Popular New Year's resolutions include losing weight, getting a better job, taking a vacation and cutting back on television. Unfortunately for couch potatoes longing to be potatoes no longer, January is a tough month to escape the clutches of the tube. The networks are rolling out new shows, gussying up old ones even putting a police badge back on Erik Estrada to win viewers over. Unless you're vigilant about leaving the living room, your resolution to avoid TV will soon become a vow never to miss an episode of "Knights of Prosperity."
This ABC comedy, which airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m., formerly titled "How to Rob Mick Jagger," is about a group of regular Joes on a mission to, well, rob Mick Jagger "Stealing from the rich to give to themselves," as the theme song goes. It's delightfully absurd. Donal Logue stars as the head of a motley crew that includes a virginal intern (that's right, the gang has an intern), a foxy Latina, an Indian cab driver and an overweight, singing black man. It's ABC's best comedy since well, it's been a really long time since ABC had a good comedy. When "According to Jim" anchors your comedy lineup, you don't really have a comedy lineup.
Airing right after "Knights," at 9:30 on ABC, is the far inferior "In Case of Emergency," about three high-school buddies, played by Jonathan Silverman, David Arquette and Greg Germann, who have all grown up to be psychotic or annoying. Germann plays a diet guru who steals a truck full of cake; Silverman narrates as a whiny divorcee; and Arquette irks as a delusional, won't-take-no-for-an-answer, Enron-style businessman. They are unpleasant to watch.
Also difficult to watch are the untalented wannabes longing for a spot on NBC's reality show, "Grease: You're the One That I Want" (Sundays at 8 p.m.). The winners of the contest will get to play Danny and Sandy in a new Broadway production of "Grease." If you like "American Idol" and are willing to have "Hopelessly Devoted" stuck in your head for hours and hours, this may be the show for you, though it's significantly sloppier than Fox's ratings behemoth. This can be blamed on David Ian, the British producer and lead judge who has absolutely nothing on Simon Cowell. Delivering an inspirational message to the contestants, Ian babbles: "If you're still standing in this room, I'm somewhere looking at Danny and Sandy, who are going to star on Broadway." Way to rally the spandexed troops, David.
January's other reality-based offerings include MTV's "I'm From Rolling Stone" (Sunday, 10 p.m.), about six young writers trying to secure a job at the music magazine. Though it features an Aussie alcoholic, a former juvenile delinquent with an authority problem and a black lesbian, it's a milk-fed kitten in comparison to the station's typical, hedonistic fare. No hot tubs or three-way kisses here, thank God.
"The Hills" returns to MTV for a second season (Mondays, 10 p.m.) and finds protagonist Lauren Conrad even mopier than she was last time around. Always stressed or on the verge of tears, L.C. may be the saddest reality TV star ever. She somehow has not internalized the fact that it's the show, and not her "Vogue" internship, that's her real career, and she is, therefore, already wildly successful and should maybe try smiling every once in a while.
Hoping to revitalize its flagging "The Apprentice" (Thursday, 9 p.m.), Trump and NBC have moved the show out to L.A., where houses have lawns. Taking full advantage of this newfangled geographic feature, the show now forces the losing team to sleep in tents while the winners enjoy the pleasures of a McMansion. The "tents" have showers and gas stoves, but this hasn't stopped the participants from whine, whine, whining about how torturous the whole experience is. Trump has also been in fine form, "rewarding" the winning team, seven women and two men, with a trip to a Playboy bunny party. What a thoughtful prize.
Pictures of Donald, Hef and seminaked girls swimming in the grotto might get published in the sleazy tabloid that is the focus of FX's "Dirt," (Tuesdays, 10 p.m.), which stars Courtney Cox as a vicious editor. The show takes gossip seriously there are no harmless hookups or pretty dresses on display, only nasty sex scandals, drugs and suicide attempts. Dreary and fascinating, it demonstrates the limitless ego of celebrities, who honestly seem to believe that gossip and photographers are the most malevolent force in America today.
Jack Bauer totally wishes idle chatter were enemy No.1. Instead, in the latest "24" (Fox, Mondays, 9 p.m.), he has to contend with suicide bombers attacking major American cities which is only a little scarier than photos of Nicole Richie in a bathing suit, right? Fresh off a two-year stint in Chinese jail, Jack seems hesitant to torture with his former abandon. Perhaps this is the beginning of a kinder, gentler Bauer. Psych. Our favorite stone-cold killer will surely be back just in time to save the world come May. Forget those resolutions already, and you can watch him do it. S