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TV Midseason Preview: One Strike, We’re Out — Networks Go to Plan B

The midseason television schedule was once a time to spruce up a dusty network lineup by adding a new show here or there. But thanks to the ongoing writers strikes, it’s become something … different.

The scattered odds and ends have slowly been making their way to primetime–a returning reality show one night, a new not-ready-for-TV pilot another. It’s all playing out with the cohesiveness of a peanut butter and broccoli sandwich.

Regardless, there is a lot happening, and as you’ll see below, there should be something to tide any type of person over until the strike is settled.

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Power of Ten
As CBS’ very own version of RegisDrew Carey kicked off the second season of his Family Feud-esque game show, Power of Ten, earlier this month. Wake up with him on The Price Is Right, wind down with him on Ten, and then get set for the only late night block that still has a writing staff. In the show, amateur pollsters try to most accurately guess the responses of the American people to a wide variety of questions.
Power of Ten airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c.

Comanche Moon
As a follow up to the award-winning and critically acclaimed miniseries, Lonesome Dove and Return to Lonesome Dove, CBS is banking on the fact that the appeal is still high for the story and its new six-hour prequel, Comanche Moon. Val Kilmer, Steve Zahn, and Rachel Griffiths are on board to bring the world created by author Larry McMurtry back to life.
Comanche Moon premieres January 13

The New Adventures of Old Christine
The Seinfeld curse is still a thing of the past. Despite a dip in ratings, Old Christine returns for some new episodes in February. Coming back with little to no competition should serve the show well.
The New Adventures of Old Christine premieres February 4

Welcome to the Captain
It’s got a poor title and a main character that goes by the hokey name of Fran Kranz, but Welcome to the Captain has gotten the green light and starts its run in February. Starring Jeffrey Tambor, Chris Klein, and Raquel Welch, the show tells the tale of a zany group of tenants and all takes place at El Capitan, the Hollywood apartment complex in which they live. It’s like an entire series made up of Kramers and Urkels. Oh boy!
Welcome to the Captain premieres February 4

Survivor: Micronesia
Just as the sun rises and sets, you always know that a season of Survivor is either on TV or right around the corner. This time, for the show’s 16th season, Micronesia plays host to two warring factions–past contestants versus die-hard Survivor fans.
Survivor: Micronesia premieres February 7

Jericho, a show that a clueless CBS was inches away from canceling, returns with new episodes in February thanks solely to an outpouring of support from the public. Though not a TV event as the returns of Lost or American Idol will undoubtedly be, CBS is thanking its lucky stars that a fresh show with some level of audience recognition is ready and waiting in the stable. The new season expands the scope to focus on the effects of the explosion on the nation, as opposed to last year’s small town storyline.
Jericho premieres on February 12

Big Brother
Formerly a staple of summer, Big Brother throws on a parka and gets ready for a cold weather debut. The ninth season of the sometimes-creepy reality show was commissioned early by CBS due to the absence of writers, and though there have been no show adjustments announced, you can be sure that word on the usual plot curveballs will come our way any day now.
Big Brother 9 premieres February 12

Times are tough! So tough, in fact, that for the first time in TV history an entire season of a pay-cable series will appear on broadcast TV. CBS made the call to Showtime last week to borrow the hit series Dexter, which stars Michael C Hall as the Miami PD blood spatter analyst who kills serial killers in his down time. Looks to be a beneficial move for both parties.
Dexter premieres on CBS February 17

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Law & Order
Eat your heart out fellas; Law & Order is now legal. Jeremy Sisto joins cast regulars Jesse L Martin and S Epatha Merkerson for the never-ending drama’s 18th season.
Law & Order airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c

[IMG:L]Celebrity Apprentice
If you thought he was ruthless with Rosie, Celebrity Apprentice should do well to further Donald Trump’s campaign of jackassery in Hollywood as he presides over such stars as Stephen Baldwin, Gene Simmons, and Vincent Pastore.
Celebrity Apprentice airs Thursday nights at 9/8c

With Allison’s special abilities now public, Medium returns for its fourth season with special guest Anjelica Huston in a recurring role as an Ameritips investigator.
Medium airs Monday nights at 10/9c[PAGEBREAK][IMG:L]American Gladiators
Hosts Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali, and the colorful, fierce, and completely over the top cast of American Gladiators should prepare a toast. Somewhere around two decades since it last dominated Saturday afternoons, the time was right for a comeback except now in primetime. Watch as folks like Crush, Militia, Wolf, and Justice make mincemeat out of wide-eyed aspirants. Actually, you’ll have no choice but to watch as the surprising ratings success of its premiere will lead NBC to play the show every hour on the hour.
American Gladiators airs Monday nights at 8/7c

