Hello, old friends — and by friends, we mean our favorite TV shows. And as with any friend who’s been away for some time, it’s time to catch up on what’s been going on and discover what’s new.
These returning shows range from a musical drama taking its final bow to a fantasy epic, to a political thriller about a new, embattled president. A superhero is back to prowl the streets of New York, while a queen figures out how to rule and be a mom at the same time. The truth is still out there, and love is still everlasting. Click through this slideshow to get the rundown on 10 returning shows, straight from the cast and creators. And check out our Winter TV Preview, featuring 13 new shows, here.
‘The X-Files’ (Fox, Jan. 3 at 8 p.m.)
This season’s theme: From a Trump cameo (via news footage) to a potent, pointed environmentalist message, Season 11 of the beloved 1990s sci-fi serial is very much focused on 21st-century issues. “The show wouldn’t be interesting to me if it weren’t talking about the times we live in,” creator Chris Carter says.
Where we left off: The Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), longtime nemesis of Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson), flexed his conspiratorial muscles, revealing that he’s orchestrating an end-of-days plot that only one-half of the FBI’s dynamic duo will survive. Fortunately, they may have a savior in the form of their son, William, whom we’ll meet in a future episode. “We did two-and-a-half mythology episodes this season,” Carter says. “The mythology has gotten very complex. I had to go back and remind myself of certain things sometimes.”
Coming up: In between those mythology episodes, which feature the return of some old favorites, will be a series of standalone stories written and directed by the likes of James Wong and Darin Morgan (the man responsible for last season’s standout installment, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”). Darin’s brother, Glen Morgan, is behind the second episode, which allows Anderson and Duchovny to prove that they’ve only gotten more badass with age, courtesy of some impressively staged action sequences. “David likes playing the part of Mulder physically,” Carter says. “I think you see that while he’s grown older, he hasn’t grown any less capable as an agile and active law enforcement officer.”
Fake news: Back in the ’90s, The X-Files was the go-to series for conspiracy-minded viewers. Flash-forward two decades, and audiences suddenly have a lot more outlets for those fictions, which some sources scarily present as fact. “If you look back, we were dealing with conspiracies in a way that was considered tabloid,” Carter says. “But now everything’s turned on its head! People believe in conspiracies and consider real news organizations fake.” — Ethan Alter
(Photo: Frank Ockenfels/FOX)
‘Nashville’ (CMT, Jan. 4 at 9 p.m.)
This season’s theme: For Chip Esten, the theme of Nashville‘s final season is best expressed through song, specifically a Deacon Claybourne original called “Looking for the Light,” written by Charlie Worsham and Dennis Matkosky. “Does Deacon have the strength to go on and do what he knows Rayna would want him to do, which is keep on looking for the light and bringing the light to his girls and his own life?”
Where we left off: Deacon and Zach (Cameron Scoggings) came to a tentative agreement over Rayna’s beloved but struggling record label, Highway 65. Meanwhile, Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) and Maddie (Lennon Stella) both lost out in the whole “stolen song” scandal, with Juliette squandering her artistic reputation and Maddie losing the American Music Award to Katy Perry. In relationship news, Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett (Clare Bowen) separated — for good this time! — and Jessie (Kaitlin Doubleday) and Deacon put a pin in their obvious chemistry … for now.
Coming up: Brace yourselves, Nashies, but that Jessie/Deacon pairing is going to happen. “I’ve always wanted to err on the side of taking the time, because I think we need that grieving process,” says Esten. “When he gets reacquainted with Jessie, they don’t know what this is going to be, but they do know that this is a friend, and that’s a start.” While their dad stumbles his way to new love, his daughters explore fresh career prospects, with Maddie’s star growing brighter, while Daphne finds her own voice as a singer.
One last time: Esten recalls the mood on set being bittersweet when the producers broke the news about the sixth season of Nashville also being its last. “Callie Khouri [the show’s creator] pulled the troops together. We met in the Bluebird — not the actual Bluebird, but our set — and the place was packed with people. She sat on the stage right beside a camera and let us know. It was definitely emotional, for so many reasons.” — EA
‘The Magicians’ (Syfy, Jan. 10 at 9 p.m.)
