Midseason is a cruel time in TV. Critical hit shows are given the brushoff by the networks, disappointing fall premieres produce their last episodes, and most of the networks take a holiday hiatus in order to extend their run to the usual May finale season.
I like to think of it as a time to look back and take stock of what shows have stayed awesome (The Walking Dead), became awesome (New Girl), or ended up awful (Whitney…stick to writing, because Two Broke Girls is great). So, in the style of my rundown of what new premieres were worth your time in the fall, here’s a synopsis of what to expect in the next few weeks.
Community: Much as it pains me to say it, the quirky and subtly brilliant Community has been shelved for the next half of the season (and possibly more…gulp). But, I’m not that sad because the reason is 30 Rock is back!
Charlie’s Angels, The Playboy Club, Pan-Am: I kind of feel like this is “score one for feminism!” Especially since The Playboy Club tried to paint its bunnies as some kind of liberated woman, an idea fab writer-director Norah Ephron openly ridiculed. Charlie’s Angels was a bust before it even began — too-heavy promotion killed it. Plus, you can’t top Farrah. As for the latter two, you know what they say: good costumes do not a solid period piece make.
Break out your DVR/Netflix/Hulu+ and settle in, because these shows demand catch-uppery before they return from their halftime break.
The Walking Dead: While it got some flak early in the season for being all talk and little zombie-killing action, this first half of Dead’s second season is full of character development and twists that briefly turn this action-horror epic into a family drama. That said, no one from Brothers & Sisters ever tried to sup on your cerebellum.
2 Broke Girls: This breakout hit comes from the mind of Whitney Cummings, whose NBC sitcom Whitney thoroughly blows, but who whips up stinging retorts for Kat Dennings in a way that makes you certain she belongs behind the camera. This Prince(ss)-turned-Pauper and the Pauper tale is culturally relevant (what up, 99%?), thoroughly witty, and the dirtiest heartwarmer on TV.
Up All Night: Saturday Night Live + sitcom hitmakers = excellence. I am as far away from having kids as Rick Santorum is from not being a douche, but I can still find the trials of new parents Chris and Reagan amusing. From yuppie neighbors to minivans to organizing the junk drawer, Up All Night makes the banal hilarious and the idea of being a cool parent (alert the teenagers!) seem possible.
Downtown Abbey: I know, I know, a stuffy British period piece doesn’t sound all that interesting. Especially when Laura Linney tells you it’s a Masterpiece Classic. But she didn’t lie—it is both a masterpiece, and an instant classic. Family drama, amazing upper crust setting, and a heaping helping of dry, across-the-pond wit keeps the stodginess to a minimum and the laughs genuine. If that doesn’t have you convinced, this will: Dame Maggie Smith.
House of Lies: Joining veterans Californication and Shameless on Showtime’s Sunday night original series roster, House of Lies looks promising. The always-stellar Don Cheadle, tiny powerhouse Kristen Bell, and Ben Schwarz (aka Jean-Ralphio, Parks & Rec’s most clueless entrepreneur) make for a solid cast without the “Look how famous everyone is!” effect that so often precedes truly crap productions (I’m looking at you, Valentine’s Day).
Smash: No doubt piggybacking on the massive success of Glee, this tale of a Broadway cast preparing for a show features a smattering of singers and singing actors including Katharine McPhee, Debra Messing and Uma Thurman. The music is written by Hairspray’s composer and librettist, so you can count on many a musical theater in-joke/geekout. The real test will be if it can also ensnare those who don’t typically gravitate toward musical theater (my guess is no, but anything’s possible).
Unsupervised: From the network who brought you the raunchtastic animated spyfest Archer and the producers that make the magic happen on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia comes a cartoon about unaccompanied minors. It could be brilliant (a la Always Sunny). It could be awful (a la Unaccompanied Minors). I’ll give it a go since it’s on right after Archer, but I’m skeptical.
Work It: Two guys dress up as women to work as the ugliest pharma reps ever. Remember Bosom Buddies? This ain’t it. This is going to fail. Sorry, guys—especially you, cute guy that played Robin’s boyfriend Don on How I Met Your Mother.
If you want the full list of what’s on deck, Metacritic’s got it. Otherwise, fare thee well, my televisual travelers!