Our Epic Guide to Mid-Season TV
By Christy Gualtieri
January 25, 2012
Believe it or not, life goes on while the world waits for Mad Men; It even goes on when Community is pulled from the mid-season lineup. And while life goes on, a number of new shows will crop up in their place. Which ones are worth watching, and which ones are best to ignore so you can finally read The Hunger Games? To help you plan your DVR schedule this winter, we went ahead and watched some of the most-anticipated shows of the new year and put together this helpful guide. Who knows, you may find a new obsession to distract you from the absence of Sherlock—and the pervasive presence of The Bachelor.
When the cast of Glee grows up, moves to the big city and faces the simultaneous terror and exhilaration of auditioning for Broadway, it will look like Smash. This hour-long drama/comedy follows the journey of creating a Broadway musical about Marilyn (as in Monroe, not Manson). The audience is treated to that creation from all viewpoints: creative director, producer, choreographers and, of course, the two young women vying for the main role. Katharine McPhee, most recognizable from her time on American Idol, is Karen, the show's metaphorical Norma Jean: demure, understated and brunette. Megan Hilty plays Ivy, the blonde, curvy bombshell with a hidden painful past much like the Marilyn most viewers have come to know. Both women bring a certain electricity to the show, but Debra Messing is the one to watch as the musical’s writer trying to balance her desire for a quiet home life with the excitement of the theater. Is
Smash the Spielberg-backed big hit that NBC needs to bring its viewers back? Perhaps. It has all the markings of a crowd-pleaser. The musical numbers themselves are catchy, the choreography pops and it's mercifully short on what everybody already knows: that making it in the theater world is rough, baby. Check out this show if you're a fan of Glee, American Idol, The Voice or belting out songs while driving alone in the car.
Jason Isaacs (of Harry Potter fame, though I've always liked him most in The Patriot) stars in this drama about a detective who may or may not be living a double life after a car accident that killed one of his family members—but which one? Every time Michael Britten “wakes up,” he is in a different reality—one, a life with his son, the other with his wife. Because the viewer doesn't know either, the show engages you right away. Is he a grieving husband, longing for the touch and lost love of his wife, or is he a sorrowful father who will never see his son again? Even the therapists he employs (he has two, one for each alternate universe) to help him make sense of his situation try to convince him that the reality he is currently in is the right one. Isaacs brings a genuinely brooding sensitivity to the role, but viewers, be warned: you’ll have to be willing to invest in, because there's no way this is getting resolved anytime soon. Fans of Homeland and Fringe will definitely want to give this one a try.
So, you missed 24, did you? Well, here's your fix of both Keifer Sutherland and some edge-of-your-seat action. Touch is the story of Martin Bohm (Sutherland) and his autistic son, Jake, who refuses to talk and be touched. The young man is failing socially without any support. His mom was killed in the 9/11 attacks and Martin works 50-hour work weeks to pay the bills. But before being institutionalized, he helps to connect a range of people—a grieving restaurant supplier, a Japanese fangirl, a desperate Iranian teenager—changing all of their lives for the better. It will be interesting to see how they'll continue the storyline through an entire season, as any real sense of conflict was already answered in the
pilot. But, the premise is interesting, so if you were a fan of 24, or are good at figuring out which not-cancer each of Dr. House’s patients has. You may be able to determine how each set of characters are connected before the end of the episode.
House of Lies, Showtime
It's all the Showtime you've come to expect: sex, swearing and style. House of Lies is a smooth-talking, slick-looking glimpse into what corporate America wants you to see. The show follows managerial consultant Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) through a typical day: figuring out the best way to connect with his son (who dresses in skirts and scarves and just won the part of Sandy in his school's production of Grease), avoiding his predatory ex-wife (that is, when he's not waking up next to her after a drunken bender) and making as much money as possible, even if it means selling millions of people short. Viewers might come for the glitz and the humor (Marty’s interactions with his small staff are particularly funny), but they’ll stay to see the layers peel back and reveal what is surely hiding beneath that really expensive tie. Check it out if you are a fan of Entourage, How to Make It In America or Californication.
Napoleon Dynamite, FOX
Like the movie it's based on, the standout in the animated Napoleon Dynamite is still Jon Heder. It seems not much has changed since the film credits rolled: Grandma is still crazy, Uncle Rico is still creepy, Deb's hair is still in that side ponytail and viewers still watch as the painfully awkward crew get themselves through high school. The problem lies, however, in the lack of translation from film to animated series. More slapstick than the original, the show doesn't quite capture the film’s physical humor, relying instead on cliched plots we've seen in countless other shows. Fans of the original film will most likely find it entertaining, though, and it works as a good placeholder while you're waiting for new episodes of The Simpsons and Family Guy.
Now that Lost is off the air, any new Bad Robot Productions show about an island is guaranteed to get a lot of attention. The premise of this supernatural crime drama is gripping: When the high-security prison on Alcatraz Island closed in 1963, the inmates were supposedly transferred. The audience quickly learns the criminals really just ... disappeared. Now they are resurfacing, unchanged and apparently on a mission. A San Francisco police detective (Rebecca Madsen, channeling her best Olivia Dunham) begins to explore the cases with the help of an Alcatraz expert (the always-endearing Jorge Garcia) and a mysterious FBI agent (Sam Neill is back!). However, it seems the writers can’t decide whether to explain too much or too little about the compelling story. Some scenes are painfully expository, while others leave viewers unnecessarily scratching their heads. Still, the over-arching mystery of the island and Garcia’s quips may justify the suspense. Keep tuning in if you enjoy Fringe, Criminal Minds, The X-Files or really want to see Hurley and Dr. Alan Grant work together.