This season’s theme: “Front and center is the loss of magic and what that means literally for a fantasy show, but also what that means for the things we use it as a metaphor for,” executive producer Sera Gamble says. “Season 3 tells the story of that point in adult life where you’re on your own, and your safety net goes away.”
Where we left off: The fairy queen who took the baby of Eliot (Hale Appleman) and Margo’s eye storms the Fillory castle. Julia (Stella Maeve) and the Ember-killing plan of Quentin (Jason Ralph) break magic, and everyone’s pissed at them.
Coming up: There’s the matter of Julia’s “small inexplicable spark of magic. She and Quentin are trying to figure out why she has it, what it means, and if it is possible to grow it. People have a lot of different attitudes about it as they find out about it.”
Quest in show: The Great Cock sends King Eliot to recover a series of seven keys to save Fillory, a journey that involves shadow monsters and an enchanted boat. “It fulfills all of my Princess Bride fantasies, of which there are many,” says Appleman. Gamble adds, “We’re huge fairy-tale fans, and doing the classic epic quest structure with a Magicians spin is a chance to tell a very modern fairy- tale.” — Carrie Bell
(Photo: Eike Schroter/Syfy)
‘Victoria’ (PBS, Jan. 14 at 9 p.m.)
This season’s theme: “This season is all about Victoria confronting a very modern dilemma, which is how to combine motherhood, marriage, and a very, very important job,” says creator Daisy Goodwin. “Victoria was the first woman to have children while on the throne, and it put very serious challenges on her and on her marriage.”
Where we left off: A deranged man shot at Victoria (Jenna Coleman) during a drive in the park, but Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) pulled her down to safety. Later, the queen gave birth to a baby girl. Downstairs, Miss Skerrett (Nell Hudson) turned down an offer by Francatelli (Ferdinand Kingsley) to run away together, and he left the palace. Prince Ernest (David Oakes) and the Duchess of Sutherland (Margaret Clunie) shared a kiss, but also ended their affair.
Coming up: During Victoria’s confinement, Albert takes charge — and warms to the role. He “was more than happy to step in her shoes while she was off having babies, and not that happy to relinquish the reins when she came back,” Goodwin notes. Hughes adds, “He’s very much trying to find his position. He’s a young man, he’s only 20, he’s in a foreign land.” A friendship with Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel “gives him the confidence to take risks and allow his instincts to flourish.” Albert’s interest in technology grows even further when he meets Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, the pioneers of the computing industry. The latter sparks Victoria’s jealousy, so expect some tension — and passionate sparks — between the royal couple. “It’s a very loving marriage, but it’s a very tempestuous one,” Goodwin says. In addition to the Irish potato famine, European politics, and a sassy Duchess of Buccleuch (Diana Rigg), Victoria also has to deal with postnatal depression. Notes Goodwin, “People need to understand queens have the baby blues, too.”
Forbidden love: A doomed relationship blooms between Lord Alfred Paget (Jordan Waller) and Peel’s secretary, Edward Drummond (Leo Suter). “There’s no basis of evidence for it, but it’s true to the spirit of the time,” Goodwin says of their affair. “What I wanted to show is that the 19th century is not really that far removed from us. People were gay, they had same-sex relationships. They didn’t call them by the same names, but it was as much a part of life as it is now.” — Kelly Woo
‘Divorce’ (HBO, Jan. 14 at 10 p.m.)
This season’s theme: “I see the first season as the blowup, and this is the aftermath,” showrunner Jenny Bicks explains. “This is the picking up of the pieces.”
Where we left off: Robert (Thomas Haden Church) calls the cops on his soon-to-be-ex wife Frances DuFresne (Sarah Jessica Parker) for taking the kids on his weekend, prompting her to issue this ominous warning: “You’ve lost everything now.”
