As we enter the one-two punch of Santa and Dick Clark (or Christmas and New Year’s, for you literalists), TV enters its dead zone of original programming — enlivened only momentarily by the remaining original episodes of the lovely but walking-dead Eli Stone, which ABC has ignominiously cancelled but is, at least, playing out to appease my rancor.

But I’ll get over it, particularly with a set of dangling carrots coming so soon. I can’t guarantee they’ll all be worthwhile, but like a boil that must be lanced, I await their arrivals with an eruption of anticipation.

I will take our January events in reverse chronology, since the ones toward the end of the month have a little more gravitas, and might redeem me for the lancing boil remark (though it could be argued that I’m shooting myself in the foot — or in the boil — for mentioning it again. And again). On Jan. 21, comes the much-awaited return of Lost, for its fifth season. After the dump-its-ass Season 3 and the how-could-I-have-ever-left-you?

Season 4, I have a revitalized interest in the revitalized storytelling that was the stock in trade of this series. When the show time-jumped, my face jaw-dropped, and I can’t wait to see where we’re thrown next.

One day before that premiere, there’s a little thing happening down Washington way. While I admit to being very disenchanted by the decision to let Rick Warren “bless” the proceedings, the inauguration of Barack Obama could still be the greatest symbolic cause for celebration since a coalition of murderers took the wind out of this country’s sails in 1963. Or the new president might bite his supporters in the ass and spend four years romancing the Rick Warrens. In any event, Jan. 20 will be a great day of TV.

My next (or previous) can’t-miss is the return of Battlestar Galactica on Jan. 16. These are the last remaining episodes of the last season, picking up from a mid-season jolt of utter despair tinged with a vague possibility of hope. (Sound familiar?) And if you’re not part of that audience because “I don’t like that sci-fi stuff,” I respectfully suggest you get over yourself and get with the program (and rent the past seasons to catch up); this is fantastic, gripping, topical drama — with a riveting central performance by Mary McDonnell — that absolutely transcends the genre from whence it sprungeth.

On our backward tour of the month, we dawdle lightly at Jan. 13, when American Idol returns. If your personal family reunion over the holidays wasn’t dysfunctional enough, you can tune into what planet Paula is transmitting from, and whether Simon will be motivated more by snark or greed. Oh, yeah — there’s also some singing.

Back at the beginning of the month are two new arrivals in whose waters I must dunk at least a toe. On Jan. 5, ABC gives us True Beauty, a reality show from the combined brain trust of Tyra Banks and Ashton Kutcher. A bunch of gorgeous wannabes think they’re in a competition to show how beautiful and talented they are, but they’re really being judged by their inner goodness. Huh? Strength of character is the arbiter? On television?! I don’t know if it’ll be transcendent or train-wreck, but I’ll be there.

And on Jan. 4, NBC premieres Superstars of Dance. After having suffered through yet another talentless season of Dancing with the Stars, I’m hoping this thing will satisfy my dance jones at least until So You Think You Can Dance returns. Superstars might be an incredible display of hugely talented dancers from around the world, or it might be the hoofing equivalent of that Eurovision Song Contest that the rest of the world goes insane about. I have no idea, but if there are Russian dancing bears, I’m turning it off.

And that’s our countdown. Happy New Year, intrepid viewers.

Scott’s blog, “Multiple Personality,” can be found at blog.scottpatrickwagner.com