Let’s face it, hibernation has never been easier. Here are some suggestions for new television shows that are worth checking out between now and the first signs of spring.
“The Chi” (Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime): Emmy winner Lena Waithe (“Master of None”) takes a nuanced approach to this drama about kids and young adults living on Chicago’s crime-ridden South Side. There’s a focus on two murders, but what’s more striking is how deftly Waithe and her actors create a strong sense of empathy for the characters’ everyday lives. They are more than just bystanders; it’s less “The Wire” and more “Treme.”
“Black Lightning”( Jan. 16, at 9 p.m. on CW): In this imaginative series, Black Lightning, the energy-controlling DC Comics superhero, has retired and, as Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams), become a much-admired high school principal. But with his city terrorized by a violent gang called the One Hundred, Jefferson starts to reconsider. Of course, there are consequences to superhero-ing while black. It’s a thoughtful approach to the genre’s usual tropes, and Williams excels as a conflicted good guy.
“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (Jan. 17, at 10 p.m. on FX): Having ignited a nonfiction re-enactment craze with “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” Ryan Murphy and company return with this tale of the psychopathic serial killer (Andrew Cunanan, played by Darren Criss) who murdered Versace (Edgar Ramirez) on the steps of the fashion mogul’s Miami mansion in 1997. The first episode hits a hoped-for sweet spot between fact and sensation, especially when Donatella Versace (Penélope Cruz) arrives to take over her brother’s empire.
“Counterpart” (Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. on Starz): Oscar winner J.K. Simmons gets dual roles in this dark mind-bender. In one dimension, Howard Silk is a longtime schmo who labors at a desk job in a Berlin-based U.N. intelligence office. In another dimension, he’s a ruthless agent who must cross over to this dimension to take care of some deadly business. Bullets fly, but it’s more interesting to watch Simmons in scenes where Howards No. 1 and 2 realize how different — yet alike — they are.
“Altered Carbon” (Feb. 2 on Netflix): This series adaptation of Richard K. Morgan’s 2002 cyberpunk novel looks like a million bucks, based on the pilot episode. It’s set in the 2400s, where consciousness is digitized and transferrable on vertabrae-like hard drives. Thus, an interstellar warrior (Will Yun Lee) is revived in a new body “sleeve” (Joel Kinnaman) by a billionaire (James Purefoy) who wants him to solve a murder.
“The Looming Tower” (Feb. 28 on Hulu): Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer-winning book about the events that led to the Sept. 11 attacks works as an absorbing 10-episode miniseries that plays like a late-1990s “Homeland,” with an added, inexorable sense of dread about what’s ahead. Jeff Daniels stars as FBI counterterrorism expert John O’Neill, and Tahar Rahim (”A Prophet) is terrific as agent Ali Soufan.
“Rise” (March 13 at 10 p.m. on NBC): This engaging series from Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights”) takes some of “Glee’s” exuberance and mixes it with a “This Is Us”-style feel. Josh Radnor stars as a high school English teacher who takes over the drama department with the unlikely goal of staging a musical that’s more provocative than another production of “Grease.” (Answer? “Spring Awakening.”)