Coming up: With their divorce now final, Robert and Frances play the dating game — with mixed results. “Robert doesn’t really know what he’s searching for,” Church teases. “But he met someone that he can sincerely drop his guard for.” The exes also deal with career changes, differing parenting styles, and an illness within Robert’s dysfunctional family.
The ‘stache is trashed: Robert’s bushy mustache was practically another character in the first season of Divorce, but he loses it for Season 2. “In a way, it was his hiding mechanism,” Bicks says of the facial hair. “He’s grown this thing to protect himself, to try to be different. … It was delightful to get rid of the mustache. One of my proudest accomplishments in Season 2.” — Victoria Leigh Miller
‘Schitt’s Creek’ (Pop, Jan. 24 at 8 p.m.)
This season’s theme: Trust. “Season 4 centers around the Roses learning to trust people, themselves, and their instincts,” co-creator/star Dan Levy says. “I don’t think the Roses have really been able to trust anybody since they lost all their money.”
Where we left off: Dan’s David became the first man that his business partner, Patrick (Noah Reid), had ever kissed; Alexis (Annie Murphy) was touched when both her ex-boss/ex-boyfriend, Ted (Dustin Milligan), and her mother, Moira (Catherine O’Hara), showed up at her belated high school graduation; and Johnny (Eugene Levy) and Stevie (Emily Hampshire) actually sold out a night at the motel.
Coming up: The relationship between David and Patrick continues to blossom in a sweet and real way. “It’s the most difficult storyline to write, because I just don’t want to mess it up,” Dan says. “You want to tell it accurately. You want to be able to connect with not just people in the queer community, but anyone who’s gone through the early stages of finding someone who could be the love of your life.”
More Moira: The season is another great showcase for O’Hara, as Moira worries that she contributed to the death of a guest, agrees to headline the Schitt’s Creek Asbestos Fest, and becomes the victim of an internet death hoax. Her “resurrection” wardrobe is her wildest ensemble yet. Teases Dan, “[It] was something that was sent to us, and we thought, ‘OK, we’re gonna put this on a rack and save this for a very special day.’” — Mandi Bierly
‘Homeland’ (Showtime, Feb. 11 at 9 p.m.)
This season’s theme: Art imitates life, as the show follows the first months of a deeply divisive presidential term. “This is a bit of an embattled and isolated president, who is at direct odds with her intelligence community and with the national security establishment,” showrunner Alex Gansa says.
Where we left off: Carrie (Claire Danes) saved President-Elect Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) from an assassination attempt that would have framed Quinn (Rupert Friend). Quinn managed to get them to safety, but sacrificed his life for it. After her inauguration, Keane arrested dozens of intelligence officers, including Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin).
Coming up: Picking up a few weeks after the arrests, the season finds Carrie living in D.C. and trying to win back her influence over Keane. “[Carrie] sees an administration that is ignoring the rule of law, abusing its power, and degrading, in her mind, our democratic institutions,” Gansa says. “She is doing everything she can to hold President Keane to account.” Keane, meanwhile, isn’t backing down. “There’s a degree of paranoia about her. There’s a degree of anger and bitterness at what happened last season,” he says. “The main question that hangs over her arc this season is, ‘I was the one who was almost assassinated, why am I the one under investigation?’”
A juggling act: Quinn’s death will reverberate for Carrie throughout the season, but also complicating her life is Saul’s return to Keane’s good graces (and his appointment to her administration), as well as the arrival of figures from her past. And the big question hanging over Carrie’s head? “Obviously, there is the tension in her life between being an intelligence officer and a mother,” Gansa says. “Ultimately, is she going to get back into the intelligence business?” — KW
(Photo: JoJo Whilden/Showtime)
‘UnReal’ (Lifetime, Feb. 26 at 10 p.m.)
This season’s theme: Can a woman have it all? That’s a question both Quinn (Constance Zimmer) and Rachel (Shiri Appleby) ponder as Everlasting casts its first female lead, Serena (Caitlin FitzGerald). She’s a successful venture capitalist, but as UnReal‘s executive producer Stacy Rukeyser says, “It seems like the higher she climbs up the ladder, the harder it is for her to find a man.”
