As the holiday season approaches, the TV cupboard may seem a bit bare; the industry winds down like everything else, filling cable and broadcast networks with holiday specials, reruns and also-ran reality shows.
But there are bright gifts, too: TNT offers Mob City, a three-week, lavishly produced noir-ish TV show about cops and crooks vying for control of 1947-era Los Angeles, airing Wednesdays.
On Dec. 8 and 9, A&E presents a four-hour miniseries on Bonnie and Clyde, retelling the story of the Depression-era outlaws and lovers.
If you miss The Walking Dead, the Sundance Channel has The Returned, a French series airing on Thursdays and Sundays about dead people returning to life in a town, unaware that they are dead and looking like they did right before death (with subtitles, it feels like a well-made, eight-hour foreign film).
Fans of NBC's singing competition The Voice can check out The Sing-Off, which returns Monday as a competition of a capella groups, and if you must see a reality show, try Discovery's Dude, You're Screwed, a series starting Sunday that snatches up a survival expert from his everyday life (all of the contestants in the first series are men) and plops him into an unforgiving environment with 100 hours to get back to civilization.
I think I'd take the cameraman hostage, myself.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Our TV critic Eric Deggans is with us once again. Hi, Eric.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hey. How are you doing?
INSKEEP: I'm OK. And you have joined us even though the November sweeps are over, to talk about TV.
DEGGANS: That's right. You know, we're sort of towards the end of the year here, but there's still a lot of great stuff to watch. And, you know, it's time to talk about it.
INSKEEP: OK, so what do you want us to watch?
DEGGANS: Starting off this week and next week, we've got a couple of shows that are set in the era of Tommy guns in Model T Fords. And the first one is a show called "Mob City" on TNT. Comes to us from Frank Darabont, the guy who gave us "The Walking Dead" on AMC, and it's based on this idea of cops and crooks fighting for control of 1947-era Los Angeles.
And in this clip that we have, Edward Burns is playing Bugsy Siegel, this gangster who's really suspicious of a police officer who's killed someone for him but won't take money for it.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MOB CITY")
EDWARD BURNS: (as Bugsy Siegel) And tell this cop I am not some charity case that he should be doing me any favors. I pay my own way. I pay. He takes. That's the way the world works.
DEGGANS: It's your classic mob picture. You know, lots of great suits, lots of great Tommy guns, lots of great assassinations.
INSKEEP: You know, whenever there's a show that's set in that era or a film that's set in that era, you do feel like the clothes are better, the cars are better, that it's a more stylish time - or at least it comes across that way on the screen.
DEGGANS: Oh, yeah. And they really luxuriate in the look and feel of the times: cigarette smoke and the jazz just sort of drenches the soundtrack. And A&E also does something really similar with a two-night movie about "Bonnie and Clyde," and they recreate and retell that legend of the famous bank robbing, romantic duo. You know, if you like that kind of stuff, those are two great shows to check out.
INSKEEP: If I can just ask, because of course, there was a movie "Bonnie and Clyde." It's a classic. Did they manage to live up to that standard?
DEGGANS: Uh, no.
DEGGANS: Again, like I said, this is the end of the year. You got to lower your standards a little bit. But if you're interested in seeing it retold with sort of modern technology and younger people, you know, its worth checking out.
INSKEEP: OK. Now, you mentioned the creator of "The Walking Dead" a moment ago. "The Walking Dead" just went on hiatus, huge hit. If there are people who are in withdrawal, what's a substitute for that?
DEGGANS: Well, there's this great French series called "The Returned." There's eight episodes and the Sundance Channel has been showing them, and you can catch them in marathons on the weekend. Or you can actually check it on iTunes. And this is about the dead returning to life but they're not zombies. These people come back. They're exactly the way they were before they died. They don't remember how they died. And they try to go back to their lives sometimes decades after they died.
And, of course, people are totally freaked out. And it's almost like watching an eight-part foreign film. It's got subtitles and it's very well done.
INSKEEP: So it's like Rip van Winkle meets zombies or something like that.
INSKEEP: What about reality TV for December?
DEGGANS: Well, that's the thing about the end of the year. There's a ton of reality shows. This show I really love is called "Dude, You're Screwed."
DEGGANS: And it's on the Discovery Channel. They find a guy who is like a Navy SEAL or somebody who's really good at survival. And they kidnap him from his regular job. And then they taken to a remote area and drop him off with some supplies. And then he's got 100 hours to get to civilization. So, in this case, they take a guy and they take him to Antarctica and they give them some supplies and a cameraman, and he's off - off to the races.
INSKEEP: Wow, I think if I were the guy in that program, I would not make it through the hundred hours. It would be a very short series.
DEGGANS: I think if I were the guy in that program, I would kidnap the cameraman and not let him go until they got me to civilization.
INSKEEP: That's exactly it - you need a hostage situation.
DEGGANS: That's right.
INSKEEP: NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans. Eric, always a pleasure to talk with you.
DEGGANS: Thanks for having me.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: This is NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.