Friday, December 3, 2010

Six midseason TV premieres to get excited about

Posted By on Fri, Dec 3, 2010 at 4:59 PM

The fall season is over. But fear not, here come their replacements.

Traditionally, midseason television shows are the bench players — the rag-tag replacements brought in after the star quarterback shreds his ACL. Most of the times they fail, with hilarious results.

Yet, some of the greatest successes — both commercial and critical — have been midseason replacements. Grey's Anatomy, The Office, All In the Family, The Simpsons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and even Happy Days all began midseason replacements.

This year, there are six midseason shows that I'm looking forward to.

1. The Chicago Code (Premieres Feb. 7 on Fox)

Another cop show, yes, but there are two reasons I'm stoked. First, it's set in Chicago, where the legacy of graft and sleaze from the political machine courses through every street and alleyway. But second, this is another series from Shawn Ryan, who gave us the underviewed, critically acclaimed shaggy-detective story Terriers this year. He also gave us seven incredible seasons of the cop show The Shield, the Shakespearean tragedy to The Wire's Dickensian tragedy.

Nobody does corruption like Chicago. And nobody does "corrupt cops" like Shawn Ryan.

2. Lights Out (Premieres on FX)

There's a reason the Rocky movies struck such a chord with viewing audiences. There's an arc to boxing stories that perfectly fits the arc of a television series. Our hero training, intensely. Our hero struggling with doubt. Pummeled and bloody. Victorious, or simply surviving.

In this case: the old story of the retired former heavyweight champ who throws his tattered hat back in the ring.

Lights Out will follow in this tradition, in all likelihood, but go far darker than, say, Rocky III. FX specializes in gritty, masculine dramas, and this fits their brand perfectly.

I doubt we'll hear "Eye of The Tiger," but that doesn't mean you shouldn't tune in.

3. Episodes (Premieres Jan. 9 on Showtime)

This is an entirely different type of comeback story. Matt LeBlanc (Joey from Friends... and Joey from Joey) stars as Matt LeBlanc, an actor who has had trouble finding work since he left a hit show called Friends. A comedy executive has a brilliant idea to remake a popular British show and (mis)casts LeBlanc as the lead, to the increasing horror of the British show's creators.

It's a fun premise. For every American Office, there's a the cringe-worthy American Coupling, American Spaced, and American Skins. As long as the writing doesn't fall into the trap of becoming pay-cable smug, this could be hilarious.

Though, of course, not as good as the British version.

4. The Killing (Premieres March 2011, on AMC)

Television's best shows are no longer on HBO or Showtime. They're on FX and AMC. And, right now, AMC is king. Even conspiratorial non-thriller Rubicon, now canceled, was gutsy enough to let story and quiet character moments — not sex, explosions, or sexplosions — drive their plot.

Based on a Danish television series, The Killing focuses on a single murder from multiple perspectives — the grieving family, the suspects, the detectives, and the politicians connected to the case. Watch for the network pedigree alone.

5. Game of Thrones (Premieres 2011, springish, on HBO)

Traditionally, television and fantasy don't get along. While SciFi needs a few shiny sets and some basic visual effects, fantasy needs luxurious castles, outdoor scenes, and — most importantly — dialogue that doesn't put you to sleep. Perhaps this series, based on the Song of Ice and Fire series of novels, will be successful where so many others have failed. One advantage for a small-screen budget: This series is more about political inter-court intrigue than massive battle sequences with Oliphaunts.

I've only seen the trailer, but I can still promise you this: It will be better than The Tudors.

6. Shameless (Premieres Jan. 9 on Showtime)

It has William H. Macy in it. That, really, should be all I have to say.

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