is a good enough reason to encourage others to seek out this oddly underseen gem from creators J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci. Ahead of its time in many ways, particularly in its fascination with parallel universes and an emphasis on “Altered States”-style body horror science experiments (both of which would become commonplace in pop culture thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and “Stranger Things” respectively), “Fringe” concerns a group of oddball investigators led by Anna Torv (pre-“Mindhunter”), Joshua Jackson (post-“Dawson’s Creek”) and John Noble (who just flew in from Middle Earth), who look into cases of science gone awry and how those mysteries connect to a morally nebulous tech conglomerate called Massive Dynamics. If you’re a fan of Abrams’ other series, like “Lost” or “Alias” (which Kurtzman and Orci contributed to), or want a series that feels like a more contemporary version of “The X-Files,” well, look no further. “Fringe” is your new (old) obsession. [WATCH]

winter tv watch best of the rest

“The Gilded Age”
Monday, January 24 at 9 p.m., HBO
This new prestige project from “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes has been in development for ages and was first announced for NBC back in 2018 before being moved to HBO the following year. (Unclear if the move to HBO comes with more foul language and an emphasis on full-frontal nudity.) Set during the glitzy heyday of late-19th-century New York City, when economic growth exploded, this will undoubtedly have all the hallmarks that made “Downton Abbey” so much fun – upstairs/downstairs dynamics, colorful characters and rich period detail. But, you know, without so many accents. Carrie Coon, Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon and Taissa Farmiga are just some members of the cast, who will undoubtedly look fabulous in their historically-appropriate wardrobe. [REVIEW]

“Promised Land”
Monday, January 24 at 10 p.m., ABC
Described by the network as “an epic, generation-spanning drama about a Latinx family vying for wealth and power in California’s Sonoma Valley,” this primetime soap from creator Matt Lopez and executive producer Michael Cuesta features an almost completely Latin cast, led by the always-wonderful John Ortiz, Cecilia Suárez, Augusto Aguilera, Christina Ochoa and former “Grey’s Anatomy” player Bellamy Young. It looks like over-the-top fun (even if you have little-to-no understanding of wineries and how they work) and the fact that ABC is positioning it as the Next Big Thing is a good sign that they appreciate this particular vintage and think you will too. [REVIEW]

“Secrets of Playboy”
Monday, January 24 at 9 p.m., A&E
As scandalous as basic cable will allow, this new documentary about Hugh Hefner’s empire promises to unearth the “glamorous mythology created by the brand over several decades, the series features archival footage and exclusive interviews with insiders from all facets of the Playboy world.” According to A&E, the new 10-part doc series (which begins with a two-part premiere) will include interviews with “former Director of Playmate Promotions Miki Garcia; past girlfriends of Hefner’s including Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Sondra Theodore; Hefner’s personal valet Stefan Tetenbaum; Bunny Mother PJ Masten; Playboy Mansion West resident Jennifer Saginor; and members of Hefner’s staff and inner circle, including his personal bodyguard and butler.” We want a historical account free of airbrushing or touch-ups. [TRAILER]

“Resident Alien”
Wednesday, January 26 at 9 p.m., Syfy
One of the biggest surprises of last year was how delightful “Resident Alien,” the Syfy series based on the Dark Horse comic by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, truly was. If you didn’t see the inaugural season, it was an awkward and infectious bouillabaisse of tones and genres, including (but not limited to) science fiction (Alan Tudyk plays an alien that murders and then inhabits the life of a small-town doctor), medical drama, and conspiratorial mystery. Imagine if “The X-Files” met “ER,” with a splash of “Northern Exposure” and maybe a little “Simpsons” thrown in for good measure. Anyway, it is a joy and we hope season 2 is just as effervescent. [TRAILER]

“Home Team”
Friday, January 28, Netflix
The latest Adam Sandler/Kevin James joint is actually a based-on-a-true-story drama, of all things. “Home Team” dramatizes the life of New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton (played by James) who, after being suspended from the NFL for a year due to a very weird and sordid scandal known as Bountygate (look it up), returns to his hometown and coaches his young son’s Pop Warner team. Looking past the morally nebulous nature of making a feel-good movie about a dude who did some pretty awful stuff, this should please fans of James, especially with its roster of Sandler-approved performers including Rob Schneider, Taylor Lautner and Sandler’s wife, Jackie. Plus, kids sports movies are always fun, even if they’re being coached by a guy who gave out bonuses to his players for grievously injuring opposing players. [TRAILER]