Back for good

You know the feeling: a show that you’ve grown to love finally returns, and you can’t wait to see it again. It’s like reacquainting yourself with an old friend. Here are our top 20 returning shows winging your way over the coming months...

The Good Wife (RTÉ Two & More4)
The best mainstream TV show of recent years, with a superb cast and an inspirational lead character, The Good Wife has developed a word-of-mouth audience who can’t get enough of Alicia Florrick and the goings on at work and at home.

Season three (already started on More4 but coming to RTÉ Two later this year) sees a new, sexier and more confident Alicia emerge as her fling with Will takes off after they finally got together at the end of season two. Guest stars this season include Lisa Edelstein, formerly Cuddy in House.

Blue Bloods (RTÉ Two & Sky Atlantic)
Season one of this New York-based drama about an Irish-American cop family, starring Tom Sellick, proved to be a big hit. Season two is on hiatus and resumes in a week’s time on Sky Atlantic before starting on RTÉ Two in March.

The Mentalist (RTÉ One)
A summer favourite over the last few years, this show is so light it needs to be weighed down – but Simon Baker is perfect as Patrick Jayne, the psychic-turned-crime-solver.

Nurse Jackie (RTÉ Two & BBC Two)
Only Edie Falco could carry off the hugely ambiguous character that is Jackie Peyton. A great cast and variety of characters is topped by Eve Best, who is the right side of hilarious as Jackie’s pal, Eleanor O’Hara MD.

Glee (TV3 & Sky 1)
Currently on hiatus in the USA, Matthew Morrison, Jane Lynch and the rest of the hugely popular song-and-dance gang will shortly be back on these shores.

Come Dine with Me Ireland (TV3)
The UK version of this show is always good for a laugh, but there’s nothing like seeing neighbours, friends or relatives on the small screen making absolute eejits of themselves.

Criminal Minds (RTÉ Two)
Already back on Sky Living, the seventh season of this hugely popular procedural show returns with the old order restored as both AJ Cook and Paget Brewster are back on board as agents Jareau and Prentiss.

Britain’s Got Talent (TV3 & UTV)
There was great news for fans when it was announced that Simon Cowell will return, when BGT hits our screens for a sixth season. Joining him on the panel will be David Walliams, Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (RTÉ One)
It’s been on TV for a very long time, but there’ll be fresh interest in the next season of CSI as Ted Danson (Cheers, Damages) joins the crew as the new head of operations. Fascinating appointment!

The Apprentice (TV3)
Always great fun, Bill Cullen and co. return later in the year for another run, to see how desperate (and incompetent) the latest bunch of wannabe business folk are to make an impression.

Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic)
After the jaw-dropping (not to say head-chopping) finale to the show’s first season, fans will be frantic to see how the second season of this hugely impressive fantasy tale pans out.

Grey’s Anatomy (RTÉ Two & Sky Living)
Yet another US show on a mid-season hiatus, when season 8 resumes after its break, viewers will be keen to find out what’s going to happen to Meredith, Derek and the rest of the Seattle Grace Mercy West crew.

Mad Men (RTÉ One & Sky Atlantic)
One of the most stylish shows in TV history, Mad Men finally returns for a fifth season that should bring Jon Hamm and co. somewhere close to the swinging part of the 1960s.

Sex Lives: More Sex Please, We’re Irish (TV3)
The third instalment of the Sex Lives series comes to terms with the explosion of alternative sexual practices in Irish bedrooms. Paul Connolly looks at the sexual side of Ireland that exists behind closed doors.

The Irish Film and Television Awards (RTÉ One)
Among the many events coming our way, RTÉ will provide coverage of the annual Irish Film and Television Awards, the Saint Patrick’s Day Celebrations, The Late Late Eurosong and the Eurovision Song Contest from Azerbaijan.

The Walking Dead (RTÉ Two & FX)
Season two has already been shown on UK satellite channel FX, but terrestrial fans are waiting to see what happens to Andrew Lincoln and the rest of the survivors as they try to avoid becoming zombies.

