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Get ready for midseason TV premieres

Dale Roe, Go-To Guy

Staff Writer
Austin 360
'SMASH': Megan Hilty, center, is part of the singing, dancing cast of 'Smash,' which starts Feb. 6 at 9 p.m. on NBC.

If you judged solely by the handful of shows that already have seen their spring premieres, you'd think television's 2012 midseason is going to be a dud.

It's hard to fathom, for example, how "Work It," ABC's awful cross-dressing "comedy," ever got made (I suspect blackmail). The network likewise tried to slip in the tawdry, new reality program "Celebrity Wife Swap" while nobody was watching (and let's hope those last three words lead off the low-brow series' obituary).

Finally, "The Bachelor" is back, minus mopey Brad Womack.

But let's not judge a potentially winning midseason ratings book by its tawdry cover. The best is yet to come.

Fans of "Lost" still pining for a replacement (and curse them for not supporting "Fringe") should enjoy Fox's "Alcatraz." Not only does it co-star "Lost's" Hurley, Jorge Garcia, but the J.J. Abrams drama has a time-trippy mystery at its core. In the show, the iconic federal penitentiary wasn't shut down in 1963 because of decay and expense - it was closed because all of its prisoners and staff mysteriously vanished one day and are suddenly reappearing in the modern world. Sam Neill plays the possibly shady head of a government agency tracking them down, while Garcia is an unlikely Alcatraz scholar.

NBC's best current offering is the excellent "Smash" (but only because "Awake," the amazing dual-reality cop drama from Austinite Kyle Killen, remains unscheduled - look for it in March). Viewers who have seen this musical drama's promos and dismissed it as a "Glee" knock-off are woefully mistaken.

Steven Spielberg spent years developing this story of a group of performers launching a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. The big-name cast includes Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing, Bernadette Peters, Uma Thurman and a luminous Katharine McPhee as a Midwesterner vying for the lead role.

ABC's got "GCB" and "The River." The former is a less-broad "Suburgatory"-esque dramedy about a reformed high school "mean girl" who returns to her Dallas-area hometown and tries to make amends with the women she once tortured. The latter is a mystical and tense paranormal drama starring Bruce Greenwood as a Steve Irwin-style adventurer who goes missing in the Amazon, and a documentary crew's attempt to find him. Moments in the pilot were among the scariest I've ever seen on network TV.

CBS has only one show slated, and it's a dud. Remember Rob Schneider, the Adam Sandler hanger-on who became famous as the "makin' copies" guy on "Saturday Night Live"? He's making copies again … of every lame and offensive racial joke ever told. As the titular star of "Rob," Schneider plays a confirmed bachelor who marries into a large and close family of Mexican Americans. Hilarity, unfortunately, does not ensue.

If you're a pay cable subscriber, look for HBO's "Luck." The high-profile series, penned by "Deadwood's" David Milch and directed by Michael Mann, finds an all-star cast (Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina, Michael Gambon, Jill Hennessy) navigating the complex and shady world of professional horse racing and gambling. The series, though slow-moving, is layered and rich with possibility.

Here are the premiere dates for these shows along with other new offerings, as well as returning favorites (fall 2011 series returning from hiatus are only listed if their day or time slots have changed). Television schedules are subject to change on short notice. Please check your program guide before setting your DVR.

droe@statesman.com; 912-5923

New shows

Sunday:

8 p.m. "The Firm," NBC (moves to 9 p.m. Thursdays this Thursday) - based on the feature film; stars Josh Lucas and Juliette Lewis.

9 p.m. "House of Lies," Showtime - dirty business comedy stars Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell.

Wednesday:

7:30 p.m. "Are You There, Chelsea?" NBC - sitcom starring talker Chelsea Handler and Laura Prepon and based on Handler's comedy.

Thursday:

7:30 p.m. "Rob," CBS

8 p.m. "The Finder," Fox - "Bones" spinoff stars Geoff Stults and Michael Clarke Duncan.

Saturday:

8 p.m. "The Fades," BBC America - apocalyptic drama from the writer of "Skins."

Jan. 15:

7:30 p.m. "Napoleon Dynamite," Fox - animated version of the droll, hit indie film voiced by original cast premieres with back-to-back episodes.

