Batwoman

Opting to create a new character and incorporate Rose’s departure into the show’s storyline instead of a recast, season 2 of “Batwoman” will star Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder. 

With the safety of trips to the movie theater still in doubt, television has become increasingly essential to one’s routine. As 2020 concludes and 2021 begins, here are some exciting new and returning TV series one should consider watching this winter.

The Masked Dancer” (Fox)

A spinoff of “The Masked Singer,” Fox’s latest reality competition show is hosted by comedian Craig Robinson and will have panelists Ken Jeong, Paula Abdul, Brian Austin Green and Ashley Tisdale guessing the identities of masked celebrities by their dance moves. Since solving the mystery would be fairly difficult from choreography alone, contestants will reveal more top-secret clues about themselves to help out the panelists.

A twist in “The Masked Dancer” is that panelists are able to hear a snippet of contestants’ true voices, something that couldn’t be done on “The Masked Singer,” as it could spoil competitors’ identities. Another distinct factor of “The Masked Dancer” is that the characters’ costumes are lightweight and allow for flexibility in their movement, essential elements for showing off their dancing prowess.

The show will feature 10 disguised celebrities over the course of its eight-episode run. Though marketed as a limited event series, enough popularity might earn “The Masked Dancer” a future on the network.

“The Masked Dancer” premiered Sunday, Dec. 27 on Fox, and then it’ll air new episodes Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. starting Jan. 6. New episodes are available to stream on Hulu or Fox Now.

WandaVision” (Disney+)

This unique show marks the first of many Disney+ original TV shows produced by Marvel Studios for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Set after the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” “WandaVision” will explore the relationship between Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) as they enter married life, but everything isn’t as it seems. Though Vision died in the film “Avengers: Infinity War,” trailers show he’s still alive, so his existence will be one of the series’ core mysteries.

Each of the six episodes will adopt the appearance of a new decade — the 1950s through the present — as well as the style of television from each time period. For example, the 1950s-era premiere episode was taped in black and white in front of a studio audience, and the special effects depicting Wanda’s telepathic abilities are reminiscent of classic TV sitcoms “Bewitched” and “I Dream of Jeannie.”

Unlike previous Marvel TV series, “WandaVision” will have stronger connections to the wider MCU, tying directly into the 2022 film “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Olsen has already begun filming for the movie and will reprise her role as Wanda alongside Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular Doctor Stephen Strange.

“WandaVision” premieres Friday, Jan. 15 on Disney+.

Batwoman” (The CW)

After one season, Ruby Rose quit the lead role of Kate Kane/Batwoman in May, leaving The CW to find someone new to wear the Batsuit. Opting to create a new character and incorporate Rose’s departure into the show’s storyline instead of a recast, season 2 of “Batwoman” will star Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder. 

“[Wilder] was a girl who was a statistic of injustice the moment she was born and the system was not built for this person, and she will constantly battle against the system all throughout," showrunner Caroline Dries said to Entertainment Weekly. "She’s battled through it her whole life and she will continue to do battle against it as Batwoman."

It’ll be interesting to see the new direction the show takes in season 2. Wilder seems to have a starkly contrasting life to that of the wealthy cousin of Bruce Wayne. Additionally, the stories of Kane’s stepsister Mary Hamilton (Nicole Kang), tech genius sidekick Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson), father Jacob (Dougray Scott), ex-girlfriend Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy) and sister/nemesis Beth Kane/Alice (Rachel Skarsten) mainly focused on their connections to Kane and her alter ego. Having a missing Kane and new Batwoman will surely shake up the status quo.

“Batwoman” returns Sunday, Jan. 17 at 8 p.m. on the CW. One can stream new episodes the next day on the CW app and catch up on season 1 on HBO Max.

Riverdale” (The CW)

Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) and Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) are back for season 5 of “Riverdale.” After production was halted on the fourth season in March, the cast and crew missed out on filming three episodes. Those will become the opening chapters of season 5 and will close out the teenage journey of the core four as they go to prom and graduate from Riverdale High.

Season 4 ended with a cliffhanger and left the mystery of the widespread VHS tapes displaying horrific crimes unsolved. Betty and Jughead, the only people that actually seem to do any crime-fighting, will surely discover who’s behind the dark string of murders.

“Riverdale” will then undergo a seven-year time jump, bringing the characters into adulthood and back to the ironically deadly and crime-ridden “town with pep.” Fans will look forward to seeing how Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead’s characters and town evolve after such a long time. Fortunately, the jump provides a large gap for the show to explore in season 5 and beyond.

“Riverdale” returns Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 8 p.m. on the CW. New episodes are available the next day on the CW app. The first four seasons are available on Netflix.

Contact Michael Russo at russomw@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.