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New Year's Revolution

Tribune Newspapers: Newsday

What, is it fall again? Looking at the number of midseason shows the networks have lined up starting this week, you might come to that conclusion.

One reason: no-repeat runs of series such as "NYPD Blue" and "24." The networks learned this lesson from cable, where a series such as HBO's "The Sopranos" or FX's "The Shield" builds excitement because it doesn't pause every four weeks for "encore" episodes (you and I call them reruns). Fox isn't starting the fourth season of "24" until after the holidays (Jan. 9), and ABC is ending the run of "NYPD Blue" midseason (March 1) so it can launch the next show from series co-creator Steven Bochco, "Blind Justice" (March 8), before the time slot cools down.

Another reason? Patience. Critics and viewers have long asked the networks not to yank series after a couple of airings, to give them time to build an audience. The "replacement" shows that used to arrive in October and November don't show up now till after the first of the year. Even with lagging series, budget-pressed networks often run off unaired episodes before pulling the plug completely.

Reality shows also haved changed the game. The closed-end time frame of many concepts, including CBS' "Survivor" and NBC's "The Apprentice," means a competition that starts in September will conclude by year-end. Something new will be needed in January.

Which, this year, is a very busy month. We count nearly 20 shows ready to go in the next four weeks. About the same number is waiting in the wings for the spring. These shows don't debut en masse the way the fall lineup does. But their number - and in many cases, quality - does indicate the networks are quietly moving toward that "year-round" scheduling concept they keep promoting.

The midseason rundown

So in the spirit of fall preview, here's our midseason rundown. Capsules are by Noel Holston (NH) and Diane Werts (DW):


Alias (Jan. 5, Wednesdays at 9 p.m.). J.J. Abrams' reward for producing the hit "Lost" is this primo lead-out slot for the fourth season of his first love. Jennifer Garner returns as the sexy secret agent, as if you couldn't tell from those 7,439 promos ABC has been running. Her Sydney Bristow gets a new boss, a new partner and, apparently, a hotter love life. (DW)

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: How'd They Do That? (Jan. 10, Mondays at 8 p.m.). Ring-a-ding-ding! ABC wins the prize for first double-colon title of a network series we've seen. This one goes behind the scenes of the previous night's household redo. (DW)

The Bachelorette (Jan. 10, Mondays at 9 p.m.). New York City is the setting for the third female version, built around Jen Schefft from last year's Andrew Firestone "Bachelor" competition. (DW)

Supernanny (Jan. 17, Mondays at 10 p.m.). Adapted from a British hit, this nonfiction series features Jo Frost, who apparently is part Mary Poppins, part drill instructor. Each week she'll set a different American family straight on how to deal with unruly kids. (NH)

Blind Justice (March 8, Tuesdays at 10 p.m.). From Steven Bochco and some of his key "NYPD Blue" associates, a crime drama about a New York cop who was blinded by a gunshot but successfully fought to keep his job rather than accept a disability pension. Ron Eldard stars as Det. Jim Dunbar. (NH)

Grey's Anatomy (date TBA). Calling Dr. Kildare! After a decade of frenetic, chest-cracking action on "ER" and a couple of years of loopy, thigh-slapping humor on "Scrubs," this new medical drama is going to seem positively old school, much slower of pace and earnest in tone. But star Ellen Pompeo, who in fact co-starred in the movie "Old School" with Will Ferrell, is awfully appealing in the role of first-year surgical intern Meredith Grey. (NH)

Eyes (TBA). The only series, so far as we know, to be inspired by the Enron scandal. Tim Daly ("Wings") stars as Harlan Judd, the boss and chief operative of a high-tech firm that catches corporate embezzlers, trade-secret turncoats and the like. (NH)

In the Game (TBA). Jennifer Love Hewitt tries sitcomedy, as a sports producer and single mom, with help from Ed O'Neill ("Married With Children"). (DW)

John Stamos series (TBA). The "Full House" heartthrob plays a New York publicist and busy bachelor. With "Philly" co-star Rick Hoffman. (DW)