Lipstick Jungle
Boyfriends of the world take serious caution. This year is shaping up to be the year of the ‘cosmo’, the drink you carry for your girl and can’t help but spill on your shirt when weaving through a jam-packed bar. One-third of the perfect storm of estrogen, along with ABC’s Cashmere Mafia and the upcoming Sex And the City movie, is NBC’s Lipstick Jungle. Based on the book by Candace Bushnell, the show follows the fabulous exploits of three women with big jobs in the big city.
Lipstick Jungle premieres February 7

The Baby Borrowers
Coming soon to NBC, see what happens when you give a teenage couple the responsibility of a lifetime. They’ll have to care for an infant, then a toddler, then a young teenager, and finally, a senior citizen. For those parents whose kids were turned down for Maury Povich’s teen boot camp show, feel free to apply for this one to shape them up. Here’s lookin’ at you Lynne Spears.
The Baby Borrowers premieres February 18

With an all-lowercase title, this show’s just gotta be oozing edginess and cool. What began online, with eight-minute shorts hitting MySpace and quarterlife.com, the show stars Bitsie Tullock as an aspiring writer who begins to “vlog” (that’s video blog for all of you lame-os) about her life and friends.
quarterlife premieres February 18

Knight Rider
Some people will tell you it’s a one-time-only TV movie, others say it’s a backdoor pilot, existing only to test the waters for a new Knight Rider series. Whatever it is, chalk another one up for the unnecessary remake team. With all the adaptations flooding movies and TV over the past couple of years, the question that begs to be asked is, what will be able to be remade 20 years from now? Regardless, KITT cruises back into primetime, voiced by Will Arnett, and so does Hoff in a guest spot.
Knight Rider premieres Feb 17

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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
FOX, perhaps in the best programming position as far as the havoc-wreaking strike goes, gets ready to premiere a new show with some high hopes attached to it. Starring Lena Headey, Summer Glau, Thomas Dekker, and Richard T. Jones, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles brings the story of the high-grossing movie trilogy to the small screen. With a standard television budget, don’t expect explosions and effects of Jerry Bruckheimer proportions, but the action and suspense should still be high for those unfortunate enough to be waiting for 24 to return (don’t hold your breath). The story picks up right after T2 ends, when Sarah and her son, John, realize that they are now alone in a world full of potential enemies.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles premieres January 13

[IMG:R]American Idol
The stakes have never been higher. With Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood setting new records left and right, to be an American Idol has turned into something of extreme value. There have been misses among the winners–Taylor Hicks, while a hoot to watch, never really transferred his appeal to the music biz–but nowadays, whether it’s the second (Clay Aiken), fourth (Daughtry), or even seventh (Jennifer Hudson) place finalists, an enormous career in both show business and the tabloids awaits.
American Idol premieres January 15

The Moment of Truth
It’s really hard to be impressive as a reality show these days, part of the reason that their premises are getting more and more outlandish. With so many on television and an extra ton on the way until the writers get what they deserve, The Moment of Truth is one of those shows that just makes you shake your head at the gall these producers have sometimes. It’s so bad and cruel that it has to be good on some level. Hooked up to a lie detector, all contestants have to do to walk home with cash is tell the truth. Not so easy when the questions range from “Do you really care about the starving children in Africa?” to the equally as blunt, “Do fat people repulse you?”
The Moment of Truth premieres January 23

As Karen on The OfficeRashida Jones was the gal who almost stole Jim right out from under Pam’s nose. The keyword there is almost. In her new show Unhitched, she’s just as unlucky, finding herself dumped after a seven-year engagement. Reluctant to begin dating again in her thirties, Kate leans on a trio of guys, Tommy, Dr. Freddy, and Jack, who are each going through the same turbulent process. The show’s executive producers, Hollywood hucksters Peter and Bobby Farrelly, will direct the pilot.
Unhitched premieres March 2

The Return of Jezebel James
Still a ways away, not premiering until mid March, The Return of Jezebel James tells the story of Sarah Thomkins (Parker Posey), who is unable to carry a baby, and her estranged sister, Coco (Lauren Ambrose), who agrees to do it for her. The sitcom is the latest project from Gilmore Girls creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino.
The Return of Jezebel James premieres March 14

New Amsterdam
Originally scheduled to premiere in the fall, New Amsterdam got shelved and had its episode order cut–two things that lead me to believe we’re only seeing it in March out of desperation. The show, like a couple others that debuted this year, follows a detective with a supernatural secret. John Amsterdam is immortal, a gift given to him by a Native American girl whose life he saved in 1642.
New Amsterdam premieres March 4

Cashmere Mafia
Boyfriends of the world take more than serious caution–find shelter. Trendy, high-powered, city-strolling women, if the ones on NBC’s Lipstick Jungle don’t suit your tastes, can also be found on Cashmere Mafia. ABC’s new hour smacks of Sex and the City, but is missing one key ingredient, the writing of Candace Bushnell, the brains behind both SATC and Lipstick Jungle.
Cashmere Mafia airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c

Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann
Had it not been for the laborious process of signing and training a large group of celebrities, something tells me ABC would have rushed in a new season of Dancing With the Stars to compensate for the writers’ strike. Without the option, though, getting two of the show’s judges is the best they can do to keep the cash train rolling between seasons of the main event. Not like these two were busy anyway.
Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann airs Monday nights at 8/7c[PAGEBREAK][IMG:L]Lost
Which brings us to the other headlining act of midseason. Since the strike has shelved 24 indefinitely, Lost, along with American Idol, is one of two huge shows that wasn’t dramatically affected by the writers’ strike. It was planning for a midseason return all along. The episode count on season four will be lower than usual (only eight are completed and will be aired), but anticipation has never been higher, and even just a small taste should satisfy eager fans. After the bombshell that was season three’s finale, expect to see both flashbacks and flash forwards from here on out.
Lost premieres January 31

Eli Stone
Also slated for a January 31 premiere date, the character-driven drama Eli Stone attempts to combine the worlds of law and spirituality. Attorney Eli Stone had a bad thing happen to him. He finally encountered a case that made him care. Now, as he climbs up the ladder to more a powerful position, frequent hallucinations make him see a more powerful calling–one of being a spiritual prophet on top of counsel.
Eli Stone premieres January 31

Oprah’s Big Give
You are the most powerful, charitable woman on television, you’ve granted national stages to the unworthy voices of Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray, and your new film, The Great Debaters, will probably be somewhere on this year’s Oscar ballot; What’s next? Wait, give more?! Oprah’s Big Give, premiering in March, pits contestants against each other to see who can make the biggest difference in the lives of others.
Oprah’s Big Give premieres March 2

One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill began its run of 12 episodes earlier this month, a little more than half of what should’ve been a full fifth season. Fans may have been shocked to find that the show has been completely been re-tooled, boldly jumping ahead four years into the future when everyone in the gang has already finished college. A lot has gone down in those years, so viewers can expect to learn about the past and present simultaneously.
One Tree Hill airs Tuesday nights at 9/8c

Make Me a Supermodel
I was just thinking to myself the other day that what this world really needs is another supermodel. Hosts Tyson Beckford and Niki Taylor are poised to grant this wish on Bravo’s new flashy competition, Make Me a Supermodel. I’m not sure what it is about Bravo’s reality competitions, but it seems they are better produced and more addictive than those on any other network. There must be a scientific explanation for this.
Make Me a Supermodel airs Thursday nights at 10/9c

Millionaire Matchmaker
For years now Patti Stanger has made a career out of pairing super-rich men with the women of their dreams. Watching rich guys in need, coupled with the drama of Patti’s personal life, should make for at least a few interesting episodes.
Millionaire Matchmaker premieres Jan 22

How to Look Good Naked
With Queer Eye in the rearview mirror, Carson Kressley switches gigs to Lifetime, to teach women of all shapes and sizes How to Look Good Naked or, more specifically, how to appreciate the body they have. After helping straight guys for the better part of a decade, and now moving to women, Kressley is successfully becoming the entire planet’s gay best friend.
How to Look Good Naked airs Friday nights at 9/8c

10 Items or Less
A completely improvised sitcom—that’s how TBS advertises its new comedy, 10 Items or Less, starring John Lehr.
10 Items or Less airs Tuesday nights at 11/10c

Comedy Central
Reno 911!
Not much is known about the upcoming fifth season of Reno 911!, but seriously, after watching on TV for years and then in movie theaters last year, there should be few surprises or alterations to the formula. Get set for business as usual–unabashed ridiculousness.
Reno 911! Premieres January 16

The Wire
It’s hard not to join the bandwagon of folks who call HBO’s The Wire the best show on television, so I won’t even try to deny it anymore. It is. The cast, writing, realism, and gritty on-location filming all come together to produce a smart, sometimes-depressing, multi-faceted story. The fifth and final season opens its umbrella even wider, shining the light on the media to see how powerful the message can be in affecting the struggling communities that make up Baltimore. As Omar would say: “Game on.”
The Wire airs Sunday nights at 9/8c

In Treatment
A shift in formula for HBO, its new show, In Treatment, will air Monday through Friday, instead of the Sunday night-only treatment all its past shows have gotten. At a glance, it may seem like a scripted show on every night may become dull, but here comes the catch. Gabriel Byrne stars as a psychiatrist who sees five patients, one for each night of the week. So, for instance, if Blair Underwood’s Alex is your favorite patient, then you could see his episodes on Tuesday nights.
In Treatment premieres January 28

Breaking Bad

This show has two big things going for it right off the bat: it comes from the mind of The X-Files’ producer Vince Gilligan, and it is to air on AMC, the network that caught us all off guard with its first original series Mad Men, one of the best new shows of last year. Breaking Bad stars