New Year’s specials, football, series debuts highlight what’s on TV this week

The New Year offers a variety of special events, including the kicking off of the NFL playoffs and the conclusion of the bowl season in college football. There’s also the debut of several new series, as well as the return of some established hits.

New this week on Movies on Demand

despibleme2Despicable Me 2 – Fun, fun, fun. A charming animated film – one of this past summer’s biggest hits. It doesn’t quite reach the levels of lunacy that the original did, but it’s great entertainment that everyone in the family can enjoy. Available now.

Runner Runner – Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake star in this thriller about a young man who gets involved with a gambling tycoon. It’s a routine tale – a bit grim and sordid – but fans of the genre should find it to be decent time filler. Available January 7.

TV Highlights

walkingdeadWalking Dead Marathon – To heck with going to parties. AMC is airing every Walking Dead episode in this epic marathon of the zombie apocalypse. The fun begins on Dec. 31 and goes through January 2.

Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest – For some, New Year’s Eve is about sitting in front of the TV and counting down to 2014. This year, Seacrest brings Billy Joel, Melissa Etheridge, Miley Cyrus, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Blondie, Fall Out Boy, Jennifer Hudson, Enrique Iglesias, Capital Cities, The Fray and Robin Thicke together for a typical star-studded affair. The evening begins with the “30 Greatest Women in Music” special.

communityCommunity – Fans of the cult series can rejoice. The offbeat Community returns with the season premiere. Thursday, January 2, NBC.

NFL Playoffs – The NFL begins the run to the Super Bowl with the first round of the playoffs. January 4 and 5. Check local listings for details.

Dowton Abbey – The beloved UK series makes its season 4 debut. Sunday, January 5, PBS.

Vizio BCS National Championship – Over 20 bowl games are on tap starting Dec. 30 (including six on New Year’s Day). You can cap off the NCAA football season with the national championship game. Florida State and Auburn duke it out for the top prize on Monday, January 6, on ESPN.

Intelligence – This new series stars Josh Holloway (of “Lost” fame) as an intelligence agent who has a computer microchip implanted in his brain making him a super cop of sorts. The previews look promising. Co-stars Marg Helgenberger (from “CSI”). Tuesday, January 7, CBS.

psychPsych – One of the smartest and funniest shows on television returns for a new season. The long-running USA Network comedy is reportedly heading into its final season, and things get off with a bang as Shawn and Gus head to London where they get to clash with Despereaux (Cary Elwes). Other season 8 guest stars include Mira Sorvino, Phylicia Rashad, Kristy Swanson, Anthony Michael Hall, Tom Arnold, Billy Zane and Bruce Campbell. Wednesday, January 8, USA Network.

White Collar – The always entertaining crime drama returns from winter hiatus. Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay are two of TV’s most engaging partners. Thursday, January 9, USA Network.

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