Where we left off: After Rachel revealed to her ex Jeremy (Josh Kelly) that she had been raped, he decided to run Coleman (Michael Rady) and Yael (Monica Barbaro) off the road.
Coming up: The action picks up six months after Season 2, with Rachel living on a goat farm and trying to come to terms with the guilt she has over the car wreck. “The big question is: Did she or did she not induce Jeremy to do something?” Rukeyser says. As for Quinn, she’s rarin’ to go back to work in the wake of her breakup with Booth and of the discovery that she’s infertile. “If she’s not going to have kids, then she really needs her career to be banging,” Rukeyser explains. Her relationship with Chet gets even more fraught when he introduces his new 24-year-old swimsuit model girlfriend, whom he’s dating because she’s “just easier,” she notes, “but of course, Chet will have to decide if easier is really what he wants.”
#MeToo: Rachel is also dealing with the emotional fallout of acknowledging the rape. A new on-set therapist, Dr. Simon (Brandon Jay McLaren), helps her start digging into the past, and she works to “gain confidence and strength to confront not only her rapist, but her parents,” says Appleby, who directed the episode where Rachel does just that. “It feels so incredibly relevant and powerful.” — KW
‘Jessica Jones’ (Netflix, March 8)
This season’s theme: “She’s seeking emotional connections,” showrunner Melissa Rosenberg says of superpowered private eye Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter). “She’s realizing she’s been cut off from that.”
Where we left off: Don’t expect too much follow-up on the events of The Defenders, including that plot thread about the supernatural dragon skeleton that’s beneath New York. “The Defenders’ story doesn’t really affect Jessica’s overarching individual story,” Rosenberg says. After killing her nemesis, Kilgrave (David Tennant), “an enormous trauma has been resolved, and it’s not that it goes away, but she lives with it in a way that’s more comfortable than in the past.”
Coming up: While the second season of Daredevil split its story into two main arcs, Rosenberg says that Jessica Jones will still follow a season-long narrative throughline: “We approach it as a 13-hour movie.” She also teases some deep cut Marvel cameos from the comic company’s archives, in the same way that Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) became a big part of the first season. “It’s a fun library to draw from,” she says.
The female gaze: In a first for a Netflix superhero series, every episode of Jessica Jones Season 2 will feature a female director behind the camera. “Early on, I wanted it to be at least 50/50,” Rosenberg says. “As I pursued the female side of that equation, I realized it’s a very deep bench of talented women.” — EA
‘Roseanne’ (ABC, March 27 at 8 p.m.)
This season’s theme: They’re back! More than 20 years after the original series finale, the sitcom returns for a nine-episode 10th season that includes most of the original cast.
Where we left off: Yes, that includes John Goodman, whose Dan Conner was killed off in that May 1997 finale. Dan’s resurrection will be addressed as we rejoin the Conner family, who still live in their Lanford, Illinois, home (featuring that familiar crocheted throw on the sofa).
Coming up: If there’s one family we’d like to hear talk politics, it’s the Conners, and Roseanne revival executive producer Whitney Cummings says that’s definitely an angle that will be covered in the return. “We wanted to check in with what would the Conner family be up to right now? What would they be struggling with? What would their problems look like? Who would they have voted for? What news would they be watching?” she says. “We really wanted to go back to the family that everybody knows and loves, who has earned the right to talk about these issues.”
Reunited, and it feels so good: Cummings, a fan of the original Roseanne who also starred in her own eponymous sitcom, says it was magical to see the cast team up again: “It was like watching a family get back together. People were crying. John Goodman and Roseanne, they’re cracking each other up, and we have to stop filming for a second, because everybody’s laughing. They were all walking around the set in awe. Everyone was so excited and giddy about it. Nobody is taking this for granted. And I don’t think anybody’s underestimating how big an impact or how big of a maybe healing conversation this could start.” — Kimberly Potts
(Photo: Adam Rose/ABC)