Christmas may be in Santa's rearview mirror, but television remains in the giving mood. Five promising series debut this Sunday, each with the potential to keep us entertained long after we toss the pine tree to the curb. Here are some immediate reactions to early episodes:
★★★ out of four stars
H. Jon Benjamin should have his golden pipes insured for a billion bucks. In addition to providing the voice for the title character of FX's salacious spy spoof, "Archer," which returns Jan. 27, he's the star of this slightly gentler cartoon, playing a much-put-upon restaurant owner, Bob Belcher, whose horrible staff also happens to be his family. There are irreverent, gross-out jokes about itchy crotches, bowel movements and eating human flesh, but Benjamin's me-against-the-world delivery gives the show a beating heart, reminding us that the Simpsons aren't the only lovable misfits in 'toon town. 7:30 p.m. Sun., KMSP, Ch. 9.
After the superflop that was "The Jay Leno Show," NBC could use some heroic efforts, starting with Vince Faraday (David Lyons), a by-the-books cop who's framed for a series of crimes. With the world thinking he's dead, including his wife and bright-eyed son, Faraday turns to a cyber crimefighter (Summer Glau) and the ringmaster of an underground carnival freak show (a scene-stealing Keith David) to strike back in the guise of his kid's favorite comic-book character. Some elements are ridiculous, including a chief nemesis who doesn't look as if he could open a jar of pickles, but overall this is a fast-paced, stunningly shot series that should keep comic-con fans satisfied until the next installment of "Iron Man." 8 p.m. Sun., KARE, Ch. 11.
Although it's technically a miniseries, the latest edition of "Masterpiece Classic" offers more twists and turns, back-stabbing and heroics in four 90-minute installments than you'll find in a full season of "NCIS." The soap opens on the day after the Titanic goes down as we see the reaction of British aristocrats and their servants, living together in their own sinking ship. Neither group is quite ready for a new world of electricity and telephones, and that includes Maggie Smith, who has turned onscreen snobbery into an art form. The changing times trigger too many conflicts to count, all of them compelling, thanks to a top-notch cast and a crackerjack script by Julian Fellowes, who brought the same sense and sensibility to his Oscar-winning script for "Gosford Park." 8 p.m. Sun., Jan. 9-30, KTCA, Ch. 2.
★★★ 1/2 out of four stars
Matt LeBlanc spent so many years playing simple-minded Joey Tribbiani that it's easy to assume he doesn't have any other tricks in his bag. That notion will be shattered once you get into this rich satire about British writers who come to the United States to adapt their BBC hits and are forced to cast ... Matt LeBlanc. You'd think we'd have had enough of self-referential series about showbiz, but the show sizzles, largely because LeBlanc is game to poke fun at himself. More important, "Friends" co-creator David Crane and real-life partner Jeffrey Klarik have written all seven episodes, clearly relishing the creative freedom and control they weren't allowed on their last collaboration, "The Class." Sunday's pilot is the weakest of the lot, but stick with it. 8:30 p.m. Sun., Showtime.
★★ 1/2 out of four stars
I was absolutely giddy when it was announced that William H. Macy would be playing a belligerent drunk who is more infant than parent to his self-supportive kids. There's reason to believe that Macy and company will eventually live up to my expectations, but so far I'm underwhelmed. It's hard to dig up any sympathy for a bar rat who won't pay any attention to his family -- or the tab at his neighborhood watering hole. As his oldest daughter, Emmy Rossum makes enough goo-goo eyes at the camera to keep you somewhat interested, but until the writers give Macy more to do than pass out on the living room floor, the series is going to leave me dry. 9 p.m. Sun., Showtime.
firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-7431 Follow Neal Justin on Twitter: @nealjustin