CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- January will once again be the staging ground for the various cable networks as more than a dozen original series will premiere or resume running new episodes during the period.
Here's a breakdown of what to expect from each network:
-- HBO will kick off 2004 with the return of "Sex and the City" and a new season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on January 4 at 9:00/8:00c and 9:30/8:30c respectively. "Real Time With Bill Maher" will also return for its second season on January 16 at a new time, 8:00/7:00c. And on March 7, viewers can look for the start of the long-awaited fifth season of "The Sopranos."
-- Fellow pay channel Showtime also has a busy month with new seasons of "The Chris Isaak Show" (Thursday, January 8 at 10:00/9:00c) and "Family Business" (Friday, January 30 at 11:00/10:00c) as well as the much-anticipated premiere of "The L Word" (Sunday, January 18 at 10:00/9:00c).
-- Sci Fi will resume the second half of "Stargate SG-1's" seventh season on January 9 at 9:00/8:00c followed by the premiere of the short-lived U.K. series "Code Name: Eternity" at 10:00/9:00c.
-- "Monk" returns to USA's schedule with the first of seven new episodes on Friday, January 16 at 10:00/9:00c. Also on tap for the month is the network's six-hour mini-series "Traffic." USA will air the project in three parts: Monday, January 26 at 9:00/8:00c; Tuesday, January 27 at 9:00/8:00c; and Wednesday, January 28 at 9:00/8:00c. The network will also rebroadcast all three parts back-to-back on Saturday, January 31 beginning at 5:00/4:00c. Lastly, the second season of "Nashville Star" is on tap on USA on Saturday, March 6 at 10:00/9:00c.
-- Lifetime's popular drama "The Division" is set to return for its fourth season on Sunday, January 11 at 9:00/8:00c.
-- "Chappelle's Show" will premiere its second season on Comedy Central on Wednesday, January 21 at 10:30/9:30c. The network has also scheduled the eighth season premiere of "South Park" for Wednesday, March 17 at 10:00/9:00c.
-- Spike TV will launch its first late-night talk show when "The John Henson Project" premieres Sunday, January 11 at 10:00/9:00c.
-- A&E will look into the lives of a Southwest Airline crew when "Airline" premieres Monday, January 5 at 10:00/9:00c with back-to-back episodes. The half-hour series, which has an 18-episode commitment, "showcases the ups and downs of passengers who board Southwest flights at the bustling Los Angeles International (LAX) and Chicago Midway airports, as well as the staff and crew -- from the pilots to the hard-working check-in staff and supervisors who are often on the receiving end of angry customers' wrath," according to a network press release.
-- And finally, FX will try to create its own "Joe Schmo"-esque reality buzz when "Todd TV" kicks off on Wednesday, January 21 at 10:00/9:00c. The seven-week series, based on the Portugal hit "Master Plan," has viewers taking complete control of the life of 30-year-old Hermosa Beach, California waiter Todd Santos. Should he apply for a certain job? Should he dump a girlfriend? Viewers will decide voting by computer, telephone or text message and get to see him follow through with their decisions the following week.