Late Late Show (night of Jan. 3, weeknights at 12:35 a.m). Having passed the on-air audition to succeed Craig Kilborn, here comes Craig Ferguson, formerly boss Mr. Wick on "The Drew Carey Show." (DW)

Wickedly Perfect (Jan. 6, Thursdays at 8 p.m.). While Martha Stewart sits (or knits) in prison awaiting her freedom and the launch of her NBC "reality" show, her crown is unofficially up for grabs in this "Apprentice"-style competition. It pits a dozen would-be "lifestyle" stars against each other in contests of baking, flower arranging, party planning, room deodorizing and the like. Fabulous prizes accruing to the winner include six appearances on CBS' "Early Show," a development deal for a TV show and a publishing deal. Joan Lunden is the host. (NH)

The Will (Jan. 8, 8-9:30 p.m.; then Saturdays at 8 p.m.). The latest brainstorm from producer Mike Fleiss ("The Bachelor") stations 10 potential heirs to a great fortune - some family, some friends - on a grand estate. They have to endure "Survivor"-like eliminations, while doing their best to stay in Mr. Moneybags' good graces. (NH)

Numbers (Jan. 23 at 10 p.m.; then Friday at 10 p.m.). Producer-director brothers Ridley and Tony Scott demonstrate a kinship with Jerry Bruckheimer in this "CSI"-ish crime drama about a mathematical genius (David Krumholtz) with a beautiful mind who helps his FBI-agent older brother (Rob Morrow) solve crimes using advanced calculus. The cast, which includes Judd Hirsch as their dad, is good, but watching Krumholtz write equations on a blackboard is not quite as compelling as William Peterson cracking crash-test dummies over thehead with a poker. (NH)


24 (Jan. 9-10, 8-10 p.m.; then Monday at 9 p.m.). When Kiefer Sutherland begins his fourth go-round as antiterror agent Jack Bauer, he's no longer working for CTU. As an adviser to the secretary of defense, he is (naturally) the only person in the universe able to sort out a diplomatic kidnapping that just happens to involve (are we surprised?) his current squeeze, "Third Watch" refugee Kim Raver. Also, Aisha Tyler as a scheming agent and Nestor Serrano and Shohreh Aghdashloo as mysterious Middle Easterners. (DW)

Bernie Mac (Jan. 14, Fridays at 8 p.m.). Finally, an answer to the question, "Where is Bernie Mac?" Let's just hope it's not too late to sustain this once-promising familycom, which Fox lately has bounced around the schedule like a Super Ball. (DW)

Jonny Zero (Jan. 14, Fridays at 9 p.m.). Flushing native Franky G stars as Jonny Calvo, an ex-con who uses his knowledge of New York's club scene (he was a legendary bouncer) and after-hours underworld to help people out of jams and even solve a crime here and there. G has a Rocky-esque charm, and the producers' credits - "The West Wing," "ER," "JAG" - are impressive, if a bit incongruous. (NH)

American Idol (Jan. 18, 8-10 p.m., and Jan. 19, 9-10 p.m.; then Tuesdays 8 p.m. and Wednesdays 9 p.m.). Warbling away, the country's most and least talented singers are back bruising the airwaves. Audition phase continues until Feb. 22, when the performance shows begin. (DW)

Point Pleasant (Jan. 19-20 at 9 p.m.; then Thursday at 9 p.m.). Part "Twin Peaks," part "O.C.," this is a drama with supernatural undertones. A small seaside town starts turning itself inside out when a young woman (Elisabeth Harnois) arrives to look for clues to the mother she's never known. Encouraging sign: One of the producers is Marti Noxon, a mainstay of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel." (NH)

The Simple Life 3: Interns (Jan. 26, Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.). Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie act like dopes (just a guess) in another "reality" season. This time, they're screwing up corporate internships throughout the Northeast, traversing via bus. (DW)

Life on a Stick (expected in March). Dead-end mall jobs get their due in this sitcom from Victor Fresco ("Andy Richter Controls the Universe"). Zachary Knighton and Charlie Finn star. (DW)

Family Guy (date TBA). The cartoon they couldn't cancel (more than three times) is back! Seth MacFarlane's warped dad, his murderous infant and other clan members return in fresh episodes after success on DVD and Cartoon Network. (DW)

