Best New TV Shows For Boomers

  • The enthralling British chronicle Downton Abbey, which premiered last night, got a lot of critical attention. But there are other shows starting this season that might just be as addictive. Here they are:

    Alcatraz (Jan. 16, 8 p.m., Fox)

    How can three hundred prisoners simply vanish from the terrifying island jail known as Alcatraz—and then begin to reappear five decades later without having grown any older? Sam Neill plays FBI agent Emerson Hauser, who’s trying to figure that out.
  • House Of Lies (Jan. 8, 10 p.m, Showtime) Don Cheadle stars as a freelance corporate manipulator who gets big bucks for giving CEOs advice that they need. Or not. As the preview says, Cheadle and his team put the “con” in “consulting.” Actually, we thought it was already there.
  • The Firm (Jan. 8, 9 p.m., NBC) John Grisham fans will want to take a look at this continuation of his bestseller “The Firm,” which was made into a movie starring Tom Cruise. That film ended with SPOILER ALERT the hero and his family going into witness protection. Now, Josh Lucas is in the role that Cruise played – an ethical man trying to reclaim his place in the world.
  • The Finder (Jan. 12, 9 p.m., Fox) A spinoff of the popular forensic-detective series “Bones,” the show focuses on a military veteran who believes that his brain injury in war has given him the power to find lost things and lost people. Geoff Stults, who plays veteran Walter Sherman, has been around for a while; he regularly appeared in the series “7th Heaven” in the early 2000s.
  • Betty White’s Off Their Rockers (Jan. 16, 9:30 p.m, NBC) Who else but Betty White could host a show in which “oldsters” (that’s her word) play tricks on unsuspecting younger people. White, who has had one of the most amazing comebacks in entertainment history, isn’t picking the pranks, but she is making sure they’re not “mean-spirited,” as she told an interviewer. Some of them are X-rated, though. That’s all we’re going to say.
  • American Idol (Jan. 18 and 19, 8 p.m., Fox) The phenomenal TV show enters its 11th season with a two-night kickoff. (Or, as the show’s promo material says, “The Incredible Journey Begins.”) For once, the judges seem to be a pretty stable panel, with Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez back for another season, as is host Ryan Seacrest.
  • Luck (Jan. 29, 9 p.m., HBO) If you loved HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” this will probably be at the top of your list. With an all-star cast, including Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, “Luck” is set in the gritty world of a horse-racing track. Probably not for fans of “National Velvet.”
  • Smash (Feb. 6, 10 p.m., NBC) Debra Messing and Anjelica Huston are the powerful leads in Smash, which combines elements of Glee and I-wanna-be-a-star showbiz drama. Also appearing: American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee.
  • Celebrity Apprentice (Feb. 12, 9 p.m. NBC) The Donald appears to have topped himself once again with this Apprentice crew. Among the contestants: model Cheryl Tiegs (left); American Idol winner Clay Aiken; Real Housewife of New Jersey Teresa Giudice; and former talk-show host Arsenio Hall. We can hear them arguing already.