Ah, the television midseason. By now, the public has decided which new shows they’ll stick with (Revenge, 2 Broke Girls, New Girl), which they’re unsure about (Pan Am, Prime Suspect, Once Upon a Time) and which aren’t even worth thinking about (The Playboy Club, Free Agents). There’s little chance that if something hasn’t become appointment viewing by now, it’s worth cancelling the DVR season pass. So while we’re all finally getting over the tragedy that was Charlie’s Angels, the network bigwigs are using their highly-representative sample (comprised, one can only imagine, of elderly people, religious zealots, and the entirety of the state of West Virginia) to determine just what they’ll throw at us next. Sure, some of the best shows have been birthed out of a midseason replacement (ahem, Happy Endings, ahem), but the pickings are often more than slim – shows the networks don’t often find strong enough to debut with their fellow newbies in the fall.
So what will we have to look forward to (or to run away from) in our TV Guide in the coming weeks? Sure, PBS will kick off the second season of critical and ratings darling Downton Abbey January 8th, while NBC’s 30 Rock is back January 12th. Cee-Lo Green will once again be gracing our television screens with The Voice’s post-Superbowl premiere, and Timothy Olyphant will be emanating his rugged swagger on Justified once more, as the lawman drama kicks off its third season January 17th. But what of the newly minted TV fare? Here are a few of the networks’ latest offerings worth considering, and a few that your mom will probably love.
The Firm, NBC
The Pitch: A legal thriller that follows the best-selling novel by John Grisham, 10 years after the conclusion of the film. Stars the underrated Josh Lucas.
Why it’s worth checking out: Lucas has potential to lead a series, especially in this role originated by Tom Cruise, and John Grisham (hackneyed as many perceive him) has put his support behind the adaptation.
The Pitch: A suspense-thriller about the shocking reappearance of the prison’s most notorious inmates, 50 years after they vanished.
Why it’s worth checking out: Hurley! From Lost! Who doesn’t love Hurley? Plus, J.J. Abrams has attached his name to the project, so we can expect a departure from our everyday sci-fi fare.
The Pitch: Dustin Hoffman helms this inside look at the dark and dirty world of horse racing.
Why it’s worth checking out: It comes from Deadwood creator David Milch, who’s unique brand of storytelling made that show a critical darling. Plus, with a cast list that includes Denis Farina, Michael Gabon, and Nick Nolte, it’s bound to at least build upon Boardwalk Empire’s streak of crime drama success.
The Pitch: While this Broadway drama sounds a little cheesy out of the gate, the buzz surrounding it is pretty difficult to ignore.
Why it’s worth checking out: Listen, even the hippest of girls out there (sorry, guys) can admit to liking Center Stage at one point or another, and this isn’t far from it. American Idol alum Katharine McPhee makes her TV debut, and the cast also includes Uma Thurman, which is beyond random. Plus, NBC clearly has enough faith in the show to premiere it near the Super Bowl, so it has potential to hit it big.
House of Lies, Showtime
The Pitch: Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell lead a group of con artists hell-bent on targeting corporate fat cats.
Why it’s worth checking out: It’s a comedy! With Don Cheadle! Plus, television has been depressingly Kristen Bell-less since the cancellations of both Veronica Mars and Party Down. Double-plus, any show that adds Parks and Recreation standout Jean-Ralphio to its cast is A-okay with me.
The River, ABC
The Pitch: A prime time horror jaunt from the creator of Paranormal Activity that has a crew searching for a rescue team after some harrowing footage is found.
Why I’m skeptical: As previous attempts at prime time scare have gone a little down the deep end (American Horror Story), this has the potential to either be horribly frightening, or reek of fail.
Don’t Trust the B**** in Apt. 23, ABC
The Pitch: A woman from the country relocates to New York City and moves in with a raucous party girl.
Why I’m skeptical: Krysten Ritter is funny, and underrated to boot, but there’s one thing keeping me from overwhelming excitement on this one, and that thing is a one James Van Der Beek. Dawson Ritter stars as himself, which is meta in a Matt Leblanc Episodes way, so I’m willing to at least give it a chance.
The Finder, FOX
The Pitch: A Bones spinoff about a man (Geoff Stults) who has a gift for locating people and things.
Why I’m skeptical: Who really wanted a Bones spinoff?
Work It, ABC
The Abomination: Two men dress as women to get jobs.
Why I’m disappointed that this is a show: Clearly this gem was envisioned following those oh-so-progressive Tim Allen Last Man Standing meetings. Those who watch How I Met Your Mother may remember Ben Koldyke as Robin’s boyfriend Don. Well, Don is back, and starring in a Bosom Buddies-style hate crime of a television show.
The Pitch: Rob Schneider stars as a newlywed dealing with his Mexican-American wife’s family. Oh, that doesn’t sound vaguely racist.
Why I’m disappointed this is a show: It brings Rob Schneider back into our lives.
Napoleon Dynamite, FOX
The Pitch: An animated take on the 2003 cult film.
Why I’m disappointed this is a show: I loved this film as much as the next person, but do we really need to revisit this almost 10 years after the fact?
So there you have it, my two cents for your perhaps sparser midseason TV schedule. What are you looking forward to, or looking forward to making fun of, on the new schedule?