Jan. 16:

7 p.m. "Alcatraz," Fox

9 p.m. "Lost Girl," Syfy - supernatural Canadian import sports a largely unfamiliar cast.

Jan. 17:

8 p.m. "Remodeled," The CW - industry vet Paul Fisher pulls a "Kitchen Nightmares" on modeling agencies.

Jan. 19:

9:30 p.m. "Unsupervised," FX - animated comedy from creators of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" features voice work by Justin Long, Kristen Bell and "Spy Kid" Alexa Vega.

Jan. 25:

8 p.m. "Touch," Fox (preview; returns March 19) - Kiefer Sutherland returns to series television as the dad of a boy with autism who can see the future.

Jan. 27:

9 p.m. "Bering Sea Gold," Discovery - there's a gold rush in the glacial waters of Nome, Alaska as chronicled in documentary series.

9 p.m. "Spartacus: Vengeance," Starz - sequel to "Blood and Sand" stars Lucy Lawless and replacement title character Liam McIntyre.

Jan. 29:

8 p.m. "Luck," HBO

Feb. 6:

9 p.m. "Smash," NBC

Feb. 7:

8 p.m. "The River," ABC

Feb. 19:

9:30 p.m. "Life's Too Short," HBO - Ricky Gervais mockumentary about a little person navigating through show biz waters.

March 4:

9 p.m. "GCB," ABC

March 13:

8 p.m. "Fashion Star," NBC (moves to 10 p.m. March 20) - Elle Macpherson hosts this reality competition.

March 15:

7 p.m. "Missing," ABC - retired CIA agent Ashley Judd tracks her missing son in Europe.

Returning

Sunday:

8 p.m. "Shameless," Showtime

9:30 p.m. "Californication," Showtime

Tuesday:

8 p.m. "Dance Moms," Lifetime

Wednesday:

7 p.m. "Whitney," NBC

8 p.m. "One Tree Hill," The CW

8 p.m. "Rock Center with Brian Williams," NBC

9 p.m. "Face Off," Syfy

Thursday:

7 p.m. "30 Rock," NBC

8:30 p.m. "Up All Night," NBC

Saturday:

9 p.m. "The Nerdist," BBC America

Jan. 15:

7 p.m. "Undercover Boss," CBS

Jan. 16:

8 p.m. "Being Human," Syfy

Jan. 17:

9 p.m. "Justified," FX

9 p.m. "Southland," TNT

9 p.m. "White Collar," USA

Jan. 18:

7 p.m. "American Idol," Fox

9 p.m. "Royal Pains," USA

9 p.m. "Mistresses," BBC America

Jan. 19:

9 p.m. "Archer," FX

Jan. 20:

7 p.m. "Shark Tank," ABC

Feb. 3:

7 p.m. "Who Do You Think You Are?" NBC

Feb. 5:

9 p.m. "The Voice," NBC (after the "Super Bowl," regular timeslot Mondays at 7 p.m.)

Feb. 12:

8 p.m. "The Celebrity Apprentice," NBC

Feb. 19:

7 p.m. "The Amazing Race" CBS

9 p.m. "Eastbound & Down'" HBO

March 4:

7 p.m. "Harry's Law," NBC

March 6:

7:30 p.m. "Breaking In," Fox

March 11:

7:30 p.m. "Bob's Burgers," Fox

March 19:

7 p.m. "Dancing With the Stars," ABC

Already on

"The Bachelor," ABC, 7 p.m. Mondays

"The Biggest Loser," NBC, 7 p.m. Tuesdays

"Work It," ABC, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays

"Celebrity Wife Swap," ABC, 8 p.m. Tuesdays

"Winter Wipeout," ABC, 7 p.m. Thursdays

"Merlin," Syfy, 9 p.m. Fridays

"Portlandia," IFC, 9 p.m. Fridays

"The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret," IFC, 9:30 p.m. Fridays

Your Go-To Guy

Dale Roe is your Go-To Guy for useful information. He writes guides on everything from allergies to the Emmys, and from local events to QR codes. What topics would you like to know more about? Send an e-mail to droe@statesman.com.