True Blood (TG4 & FX)
The vampire epic continues for a fourth season as a coven of witches poses a major threat when Sookie returns to Bon Temps from Fairie Land to discover that Bill Compton is the new King of Louisiana.

Boardwalk Empire (Sky Atlantic)
The two seasons of Martin Scorsese’s epic journey through American Prohibition have flown by – but the big shock came at the end of the second season when Nucky bumped off Jimmy Darmody.

Fringe (TV3 & Sky 1)
One of the greatest sci-fi shows in TV history, Fringe returns after its season four hiatus next Wednesday on Sky 1. As any fan will tell you, there’s never an episode that doesn’t either surprise or amaze in this multi-layered drama.

Gossip Girl (TG4)
Sumer isn’t summer without the latest adventures of Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively), Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) and the rest of the spoiled brats from Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

What’s Coming

The great thing about TV is that there’s always something new to look forward to – and 2012 is no exception. There are many, many new shows coming your way and here’s a channel-by-channel introduction to the most promising.

RTÉ One & Two

Saving the Titanic (RTÉ One)
This is the first film ever to show what happened far below deck on the Titanic, among the furnaces and dynamos, where brave engineers attempted to save the stricken ship. Focusing on six men, the film is a poignant story of self-sacrifice and dignity in the face of death.

Into the Light: The Battles That Shaped Our TV (RTÉ One)
John Bowman’s definitive two-part documentary traces how RTÉ's confrontations with Government, the Church and other powerful forces have shaped Irish television.

Dead Money (RTÉ One)
This could be intriguing as it follows the work of heir hunters trying to track down the next-of-kin of intestate people to pass on unexpected inheritances.

New Girl (RTÉ Two)
Zooey Deschanel stars in this US sitcom (already running on Channel 4) as a goofy-but-adorable, newly-single schoolteacher who moves in with three guys. And, yes, they all become mates.

Revenge (RTÉ Two)
Former Brothers & Sisters star Emily VanCamp stars in this US drama, apparently inspired by the classic Alexandre Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo. Amanda Clarke (VanCamp) moves back home to the Hamptons seeking retribution from the people who framed her now deceased father for treason.

TG4

Réaltaí Cheol Tíre
A new country music series featuring John Mc Nicholl from Foreglen in Derry, who is joined by a variety of guests. Next Wednesday’s opener has Gerry Carney, Matt Leavey and The Three Amigos: Jimmy Buckley, Robert Mizell and Patrick Feeney.

Éalu
This documentary series focuses on infamous Irish prison escapes, from Limerick man Sean Bourke, who sprang George Blake, Britain's most wanted KGB spy, from Wormwood Scrubs in 1966, to Laois native Paddy Flemming, who managed to escape from 17 different straitjackets while incarcerated at Maryborough prison in 1918.

TV3

+rime Suspect
From director Peter Berg comes the re-imagining of the British television hit Prime Suspect, starring Maria Bello as the tough-as-nails Jane Timoney. If being a homicide detective in New York isn’t tough enough, having to contend with a male-dominated police department to get respect makes it that much tougher.

Neville’s Doorstep Challenge
Neville Knott takes to the streets of Ireland to randomly offer his services for free to anybody who allows him into their house when he comes knocking. Bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms will all get the makeover treatment – and it won’t cost a cent.

Titanic
A co-production with UTV this four-part serial created by BAFTA-winning producer Nigel Stafford-Clark and written by Oscar and Emmy winner Julian Fellowes to mark the 100th anniversary of the world’s most famous maritime disaster in April 1912. It sets out to tell the story not just of a single ship, but of an entire society.

Southside Housewives
These ladies are living the dream, with handsome husbands, beautiful children, immaculate homes and a fabulous wardrobe. But it’s not always easy when family rivalries and jealous frenemies pose a constant threat to their fabulous reputations.

Ireland’s Showbiz Mums and Dads
They are bossy, rude, spoiled and impatient. Meet the parents who want nothing more than for their children to follow their dreams and become successful. These parents will stop at nothing – and spare no expense – to get their children into the spotlight.

Dallas
JR, Bobby and Sue Ellen Ewing return to Southfork ranch with secrets, schemes and betrayals. And this time they're joined by the next generation of Ewings, who take ambition and deception to a wicked new level.

