TV's extremely crowded midseason is upon us. But it's never too late for entertainment addicts to get current on a few series.
There's still time to catch up on these cult favorites in time for their 2014 returns.
1. "Nashville": Sudsy drama with a country twang
Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere star as Rayna Jaymes and Juliette Barnes, two rival country singers thrown together by their shared record label for a national tour. Don't expect music to unite this pair a la "Glee," though. Rayna can't stand Juliette's short dresses and bad attitude, while Juliette feels the more seasoned Rayna is dragging her down. There's plenty more drama aside from their tumultuous relationship and some killer original country songs. Even the country music industry has celebrated ABC's soapy drama series. Country-pop darling Kelly Clarkson, who once described "Nashville" as her "new favorite TV show," will play herself on the Jan. 15 season return.
2. "Girls": Coming-of-age dramedy with edge
Actress-producer-writer Lena Dunham has seemingly burst out of nowhere with her coming-of-age dramatic comedy "Girls." With her posse of young women navigating love and sex in New York City, the comparisons to "Sex and the City" were inevitable. But this series has far less gloss and Manolo Blahniks than its predecessor. Don't dismiss this smart dramedy as yet another chick series, either; significantly enough, 56 percent of its devoted fans are men. If you don't have HBO yet and you're shopping for a new provider, it's worth comparing cable providers to find the best deal. No matter who supplies your cable, though, "Girls" is one of the best reasons to indulge in this premium service. Binge the first two seasons before the third hits HBO Sunday (Jan. 12).
3. "The Blacklist": Edge-of-your-seat thrills
"The Blacklist" isn't one of those shows that has to ease into itself. It grabs viewers from the first few moments, when James Spader's Raymond "Red" Reddington, one of the world's most wanted fugitives, calmly walks into FBI headquarters and surrenders himself. He says he'll help the authorities catch the criminals they're after in exchange for immunity, and so an unlikely partnership is formed. James Spader is a captivating screen presence, and he's used to great effect in this series which doesn't shy away from a little blood and gore. It's packed full of twists and turns, so it's easy to devour episode after episode of this NBC psychological thriller. "The Blacklist" returns from its mid-season break on Monday (Jan. 13).
4. "House of Cards": Political intrigue at its finest
"House of Cards" sets the bar very high for Netflix originals. The political thriller stars Kevin Spacey as Francis "Frank" Underwood, a man intent on toppling the new president after he's passed over for Secretary of State. Often remakes of British series fall flat, but the creators of "House of Cards" show how to do it right. "House of Cards" is ideal for binge-watching because Netflix releases an entire series at one go, putting an end to those agonizing week-long waits we usually experience. Season 2 hits Netflix on Feb. 14. So grab the popcorn and settle yourself in for some serious binge TV watching before the new seasons start.
Photo/Video credit: ABC, HBO, NBC, Netflix