Around the remote: Television picks for Jan. 4-9

DON’T MISS: “Downton Abbey” – “The nature of life is not permanence, but flux.” So says wise ol’ Mr. Carson as the beloved period soap returns for what looks to be a season of tremendous change. It’s 1924 and Lady Mary appears ready to embrace a romantic suitor. Meanwhile, her upper-crust parents are preparing for an eventful 34th anniversary celebration. Still, after four seasons, one question continues to plague us: Will the writers ever give poor Edith a bloody break? 8 p.m. Sunday, PBS


SUNDAY: “The Celebrity Apprentice” returns with 16 famous – or formerly famous – people who are painfully desperate to grab some camera time. Don’t feel bad if you have to Google their names. 8 p.m., NBC

SUNDAY: We give a big thumbs-up to “Life Itself,” a highly intimate documentary about the late film critic Roger Ebert. Presented with incredible candor, it tells of his early days as a booze hound, his late-life romance, his heated rivalry with fellow critic Gene Siskel and his brutal battle with cancer. 8 p.m., CNN

MONDAY: Season 19 of “The Bachelor” kicks off and you know the routine: First, we meet the new guy – Chris Soules – followed by the 30 members of his harem. Then we brace ourselves for lots of lame come-on lines and way too many tears to count. 7 p.m., ABC

TUESDAY: Hayley Atwell stars in “Marvel’s Agent Carter,” the latest drama series to be inspired by the comic books. She’s Peggy Carter, the former girlfriend of Captain America and now a special agent, who in 1946 is working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve. 7 p.m., ABC

WEDNESDAY: No longer a ratings juggernaut, “American Idol” nevertheless marches on. Season 14 opens with Ryan Seacrest and his pals checking out the pop-star wannabes during auditions in Nashville. 7 p.m., Fox

WEDNESDAY: Vibrant tunes mix with spicy melodrama in “Empire.” It’s a new series about a music mogul (Terrence Howard) who, after learning he has a fatal disease, must decide who will inherit his famed record label, all while battling his ex-wife (Taraji P. Henson) for hip-hop supremacy. 8 p.m., Fox

THURSDAY: Still weird and deliciously offbeat, “Portlandia” opens its fifth season with a flashback to 1991. That’s when a merger between two book chains resulted in a heated competition between Toni and Candace to head up the Chick Lit Department. 9 p.m., IFC

FRIDAY: It’s time to face the music for “Glee,” which launches its sixth and final season. In the opener, Rachel returns to Lima after failing as a TV actress and learns that Sue has disbanded the glee club – an horrendous affront she hopes to rectify. 7 p.m., Fox

SATURDAY: “The Missing” closes out its compelling first season as the truth behind Oliver’s disappearance is finally revealed. 9:05 p.m., Starz

Chuck Barney/Contra Costa Times