BBC One

The Voice UK (BBC One)
You’ve probably seen the Irish version on RTÉ One, now here’s the British take on the global talent show sensation. Coaches include singer-songwriter Jessie J, American rapper will.i.am, music legend Tom Jones and The Script’s frontman Danny O'Donoghue.

Antony and Cleopatra (BBC One)
Here’s a six-part romantic comedy about a pair of childhood sweethearts who are reunited after 60 years. It stars veteran thesp Derek Jacobi and erstwhile Corrie favourite Sarah Lancashire, as well as Anne Reid, Nicola Walker and Ronni Ancona.

Ripper Street (BBC One)
Former Spooks and Pride and Prejudice star Matthew Macfadyen has landed yet another gig at the BBC. This time around he heads the cast in Ripper Street, a drama about detectives who try to keep public order in the wake of the Jack the Ripper murders.

Restless (BBC One)
Hayley Atwell has been cast in the lead role in a new two-part drama adapted by William Boyd following the success of his previous novel adaptation, Any Human Heart, which also starred Atwell. It follows a young woman who finds out that her mother is a spy during World War II and is forced to help her in one final assignment.

UTV

Superstar
Andrew Lloyd-Webber starts a search for the next musical superstar. The prize on offer is a unique opportunity to play the title role in new arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar across the UK, starting at London's O2 arena.

Leaving
This is a powerful relationship drama, written by acclaimed screenwriter Tony Marchant (Mark of Cain, Garrow’s Law, Holding On). It promises to be a gripping character-driven story about the complexities of love, family and growing up.

Channel 4/E4

Future Family (Channel 4)
This five-part series transforms a family's home from top-to-bottom, filling it with futuristic technology and gadgets. As well as having cutting-edge technology and gadgets to play with, the family are challenged by scenarios likely to come in the next 20–50 years.

Apartment 23 (E4)
This US sitcom revolves around the lives of two different women – a barista who lost a high-profile upscale job and a savvy street smart con artist – who are roommates in a New York City apartment. Former Dawson’s Creek star James Van Der Beek plays a fictional version of himself.

Napoleon Dynamite (E4)
An animated version of the smash cult film that revolves around an eccentric high-school student, his misfit friends and bizarre family life in a small US town. Many of the original cast reprise their (vocal) roles, including Jon Heder as Napoleon Dynamite.

Sky 1 & Living

Don’t Stop Me Now (Sky 1)
Amanda Byram presents this rapid-fire, high-stakes talent contest, where getting rid of the dross is as much fun as discovering moments of true talent and entertainment. With the risk of a surprise exit via trap doors, horizontal bungees and exploding stages, it’s a talent game show that takes no prisoners.

A Touch of Cloth (Sky 1)
Charlie Brooker's latest work is a two-part comedy detective series, starring John Hannah and Suranne Jones, which will spoof the very best and worst of British crime dramas made in the last decade. A maverick, heavy-drinking loner is teamed with plucky no-nonsense sidekick.

Touch (Sky 1)
Kiefer Sutherland returns to TV in this drama from Tim Kring (creator of Heroes) in which he plays the father of a gifted ten-year-old boy who has never spoken and doesn’t communicate in any traditional way.

The Love Machine (Sky Living)
Hosted by Chris Moyles and Stacey Solomon, this date show allows contestants to spin the wheel of romance and let chance decide their dating fate.

Other channels

Luck (Sky Atlantic)
A great cast that includes Dustin Hoffmann and Nick Nolte, this drama is the latest from David Milch (Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, Deadwood) “The pilot is about a bunch of intersecting lives in the world of horse racing”, says Milch.

Smash (Sky Atlantic)
Debra Messing and Jack Davenport star in a show that revolves around a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. The series will feature original music by composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

House of Lies (Sky Atlantic)
Don Cheadle heads the cast in this comedy-drama based on a book by a former consultant at US firm Booz Allen Hamilton. It follows a group of management consultants who stop at nothing to get business deals done.