American Dad (TBA). More MacFarlane animation, this time featuring a secret-agent dad and a space-alien boarder. (DW)

The Inside (TBA) - Rachel Nichols stars in this drama as a high schooler who's really an FBI agent. (DW)

Hell's Kitchen (TBA). Fox adapts BBC America's current reality attraction, "Kitchen Nightmares," with chef Gordon Ramsay running a restaurant boot camp. (DW)


Medium (Jan. 3, Mondays at 10 p.m.). Inspired by the life of real-life "research medium" Allison DuBois, this new dramatic series stars Patricia Arquette as a wife, mother of three and psychic who helps the Texas Rangers solve murders. Cool the "desperate housewife" jokes, though, because the show's executive producer is Glenn Gordon Caron, the guy who graced us with "Remington Steele" and "Moonlighting." (NH)

Committed (Jan. 4, Tuesday at 9:30 p.m.). Nate and Marni (Josh Cooke, Jennifer Finnigan), two cute square pegs with enough quirks and phobias between them to start a neurotic-gift shop, find each other on an accidental date and begin a courtship in a new sitcom from former "Murphy Brown" writers DeAnn Heline and Eileen Heisler. Nate gets advice from Bowie (Darius McCrary), his co-worker at a vintage-record store; Marni from Tess (Tammy Lynn Michaels), a sarcastic nanny who lives across the hall. Veteran scene stealer Tom Poston plays a "dying clown" who lives in Marni's closet and sometimes shares his oxygen with her. Seriously. (NH)

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search (Jan. 5, Wednesday at 8 p.m.). Twelve bodacious finalists get six episodes to get themselves into the famed issue of the, uh, sports magazine. (DW)

The Contender (Feb. 21, 9:30-11 p.m.; then Tuesday at 8 p.m. starting March 1). "The Next Great Champ" on Fox went down for the count. Now comes the Mark Burnett-Sylvester Stallone version of a boxing "Survivor," which its creators liken to a pugilistic take on the American dream. (DW)

The Office: An American Workplace (TBA). NBC's last attempt to adapt a British hit for the U.S. audience, "Coupling," was an embarrassment. Undeterred, the Peacock Network tries again, this time fiddling with a much more delicate premise, that of "The Office," Ricky Gervais' deadpan mockumentary of a soul-suffocating corporate workplace. Steve Carell ("The Daily Show") gamely tries to play the American version of Gervais' fatuous office manager, David Brent. (NH)

Revelations (TBA). Bill Pullman is a scientist investigating signs of the apocalypse alongside nun Natascha McElhone. (DW)


The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott (Jan. 5, Wednesdays at 8 p.m.). Borrowing a bit from "American Idol" here, "America's Next Top Model" there, Grammy-winning hip-hopper Elliott will have 13 aspiring vocalists traveling coast-to-coast in a no-frills tour bus, where they'll live together and compete for a record contract, a released single and $100,000. (NH)

The Bad Girl's Guide (TBA). Jenny McCarthy headlines this sitcom version of the playful advice books about life, love and career. (DW)

Cuts (TBA). "One on One" spin-off casts Marques Houston as Flex Alexander's barber brother. Shannon Elizabeth co-stars. (DW)


Summerland (Feb. 28, Mondays at 9 p.m.). Last summer's soapy success from Aaron Spelling returns. Lori Loughlin is a footloose California exec suddenly struggling to raise her dead sister's three kids in her too-cool beach house. (DW)

Living With Fran (TBA). Queens squawker Fran Drescher graduates from nanny to mother of a grown son about the same age as her live-in lover. (DW)


Young Blades (Jan. 23, Sunday at 8 p.m.). Or "The Three Musketeers: The Series." Young D'Artagnan (Tobias Mehler) and his swashbuckling pals - including Jacques (Karen Cliché), who's actually beautiful Jacqueline in male drag - ward off plots by the evil Mazarin (Michael Ironside) in 17th century France. Capt. Duval (Bruce Boxleitner) coaches them in chivalry and swordplay. (NH)

Originally published January 2, 2005

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