Alcrataz (Watch, later RTÉ Two)
Former Lost star Jorge Garcia (he played Hurley) and Sam Neill are among the cast of this US drama about former inmates of San Francisco’s infamous Alcatraz prison who disappeared when it closed and then reappear 50 years later to commit horrific crimes.

What’s on now
Here’s a selection of the great shows that you can watch in the current TV schedules. More than 50 shows that offer a wide variety of telly-viewing experiences . . .

Saturday
Take Me Out Ireland (TV3)
The Jonathan Ross Show (UTV)
Casualty (BBC One)
The Saturday Night Show (RTÉ One)

Sunday
The Voice of Ireland (RTÉ One)
30 Rock (3e)
RAW (RTÉ One)
At Your Service (RTÉ One)
An G Team (TG4)
Top Gear (BBC Two)
Dancing on Ice (TV3 & UTV)

Monday
The Frontline (RTÉ One)
Two and a Half Men (RTÉ Two)
Reality Bites (RTÉ Two)
Cougar Town (RTÉ Two)
Spartacus: Vengeance (Sky 1, Thursday TV3)
Whitechapel (UTV)
Tonight with Vincent Browne (Mon-Thu, TV3)

Tuesday
Shameless (Channel 4)
Ear to the Ground (RTÉ One)
The Big Bang Theory (RTÉ Two & E4)
Desperate Housewives (RTÉ Two & Channel 4)
Unforgettable (Sky Living)
Prisoner’s Wives (BBC One)
Brothers & Sisters (RTÉ One)
Parenthood (RTÉ Two)
The Vampire Diaries (TG4)
Enlightened (Sky Atlantic)
Suits (Dave)

Wednesday
Body of Proof (Alibi)
CSI: NY (RTÉ Two)
Operation Transformation (RTÉ One)
MasterChef (BBC One)
Film 2012 with Claudia Winkelman (BBC One)
The Fabulous Baker Brothers (Channel 4)
How to Cook Like Heston (Channel 4)
Mad Dogs (Sky 1)

Thursday
2 Broke Girls (RTÉ Two)
Neven Maguire: Home Chef (RTÉ One)
Animal A&E: On the Road (TV3)
Don’t Tell the Bride (RTÉ Two)
The Works (RTÉ One)
Location, Location, Location (Channel 4)
Hawaii 5-0 (Sky 1, S1 on RTÉ Two)
Rules of Engagement (Channel 4)
How I Met Your Mother (E4)
Happy Endings (E4)
Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy (E4)
The Good Wife (More 4)

Friday
Damages (RTÉ Two)
Room 101 (BBC One)
The Graham Norton Show (BBC One & Saturday, TV3)
Come Dine with Me (Channel 4)
The Late Late Show (RTÉ One)
Homeland (RTÉ Two)
Tallafornia (TV3)
Criminal Minds (Sky Living, coming to RTÉ Two)
Who Knows Ireland Best (RTÉ One)
The Big C (RTÉ Two, Thursday on More4)
QI (BBC Two)
New Girl (Channel 4)

And finally . . .
Four fantastic repeats
You may have seen them before, but that doesn’t stop them from being classics worth watching again. And if you haven’t seen them yet, you’re the lucky one!

Friday Night Lights (Tuesday, Sky Atlantic)
One of the greatest TV dramas of the last ten years, it centres on a college American football team but it’s really about life in a rural US town. A great cast is headed by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton as coach Taylor and his wife, Tami. It starts Feb 14 and is simply unmissable.

Seinfeld (Monday, Sky Atlantic)
Only the legendary Sgt Bilko rivals it for quality and quantity, as Seinfeld racked up over 100 episodes of fantastic comedy while basically showing the selfish, amoral side of human behaviour. Hideously hilarious.

The Wire (Friday, Sky Atlantic)
Best TV show ever made? Quite possibly. Certainly, the quality of writing and the skill of the cast created a rare TV show, one that’s much more than a cop drama. This is life as it is.

The Closer (Wednesday, Alibi)
Kyra Sedgwick is fantastic in this Prime Suspect-like procedural about a no-nonsense female boss working in an otherwise male environment at LAPD Homicide. Great ensemble cast, too.

John Byrne